Tag Archives: Cycling Further Bicycle Diaries

Day 15…Tranfagarasan, the way down

16 May

We took our time to enjoy the scenery while having breakfast on the terrasse under a slight sun. After that we left the lodge and started the way down, which started behind that little door. It is completely dark in there, it is the longest tunnel in Romania, a kilometer long, and currently closed to cars as you can see 🙂

In some parts the tunnel soil is completely frozen and full of black ice that is really hard to spot, even with our lights. Fortunately, we are aware/lucky enough not to slip.

We’ve been told the other side of the mountain should be easier to ride  because it is the sunny one. We are then confident about finding a nice path with no snow or at least less snowy than what we had yesterday. But…this is how it looked

Our minds start feeling like going back for a sec when we discover that wall of snow in front of us. But we are too close to go back at that point. We put on our helmet for one of the first time and scouted the “path” with caution, first with no bikes, then with the luggages and finally with the bicycles. It took us almost 2 hours for less than one kilometer, but what a nice feeling to safely arrive without loosing anything.

One last little challenge, taking over that bulldozer and then it is downhill for long long time : about 30 km straight! 😉

This is freedom!

Our feet are wet and frozen but we don’t really care, we enjoy being the first people crossing the Tranfagarasan with vehicules this year. We know what we just did was maybe too much, so not sure we would cross a closed road on a high mountain again!  It might be a good lesson of wisdom. But we are happy that we conquered the Carpathian by the toughest way 🙂

The landscape gets back to green and the temperature increases as we go down

Life takes its rights

Just after taking this picture I saw a family bear running fast in the little hill. What a good day!


 Our 20k ride in the flat lands next to the Carpathian to reach Curtea de Arges seems to be a piece of cake. Welcome back to the civilisation.

Day 14…Transfagarasan, the north face

15 May

There are no words to describe what we’ve been trough on the road. Riding Transfagarasan while it was still closed has been our best and worst idea so far.

Right now we are on the top. Couldn’t make the downhill straight, as we’ve been slowed down too much by the snow, and we’re exhausted after those 1500 meters altitude gain in one day. Sleeping in a lodge on the Baleal lake side, while there is heavy rain and wind outside.

Day 13…rain

14 May


After saying goodbye to Anna and Jean who took care of us in Sibiu, it is time for us to get back on the bike. The weather is pretty cold and humid, a climate we didn’t experience so far. But it feels like Belgium, so we’re not too disoriented. Despite the rain, cute old ladies are working in the fields and meeting them help us go trough it.

The rain becomes even worse along the way up to the point that we are completely wet


We stopped for lunch in a village, and people were looking at us as we were from another planet. The food does the job to make us feel better, and the weather decide to give us a truce stopping this pooring rain. Dried, we went back to cycle and everything seemed to be nicer.


The old ladies we cross on the way act like our mom’s and were even giving us biscuits and wishing all the best which  is really appreciated.



We are now close to one of the big expectation of the trip! The Transfagarasan, the  most famous road to transfer from the north side of the Carpathian to the south with the highest altitude in Romania. The road is opened to cars only 3 months in the year, from june to september, so at this period of the year we might have it all just for us! 🙂


We know that we won’t make it today so let’s have a break in Cartisoara, a small town at the bottom of the mountains, to get ready for tomorrow.


The place is really nice and Viorel is a perfect host, offering tuica and making barbecue.



We have spent our evening sharing glasses until late. So! Noapte buna everyone and see you soon. Tomorrow will be a huge day, so i’m going to sleep now (Nic).

Day 11, Sebes to Sibiu!

13 May

Our pleasant camping ground

The first mission of the day was to go down with the gear and get back on the road.

From the top

Nico managing the way down

Once done, we had to get back on the national road for about 15km, passing through Sebes, a town rather than a village, where we ride beside trucks and fast cars. As soon as we could, we took a right and got back on the small roads we like. We entered a Unesco rural area, drove towards fields and vineyards before reaching Calnic, where we could visit a 13th century castle, nicely maintained by the local community.

The bell tower

View from the bell tower

After lunch, we did chose to continue riding small paths, but it became much harder than expected, as the road was really steep, and consisted in rocks, sand and earth. It seemed like a never ending climb, around 2 hours under the heat, we start sweating and swearing a lot, a premiere in our journey. From the top of the mountain (we didnt know we were about to climb a mountain), the view is really awesome. And we are awesomely exhausted.

