1.3 Escape to the Carpathians
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
After two ride-free days and rest with other activities, ("like cleaning and washing" note by Brigitte) we get back on the track on Sunday. First it goes to a coffee on the other side of Lake Balaton, to finally receive our Fatbike spare part. On this occasion we get to know super nice emigrants from Germany, who let themselves be used as our courier address. Around noon we continue south, where we meet a fascinating scenery with a fabulous view in Somogyvamos at the Pusztatoroni. Nothing can stop us from making camp for the night here. By rope winch our bikes are lowered once again to explore the surroundings. Hungary can also be like this. After the overcrowded Lake Balaton, we are now happy to experience an idyllic place once again.
We have always intended not to be pushed by anything or anyone and to experience the journey at a pace that gives us plenty of time, even for trivial things. It's all water under the bridge: the approaching heat wave in Eastern Europe is giving us legs, or rather wheels. We want to be in the mountains before the end of the week. So we continue to the further surroundings of Pecs.
The quality of the roads are very variable. Partly we drive only with 30km/h, in order to spare material and crew. The large fields slowly change to forested hilly landscapes and the multitude of campsites signal that we are back in more touristy territory. For the first time we decide not to stay at the intended overnight campsite. Once again there is too much activity. We drive a bit further to the next small lake, on the opposite side without a through road. This choice is top, quiet and romantic.
After a relaxing overnight stay and an early morning meeting with the local fishermen at Lake Orfui, we head for Pecs in the early morning. We want to visit this must-see city in the cooler morning. In particular, the Pasha Qasim Mosque and the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul are the target of our quick stop.
In the afternoon our escape continues to the southeast to cross the Danube in Dunaszekcso by a small ferry. The barge looks very adventurous. Unfortunately, however, the ferryman informs us that probably no ferry leaves today. Tomorrow again. But we don't like to wait that long and we drive about 40 kilometers further to Baya, where we find the next bridge over the Danube. That was an exhausting day, but it brought us quite close to the Romanian border and thus a good piece closer to the probably cooler mountains.
After a rather long and exhausting stage from yesterday, today we have only a relatively short distance to Szeged. Not much we knew of Hungary when we started planning the trip. Besides Puszta and paprika, however, we were familiar with the Szeged goulash and therefore a visit to Szeged must not be missed. On the way there we unfortunately don't see much of the beautiful blue Danube. It hasn't been blue for a long time, but it is always impressive to see how it winds its way through the landscape. It may be because we in Switzerland are not used to this sight. The Swiss rivers are small village streams compared to the Danube here.
Due to the rising temperatures, we arrive at our destination quite exhausted, despite the short stage. Once across town on the banks of the Tisza River is a beach campground, a place for wild campers. We feared that we would hardly find a place in this season and were very surprised to have the whole sparse forest at our free disposal. The choice of location to spend the night is always meticulous teamwork. We make sure that first of all the truck is standing straight. If not completely straight, then the passenger side should be somewhat higher, since the head end of the bed lies there. In a pinch, we have two compressed air cushions that allow us to stand up to 20cm higher per wheel. Secondly, we like to stand far away from noise and light. Brigitte discovers LED lamps in the trees, which will probably turn night into day. So we stand on the backside of these lights. Thirdly, the entrance to the cabin should be freely accessible and preferably to the "nicer" side. And last but not least, it wouldn't be bad to be able to get out easily and in a forward direction It may well be that one would have to escape during the night. So forward out fast is always good
In the evening we walk about 20 minutes along the riverbank and through a beautiful city park to the center. We did not find a restaurant with Szededin goulash, but it seems to be one of the best restaurants for Hungarian specialties. So we order twice Hungarian goulash in Szeged, for us a classic Szeged goulash ;-). Mission accomplished. Shortly before dark we walk to the imposing cathedral of Szeged two streets behind the restaurant. The night is then rather uncomfortably hot and humid. Nothing will dissuade us from our plan to be at the foot of the Carpathians in two days. Especially since now the weathermen forecast temperatures of well over 40°C in the lowlands.
We fill our 300 liter fresh water tank before continuing our journey and head towards the Romanian border. In Romania we will not get around a freeway vignette, as in Hungary. So we drive after the border crossing immediately onto the A1 in the direction of Arad. By the way, the crossing of the border is going smoothly this time, too. We stand in the border traffic jam for about 20 minutes, but with our Swiss ID and the fact that we are just a camper, we are allowed to cross without any problems.
In Arad the full program awaits us again. We buy a SIM card, fill up with gasoline and stock up on food to stay self-sufficient in the mountains for as long as possible. On the parking lot of a large distributor during lunch time we feel like in Dubai. Dry heat with felt 44°C. Fortunately we have a three-stage air conditioner in the driver's cabin. In the living area, however, we deliberately did without it. Was that perhaps a mistake?
The onward journey past Timisoara in the direction of Bucharest is now rather unspectacular. One large field follows the next, but fortunately the first mountains are already visible on the horizon. The highway ride resembles a hunt of the titans with the Romanian truck drivers, well known to us, in the neck that you can feel their breath. Somehow we are glad that this almost 300km long stage in sweltering heat finally comes to an end. We nestle down on a small hill not far from the main highway with fantastic distant views. Tomorrow we want to reach the Carpathians and relax. We can do that!
Still about 40km to Diva and then left away into the mountains. Already the road winds to the first small pass. The area is familiar to us. Here we have come once through at the time when we lived and worked in Bucharest. But this does not detract from the fascination. We love this country and the Apuseni area is a particularly beautiful part of it. Thanks to the many fir trees, it somehow reminds us of the Swiss mountains and yet they seem much gentler here.
In Brad we stop again at a Lidl. We are surprised to find more organic vegetables in this small town than in the big city of Arad. A good piece of rib eye is also on the menu for the next few days. Fully packed we turn at Campeni into the offroad route, which I downloaded via WikiLoc. Already after the first kilometer came the obligatory question of my co-pilot: "Do you really want to go up there?" "Yes, I do!" Didn't I say the same thing 28 years ago at town hall? And I mean it just as seriously as I did then. After all, we bought a Unimog to get where the others don't go. The road winds over hill and dale and becomes not only steeper and steeper, but also narrower and narrower. We knew it since the first day: The paint of an offroad vehicle cannot and will not stay undamaged. So we do it. At the thought that we might have to come down here again, I feel quite different. Fortunately, I now draw from my experiences in the off-road training two weeks ago. Also the inclined position, no problem. Really problematic are only the narrow tracks, where you risk to cut your flanks on the sharp stones. Brigitte often gets out and guides me through the narrowest passages. Everything goes well. After about an hour of the absolute hardest section since the start of the trip, my dear wife waves me onto a small drop-off lane. "Enough for today!" she calls out to me. Exactly what I was hoping for, because I too am exhausted and drenched in sweat.
In the evening, we explore the further course of the route with the drone. We believe we can find our oasis of relaxation, our Shangri-La, a few kilometers further on. We imagine a suitable place with a meadow, fir trees and a good view. Without high voltage, 5G and road noise.
We immediately treat ourselves to a large piece of meat, which we prepare in our outdoor kitchen under the open sky. At the moment we are just above 1'000m.a.s.l. and the temperatures are still very high, but especially in the evening and at night quite bearable.
Next Blog: 4. Recovering at our "Shangri-La"