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Monday, May 5, 2014

Cabrio ride hints: Transalpina DN67C


Before my first travel to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, my beloved were afraid. Wild Bucharest, gypsies, wandering dogs, strange places etc. Nothing happened, it wasn't even close to an issue. Exactly the opposite, I came back fascinated of Bucharest. Of course I understood, that Bucharest is not Romania, so I wanted to see more and did a trip outside in a rented Saab 9-5. It was different, I've seen places and people in a very sad condition. In the usual mood to see positive sides of life, I've learned to value what I have at home.

I've learned about Transfăgărășan and Transalpina highways. I love to explore such destinations, so planning was a natural next step. Timing is important and the free weekend for this came recently. Transfăgărășan is officialy closed until july so I've tried the Transalpina.

Sebeș, the start from the north

Under the official name DN67C, nicknamed Transalpina, highway is one of the highest roads in altitude in Europe. The highest point is at 2,145m above sea level. It is leading through the Transylvanian Alps also called Southern Carpathians. The nature apart the narrow road is more or less untouched, so expect bears, wolves and vampires:)

The start in the north is the town Sebeș, in the south it ends in the town Novaci. The length is about 130 km / 80 miles. My direction was north to south, but this really depends on your itinerary and plans. In any case, if you start in Bucharest, do not expect to do Bucharest - Transalpina - Bucharest roundtrip in one day. Due to the slow romanian traffic, it is impossible. A good choice to spend a night nearby is the historical city Sibiu.

A couple of road trip reports are saying about a driveable road, so I've rented again the Saab 9-5 MY 2011, a Turbo4 Aero. It was not exactly an error, but the Saab got a challenge.

It started quite normal...

After the start ...
Wonderful nature, good roads and almost no traffic (start of May). Less people around, less villages. The road leads up into the hills, the weather changes with the altitude. It changed from warm sunny morning to cloudy and cold mid day. The temperature dropped from 22°C to 8°C and then back on the other side of the mountains. There came five minutes of short rain just to be changed to another five minutes of sunshine. This is first reason why not to choose a convertible for this road.

The mobile phone signal was lost, so no google maps, no facebook shares and selfies. Have a GPS or paper map with you.

You are in the middle of ... Transylvanian Alps.

"Drum" means road, trip, journey...

The fun starts where the road ends. The information tables are warning about everything, just not about, that your nice asphalt or concrete road is full of holes and sometimes even stops to exist. Slow and careful driving phase arrived.

It's very hard to maintain a road in such conditions and it was to see. The constantly changing passages of good and extremely bad roads were a challenge for me and for the Saab. Unexpected holes forced me to drive slowly and mind the places where I could damage the car. The "soil passages" were simply about stop and look for the best way out. This is the second reason why not to choose a convertible for this drive. Consider an SUV or off-road.

Yes I know it is not very wise to choose this type of car, but nobody warned about this and once you are there, you don't go back. The Saab was very brave and I didn't do a slightest harm to him. The locals were driving here on Dacias. Maybe they change their bumpers every year.

Another obstacle came after ~50 kilometers - road closed. But it was possible to go around that roadblock and fortunately there was another car crew thinking about the same - go or return? They told me, that the reason may be, that in the hills is still a meter of snow. We agreed to ignore the block, drive together and help each other in case of need. Nothing happened. There was snow but not on the road. I assume the roadblock was forgotten from the winter and nobody cared to remove it.

After another ~30 kilometers, there was another roadblock, this time without a chance to go around it. But it was at a crossroads, so I had to continue on 7A instead on the DN67C at the last passage. It turned out to be a wonderful road in a walley along a wild creek with waterfalls etc. Also the sun showed up, the road was more or less ok, so this was maybe the most impressive passage.

On the 7A, the final passage.

On the 7A, the final passage

On the 7A, the final passage

So the final trip was a bit different from planned, but it was ok. You can see it on the map below.

The way back to Bucharest was long (400km) and interesting. While driving through the smaller cities you get a little bit better feeling about where you are. I've seen a wedding as well as a funeral march on the streets, a flock of sheeps at a petrol station, cows in the middle of the residential areas and so on. Remember this is Romania, EU, not India.

Was it worth? Definitely yes! Would I do it again? Of course.

I've fallen in love with the last 9-5. It is a very good and comfortable car. Especially on the way back on the country roads it behaved just fantastic. Enough power, very good in curves, an extremely good feeling inside. Unfortunately I cannot afford another car right now, but the Saab virus about this Saab is deep in me already. 

Transfagarasan will be the next one:)

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