500,000 bottles of sparkling wine mature in this section of the underground cellars at Cricova Winery just north of Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 3, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's always an adventure...

Our host here at the Cota 1000 Chalet had given us some ideas of things to do in the area, and yesterday morning we drove what was supposed to be a circular route with several stops at caves.

But the very narrow mountain road was partly covered in ice at some sections, and despite our snow tires and my Canadian winter driving skills, we had to turn around and go at it from a different direction.

The Apuseni National Park in Romania is well known for it's spectacular caves. In fact, there are over 1,900 known caves in the park. Many of them are open only to researchers, or you have to get permits in advance.

And others, you can just see an opening in the rock, and try to go in if you like! We love that kind of stuff, so off we went...

At the start of the narrow road.

This road actually goes for about 25 kms (15 miles) like this. Very narrow, and often room for only one car despite traffic going in both directions. There are occasional pullouts, but not very many.

Fortunately, at this time of year and on a frosty Monday morning, there were hardly any other cars around.

Closed!

The first cave we stopped at was closed. There was a ticket booth, but everything was locked up. We were not surprised..it's well past busy season.

Ruth thought this tree was kind of neat looking!

Not an actual cave...but still interesting!

The road was a little sketchy in parts! We held our breath going over some of the bridges!

Very cool!

Looking back down where we came from.

This side of the mountain doesn't get very much sunshine and some sections of the road were still covered in frost. Slippery at times, but I wasn't overly concerned.

Until we rounded one corner and saw a guy in front of us (one of the only two or three other vehicles we had seen) with a small four wheel drive who was off to the side (not that there was much of a side) with all wheels spinning and not going anywhere. I pulled to a stop on an uphill section, and quickly realized that I was on glare ice!

As we sat there for a second watching this guy, another car came around the upper corner and tried to hit his brakes. He slid sideways, and managed to come to a stop blocking the road.

I immediately knew that this was a very bad situation, which got worse as I tried backing down the hill. Very slowly, an inch at a time, we backed up around that lower corner. I had to back up for quite a distance before being able to turn around.

We headed back down, very carefully.

No idea how the other two made out, but with the inability to communicate I didn't figure there was much we could do to help. 

But, we weren't done with the adventure yet!

We got on to the road leading up the other side. This was the sunny side of the mountain, and the road was clear and dry in most spots.

We think this sign says "Cave entrance...that way"!

And sure enough, there was a small hole.

Ruth, crawling inside.

Hmm. Where is she?

Oh...she's back!

Scenery along the way.

Beautiful Romania.

We made it as far as the Scărișoara Ice Cave.

This cave houses the second largest underground glacier in southeastern Europe. We weren't sure that it was going to be open, and we were the only car in the parking area. We had to hike in about 10 minutes to get to the entrance, and along the way we sat and had lunch at a bench. As we were sitting there, a woman came walking by talking on her cell phone.

We continued on after lunch and made it to the ticket booth. The woman with the cell phone was there. Turns out, she had come up just to open the cave for us because she saw us down below headed this way. Nice!

We paid our 11 lei ($3.60 CAD, $2.75 USD) each entrance fee, and she unlocked the gate.

No tour guide, no guard...just us, and she let us in to the top of the many steps heading down!

Wow!

I had read reports of this online...some people who tried to go down and only made it half way before turning around because of the "unsafety" of it all. We have to admit...there is no way this would be allowed in Canada or the U.S., but then we have far too many rules sometimes. Here in Romania, as in most of Mexico, you are responsible for yourself, and you simply have to be more careful.

The best way to show you this is the video I took. I didn't have time to edit it, so you're seeing the uncut version, which is probably the best way. It's only good up until the first half...it got too dark after that!

Turn up your volume!


Wow. That was so cool. Here's a few still shots...




Ha! It's always an adventure!

Back at the chalet for the evening, our hosts Eugen and Paula made us a delicious dinner, and then they had friends Mirela and Catalina visiting who sat with us and talked for a couple of hours. 

Really interesting to speak with people who are close to our age who remember and can talk about the communist years in the 1970's and 1980's Romania.

Also, they gave us some good insight into our future travels here in Romania. 

It was a great day!

Eugen, Paula, Catalina, and Mirela.

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And in Canada...





20 comments:

  1. Wow, what an experience in those caves.

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    1. The experience was more just getting down to the cave. The cave itself wasn't as good as I had seen the pictures we had seen on the internet but it was still worth looking at but only because we were by ourselves. I would not have enjoyed it if there was any kind of crowd there.

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  2. Replies
    1. And there will be many more to come! :-)

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  3. Wow, very cool ice cave, you guys are way more adventurous than most.

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    1. The ice cave was neat but not as good as we had been lead to believe but the getting to it was certainly an adventure. :-)

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  4. Very brace of you both to walk through the icy caves!

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    1. Yes, those walkways seemed a little sketchy but if they can handle the numbers of people going through in the summer we figured they could handle the two of us.

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  5. It's amazing to see things you would never imagine if you didn't see them! The video was very interesting.

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    1. I couldn't believe how big the glacier was under our feet in the cave. They say that glacier has an average thickness of 16m (52.5ft). That is one solid chuck of ice! Tests have been done and they say that the ice cave was formed about 3,500 years ago.

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    2. wow, amazing! enjoyed video, pixs and story tremendously!

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  6. Replies
    1. That's ok, we knew what you meant! :-)

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  7. Do they put salt or sand on any of the roads?

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    1. On the main roads they put a mixture of sand and salt but on this particular road there wasn't anything. There are signs on all the roads that chains may be needed for your tires. On truck that we past didn't have the chains on but they did have them hanging on the back window of the truck, in case they were needed. There is actually a village up on that road, I would hate to have to drive in and out of the middle of winter!

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  8. Cool video but a little freaky on that slippery path. You really captured it.

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    1. The stairs going down were pretty good until you got to that last set, they were wooden instead of metal and yes, they were slippery. We took our time so there was no issue but they sure looked sketchy in spots, same with the walkway in the cave. Having said that if a foot went through the board we would have just landed on solid ice. ;-)

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  9. "no way this would be allowed in the US or Canada." Try Beacon Rock in the Columbia River Gorge sometime. I only made it up about 100 feet (out of 848 feet) before backing out in sheer terror.

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    1. What Kevin was referring to was the safety standards of getting down to and walking inside the cave, not the steepness itself or the fact that you are walking right on the edge of the cliffs going down. The stairway down for the most part was in pretty good shape, it was missing a few railings at the top and the last section of the stairs down was made of wood which in a few places was broken. The walkway inside the cave was in very rough shape, there were boards missing in places, broken ones, one that had been repaired with just slapping a piece of plywood over top, because it was over a surface of solid ice was the only reason we walked on it, if it had any real height to it or been over open water we would have thought twice about using it. The pictures I see of Beacon Rock look amazing. We are going to have to remember to put that one on our list of hikes to do. :-)

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