Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ceahlau Mountains / Munții Ceahlău

These are the mountains of legends, the mountains of mist and tales whom everyone sees as mystical.
Some think this is the sacred mountain of ancient Dacians, some think these inspired many of our national writers for some stories. To me, they were a place to know for my understanding of the romanian lands and history.

Located near Piatra Neamt and Targu Neamt, beside the Izvorul Muntelui Lake, part of history and of fairytales these mountains are always going to be surrounded with a certain mystical atmosphere. For one, the highest peak, Toaca, is almost always covered with fog. The rocky formations here each and everyone has a legend connected to it. There are tales of giants, of virgins, of shepherd, heroes and believers, all in one land.

How to get here? The mountain is surrounded with roads and villages, so practically, there are many ways up and down, you can combine them as you please to create your own circuit. However, I climbed the mountain from Durau, the west side of the mountain.
ON the mountain you can find lodging at Fantanele or at Dochia, also, near Dochia there is a camping site. On the other hand, when to windy, no tents stand. For example, not very relevant, as it doesn't happen all the time, but the days I was there, the wind was blowing on the plateau with 120-140km/hour. Tough luck, I know. Also, water here is a problem, if there are dry days for a long period of time, you will not find water at the Dochia lodge.

The ascent from Durau to the Fantanele lodge took about 3 hours with our huge backpacks full. Normally it should take around 2 hours. The ascent is a bit steep on parts. Actually, even from Fantanele upwards it is steep. But getting to the lodge takes all the pressure from your back and makes you sit down comfortably and enjoy a cold beer while watching the views...this is how you'll meet some cute cats playing between your feet and some quite bored horses annoyed by yet another sunset.

In the image below you can see the view from Fantanele lodge towards the Toaca peak hidden in the clouds.

From Fantanele lodge to the plateau under the peak from where you can climb the Toaca peak or go to Dochia lodge, it will take another 3hours 30min.

Above, the cliff called Cusma ciobanului - the Shepherd's Hat
Below, The Panaghia cliff

Below: the arrival on the plateau, right in front of us, the Meteo Cabin

From the plateau to the Toaca Peak 1hour. 

 Image right near the Toaca Peak, after climbing 20min from the plateau:

From the Meteo Cabbin where you get to ascend to the Toaca peak, walking on the further away from the peak for 30min, you get to see a monastery on the right (image below) and after that you arrive at the Dochia lodge.

Below from the Dochia Cabin, the Toaca Peak with the Meteo Cabin at its base

 Below: image from the camping site towards the Dochia lodge (20min).

At the Dochia lodge, the atmosphere is very friendly, many mountain hikers get to meet here and tell their stories listening to good music and making great plans for future adventures.
To be frank, Ceahlau did amaze me, although I did not find all the magic I was imagining (mostly due to bad weather) but it did raise my curiosity to want to go back. I want to see it in every way possible and find out its darkest secrets.
Another thing I want you to be perceptive about in your travels: do not leave garbage or rubbish, as you may call it, on the mountain, take it back down with you. You won't like to see plastic bags and bottles or cans all over the mountain and neither will the ones who go there after you.
See you soon!

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