When we arrived at Buşteni, all we knew was that we wanted to show Jake Martin the mountains of Romania and that there was a mountain to our right and a trail that went up it. Where to find the trail, how long it was, how much the elevation increased, where we could camp at the top…. We didn’t know any of that. But a friendly guy selling raspberries directed us towards Hotel Silva, and there a random guy standing with a map directed us towards the “Blue Cross Trail” that would take us to the top and then it was “just four hours” to a place where we could camp.
We learned later it’s called the “mici” (small) trail. Small in this case does not mean what you probably think it means. It means “straight up the mountain at 80-degrees.”
But we didn’t know that at the time.
I also didn’t know at the time that my stomach wasn’t going to cooperate with me. About a half hour into the hike, I started to feel just nasty in my stomach. I thought it was maybe just not being used to hiking, so I tried to ignore it by chowing on some chocolate and carrots. Neither of those helped much.
Then I started getting cold sweats. I was sweating like crazy. Jake Martin and my brother were kind enough to point out (and photograph) the bird-shaped sweat stain on my backside. If I hadn’t been so tired, I probably would’ve thought it was funnier. And if it didn’t hurt to laugh, maybe I would’ve even joined them in the hilarity.
At one point, we stopped to take a rest, and I pulled out the five-liter container of Bucovina water I had been carrying. (For those who don’t know, Bucovina is the tastiest water you can by in Romania. It seriously tastes fresher and more pure than any spring water I’ve ever had, almost like freshly-melted snow.) Anyhow, I set it down on the trail, watched it begin to role, thought briefly about trying to get it before it disappeared into the wilds of the mountains, then began laughing hilariously as it crashed through trees and boulders all the way down to the foot of the mountain. Jake Martin and I couldn’t stop laughing, but my brother Jake (who wasn’t nearly so exhausted as us) was thinking now about how the heck we were going to get anything to drink for the rest of the day. That thought just made me laugh more.
Things started to get pretty depressing a bit later when we met up with an overweight guy smoking a joint. Although he was a ton of fun to talk with, very friendly and able to speak in English quite well, he also informed us we were only about half-way done. And then he went on to beat us to the top. Seriously, a fat pot-head beat us up the mountain. Seriously, how depressing can you get?
My goal the whole time was to just get up the mountain so we could get to the telecabina (search on google.ro for “telecabina busteni” then click on imagini to get some sweet pictures) and ride it down in the morning. But we made it up the mountain–exhausted–only to see the wires of the telecabina disappearing off into the distance… just like our hopes.
That last half-mile or so was the worst half-mile I’ve ever hiked. The cold rain began to get worse, and soon I was barely moving forward. At one point, I started to laugh at Jake Martin ’cause he was hiking so slowly. I figured I’d show him up, but then I found that no matter how hard I tried to go faster, my legs just wouldn’t do it. In fact, even with his tortoise pace, he was beating me.
By the time we saw the telecabina building, I was in the early stages of hypothermia and the wind had picked up. I think I would’ve been fine hunkering down for the night (I had a dry change of clothes, a good tent, and a warm sleeping bag and jacket to snuggle in), but we all agreed it would be best just to get to the telecabina and head back to the town.
And that’s how we ended up camping in an old communist-era, two-star hotel with the softest beds I’ve ever used and the hottest shower I’ve ever taken. Man, it was good.
But I think I could go without the pre-hotel, hypothermic hike next time.