Penteleu mountains, the berry district

I finally found the right time and the best place to catch up on lost sleep…

I spent two days, Saturday and Sunday, in the mountains of Buzăului, towards the end of August. On the first day I climbed through the forest with rocks, at night I camped at the bivouac in the forest, sat by the fire and meditated in the dark and on Sunday I woke up with a clear head and climbed the Penteleu peak – small but difficult. On the way I ate a lot of berries. That in a nutshell.

I like the effort in nature no matter how difficult the climb. The worse the conditions the better, you feel alive. However, I hate waking up early on the weekend after a whole week racking your brains over financial data at the office. And what I don’t like about weekend outings is the road to and from the mountain, leaving Bucharest and coming back. You sit for hours in the same position you used to sit at your desk only you are so close to escape..

But that was me on Saturday morning. Luckily I had packed the night before. This thing also has disadvantages. With so much time at my disposal, I packed a lot of things that I didn’t need: the DSLR camera that I didn’t take out even once during this shift, solar panel, a hammock made to be transported by car I think, because it had two large rather heavy wooden sticks, metal spoon. I thus reached about 19 kg in a 60+ liter backpack. Very much for a 2 day outing in the summer!!. But I said not to get used to the Mont Blanc luggage..

An incursion into the wilderness of the Buzău mountains, where we can go with minimal luggage, sleep in a super wild place, with improvised shelters, regardless of the weather conditions… That’s what Ioan Stoenică promised us – an exceptional person, our guide in this tour – see guides page.. ticked ticked ticked except for the baggage minimum and the weather conditions turned out to be perfect..

What was interesting about this shift is that it was going to be, for most of us, the first time we slept without accommodation, without a tent, without anything. Well, not quite like that, with our clothes on, with foil under us, with foil over us, with mosquito nets, etc… And that’s what I did, somehow…

So.. we will meet on Saturday morning, August 20, around 10 or 11, in the village of Varlaam in Buzau. If you do, be sure to pack an extra slice of ham in your bag because there are some super cute and super friendly puppies in the village. From there we went up the hill towards Penteleu peak. Perfect weather, sunny but cool.

We walked along a kind of street, then through the gardens of the people in the village. Although there are a few guesthouses in the village, it is clear that it is not the kind of locality where the locals are very used to tourists. People were looking at us like, what hay will these people have to bring back on the hill if they have so many snacks…?

We first walked on a marked trail for about an hour, then through super wild forests for another 4-5 hours. Hint 1! The route was the one from episode 26 of the TV show “Pe poteci spre inima ta” Ioan Stoenică’s show on Travel Mix – too good a show for a rather obscure channel, but the future is ahead for Ioan..

14040042_10210243769271199_2730494436767148876_nThe route involved some rocky areas in the forest, dense and dark woods, where we kind of scratched ourselves through branches, fallen trees, lots of vegetation, animal tracks and a lot of silence. The climb was almost continuous for 5-7 hours. That was the climb, but we didn’t climb continuously. We stopped several times, one of the stops under a tender apple tree. Another apple tree with half finger sized and damn sour but good forest apples was nearby.

What was really interesting about this route was the experience of decaying vegetation. You see a fallen tree, with the shape and color of a hard one, and when you step on it, your boot sinks into the soft matter and everything is like a natural carpet from which life emerges again. What is different from other mountain tours is the interesting mix between rock and forest. You get to climb a bit, but that’s on rocks, in the forest. It’s genius. Part of the route is on the peaks, ie valley to the right, valley to the left.. Ioan had a name for this but I forgot it.

We thus arrived at a bare peak with views towards Penteleu, with a small meadow surrounded by forest. We were going to sleep there, to be as much in the middle of the wilderness as possible. Not to tell you that on the way we saw more fresh bear shit ..shit, probably the bear too.. But Ioan repeatedly assured us: the poor bears are more scared of tourists than we are of them, but unlike humans, they get scared when they have a reason, namely when a human is near them; we are more afraid of the idea of a bear, of what we imagine is a bear. Anyway, someone said that these bears from the forests below were brought from Poland to recolonize the area and be hunted by the pre-’89 communist party elite. Native bears, somewhat larger and wilder, would be fewer, higher and more hidden.

Of course, all the way I stressed Ilinca – Ioan’s colleague – I hope she didn’t feel stressed – with questions about trees. I don’t know why but I had trouble remembering the differences between spruces, pines, firs and other silvestris conifers I don’t know how. Maybe also because adults tell children that all conifers are firs.. pay attention to details adults, children need details and to be treated on the same level!

