“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Thursday, 5 May 2016

It's all about the birds

Beanbag and birdies
Breakfast at the hotel, Omelette, salad, yoghurt, juice and tea. Feeling so much better today, just a few sporadic pains which are still crippling but much less frequent.
Set off soon after 7am and passed through the main town in rush hour, heading South to the open plains and fish ponds of Rareș.
Paused for Warblers by the roadside, wagtails and a Little Owl atop a small dilapidated shelter.
Found and followed the remains of an otter kill by the fish ponds and on to the wetlands for early purple orchids and time-lapse of fluffy white clouds zipping across the valley.
Had a go at using the in-camera HDR function on an old hut in tall grasses overlooked by a grumpy Little Owl and surrounded by bearded tits. Seemed to work quite well given that the sky was so much brighter than the hut. The location was boggy and fairly stinking, and my boots quickly filled with brown water soaking my socks. With, "Suffer for your art Joanne" ringing in my ears I battled on, sticking my tripod in the marsh, but struggling with the camera controls and forgetting I had downloaded the camera manual to my phone. I ended up hitting the reset to get HDR working which, unbeknownst to me at the time, disabled the creation of RAW images and switched everything back to JPG. I have since learnt that if you want to create HDR images in RAW, you must bracket the shots and merge offline! oops. Another valuable lesson learnt.

We had lunch at Nagy Homorod again (becoming locals), bean goulash with the pork hooked out, bread and water, before agreeing that a return trip to the hotel was not necessary as we could get new dry socks in the local village of Martinis - a shopping trip that ended up with me being the proud owner of a pair of tartan wellies too! Nothing to stop me now.

Changing to dry socks outside the village shop
Spent the afternoon cruising dusty lanes shooting from the car on a bean bag - Winchats, Warblers, Buzzards and a Red-backed Shrike. Then went a-wandering around the larger wetlands of Sânpaul, in my new wellies, listening to the Bitterns booming and the frogs building to a crescendo of noise before quietening back down. A marsh harrier passed back and forth over the grasses whilst sandpipers and dippers took off and landed continuously around us.

Skylarks in the grass, yellow wagtails and an eagle graced the open hills and meadows alongside a herd of cattle and their stock-men and dogs. A truly magical place and could have spent many more hours there.

Wandering the wetlands in my new wellies
We checked the map and decided to go a different, more rural route back - which took us along an even less-used rocky road to a remote village in the hills called Călugăreni, where we stopped to photograph a couple and their 12 year old horse, Janos, harrowing a vegetable patch in preparation for planting. The village was over 300 years old and in places the untamed flora was winning the battle against the holey roofs and crumbling stone walls of long-since abandoned houses. A few people still around, and some kids were happily playing in the stream and damming it with rocks - no internet here to distract them.
old hut using in-camera HDR

We continued up to the top of the mountain through a high Beech forest which opened out onto an incredible view of the setting sun on the plateau. 7pm and the light was glorious, we played around at some more HDR landscape shots before heading down the other side, eyes peeled for the Ural Owl. Unfortunately the Owl eluded us, unlike the grumpy cattle-herder we passed as we reached the foothills, driving his cattle down the road in front of us in his green felt hat and half a knitted jumper - he reminded me of a stereotypical Leprechaun from Ireland.

Since it was our last night, Zoltan from the hotel served us up a lovely vegetable soup and a Romanian speciality dish eaten at Easter and Christmas, called "Sarmale" (shredded boiled meat rolled in boiled cabbage) along with a large lump of pork with an equally large amount of pork fat. Neither items would make it onto my top 1,000 things to eat, so I was grateful that dessert was apple fritters and since Keith had kindly eaten much of my Samarle (and the pork was wrapped in a napkin and reserved for the bears tomorrow) I got to eat his fritters too... that was until he belched excruciatingly loudly at the table before I had started on the last one! git.


  1. I didn't think it was any louder than usual but what can you expect after eating half your dinner of cabbage wrapped minced meat? :P