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Transylvania Traverse - A walk of discovery

I'm a great one for set jetting, visiting places where movies and TV shows were filmed. One film's location so wowed me that I sat through the seemi... Read more
Transylvania Traverse - A walk of discovery

I'm a great one for set jetting, visiting places where movies and TV shows were filmed. One film's location so wowed me that I sat through the seemingly endless credits to see where it was shot. The film was Cold Mountain starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman and the location Piatra Cariuli National Park doubling up as the North Carolina of America's Civil War. Years later whilst working at The Travel Channel one of the most popular series "Wild Carpathia" also featured the region. I simply had to go.

KE Adventure through their Transylvania Traverse trip was able to offer not only a visit to the park but some of Romania's finest and most challenging walking as well. I'll flag up from the start that this was the first time I'd done a group trip. I'm extremely well-travelled having visited over 100 countries and have trekked in Nepal and South America, in Indonesia and throughout Europe but normally on my own or just with a guide and porter. I had a lot to learn (first up reading the grading of the walk would have been a good idea). I chose it for the location and the fact that it also included another site high on my wish list of places to see, the legendary Bran Castle or Dracula's castle. I somehow missed the words "challenging" and the ascent of Moldoveanu (Romania's highest summit). However, the fact that I climbed the mountain and coped with the long days is testament to how spectacular and rewarding this trip is.

We were a group of 6, two hardened KE Adventurers (one who probably deserves a gold card for the amount of trips he's done) two formidable American ladies with a combined age of 140 and again massively experienced trekkers and the baby of the group, an Oxford graduate who had recently cycled the length of Thailand. There was no doubting that I was the least fit, with less technical clothing than the others but what I lacked in good walking boots I made up for in energy. "You're like a Duracell bunny” said one of the guides, when you do get going, you just don't want to stop.

A plus point of KE Adventure's Transylvania Traverse is that it's not just about mountain walking. Before you've even put on your boots there's a chance to explore Peles Castle in Sinaia known as the "Pearl of the Carpathian" situated beneath the Bucegi Mountains in the beautiful Prahova Valley. The magnificent old royal palace was originally a summer residence for King Carol 1. Then there's Dracula's Castle, which to be honest we were all a little underwhelmed by and the crowds of other tourists didn't help. If Bram Castle was a bit of a disappointment then Brasov was the exact opposite. I particularly was blown away by this Fairy Tale town. As a child I loved fairy tales by the brothers Grimm and now as an adult was enchanted by Brasov, where legend has it that the children sent underground by the Pied Piper re-emerged. In the market square, you’re surrounded by Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical houses and it was a picture perfect place to unwind at the end of the trip. What's more it was unbelievably cheap, just over £1 for a glass of wine, as a Londoner used to London prices I’d question the bill several times before merrily ordering another.

I felt that I was entitled to treat myself to a bevy or two after the rigors of the 3 days traverse of the Fagaras Massif. The unique thing about KE Adventure's Transylvania Traverse is that is combines 3 very different kinds of walking experience. First up there's the ascent of Mount Omu at 2507 metres and a night at the refuge at the top. The walking here is more gentle and undulating along a plateau and I was surprised by the amount of fellow walkers. These were mostly day trippers from Sinaia. However, it's a good excuse to stretch ones legs before the challenges ahead. Day two involved a steep descent at times grabbing hold of chain ropes fixed in to the rocks and a walk through dense Transylvanian forest. However, it was the Faragas that was the undoubted highlight of the trip providing one on Europe's best and most intoxicating ridge walks. Stunning views, long days and the ultimate reward of climbing Moldoveanu at 2,544m the highest peak in Romania. The Piatra Craiuli National Park (and my main reason for booking the trip) offered a completely different experience. Whilst the Faragas were steep and dramatic, the national park was more bucolic with so many different shades of green, it would make an Irishman weep. So rich are the colours in my photos that friends have commented whether I have had them enhanced. This was a land of haystacks and little wooden houses with their distinctive tiled roofs and let's not forget wolves, bears and the elusive lyncx. It was just how I imagined from seeing Cold Mountain all those years ago and I didn't go home disappointed. However, more importantly The Transylvania Traverse was a walk of discovery. I discovered I was capable of some tough ridge walking and happy to stay the night in a mountain hut. I learned that I could carry my own bag and the benefits of travelling in a group, from the camaraderie at meal times to how much quicker the days can be with a group of different people to chat with and share stories with along the way. Romania is one of those country's that is often overlooked and misunderstood but the mountain scenery was enchanting and challenging, the people, particularly our guides charming and friendly. Above all the Transylvania Traverse was a chance to walk in one of the few remaining large stretches of wilderness left in Europe and to make some new friends, I'll definitely be signing up for another KE Adventure soon.

>> View Transylvania Traverse - Trekking in Romania

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