In fact, the events in the glade of the empty peak also gave the title of the article: the forest fruit district. Raspberries, blueberries.. being on a slope, it wasn’t a long distance from the plant to the mouth, if you found the right position. Enough to take and leave.. no, you would come back a few more times to fill your fist one more time to see if a whole fist doesn’t taste anything other than raspberry with raspberry..

That is until the evening, Saturday. Then we started to improvise shelters from soil foils (those that are placed under the tent). It took me the longest, I must admit. That’s because I got off to a bad start. I had a vision of a pff den using the surrounding wood as some kind of protection against more adventurous bears. I intended to do something far too complicated plus in the spirit of improvisation I didn’t take foil like a normal person and so I put the tent upside down on top of me and the air mattress and bag below me. However, I also put the hammock between 2 trees to have a second option. When I saw that the arrangement was on the border of the mini camp but also when I saw that you are struggling with eight legs and the spiders that seem to need love and closeness, I opened the hammock and used its net to encapsulate myself with sleeping bag with everything in it (yes, in addition to the two enormously thick sticks the hammock instead had a built-in insect net.. Hint 2! Very useful for bivouac, I recommend insect net from Decathlon or any DIY store. No that you would suffer something bad, but if you already have a phobia of insects in your head, you can’t fall asleep.I also recommend enough string.

Hint 3! Interesting about beevouac, actually bivouac, my French friend Sebastian, naturalized in Romania, said that it was a word he had heard a lot in France. The term really comes from the French channel, but also from Germanic origins meaning bi – wacht (watch or guard) double guard at night, of course in camping and in improvised conditions and further you can fill the information gap yourself..

In the evening I made a very small fire, where I roasted sausages, lard and just about everything I had at hand. The girls in the group even put potatoes in tin foil, one of which became a kind of petrified coal. We had a good smoke – no weed, we literally smoked. Luckily I had enough water supplies because I didn’t have much on the trail until there.

Hint 4! First tested the fluff bought for 39 euros in Chamonix. Good job with the down, it warms you instantly and its softness gives you a comfortable feeling. But it’s only good when you’re sitting still, because otherwise it doesn’t breathe and heats you up too much when you’re walking. The down is like a sleeping bag, it can be made of down or synthetic or synthetic that imitates down. The synthetic material is ok for wear and moisture but a little harder for the same thermal protection than down.

The biggest surprise came in the morning! No, not bear, not eight feet in mouth. I slept great – that was the surprise. I did not expect this. I expected the first outdoor experience to be a harrowing one. I awoke with a sensation of clarity and air all around—around, in my nostrils, in my chest, and in my brain—like I had never woken before. Hint 5!  Earplugs may have helped. For me one of the most important pieces of equipment is the plugs – if you don’t sleep well you can’t walk well and you can’t enjoy your company or what’s around you.

So I didn’t hear the alleged fight between two foxes in the middle of the night. Maybe the bedtime experiment helped. Ioan came up with the idea to walk in a circle a few tens of meters from the camp and, alone, in absolute silence, sit, meditate, look at the darkness, the sky full of stars, the shapes of the darkness, the sound of silence, listen to the sounds of the forest .. A kind of seclusion in the dark.. it was very interesting. Any repetitive noise is ok after you get used to it, you know what it’s from, what’s up with it. Strange are the sudden and unexpected. Since I hadn’t done this before, I had with me a survival knife – or an attack on how big it is – with a blade of about 30 cm. Hint 6! Serrated knife, full of useful surprises for eventual survival, in handle and sheath, taken from 14067468_10210243787951666_2926911673051640634_n

I used that knife just to open up some discussion about knives, what it’s like to buy them vs. make them yourself. But then at night, to study a natural wonder. I don’t know exactly what they are called but there were bio-luminescent millipedes everywhere. Yes, you read that right, not fireflies, some kind of 16-footers about the size of a fingernail that glowed in the dark, flashing. It seemed to me that he was trying to imitate the lights of the stars but that he could not hold the light enough, and tiringly they twinkled – they were almost of the same intensity as the stars, if your eye was well accustomed to the darkness. Interestingly, when caught on the blade of the knife, they stopped flashing until you placed them nicely back on the ground.. Naturally, I had to turn on the front to see what they were, and my colleagues probably thought I cheated a little in our little game. But then I told them about my divine experience.

