Posted by: tim ellis | May 22, 2007

Romania – Wednesday, May 16 2007

The Wind has dropped and it is a bit cloudier today as we set off to see the gorges that Simon and Lesley visited yesterday, calling first at the Park Administrastion building to buy maps and pick up Gruita who is joining us again today.

The gorges were caused by the erosion of the Limestone mountain, and a number of signs have been erected along the route explaining the geology and natural history of the area.

It is another day of small creatures – this time mostly butterflies and beetles, along with a few birds – Wallcreeper and Grey Wagtail being the most prominent.

At the top of the gorge we climb up into the forest (finding lots more interesting fungus) reaching a river in time for a lunch break. As we finish lunch there are a few spots of rain, so rather than continuing upwards we head back down the way we came – we can see the rain at the top of the mountain behind us, but although we occasionally feel a few spots we avoid a soaking on the way back. As we are now early Florin decides to get ahead of the game by going to Bran Castle this afternoon rather than trying to squeeze it in on the way to the airport tomorrow.

Although the tourist stalls below the castle make the most of it’s (very tenuous) Dracula connections the castle itself is dedicated to Queen Mary of Romania – a grand-daughter of (our) Queen Victoria and former owner of the castle.

A brief stop at the guesthouse and then back out to a different bear hide. This one is further away, and I snot controlled by the National Park, so Gruita is not with us this time, and we will have to pay the 25 euro “Photo Tax” – assuming we see anything to take photographs of, that is! (And, no, I don’t know why the Tax is in Euro not Lei…)

We are met by Ciocan, he is a former hunter who is now making money renting his hide and lodges to the eco-tourists, and armed with his rifle and bag of grain we set off for the hide.

We are imediately more successful today, finding two bears before we even reach the hide! They are estimated to be about five and three years old respectively. We sneak past them to the hide, which is much more comefortable than yesterdays, and is not facing directly into the sun. Ciorcan takes his bag of feed, and keeping a cautious eye out for the bears, heads out to the feeding troughs in front of the hide. The advantages of these over yesterdays are that they are closer and better illuminated, but the downside is that they are fairly obviously not natural.

We are told that the bears appeared here yesterday at a quarter to eight. We wait, and, at first it seems the only visitor will be a jay, but finally at around five to eight (“These bears are 10 minutes late”, says Ciorcan), the younger of the two bears we saw earlier appears, grabs some food and runs off. It then reappears, and is joined by a larger male, which is apparently a more aggressive bear – the local “alpha male”. We are busy watching (and photographing) these two, we don’t initially spot a third bear has entered the other side of the clearing. This one has an injured front paw, and seems to have lost a lot of fur – possibly a result of having come off second best in a fight. All three bears tour all the feeding points, but don’t seem too bothered about each other. Eventually they melt back in to the woods, with ouny the injured bear leaving on our side of the clearing – the tricky point being that we still have to walk back to the car…
We wait about 10 minutes before leaving – she is still visible in the woods, but ignores us.

Back at the guesthouse I discover that as well as ther regular Ursus Lager, there is “Usrsus Black” – a stout, which, according to the label, has won several awards – and very nice it is too!

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