Transylvania Trek Day 4: Postavarul Massif, Tampa Mountains and Braşov

After day 3 of the trek, I was done in. I woke up the next morning feeling better than I’d felt finishing the day, but I was still tired, sore and more than a little bit ashamed about crying down the mountain the day before.

Within 10 minutes of grabbing my breakfast, my fellow trekkers had changed all that. Everyone was so positive and excited for the final day that I couldn’t help but catch their energy.

Unfortunately there were a few people struggling with illness on this day in particular but their strength and determination to complete the trek in good spirits was so inspiring that I was feeling happy to lace up my boots for the last time on this trek.

The weather had cleared up since the downpours of day 3 and the sun was beaming down on us as we climbed up past the ski slopes and made our way on to the forest paths. This was much more like the treks I’d previously done in Yosemite and I was feeling comfortable enough to take in the sights around me now that we were on softer ground.

The trek through the forest was beautiful, all sunlight and shadows. Every so often a call would go up from the back of the group to announce bikers racing down the narrow paths. This would mean that the group had to leap into the trees on either side to avoid getting squished by our two-wheeled trail companions. As scary as this sounds, it quickly became a call down the line of trekkers, injecting a bit of adrenaline in to our tired footsteps.

Whilst some found the forest really difficult because of the consistent scenery, this was my favourite part of the trek. I had enough breath to chat to other walkers, getting to know them even better (which considering my initial concerns about meeting new people was amazing) and the smells and sounds of the forest were all around. It was beautiful and I really felt lucky to have been able to undertake this adventure.

At the top of the mountain, we paused to look out over the ridge towards Braşov centre.

For the final day of the trek, we had a hotel booked as a treat for all of the hard work. We knew we had a little bit of luxury up ahead. However, coming down the mountain and walking through Braşov centre was nothing compared to the trek up the hill to the hotel. We’d been told that the hill was a steep one. Since the word of the week had been ‘undulating’ to describe ascending mountains, we thought that we were fairly prepared for a steep hill. That hill nearly broke us. I think that because we were tackling it after 4 days of trekking, at the end of a 23km trek that day, with the heat of the day beating down on us (and because it was bloody steep), it felt like the highest climb of the week. At one point, I was walking backwards up the hill to try to take the pressure off my knees.

After many stops up that damn hill (and a lot of swearing!), we finally made it to the hotel. It was fancy. We were tired, muddy and in some cases, bloody from slips and falls. We absolutely did not care. The incredible feeling of crossing into the hotel grounds was so emotional that the literal blood, sweat and tears didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Waiting on the side of the pool was a table filled with glasses of champagne or orange juice. We toasted ourselves, each other and those who we carried in our hearts throughout the journey. There were lots of tears but I managed to hold it together until I got to my room.

As soon as I crossed the threshold of my room, I felt the emotion start to overwhelm me. The enormity of what I had achieved hit me. I called home and burst into tears. After explaining that I was fine, just emotional, it was time to grab a shower. The water was freezing. What a time for a hot water problem at the hotel! I was that muddy/ dirty, I didn’t care! I spent as long as I could in the freezing cold shower and then headed down for dinner.

We had a gorgeous 3 course dinner set out for us to celebrate our achievements. The hotel had catered for my dietary needs (gluten free and dairy free) perfectly. Despite the celebratory nature of the dinner, we were all so shattered that we headed off to bed fairly early ready for our flights home the next morning.

I would definitely say that this trek was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the most informative experiences that I’ve ever had. It taught me so much about who I am, who I can be and who I want to be. I know that who I surround myself with can influence my attitude. I’ve learned that I can do far more than my fear tells me I can. I have a better understanding about my physical limitations and abilities. I’m better at pushing myself to complete difficult tasks when I’m supporting someone else through it and they are relying on me. I can trust my own instincts about when I need to rest and what I can push myself through. I remembered that I don’t like small talk. I want to talk about what makes someone tick, what they love, what they hate and what they think of when the night falls. It also taught me that I can travel alone and that I might just like it.

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 Braşov

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 Braşov