Transylvania Trek Day 3: Castle Bran and Piatra Craiului Mountains

This was the day. One of the hardest physical things I’ve ever done. I knew that this trip wouldn’t all be sunshine and laughter but I don’t think that I realised just how tough this would be.

The day started out fairly comfortably – a trip to Bran Castle – the home of Dracula. Luckily he wasn’t in when we arrive and we had the luxury of exploring the castle and the grounds without the risk of joining the undead. Once past the little market place, the walk up to the castle was extremely steep, making sure that we were warming up our legs ahead of the bigger walk planned for later in the day.

The castle was stunning – amazingly detailed and complete with hidden door and passage. Although beautiful, the inside of the building was cramped due to the number of people passing though and after a quiet couple of days in the mountains, it was hard to be around so many people!

As we left the castle, there were some frank discussions with the group. The leaders were advising us to search ourselves to ensure that we were ready for the trek ahead. Clouds were rolling in and we were advised that this would be a tough trek. Having been one of the slower walkers the day before, I experienced a major wobble, doubting my capabilities and fearing that I would hold the group back. After some amazing support from other members of the group, I strapped on my big girl pants and set off with the rest of the group.

The initial trek through the woods, whilst steep was manageable. We were sheltered from most of the rain and it was quite relaxing to hear the water dripping through the leaves above. Well, as relaxing as it can be when you are making your way up a very steep, muddy mountain!

By the time we broke above the tree-line, the weather had taken an almighty turn for the worse and it was lashing it down. Wind, rain, mist – it was a miserable cocktail. I’m from Manchester so I’m used to the rain but this was awful! We huddled under a group of trees, not wanting to stop long to refuel. Shovelling a quick lunch down our necks, everyone was up and ready to move in about 10 minutes. We were cold, tired and ready to get off the mountain. Knowing that there was still money to be raised for Mind, we paused to take a quick snap-shot at the top of the mountain to post on social media and fundraising pages. Everyone mustered up a smile but it was the quickest photo stop we had all week!

The edge of the mountain was shrouded in mist and it was impossible to see what lay over the edge. We set off making our way down the trail but the mud and rain had taken its toll. Being fairly shaky on descents anyway and knowing that I have untrustworthy, dodgy knees, I was taking it cautiously at the back of the group. The group leaders were having to brace our feet to prevent us sliding in the mud, edging down the mountain tiny step by wobbly, tiny step. I was absolutely terrified that I was second away from a slip, fall and quick trip over the edge.

Soon enough, we were all slipping and sliding down the mountain, including the group leaders (with the exception of one guy – but I’m sure he is part mountain goat). It was terrifying and my heart was in my mouth the entire time. I think I taught the group leaders some new cuss words, my muscles were sore from being so tense and I know that I cried a bit!

By the time we reached a flat ledge in the mountain, some of the group had progressed to the next section. Due to the extent of the weather, the path had begun to wash away and it had become impassible, with even our fearless leaders suggesting that it was too dangerous to attempt. This meant a swift about turn, back up the mountain to find another path down. With my head full of thoughts of mountain rescue, we headed down a grassy path on the opposite side. Whilst not as muddy, the grass was soaked, making for a sloppy walk. The final hill was more of a toboggan race to the bottom, with more than one of us unintentionally taking the trip on our bums rather than our legs. Imagine a giant slip and slide but with mud rather than water and rain rather than sunshine!

By the time we got to camp, we were all tired and cold. The welcome committee made it all worth it however and their cheers and hugs restored some of our energy. I don’t think they know just how much that welcome back meant to us.

I collapsed in my tent, completely exhausted, sore and sleepy. I was unsure how I was going to mange to get up the next morning and do it all again. This was probably the hardest point of the trip for me and whilst other trekkers left for a meal, I decided to skip tea and sleep. I was worried that I would be seen as antisocial, but in truth I was genuinely burned out and needed to rest. I knew that without getting to have a rest (and maybe a little cry), I wouldn’t be able to pick myself up and be ready for the next day. I was asleep within about 20 minutes of getting into the tent and looking back, I think I did the right thing. Having that time to rest and regroup, in addition to the amazing, positive people around me gave me the kick I needed to get up the next day and do it all again!

For the full trip posts, visit the links below:

Transylvania Trek 1: Moeciu to Cheile Gradistei

Transylvania Trek 2: Bucegi Massif

Transylvania Trek 3: Castle Bran and Piatra Craiului Mountains

Transylvania Trek 4: Postavarul Massif, Tampa Mountains and Bra┼čov