18th - 29th July 2018
Writing: Rob Sleet (Year 12)
Photography: Kieran Bozier, Cameron Dipol, Nick Lawson and Alex Telford (Year 12)
On the last Wednesday of the academic year, nine students from Year 12, two teachers and one trip leader departed for Romania for twelve days of trekking, kayaking and sightseeing. As we touched down in Bucharest, we were greeted by our first guide Christie before driving off to the Carpathian Mountain Range. Once we had our tents set up it was time for a 'Romanian Surprise', dinner at a local’s house. One bowl of soup and a chicken schnitzel later, our School’s Worldwide leader Jane brought out the map and showed us our route for the next two days, consisting of traditional Romanian villages, a large gorge and a lot of forest.
The next morning we woke up to something that we hadn’t seen in the UK for weeks but that we knew too well. Rain. Determined not to let this slow us down, we set off on a modified route and no more than an hour later, the rain had stopped giving us a chance to appreciate the surroundings and learn more about Romania. It was at this point that Christie came into his element, telling us about the wildlife, pointing out the different types of mushrooms and flowers and at moments, would jump into the bushes only to come out seconds later with wild berries for us all to try. That evening, in the mountain hut, spirits were high as many games of cards were played before eating dinner - pork and potato stew. The positive attitude was brought with us to the next day of trekking, battling through the rain down the mountains towards our next campsite. The day after consisted of a trip to the nearby wildlife park, where we learnt about the different conservation projects that happen in the region before being transferred to the Fagaras Mountain Range. It was at this point that we said goodbye to Christie and welcomed our new mountain guide Gabby.
The most challenging part of the trip was by far what came over the next couple of days. Our aim was to summit Moldoveanu Peak, the highest mountain in Romania standing at 2544 metres. After driving up the best road in the world (a decision made by Top Gear), we began our ascent of the mountain range on the first day walking across mountain ridges, large piles of snow and at one point, conquering the three steps of death, a technical part which involved using chains and having to be guided slowly by Gabby. With the peak in sight, we went to bed early that evening in order to wake up at 6:00 the following morning to give us the best opportunity to get a great view from the summit. And just before midday, we all got to witness that view, the view of an incoming thunderstorm. Walking back down the mountain we reached our mountain hut five hours later, before all of us crashed from exhaustion.
Ready for some relaxation, the next two days gave us the opportunity to witness some of the culture of Romania. We first visited a traditional working monastery before setting off to the infamous Bran Castle, home of Dracula, and going out for dinner in Brasov. We started off the next day with a walking tour of Brasov from Gabby before heading off to the seven ladders canyon, which rather confusingly had nine ladders working its way up the gorge. The evening was one of my favourite parts, the mud volcanoes made of pools of liquid mud with gas being released every couple of seconds and larger volcanoes spurting out thick gloopy mud.
The last few days of the trip offered us something completely different. Kayaking down the delta of the River Danube was something that we had all been looking forward to and it is fair to say that it lived up to our expectations. We explored several large lakes, played many games of Pirate, had a barbeque lunch by the side of the river in torrential rain and got to witness wild pelicans in their natural element. Not even the mosquitos could ruin the joy of spinning our teachers kayaks around whilst they looked at us helplessly. On our last day of activities, we got a walking tour of Bucharest from our fixer Razvan who explained the history of the city from the ancient churches to the more recent revolution and what it did for Romania. That evening we enjoyed our last meal of the trip in a restaurant, and had a chance to recall all the challenges that we had overcome, all the memories we had made and had a competition as to who had the most mosquito bites.
This has been by far my favourite trip at Challoner’s so I would like to thank everyone in Romania who made the trip possible, with a special mention to the previously mentioned guides and fixers, and a very big thank you to Mr Hopkins, Miss West and Jane who accompanied and supported us throughout the journey.