Day 24 - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Saturday 19th July 2014 

We bid farewell to our new found Romanian friends and leave Baile Lipova. Breakfast is not available until 10am and we want to be off. The mountains are calling.
Turkish breakfast

It's a good fast ride to Sebes, around 70km, to the north end of the Transalpina Road in the Parang range of the southern Carpathians. At first the road climbs up in leisurely fashion at the edge of a wide river valley, alongside the railway tracks. Heavily wooded slopes rise up to our left.

 Traffic is light and we make good time.. We stop for a Turkish breakfast at the surprisingly named American Star diner. There's open wifi of course and I finish and post yesterday's blog.

At Sebes we tank up before turning south onto the DN67C, the Transalpina Road, aka The King's Road to the locals. This is the highest road in Romania and climbs up to the first summit at Lake Orea before dropping down again and then twisting and winding up to the highest point on the road, the Urdele Pass at 2145 metres above sea level.
The start of the Transalpina
Lake Orea

It is a road of great contrasts. At first the new black tarmac is silky smooth and grippy with long sweepers rather than hairpins that take us steadily higher following a fast flowing mountain stream.

 Without warning the tarmac ends and it becomes a cratered, rocky unmade road for a few hundred metres, then tarmac again, then frequent unmade strips where the surface has washed out. Great care is needed as oncoming traffic negotiates the craters and rocks with scant regard for lane positioning.

There are no warning signs for the unmade sections which can appear half way round a bend. Average speed drops to a crawl as strip trenches of bone-jarring rocks and potholes abound, waiting to catch the unwary. Then, for a stretch, wonderful shiny-new black tarmac again.
Local biker meeting point on the bridge at Lake Orea

The first ascent takes us up to Lake Orea, a local biker meeting point. We stop to admire the view and take photographs. We buy pannier stickers to commemorate our visit here. It's a watershed and from here the road winds down before continuing up and up, climbing to the summit of the Urdele Pass and it's highest point of 2145m

It is absolutely stunning up here. A lovely tarmac ribbon clinging to the sides of the mountain with  amazing views. There are hairpins aplenty and long sweepers with no roadside barriers, just massive channels to allow the rainfall to drain away.
The good

The bad

and the ugly

We stop for photographs and wave to a couple of passing bikes. There's virtually no traffic up here and for a while we are totally alone with the landscape. Strangely, from some angles, on the mountain tops with no sightline of the deep valleys we could be in the Yorkshire dales.

On the climb up to the southern summit
Stunning road
And no traffic

We run into cloud after the summit and have a drizzly run down through the new resort village of Ranca. Time is getting on, it's after 7pm and we must find accommodation. Ranca is a building site and very uninspiring.

Above the clouds

 We continue on down to the village of Novaci and spot the Pensiunea Elena sign. It's a lovely house standing in gated grounds with a grapevine shaded front garden and rose bushes lining the driveway. We get a cheerful wave from the owner who is sweeping the pathway outside, so we stop to enquire.

Pensiunea Elena
We are shown a large airy twin-bedded room, en suite with shower. It's all very clean and neat. We can park the bikes round the back out of sight. There are turkeys, hens and guinea fowl, all with chicks, rooting about in the paddock behind the house.
Secure parking round the back

Negotiations begin with the lady of the house who speaks good French. We arrive at 150 lei for dinner, bed and breakfast. A bargain is struck. That's £27.82p at current rates by the way. Mick is really beginning to love Romania.oh and there's open wifi, naturally.
Home grown dinner including fierce grappa

Dinner is local fare. Eggs, polenta, goats cheese and yoghurt, tomatoes and bread, washed down with home-made wine and seriously good grappa, or raku in the local tongue, all made by our hosts.
And time for bed

We sit on into the evening drinking grappa and reflecting on the fantastic experience of riding the Transalpina.

 Tomorrow the Transfăgărășan and surely more amazement

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