"Arriving way after midnight in Oradea instead of early in the evening we found a smiling and welcoming Paul waiting for us at the guesthouse. The warm welcoming and the cold peaches and watermelon Paul put in the fridge for us made us quickly forget about cheap flight delays. After a short but refreshing sleep we went to vad Suncuius by train where we were welcomed in the guesthouse for the next two days. We could then choose between a short hike and visiting a traditional pottery workshop. We chose for the latter as we would have many hikes in the coming days.
The pottery workshop was very special because among other steps in making jars we could watch how mother at the age of at least 70 drew intricate patterns on the jars with an incredible steady hand, meanwhile explaining about pigments, clay preparation and the challenges of the potters’ everyday life in these modern times. We bought some small items that could survive the days to come and would not increase the weight of our backpacks too much.
For the next day we had planned a canoe trip on the Crisul Repede. Early in the morning Salvamont Bihor arrived with the rescuing car and two inflatable canoes inside. After the drive to the starting point we put on the wetsuits life jackets and helmets and received explanation on how to handle the waterfalls etc and learned how incredibly lucky we were that there was a fair amount of water in the river because there was a great demand for electricity that day. For most of the day we enjoyed the white water with all its currents, waterfalls, rocks etc and had a lot of fun. We arrived quite close to the guesthouse where we decided to go into the village once more to get some more delicious watermelon and other vegetables.
The day after that was our first real hiking day. First a visit to the show cave where both humans and cave bears must have lived (together?) in ancient times. Next a steep climb to the karstic plateau accompanied by Mr. Dog who had introduced himself to our party and who would be a team member until we were collected by our next host in a car. For most of the day we shared magnificent views of the plateau and the mountains beyond. We watched a stunning sunset at our guesthouse in the Rosia area, tasted palinka, the traditional way to eat “speck” and choose to sleep outside because of the temperature.
When morning came again we had the pleasure of going by horse cart to several places of interest, including a fully functioning water mill. The miller opened his Bible at random pages and had Paul translate the indicated verses to us. Another hike brought us near Remetea where we asked to be collected by car instead of visiting another cave because of an urgent “leaking poo” problem. One of Paul’s key organization properties is flexibility, when it became clear that the leaking p. problem would immobilize one of us for the next day it was no problem at all to arrange for a one day longer stay in the guesthouse of Ishtvan and Terry, where the special care with herb tea for the immobilized and very interesting cultural information for the mobile made this day well remembered.
When intestines returned to more or less normal duty the next day we went to Boga where we made camp and talked in the shadows about every imaginable aspect of Romania and Holland, waiting for health and energy to return. A good night’s sleep did its best to restore spirits and the next morning we started ascending to the Padis plateau. A rather heavy day was planned but good fortune brought us a timber truck on which we could lift to our next camp. Andrei was our next well informed guide. In this camp we met a group of nature oriented young people with whom we spent the next four days hiking on the Padis plateau, viewing sights, caves and descending a running river with lots of fun. Their knowledge of herbs became invaluable to us when the next person in our company suffered the leaking p. problem and had to spend a day in the tent.
Together with the young people we went to Casa de Piatra where we met Paul again, who had left us for a few days to attend some urgent business in Oradea. Our parting with the young people was kind of difficult because we grew very fond of them. The guesthouse in Casa de Piatra was still under construction but who cares about that when the hospitality of our hosts more than makes up for the missing warm shower? Sitting with grandfather under the plum tree and eating the most delicious dishes made by grandmother made me think that the proverb “living like God in France” is quite inaccurate, it should be “in Romania” instead.
We then left for Ghetar which we reached after a steep climb and a visit to the Scarisoara ice cave. A good shower, nice dinner and comfortable beds made us awaken refreshed the next day, ready for some more cave viewing and again more climbing. When that day was over the end of our Apuseni experience drew near; the next day brought us back to Oradea by bus.
To summarize our stay in Romania as guided by Apuseni Experience:
Well planned though flexible when wanted or needed. With Paul and Andrei as our personal guides we had the opportunity to learn all we wanted about the geography, history and culture of the area. The Apuseni.Mountains are not yet spoiled by mass tourism and we sincerely hope it will remain like this for many years to come. We have experienced the welcome for guests of local people instead of being a number in a larger organisation."
Janine and Mart, the Netherlands
'Our time spent in the Apuseni Mountains this winter was unforgettable. A week’s tour skiing and hiking in beautiful scenery, meeting and staying with people who were genuinely hospitable and keen to show us their fascinating way of life. The diversity of weather only added to our experience, with heavy snow, sun, rain and, up high fog all in a week. The trip was well organised and tailored to our interests. We would like to thank everyone at Apuseni Experience, but most especially those people who we met in the mountains who made our trip so special'
Peter, 30 - St Albans, UK.
"So far I have been to the Apuseni three times with Apuseni Experience and the team have become good friends with us. Each time we have done some great caving trips and been shown into the heart of the Apuseni. I can thoroughly recommend Apuseni Experience to anyone who wants to see the real Romania."
Hugh Penney, Glasgow University Potholing Association, Scotland
Apuseni Experience - my experience with these great people can be summed up in four words; "out of this world". They organised a personalised week-long trip comprising two caving trips, including the longest cave in Romania, Wind Cave, three and half days climbing in the best climbing area in Romania - Turzii Gorge, and one and half days walking in Padis, a wilderness of forested kaust mountains at the centre of the Apuseni Mountains.
For me the following memories will remain forever. The people, Apuseni Experience staff were really friendly, with fantastic language skills and great at their craft, be it climbing, caving or leading walks. The countryside, its remoteness and wildness. I just love forested mountainsides with hidden caves, especially the Live Fire Cave with its permanent glacier in the entrance. Finally, the wildlife, screaming swifts flying in the Turzii Gorge, the chamois in the distance at Ponor and the wildflower meadows in Padis, I have never seen so many different types of orchids.
It was a great experience, ranking with the best of my many worldwide adventures and one that I would love to repeat. Go on and try it. Romania is changing quickly, the danger is it will lose its character and becomes another European clone. See it now and go with Apuseni Experience, you will have a fabulous time.
Eco-Adventure Sports Newsletter Editor, UK
What the trip to Apuseni was like:
The nature was spectacular. The combination of mountainous winding roads, rivers, waterfalls, trees, clear blue skies with intermittent pure white clouds, caves, dwellings and churches, and sporadic sittings of hillside grazing livestock and local human inhabitants paints a vivid portrait still in my mind. I cherish the pureness of raw nature and the simplicity of life I experienced throughout the trip you and I shared in the Apuseni Mountains and various surroundings environs because I felt free from any negative affects of human intervention and violation against nature.
What I felt during our trip:
I felt an overwhelming closeness with nature and fellow human beings from any interaction i experienced be it directly in the nature or with the people we met seem to be respectful of nature, not challenging to nature or between human beings. Time seemed to gracefully grow alongside nature, not stealing from the nature.
I serenely recall the sites, sounds and smells of running water, earth's soil, vegetation and rocky cliffs. The feeling of being at one within nature, humbled and awed with and by her magnificent innocence shall live within me forever.
What I liked:
Feeling equal and yet invisible within the nature around me. I felt I was an insider simply being as the locals were: fellow human being living within nature.
What I disliked;
I prefer to replace the concept of "dislike" with awareness of things I would change;
I felt unprepared and wished I had educated myself to fully appreciate and understand the mentality and customs of the local people you and I stayed with and met. I wish I knew more about the personal and professional aspects of the people you and I stay with and that they had more knowledge of me in order to share and exchange more fully with one another.
Beth Mitnick-Rayman, USA