25-6-2007 The journey towards Semenic - I turn back again
I liked the look of Anina which has some pleasant 19th century buildings. However, since the maxi taxi up to Caraşova was to leave fairly shortly I didn’t have a lot of time to look round. Ioana, my head of department at school, rang to ask if I was alright and I was able to reassure her that, today at least, I was sticking to ordinary tourist activities. I bought a paper to see if I could read about Katy’s death but it is already fading from the news. The other passengers on the maxi taxi to Caraşova advised me to enquire at the new hotel on the main road where I am dropped off about accommodation. There I was told that a room would cost me 60 Lei. I decided to look around in the village and see if I can find anything cheaper. The trip was definitely worthwhile even though I was still exhausted and feeling ill. The sore throat and cough that had plagued me ever since sitting in that wretched draught/pleasant cooling summer breeze (choose which alternative according to whether you are Romanian or British) are getting worse. (Maybe the perilous drinking of spring water at the same time as soft fruit also had something to do with this!)
This village had a different feel from other villages in Romania. When I reached the town hall I found an unfamiliar flag flying beside the Romanian one. This I discovered is the flag of Croatia because Caraşova is an ethnic Croatian village. This seemed pretty remarkable given how far away Croatia is. I am later told by the hotel owner that Caraşova is one of 8 Croatian villages in this area. The people looked different too. They had broader faces and more honey coloured hair.
I crossed the river and around a bend I found a large, middle aged lady dressed as for a garden party in a calf length dress with fitted bodice and full skirt, it was white with large black spots and she also wore a wide brimmed straw hat. What made the situation strange is that she was in the middle of the river with her skirts floating around her. “Oh,” she said, “it’s far too hot. It’s much better here in the river. Why don’t you join me?” I later discovered that she was probably trawling the river for sand for her garden.
My search for somewhere else to stay was fruitless. I went back to the hotel and took a room. I had been told that they did good meals but discovered that this consisted of either a frozen pizza (it seemed to consist mostly of spam) or mici – a kind of spicy Romanian sausage. The latter was not available ‘til the evening. By now I was feeling really unwell and I spent the afternoon and evening dozing and thinking about poor John and Katy. Slowly my afternoon doze turned to a feverish sleep that took me through to the morning.
I started out early and took a look at the official path up the Caraş Gorge. Unfortunately, in the process of building the road and the bridge they had set big footings in the bottom of the gorge that one would have to clamber over in order to reach the next stage. All of this would involve quite a lot of wading through water. I already had a big ulcer on my right arch partly because my foot had got so wet fording the Nera. I decided I needed to give my feet a break and avoid watery expeditions and so I opted to go by road to Labalcea – another Croatian village. I buy breakfast in the shop there and talk to the owner about whether he lets rooms. He told me that it would be impossible because there is no proper water supply. I found this a rather defeatist attitude. After all people who are interested in mountain walking don’t necessarily need perfect plumbing. My instincts were confirmed when, a few yards up the road, I find a holiday camp for children set up by some American evangelists complete with little wooden cabins and showers fed from large oil drums. They offered me breakfast and I accepted a cup of tea – ambrosia. The whole place looked bright clean and well run.
The man back at the café had suggested a short cut. I picked up the beginning quite easily but after about 3 kilometres the path petered out in a vast area of scrubland which was difficult to walk through. I made my way back to plod round by road. After a considerable time negotiating a labyrinth of forest roads I reached the Foresters’ hut near Pestera Comarnic (Comarnic Cave). This is a very famous cave but by that stage in the afternoon I was too tired to seek out the guide, besides which the sky was getting darker. I pitched my tent just behind the foresters’ hut in a large field bordered on one side by a stream. It was my first night camping out in the tent since the awful news. A man I saw walking solo in the Nera Gorge came charging across the meadow hurrying before the approaching thunderstorm. We greet each other. It was consoling to think that I was not the only one wandering around alone in these hills. The storm was enormous and protracted. I got rid of the tent pole and any other metal in my pack and this made the tent less waterproof. The Gellert hydro system also leaked like crazy. Early in the evening I got another phone call from Mirela giving me the date of the memorial service – 2 days hence. I told her that I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to make it. “Oh in that case buy some flowers” she advised. I looked around me in the forest and thought just how impractical that suggestion was. I, however, don’t say anything as, were I to do so, I know the fact that I am back in the wilds would only upset Mirela. As I lie in the pounding rain I decide that I really need to be at that memorial service. I owe it to John.
I woke to a very soggy tent early the next morning. I needed to think about how to get back to a railhead. I could have carried on to Cabana near Semenic but the guidebook warned me that there are only a few buses a day from there to Resita my nearest rail head. I decided to retrace steps and catch one of the hourly minibuses along the Anina Resita road. I breakfasted at the village shop again.
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