Typical village of Transilvania

The reward was nice enough though : a splendid 20 km ride downhill through forests and typical villages. As Sibiu is the next big town in the valley, we just had to let ourselves go and we reached our destination at about 7.30PM. Those 90km were not the easiest ones, but it was a good training for the next big step, the Transfagarasan -crossing the edge of Carpathian from north to south-.

An Awesome down hill ride

We have been received like kings by friends’ parents with warm welcome and traditional food : sarmale, csorba, mamaliga, sweets and more.

Sarmale 🙂

A warm shower and a funny chat in french/romanian/what else/ later and we’re good to crash in our bed. We decided to take a day off after 3 days of intensive ride, so we will spend some time to visit Sibiu, one of the nicest town in Romania, and rest before the big climb.

Day 10, Deva to Sebes!

13 May

We got waken up late by our room neighbor at about 10.30, which came handy had we had a interview at 11.30 with the national belgian radio PureFM, that hosts a program about belgians abroad (listen the the interview here). Once set up to go, Csaba offered us some slightly sparkling mineral water from a nearby spring.

Apuseni Moutains

We got advised on the roads to follow and took a small, scenic road beside the Motilor Apuseni Parcul, and encoutered plenty of shepherds walking their goats, farmers with their cows, and horses pulling entire families.

A friendly shepherd

Several people are making honey on the road and we got a pretty detailed explanation about the fabrication process…interesting, but hard for me (Yves) to stay focused as I really cant stay too close from those bees!

Yves’ best friends 🙂

Romi the honey maker

After 4PM, the temperature decreases and the light gets warmer, ideal for photographies. It is one of our most pleasant ride so far. We crossed a romani town, full of colours, kids washing in the river, horses and goats mixing with the people hanging out in the streets.Some kids starting to follow us, playing popular romanian music on their phones and escorting us towards our destination. Those kids have been really helpful as we would have definitely chosen the wrong way if they didnt show up.

Gabi you really rock!

After 5 hours on the bike, we decided to climb a hill and camp on the top of it. It had been our biggest effort of the day to pull our stuff up there, but we ended up with a fantastic view, looking 360 degrees over mountains, forests, and Mures river.

A moment of satisfaction 😉

We met a shepherd with his 100s or so sheep and -5 dogs-, asked him if it was fine for us to stay there for the night. It was really hard to get the communication through but we understood that there are a few wolves in the forest in front of us, which made us slightly hesitant about where to put the tent, and if it was a good idea to stay there after all. We met another shepherd with a few words of german, and believed he was telling us it was fine to stay as the wolves tend to stay in the forest.

From another time!

We fixed up the tent, had our typical bread / olive oil / sausage / cheese dinner and then relaxed under the stars in this wonderfully nice camping spot. 

In the morning, we got waken up by our friend the shepherd, who knocked at the tent : “Copii, copii -Kids, kids-, time to get up”, at 6.45AM.

Nico does like getting up early 🙂

We opened the tent and were surrounded by all the sheep looking at us…a pretty funky morning sight!

Day 9, Plescuta to Deva!

13 May

Nico, Stefan [Don Director grand son] and Yves ready for a race!

We left Plescuta on the 10th of May, heading up to Deva, 70 km away from our little village. As always when possible, we chose to not stay on the national roads but rather go through the smaller ones that cross villages. The landscapes have changed, we’re now on big hills / small mountains and we go slightly slower.

Wellcome to the Hunedoara region!

Villages are more distant from each other and the scenery is fantastic. We climb our first seriously steep roads and start sweating much more than we’ve been used to so far.

Scenery on the way

First victory

After climbing for about 2 hours to reach Valisoara, we enjoyed a 10km ride going downhill, followed by a very fast dog running behind us , the whole way down. He well deserved the piece of cheese we had left from lunch, but we still had to get rid of him as we didnt need a dog to go to China…even if he was very human friendly.

Speedy Dogzales

We reached Deva at about 7PM and went straight to the hungarian orphanage that had been recommended to us both by Agi, our host in Gyula, and Anna. We have met the kids and teachers from the school and got fed with sausages and mustard, a popular combination in this part of Romania. After the meal, we visited the city center of Deva with Csaba, the music teacher.