Yes, so only surprises: no bears, maybe because Hint 7! we put food – even toothpaste – in the trees a few tens of meters from the camp. Fireflies with 16 feet yes. Woke up well yes, so only surprises.

You might think I’m giving too many details, but no one usually talks about this. At first I had trouble sitting on multi-day wilderness tent trips, meaning I was better off waiting to get home. Where, how, with what? The point is not to bother – you can find rocks or fallen trees placed in the ideal configuration so that you have a bowel movement experience similar to that at home, even better when you factor in the sight and sound of the birds. And what remains is compost. You can take enough time to read a newspaper :)) just be away from the camp. Perfect. With what? A package of napkins is more than enough for a week.. well, it also depends on the person.. and water can be found in the mountains of Romania.

This means that in time you adapt to anything, just be a normal, balanced and open person in the true sense of the word, like nature and want to adapt. And sleeping in a tent and sitting in nature and sleeping without a tent and next, for me, cooking in nature or sleeping with nothing on top. And once you get used to it, everything is enhanced in nature. As a bonus, you get the feeling of freedom, that you can do anything anywhere, without depending on 4 walls, the toilet of a dirty gas station or the hotel room.. the system.. Cool right?

14051604_10210243770671234_672581247844580527_nOn Sunday, those of us who made it through the night well.. all 9 or ten of us.. we continued towards the top of Penteleu. Until which I did about 4 hours. Penteleus, little and hell. At how small this peak is compared to others (1772 m) you would say that it is nothing to climb it. Hence, the steep slope and all full of berries. It is very difficult to climb and eat at the same time.

The route rewarded us in full. I’ve never seen so many berries in my life. Cranberries, blueberries and raspberries. By the time we reached the top, we came out of the forest into a green clearing, The sky was blue blue. And on the ground among the raw greens you could see a few little red balls. I remember how Ilinca said something like, you saw a cranberry and you didn’t take it.. I was thinking that pff I shouldn’t have left it like that.. How were we to know what was going to come.. They started to appear two by three, then bushes, then blueberries – by the way, there are also some blue ones that look like blueberries, but they hold other plants (elder, I think) and those are not tasty – and then raspberries..

We all ate until we couldn’t. We crossed a spring, after about 3 hours of walking from the place where we had camped. We took off our boots and food and after all that, we ate some berries, naturally..

It’s not the case of the rebel in the picture who kind of caught on to who squeezes more cheese.

And as I said, the whole slope to the top is full of eyes. Here the advantage was that you could take it directly with your mouth, where the slope was more inclined..

On the super cool top, there is something set up there, some kind of monument for European funds spent stupidly and the inevitable odious cross, but at least you have a panel with some information about the area. Ioan gave us an overview of the mountains that could be seen from Penteleu – Vrancei and even Ciucaș.

We went down on the other side, past a cabin under renovation or construction, then past a barn, to reach the cars strategically left near a forest canton (another 3 hours).

I also passed by a barn. Hint 8! Double hint here. In the Romanian Mountains, the real danger is not the bears or the other animals, but the kennel dogs. If you are alone and pass a flock of sheep and dogs, call 112 from the start. Dogs are very dangerous and until the shepherds come you are in danger. They are groups trained to defend the sheep and attack the rest.

Around 4 or 5 we got to the cars and left, the rest no longer relevant. I was gone. Only at home did I find some cranberries in my pockets.


Hint 1: Episode 26 of the TV show “Pe poteci spre inima ta” the TV show of Ioan Stoenică from Travel Mix

Hint 2: Very useful for bivouac, I recommend insect netting from Decathlon or any DIY store. Not that you would suffer anything bad, but if you already have the phobia of insects in your head, you can’t fall asleep. And I recommend enough string.

Hint 4: The down warms you instantly and its softness gives you a feeling of comfort. But it’s only good when you’re sitting still, because otherwise it doesn’t breathe and heats you up too much when you’re walking. The down is like a sleeping bag, it can be made of down or synthetic or synthetic that imitates down. The synthetic material is ok for wear and moisture but a little harder for the same thermal protection than down.

Hint 5: One of the most important pieces of equipment is the plugs – if you don’t sleep well you can’t walk well and you can’t enjoy your company or what’s around you.

Hint 6: Serrated knife, full of useful surprises for eventual survival, in handle and sheath, taken from 

Hint 7: The food, including the cosmetics, are put up in the trees, a few tens of meters from the camp.

Hint 8: The kennel dogs are very dangerous especially if you pass by a kennel alone.