Today’s jaunt along forest roads in the Cindrel Mountains didn’t quite go to plan as I found myself unwilling to move forward due to increasingly deep and slippery mud and unable to retrace my route due to a motorcycle endure race that had closed the road to normal traffic.
I left the campsite in Saliste and headed through Vale, Sibiel and Orlat to reach Gula Raului which is the site of a hydro-electric dam and reservoir. The dam is 330 metres long and 72 metres high. The reservoir hold fish stocks including trout, carp and perch. It provided a nice backdrop for a photo.
I continued to drive past the reservoir with the intention of passing through Paltinis and making a loop back to Gula Raului. Shortly after passing the reservoir, I came across a traffic control marshall. He didn’t speak English but I was able to determine that a motorcycle enduro race was about to start. If I continued on my route, I wouldn’t be able to return the same way, as the road would be closed to traffic for the duration of the race. No problem, I thought, I’m making a loop and don’t need to come back this way. So on I drove.
As the road ascended, it changed from a packed stone road to a muddy one. I pushed on through the mud but the further I went, the mud seemed to become deeper and wetter. I pulled over and took a walk to determine whether the surface improved around the next couple of bends. It didn’t. I have a healthy respect for mud and its ability to bog down a vehicle – five hours of having to dig out a Defender will give you that respect! I was single-crewed and there didn’t appear to be anyone else on this section of road. I obviously didn’t want to get stuck but particularly so if an enduro race was to come through that location. I decided not to proceed any further through the mud and turned around at the one spot where the road widened. But I didn’t want to risk driving down the narrow muddy track and meet a bunch of racing motorcycles coming the other way.
I decided to wait it out as I had a good vantage point to take photos of the racers if they were coming past me. Over an hour passed with no sign of bikes – and a horse and cart was blocking the track about 100 metres below my location. Once the cart was moved, I decided to carefully drive back down the hill. As I did so, I came to a turn-off marked with tape that was obviously the route for the enduro (it wasn’t going up the muddy section).
Bikes were still on the course, so I quickly made my way to the Cheile Cibinului tourist complex. It was past midday, so a great place for some lunch – some nice trout with french fries! And a beautiful setting in which to relax.
After lunch, I left the Defender next to the restaurant and walked along the track taking a few photos of the racers. I reached the checkpoint and was told by the marshall that the race wouldn’t end until about 6.00pm! Fortunately, the frequency of bikes coming along the track had decreased significantly by 3.00pm and I was able to get the Defender out of the area and back to the road.
Not how I’d planned the day, but a nice day out in the mountains nonetheless!