After fifteen years of living in Canada, I return to my home country, ready to discover it. Where to start? My native Fagaras mountains. As a young child, growing up in Fagaras, I was always fascinated by the mysterious chain of mountains visible on the horizon. Now I was ready to explore them up close.
What did I have in mind? A four day hiking trip, climbing up to over 2000m, following the crest of the chain, to stand on the highest peak in the country before descending to the Sambata Monastery. We climbed up as a group of seven, which wouldn’t be how we would descend, but that’s a story for later. We started off at the village Porumbacu de Sus, just off the National Road 1, half way between Fagaras and Sibiu. The first part of the trail is a forester’s rocky road. About an hour into our walk, came our first surprise. We were offered a ride in a pick-up truck up to the end of the road. It was the ride of a life time, bouncing around in the back of the truck trying to keep our loaded backpacks from flying out.
After we got dropped off, the real climb began, first through shady trees on a steep hill, then following the river through a lush forest. We reached the Negoiu Cabin in time for lunch, eating what we had brought from home, while consulting a map.
We would have liked to rest longer, but we continue for we are pressed for time. On this first day, the most strenuous, we still had a long way to go. Surpassing the tree line, we start climbing rock. The valley below is mesmerizing, while the cliffs we are approaching loom over us.
At this point, most of us feel our legs wobbly and take breaks often. We are not used to carrying such weights: tents, sleeping bags, food for four days, cooking utensils, water to last until we find the next spring… It is not easy but at this point, we can’t turn around. We concentrate on taking small, calculated steps, walking in zigzags to minimize the strain on our legs.
As we near the peaks, we are engulfed by thick fog. When we finally reach the second highest peak in the country, the Negoiu peak, we are treated to the typical view of the surrounding area. We recognize it from the myriad of photos we had seen online. Here is one of those typical pictures.
The most exciting part of the day follows, climbing down through “Strunga Dracului” or the Devil’s gorge. We have three options for descending to Lake Caltun, where we will camp that night: the Devil’s gorge, the Lady’s gorge and the Sheppard’s gorge. We choose the most difficult and exciting, climbing down a rocky gorge using metal chains. We go slowly, taking care of how we place each step. We forget our exhaustion, our sped up heart beat taking over.
We make it to the bottom safely and get to a wide, open area. We have just over half an hour to go, but it’s already getting dark. Some of us can barely stand on our own two feet, but we continue on. When we finally reach Lake Caltun, we set up our tents among the others, who had been more timely, a few of us falling asleep before dinner is ready. Tomorrow’s a new day, a day when we’ll be passing above the famous Transfagarasan Highway.