From Berca to Lopatari
Ash, Salt and Fire
A walk in the park
After checking out of our pension, which we should never have checked into! It was not that it was bad. The people were over the top friendly, and made it a pleasure to stay there, but after a morning coffee, there was no difference in price, and although the room looks good, on closer inspection it needs a bit of maintenance. Still the people there made up for it.
So we were leaving Berca, to go to Lopatari. Apparently there is a mountain on fire there, and it sounds interesting. We had to wait for the bus in the sun. At least the sun was out! It was quite relaxing, except for the hangover. Watching the teenagers and their car, showing off the new flashing lights they had installed. The bus came and we piled our gear in the back. So far so good. This bus took us most of the way back to Buzau, but we got off in Sapoca. This is supposed to be a small town on the crossroads. Small it was, town it wasn’t. To make sure we were in the right place, we asked at the small shop over the road. They expressed amazement that we were from Australia, and even more amazement that we wanted to go to Lopatari. “It’s just a hill with ash and fire coming out. Why would you go there?” They didn’t understand when we said “Yes, it is a hill with fire coming out!”
The wait there was quite long, with a few buses going past, but none for us. It was also slightly frustrating that there were a lot of minivans that from a distance are similar to the buses. After a lot of false attempts, a large bus came past, and was going to Lopatari. We were directed to the back door, and had to go in with our bags. It was standing room only, and there was just enough space in the aisle for a bag. Anna ended up standing on the steps. Still, after about 20km the bus started emptying out, so we could get seats, and it was not too bad after that.
The route is very interesting, along the river, crossing from side to side. There were a lot of different localities, but nothing resembling a town. More just small collections of buildings fairly close together. About 10km before our destination, we passed a large white hill in the river, with the compulsory cross on top. We also passed a funeral precession. There were people at the start with large banners, held by the priests. Mourners were following, then there was an ox drawn cart with the deceased laid out in an open coffin. Just a transparent veil to keep off the flies.
Just before our destination there was a large section of erosion. It looked good by itself, not that I like erosion, but this was also different, as it was excreting something white. A little further on, the bus stopped. We had only just passed the sign saying we were in the Lopatari area, and there were no houses around at all. This was our stop. Where was town? We were at a crossroad, with a dirt road going up the hill, and bitumen continuing along the river. The driver asked what we wanted. A pension would be good, and he said that there was a pension either way. About 2km away on either road. There was a sign pointing to one up the hill, so of course we took the road along the river. The bus went the other way. The sod could have taken us! We walked a fair way, until we came to a small shop. Grabbing a bottle of water, and asking for directions. There was no pension down this road. The only one she knew about was the one up the hill. By now about 4km away! So back to the turn off we went. This time we checked out the hill. Not as impressive here, but still interesting. The white stuff was salt. It is oozing from the side of the hill. Running down and collecting in the water drain. Seeing this, we assumed that the white hill we had seen was salt. Yet why was it not washing away with the rain and water from the river?
Walking up the stone and dirt road was hell. Still, it was not raining! After about 200m we worked out we were crazy. The road was bad, rocky and steep. Unsuited for our bags. Wishing we had backpacks for one of the few times, we continued on. Trying to hitch with the non existent cars going past. One car did pass, but did not stop. Finally on the verge of giving up when another car came passed. This time it stopped, and we were very lucky to get a lift the rest of the way. It is definitely a Romanian 2km! More like three, and all up hill. When we got there, we were able to get a room in the attic, so more steps, but we are here! The people running the pension even gave us some cold soup and (mouldy) bread for lunch. It was a nice thought. Especially as there is no restaurant, and the local shop is back where we had bought the water…
After settling in, we met one of the other guests. He is a lecturer in Geology at Bucharest Uni. This lead to an interesting conversation about the formations in the region. The mud volcanoes being mainly from rainwater that has seeped into the earth, and only a small amount of gas to bring it back to the surface, the Salt that has been pushed up from deep under the crust due to tectonic movement of three different plates, and Volcanic Ash. The white hill we had seen in the river was made from Volcanic Ash, and that was why it was still there.
Going for a walk a bit later, we passed a small lake, full of frogs and plastic bottles. Lots of reeds and overhanging trees. Walking down and around the path from the pension, it opens out on the other side into a nice field. There were a few people fishing here. On the hill of the park there are also a lot of wooden statues. All different carvings, mostly of people, with the occasional odd one thrown in.
There is a small shop here, that sells a few bits and pieces, so we got some cheese, smoked ham and veggies to make some sort of dinner, then continued down the country lane to look out over the valleys. Heading back we made our pathetic dinner. Sitting outside, we were watching all the Geology students that are here, and the lecturer again came up, and offered us dinner. He would not take no for an answer, and we had some fantastic soup and cabbage/sausage concoction. The Romanian people can be too nice at times, although we are not complaining, and quite like them for it. Romanians are good people!