Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hike to the Cross!

The weekend before last a few friends and I hiked up to the summit of Cairaman in Busteni, a town in South Eastern Transylvania. The first time I went to Busteni I had planned to hike, but it rained so hard that we never ended up hiking. This time, however, the weather was perfect and the hike turned out to be a complete success.

Somewhere about 7,000 feet above sea level, at the top of the mountain, is a giant WWI memorial cross. The cross was our goal for the day. We could have taken a cable car up to it (for the hefty price of 21 lei). We instead decided to save our money and give our legs a workout.

It was a spectacular hike. The weather, as I mentioned, was great. The views were also amazing. It took us about 3.5 hours to get up to the top, not including our hour-long lunch (which we had in a mountain-top meadow). It was a lot of elevation to gain in such a short period of time, so as you might imagine, the trail was very steep. My legs could attest to that fact after the day was done. There were some points where they had chains and cables to help hikers scramble up the rock faces.

When we got to the top, we sat at the base of the cross for a while and rested. We then hiked along a plateau to the famous Bucegi Sphinx, or Sfinxul Bucegilui (Bucegi, pronounced "Boo-chedge," is the name of the mountain range in the area). The Sphinx is essentially a large rock outcropping whose shape resembles a face after having been erroded by wind and water.

At this point we were close to the cable-car house, and one of our party decided she would take the it back down, since she had recently sprained her ankle and it was bothering her. We all decided to go with her. That is, until we opened the door to the cable car cabana and discovered hundreds of other people stacked in line. Some of us decided to wait it out. The rest of us, gluttons for punishment, decided to make the trek back down the mountain. It was hard enough coming up, and being so steep, I wasn't exactly looking forward to making the descent. But we B-lined it down in about 2 hours. While on the trail, we waved at every cable car that passed above us, thinking perhaps our friends were inside.

Just as we got to the base of the mountain we saw a cable car pull into the station there. We thought it would be funny if our friends were in that particualr car, but we knew the chances of this were slim. We were sure they had arrived at the base well in advance of us and were probably on a train home by that point.

But, much to our surprise, they emerged from the building just as we passed by. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. In the two hours it took us to schlep down the mountain, they had been waiting in line. I was simply amazed that we all made it down at the same time.

Here are some pictures, courtesy of my friend Dan:

The town of Busteni, as seen from the top of the mountain

The Cross

The Sphinx

Me on top of the Sphinx


The cable car


Dad said...

Wow Mike, absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing and thank Dan for us also.
Love you,

Rachel said...

Those pictures are absolutely stunning!! What's even more surreal about them is that they look like a perfect hybrid of both the Appalachians and the Rockies (please excuse my cultural centrism). The first picture looks like one I took myself in New Hampshire; the last looks like southwest Colorado. That's also one sweet summit shot (standing on the sphinx). That's amazing that you've seen so much, and you've only been there two months! Keep the posts and pictures coming... =]


etarak said...

Those are some bad ass pictures, Mike. I'm glad things are going well.

Meg said...

Mike Nork, you are so way cool and I love it. It looks like you are having an incredible experience. I'm really happy you're keeping this blog and sharing your adventure. Rock on!

Mike Nork said...

There's a cabana in the background of the picture with me on top of the sphynx. It's known as Cabana Babale, and hikers can find room and board there.