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.
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!
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?
Scenery along the way.
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!
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.
And in Canada...