easter tour 2002
We landed in Budapest, somehow navigated the bus and underground system
to our hotel, dropped the baggage and went in search of culture and
(more importantly) food. The centre of Pest has more than its fair
share of tourist cafes with 'Gypsy' violinists ready to spring out and
play live music at you.
By diving down a dark set of stairs with only
Hungarian writing on the board outside is a good way of finding cheap
drinking establishments. They didn't really serve food though, so we
applied the random walk algorithm to find a really good restaurant near
Ferencek ter. A fantastic meal of meggyleves (cold sour-cream and cherry soup)
paprikas (paprika laced meat) and various other things ensured our
approval of Hungarian food.
Taking the train to Oradea the next day, our first view of Romania was
less than inviting. Rubbish seems to litter the countryside everywhere.
Romanian countryside can be described as many things: dramatic, wild,
very traditionally rural, but sadly not unspoilt.
In Oradea we met up with Paul, our Romanian contact, and he bundled us on
the next train to Şuncuiuş, where we would stay the next two nights. There we
met up with Balint and Ionuţ, our caving companions for most of the rest of the tour.
Being the first evening we had spent in the country, you can imagine
our reticence when they suggested we go caving after supper. All was
well though as it was just a show cave. Balint and Ionuţ took us beyond
the tourist bit to show us the places where they had found pottery, bones,
and other archeological finds.
The next day they were kind enough to give us a lie-in (until 8am) before
the day's rigourous caving activities. We began to wonder what we'd let
ourselves in for. The 2 ½ hour walk to the cave and 3 ½ hour walk back
was definitely more taxing than the cave itself (Peştera Bătrânului).
This was a basically horizontal cave with wall-to-wall formations.
A very enjoyable day altogether.
After just enough sleep to recover from the previous day, we joined a group of
cavers from Cluj-Napoca (Ioţur, Cristina, Reiko, Saddam) and they took us down Peştera Vântului.
This is an absolutely enormous cave (~50km) and from what we saw of it, most of the passage
diameters are pretty large too.
Thankfully, the next day was a rest day. We hired a minibus to Gîrda de Sus, a small
village high up in the Apuseni mountains. Here we found the Casa Speo, our home for the next
few days, during which time we visited Zguraşti, Poarta lui Ionel, Gheţarul Scărişoara and
Avenul din Şesuri.
After a fantastic Easter tour, we just needed one more thing: the scalding, freezing and pummelling experience
that is the Gellert thermal baths in Budapest.
Many thanks go to Balint and Ionuţ for their patience, Cati for her brilliant cooking
and Paul Iacobaş for making it all happen.