Cartisoara, Romania to Bran, Romania

Distance: 141 miles
Time on bikes: 5.25 hours

There is only light cloud this morning which is soon evaporated as the sun gets high enough in the sky. We’re both looking forward to the ride today and hope the sky clears enough to give us some good views on the pass.

We’re at about 500 m in altitude and the road soon starts heading up towards the Transfagarasan Highway. The condition of the road in parts is quite poor and we just take our time, picking a route through the potholed and patched surface. It seems that the Romanians have a ‘make do and mend’ mentality to road maintenance rather than just resurface.

We stop for a few pictures when passing through the forested areas at lower levels, but when stationary we are absolutely besieged by flies. They don’t bite or really land on us, but there must be maybe about thirty flies buzzing around us which was incredibly uncomfortable. They didn’t seem to bother the road workers standing around and we can only assume that they were getting their revenge because of seeing all their squashed cousins on the front of our bikes and clothing.

Part of the way up we see more road maintenance crews, however these ones seem to be actually renewing the road surface, which makes a pleasant change. As we get higher, the condition of the road improves considerably and we soon start to see the higher parts of the pass, where snow is still lying. It really reminds us of the alpine passes we’d been on only a week or so ago, and is a really nice road. It’s supposed to be the best road in Romania and was made a bit more well known thanks to an episode of Top Gear.

Whilst it may not be as good as many of the Alpine roads we’ve seen, it does have an added bit of excitement as there is evidence all around of huge rock landslides which have been swept to the side of the road. On the way up we only see about three other vehicles and at the top of the pass there are a few people parked up taking in the view. The altitude is a bit less than expected, but still good at 2,000 m.

At the top we have to pass through a tunnel to get to the other side and this has to be one of the darkest tunnels we’ve ever been in. Our headlights only illuminate the reflectors on the walls and we can just see the white line marking the edge of the tarmac against the wall of the tunnel. We can’t see anything ahead as there is nothing for our headlights to reflect off. We literally can’t see our hands in front of our faces and just creep through the tunnel in the pitch black and just hope there are no potholes in the tarmac.

We emerge on the other side and cloud is covering much of the mountain. The spectacular views we’d left on the other side of the tunnel aren’t here, so we just make our way down about a mile before we drop below the level of the clouds.

The rest of the road down is good, but the condition of the road deteriorates as we get further on. This gets to the point where we’re only going about 20 mph to try and not put too much stress on the bikes.

We stop in a town when we see a mobile phone shop. Bene has been without a mobile since her SIM card stopped working about a week ago and we really need at least two phones. If we get separated, it could be a disaster if we don’t have communication between us. We manage to get a pay as you go SIM and put some credit on. So Bene now has a Romanian telephone number.

We then head on towards Bran Castle, which we get to at about 5 pm. We road towards Bran has excellent tarmac and some great corners where we can start to carry some speed again. However, just as you start to let your speed increase, you’re swiftly reminded that you’re still in Romania as dogs run by the side of the road and we also see a horse and it’s young one running alongside us on the road. That was a new one for both of us.

The castle is closed when we get there and we decide to stay the night and see the castle when it opens at 9 am. We get recommended a nice hotel and negotiate a bit of a discount as we were told a lower price by the person that made the negotiation. Only a small discount of about £5, but enough to pay for four beers.

We spend the evening wandering around town and having a nice meal whilst also managing to see the England v Algeria match in the background. At least the dinner was good.