Deva City center

After having some beers (Ciuc, a nice romanian beer, and Grimbergen Double, to feel like home). We then came home and starting celebrating Yves’ birthday with some tuica we got offered from the school in Plescuta.

Plescuta…a lovely romanian village

9 May

Floricuta milking her cow

Today, we have visited the small village we’re currently staying in, Plescuta, accompanied by our friend el Don Director. After a breakfast with the milk and cheese from the 2 cows staying home (we declined the 10 o’clock Tuica offer), we took our bicycles and headed up towards the  primary school, where we met the teachers and the kids, who were all delighted to see some foreigners cycling towards China in their village, and use the few words they know in English and French.

Us with the school map of Romania

Don Director and his friend Cornel, the pork killer

After spending some time in the school, we went to the Tuica distillery, a small room freely used by the locals. Two people were distilling their pears and explained us how to do it. So : bring your fruits and let them ferment for approximately four weeks (faster in the summer than in the winter), distill them (heat them in an oven) and let the alcoholic vapor transit through the system ; cool the vapor with water and you get a first liquid that is around 20% alcohol. Take that liquid and repeat the process for another distillation. After those 2 steps, you should have a crystal clear Tuica, heading to 50-60% and ready to burn your remaining neurons.

Radu, our Tuica master

Fermenting fruits

Traditional distilling oven, working with good old wood

This is where the magic happens : alcoholic vapor transiting before condensing

As the weather turned nice we have continued our visit and met some locals, who are all nice people chit-chatting on benches, looking at the dogs, chickens and horses. Most of them are either below 14 and studying at the school, either above 60 years of age.  Youngers seem to be bored of that rural life and head up to the next big city, Arad, where they can find more job opportunities, entertainment options…and people their age.

Dumitru, our 94 year old friend, wearing Osiris skateshoes

The big event of the day is the final of Europa league, Bilbao VS Athletico Madrid. The game is hosted in Bucarest and is all over the news. We’ll therefore watch it with friends and locals before getting ready for our next cycling day.

Tomorrow we head up towards Deva, 110 km away. We are not sure if we will make it as it might be more uphill than downhill, but whether we make it or not doesn’t really matter anyway 🙂

We are in Romania!

9 May


Yesterday we crossed the Romanian border with colder weather and a grey, unfriendly sky. But at least, no rain.  We could feel the landscape changing from flat lands to  small, then bigger hills.


Nice castel, but unfortunately not maintained, that we have encountered on the way, in Ineu.


We first planned to stop half way to Plescuta (my friend’s village), but finally felt like keeping up cycling there straight in a day, covering 127K. Our record so far!


Almost arrived at destination 🙂


As we expected it was open doors and after less than 5 minutes we were sharing glasses of Tuica (the strong local drink) with my friend that i’m used to call Don Director, the retired director of the primary school of the village. I have been visiting Plescuta with belgian scouts in 2004, and came back here every four years since then.


It was so nice to be received that way. After a good dinner with eggs and homemade cheese we took a hot shower and went to sleep, as we felt pretty tired after cycling such a distance.

To conquer the Carpathian

7 May

Tomorrow we’ll be in Romania, we are really excited about that. New country, new culture. This will be my fifth time there, I have some friends in a village who’s called Plescuta and we might reach the place within two days. They have no clue that we are coming so let’s make the surprise. As I know we’ll be more than welcome, so we gonna have a real good time there!  After that we’ll go for the toughest part, conquering the carpathian mountains into the wild with wolves and bears :)!

If we make it, we’ll go south to the capital and ending the leg in Galati next to the Ukrainian border. We probably have less options to update the blog but we’ll do our best to entertain you on the way with posts and pictures. The map is up to date and we managed to create a picture gallery of Hungary so have a look at it and see you soon 🙂

Day 5 and 6 resting days!

7 May


Hello! these are a few pictures of what we did yesterday, mainly nothing except floating in hot waters and lying in saunas. Yves has a sore throat, probably from the dust and the wet weather we had the two nights before. So we must stop for one more day to be sure it won’t get worse. Anyway today is a bit rainy so it is better not to cycle and make him even more sick.


Medical water around 32°


Pressure water good for massage 🙂


Agi in the Suomi sauna.

Yves and I enjoying the refreshing water after sauna 🙂