Sunday, 6 June 2010
Written 4th June
It seems that since we decided to try driving over the Transfagarsan Pass, one of the highest roads in Europe, some virtually unknown motoring journalists from a little-watched automobile consumer review programme, known to its small audience for its sensible test drives and factually accurate reviews of ordinary, everyday vehicles, have aired an episode where they too decided to drive over it...
Yes, apparently TopGear have been here. Presumably racing around in either some low-slung sports vehicles, or cars they had to buy and convert to sports cars for under £100 or some such thing and generally finding amusing ways to sabotage James and piss off the locals... I love top gear! We haven't actually seen it, just had several people ask us if we've seen peasants in funny hats (we haven't) and read one thing on the internet from a Romanian who found it very funny but said that the audio of the interview with the funny hatted peasants is just a looped recording of someone saying hello...
Bet they didn't have as much fun in whatever they were driving as we did in Jules...
We weren't sure what nationality they were - english certainly wasn't their first language and we have actually seen a surprising number of UK plated cars here definitely driven by locals - but it seemed that they didn't really know where they were going, were just following where the satnav said - they asked us when the road started going down again...! - and had stopped because there was smoke coming out of their engine... Will had a good poke around, couldn't see anything, found they were low on oil, and came to the conclusion that they probably had a slight oil leak on to the engine, which had overheated under the continued strain of lugging four strapping lads up such an incline causing the leaked oil to go up in smoke - the midget has the same problem occasionally. So he topped them up, it started and revved no problem, we told them the road was probably closed so they would be better off going round a different way and we headed on up. They seemed happy enough and we didn't see them again so we can only assume they got at least as far as the main road again...
So onwards and upwards. We found a small resort town, didn't see a cable car, saw a sign which indicated that as expected, the road was closed between Balea Cascada and Balea Lac, and decided to keep going untill we got to where it was closed - well there were still cars coming down, well one anyway....
so we decided to carry on and see whether they really meant closed.
From something I read on the internet, the the northern side is the steep, switch-backy side, with smooth curves and gentle inclines on the southern side.
And switch backs there were.
And rocks. And suddenly the beginnings of snow.
But it wasn't on the road, so we kept going,
but the road was still clear, just a bit, umm, surrounded
We had a brief wander through the snow around the top - there was a café pumping cheesy 80's music into the eerie fog and some people doing building work but by this time the cloud had come down to the point where we could barely see 2m in front of us and certainly couldn't find the cable car station,
Hey Bill, send this one to your boys and see if they're still quite so keen you should drop everything and head over here...
Although by the time you get here from france, it should be fine... or maybe not ;)
We seriously toyed with the idea of driving round to the other side and seeing how far up we could get from the south, but then figured that we didn't need a 300km detour and anyway, it couldn't be more fun than the bit we did... :)
I don't know what the top gear boys made of it - maybe someone will tell us. Two years ago, on their recommendation, we drove over Stelvio Pass in Italy, their top gear, top driving road for that feature (can't remember where two and three were). It was good, but at the beginning of september, more a slow crawl in a procession of cars and coaches up the switchbacks than a race - well, it was for Paul and Cathy in their sensible Honda Civic, we roared past coaches and up the outside of irate germans in their mercs and beemers on the corners, some of them really didn't like it! - and then cruised down the sweeping curves of the south side and up and over Gavia, a slightly lower but much more desolate and less travelled road - that would be my recommendation out of the two anyway.
We also don't know how far we got (we think the tunnel goes under the very top) or what there was up there, due to the clouds, but it was certainly better now, avalanches notwithstanding, than being stuck behind loads of other people. One for the midget another time...
So, down into Sibiu
past the now clear topped mountains
and out for dinner again in a restaurant serving 'no nonsense romanian food at great prices. Well when you get more food than you can eat and a beer for the equivalent of €7.50 in total why wouldn't you? And its a celebration of sorts, a year to the day that we decided to do this crazy thing.
Honestly, if you had asked me on that night, I probably would not have believed that we would actually go through with it, let alone be, one year later,
eating delicious veal stew with marmaliga
With love for now from Becky, Will and Jules on Sunday, June 06, 2010