Enduro Thu 26 October 2017

FROM ROMANIA TO ROMANIACS IS BUT A SHORT STEP WITH VALI CHEFANI!

When one thinks of Romania, what comes to mind first are definitively its beautiful capital Bucharest and the legend of Count Dracula (if it is a legend …) but if you love both traveling by motorcycle and enduro, you also think of riding along the Transalpina and the Transfăgărășan roads and of the Romaniacs Extreme Enduro Rally, the toughest Hard-Enduro rally on earth!
I am in Pitesti, a nice little town in Romania less than two hours from Bucharest, an important crossway for those coming from the Carpathians who want to reach the center of the country directed to Bucharest or Hungary. You will reach an intersection where you will be paralyzed by doubt: should I turn right to go to Trasfagarasan or left toward Novaci to take the Transalpina?
I see the mountains in the distance: the desire of exploring the woodlands and the mountain tops is too strong to ignore. I quickly surf the web, finally clicking on www.enduro-tours-romania.com and discover that this tour operator is only one hour away by car, specifically in Curtes de Arges: great! Vali Chefani answers my phone call and he is immediately very helpful, 100% native and speaking perfect English; he offers me to join a group of Dutch guys who came for a week of enduro riding but not in Curtes de Arges, where Vali has his base camp and which is a good area for off-road riding, but further north in the Carpathians, land of the Romaniacs … how could I turn down such an opportunity!

So, Thursday evening we meet in Voineasa, a small town 800 meters above sea level, where wooden cottages and mellowness rule, until the silence is interrupted by the noise of five motorbikes, the four Dutch with Vali in the lead: they remove their helmets and, the sweat, the rain drops and the ear-to-ear smiles make me look forward to the next day given the excellent company and breathtaking trails.
After good beer and a refreshing shower for the tired knights, the evening goes by fast between stories and the routine bike maintenance. We eat the typical soups and “mici”, traditional Romanian sausages made of a mixture of minced beef and sheep meat, that are incredibly pulpy and tasty …time flies while we chitchat and it is finally time to go to bed because tomorrow is a big day!
A shining sun awaits us in the morning, its heat drying the dew from the rooftops; the motorbikes, still wet, have a full tank and are ready to be tamed, we just need to fuel up on a hearty breakfast and wear our armors!
Our leader today is Claudiu, nicknamed “Enduro” (more than a name, a guarantee!), from the start we will understand the reason for his nickname …no time to waste, no chitchatting and a lot of enduro!
We depart heading towards a river, I suddenly stop the bike to admire in awe the symbol on the side of the mountain: the emblem of the Red Bull Romaniacs!
After the due prayers, we proceed along flat sections of the river when, without notice, steep climbs appear before us! The ground is excellent even if it rained like hell the night before, the grip between underwood and rocks is very good and not a fleck of dust flies into the air, helping us to reach the top of the mountain in no time; here, we enjoy our first view of the Carpathians chain. Still amazed by Nature’s show, we hop on our bikes and descend along the opposite side of the mountain, every now and then coming across friendly shepherds with their flocks.
At this point, I must specify that the term “descend” is reductive! In fact, nature designed drop-offs so steep as to be a problem for our brakes especially for two-stroke bikes without engine brake. Sure enough we have to give the brake discs a refreshing wash with water from a little brook. A few more curves and we stop at a bar for a brief relax, but I am admiring a trail that climbs the quarry on the other site of the road. When Claudiu asks me if I want to try the “Stairway to Heaven” –which is also an official section of the Romaniacs – it is like asking a kid to go to the carnival! I don’t need to be asked twice, we get on our two bikes and climb this trail made of enormous rocks planted in the ground as if they were giant stairs!

Happy and satisfied, we rejoin the group and continue with this electrifying day, our next destination is a mountain refuge over 2000 meters above sea level where we will meet a monk …. if the guide says so! We start climbing again, here the ground changes from underwood and roots to only loose rocks of various dimensions, from the size of tennis balls to basket balls and this for more than 5 kilometers relentlessly. Per se this connecting stretch of trail of the Romaniacs is not extremely difficult, the important thing is to keep the full gear and keep doing it, it would be a torture to have to restart from here! We get to the top, the refuge gets nearer when, out of nowhere,comes a motorbike rode by a man with a full beard who nods a greeting. He is “The” famous monkwho lives on the mountain top like a hermit, riding his 2016 KTM Six Days …. the power of prayers!
The whole merry group finally heads towards the refuge where lunch is waiting: here we find two ladies, their life is all about prayers, a few chickens and the production of goat cheese; it’s a life style no longer found nowadays that surprises and fascinates me in this world totally dependent on technological contraptions.
After we eat we get back on our motorcycles and ride along the Carpathians’ ridges where the clouds surround us in a fresh mist; then we start going downhill along precipitous paths in the middle of the woods heading towards our base camp.
I recognize a few landmarks and realize that we are only a few kilometers from the hotel and from the end of this fantastic day. Claudiu decides to take me on a last climb: the "Vodka RedBull"! Relaying on my last energies, we start climbing a 1.5 km long uphill trail so sheer as to risk overturning, full of tight countersloping hairpin turns one after the other, where it is important to maintain traction and your weight forward, off the rear wheel; to stop would mean to inexorably roll down the mountain, which is certainly not my intention! So the dance hairpin turn-stair-hairpin turn-root leads us to the end of the trail; satisfied of the venture, we descend from the same routeand, low on gas and energies, we finally reach the hotel where a cool beer and laughter help us to recover from the day’s exertions!

So this is how an unforgettable day ends in an equally unforgettable place, a milestone of Enduro, enriched by the hospitality of the natives. I hope to see you again soon my Ducth friends Bram, Max, Sjors and Rick, a big and special thank you to Vali and Claudiu for their friendliness and excellent organization; it is an experience I highly recommend to those who love this wonderful sport. If you wish to live the same experience, go to:

Facebook: Vali Enduro
website: www.enduro-tours-romania.com

Text by: Marco Dugato

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