Iovan Valley Lake and The Cerna Springs by MTB

We’re down to our last episode in our Bike Tours trilogy in the mountains of South – Western Romania. The first day took us through the spectacular Sohodol Gorges and the beautiful Tismana Monastery. Then, the second day took us on one of the most picturesque highways we’ve been on towards Cerna Village. The third day wasn’t supposed to be the toughest one but so it was in the end :))) However, on the flip side, it was also the most spectacular and beautiful one 😀

Brief useful information:
Date: 1st of June 2015
Route: Cerna Village – Corcoaia Gorges – Iovan Valley Lake – Cerna Springs – Buții Gorges Guesthouse
Distance: 58 km
Duration: 10 – 11 h (with lots and lots of breaks, 8 km of push-bike and includes visiting the Cerna Springs)
Slope: +890 m/-500 m
Monday morning, on the 1st of June, we prepare to “attack” the last day of our tour. Basically our route shouldn’t have been very hard, but it turned out not to be so. First we stopped immediately after we left Cerna village to visit the short but very spectacular Corcoaia Gorges. We’re going to write a separate post about these Gorges because they deserve one 😀 You can also see the indicators where the gorges begin in the image above.

Then we continued towards Iovan Valley Lake. It’s an easy and gentle climb but for some reason we were completely out of fuel although it was only the first part of the day :)) I guess the fatigue from the previous two days was taking its toll. Anyway, we slowly climbed towards the dam that forms this beautiful lake. The road is mainly a dirt road but when we got closer to the dam the road is made out of concrete slabs. Broken ones I should mention :)) That only made things worse since it was also a descend until the dam and we were shaken pretty badly 😀

After a shaky descend we finally reach the dam. And what a dam! It’s pretty huge, here in the middle of nowhere. We climbed on the dam itself and walked on it for a bit and you could only see water ahead. This lake is massive with clear and clean water which has a beautiful emerald colour. It’s no surprise the water is so clear since there are no villages on a 20 km radius. Tourists rarely reach this place because here you can only come with mountain bikes and serious off road vehicles. Trekking in these woods is not an options since the distances are big and I wouldn’t camp in this wilderness so far from any civilisation!

From this dam we have about 20 km left until the Cerna Springs, our main objective for today. This forest road winds along the Iovan Valley Lake shores and as we immediately found out it’s pretty dangerous. Or at least that’s what a big yellow indicator told us as you can see in the image below. We simply ignored it but I should mention it warned us about the road being narrowed, that there are rock falling and that it’s bumpy. No problem for us on our mountain bikes 😀 Unfortunately most of these 20 km wind through a dense forest and we rarely got to catch a glimpse of the beautiful emerald colour of the lake 🙁 Only a few spots that we tried to photograph and you can see the photos below 🙂

Some time after we pass the dam we reach a crossroad where we also found an indicator that you can see in the image above. We turn right, over the bridge, towards Câmpu lui Neag and Cerna Springs. The road is mostly flat sometimes we have small descends and climbing. The most problematic part was the mud. There were significant parts of the road with mud and we sometimes had to get off the bikes and bypass it 🙁 I think it rained the previous days in that area so maybe you’ll be luckier.

The forest is very dense and we can hardly catch a glimpse of the emerald – like colour of the lake. This part of the route is very relaxing. A classical cross country track for our bikes. At some point we hear the roar of engines behind us and we get off the bikes to make room for them to pass. When they reach us we see that they are a big group driving off road motorcycles, ATVs and big jeeps. We chatted a bit and discovered they were from the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany. They told us they had a 2000 km itinerary through Romania only on off road and dirt roads. They loved it so far 🙂

The scenery on this part of the track is very diverse and we loved it: dense forest, the lake and its beautiful emerald colour water, high stone walls, waterfalls which we could only hear not see because of the very dense forest and green picturesque meadows full of flowers. It’s a very, very enjoyable ride here but I should mention that our advice is to go in a group of at least 3 people since it’s such a remote place. In case an accident happens to one person, the other two can help carry him.

In the pictures above you can see the last pictures on this part of our route that winds on the lake shore. The last image is a beautiful place where I’m sure we could have had a brilliant bath in the beautiful lake water. Unfortunately we were already late and we didn’t have time to enjoy it. But next time, we’ll certainly go! 😀

Immediately after the place where the last picture was taken a short descend begins towards the Cerna Springs. Continue reading to see one of the highlights of our tour! 🙂

After we descend a bit we cross a bridge over the Cerna river and then we go down right on the bank of the river. You can already hear the roar of the raging water. Soon after, you also see it 😀 (picture above). We cross Cerna river again on an improvised wooden bridge and head towards the springs. We leave our bikes somewhere on the trail and continue on foot on some big boulders leading to the source of this river. As we go further we see water bursting from everywhere: from the ground, from between the rocks, from underneath the tree roots. It’s amazing and fascinating.

It’s not only the visual show that impressed us but also the sound. The noise this water makes is impressive and you can’t hear what a person one meter from you is saying, that’s how loud it is. Brilliant! 🙂 You can simply feel the force of the Cerna river coming to the surface. I would honestly come here only too see this place alone, that’s how impressive it is! After we admired the springs, we took a longer break to eat and relax. We were right next to the springs and we sit quietly absorbing the sound and the view of this beautiful raging river.

Our long break only postponed the inevitable: the long climb from the Cerna Springs until the base of Oslea Mountain. We were in for a climb with a slope of +640m in 10 km. It doesn’t seem like much but the road is pretty though, with a lot of gravel on it and this makes it very hard to climb and to keep your balance. It was also very hot and the previous two days were taking their toll 🙁 We were 30 km in our planned route and we were already pretty tired.
We also crossed some strange forests. One of our teammates was pretty scared of this part of the route since it’s very isolated and bears are known to live here. We took some minimal precautionary measures: we talked, sang and generally made a bit of noise in order not to bump in to a bear. In this case it might attack.

As we were getting closer to the base of Oslea Mountain the scenery was getting rockier and rockier. There were quite a few big rocks on the road and fallen in the valley below. On our left side we had a huge abyss and on our right side we had a menacing high stone wall. The views were simply spectacular. Good thing we were doing push-bike and we had time to admire :))) Images above and below.

After a few kilometres of push-bike we reach flat ground!! We all thought this was the highest point of our climb. We were so happy and cheering that we were going to descend. I knew that from the highest point we were 17 km away from our accommodation on the first night where we left our cars. The flat ground where we thought the climb was over is in the picture below. We got dressed in thicker clothes as we were going to be cold on the descend.

So, happily we hopped on our bikes and hit the road. The first part was what we expected: a descend. Then it was pretty flat and then we were pedalling like crazy. We were thinking: what kind of descend is this since we’re pedalling like crazy and we’re doing only 12-13 km/h???? The answer was simple: it was climbing, not descending! :)))) We were so convinced that THIS is the descend that we failed to realise that we were actually climbing : )) After all, we concluded that the “REAL” high point was 3 km away from the “FAKE” one :))

The highest point (the real one) can be recognised easily as there’s a small meadow surrounded by forest and a few small wooden benches for resting. A bit lower there’s also a sheepfold. From this point on I didn’t take anymore pictures since we kind of enjoyed going down after a few hours of continuous climbing :)) The first part of the descend is more technical because it has a lot of gravel and big rocks on the surface of the road and it’s also pretty steep. But this part only lasts about 2-3 km. After this part the road has a perfect tarmac surface! 😀

We finally reach Buții Gorges Guesthouse (where we had accommodation the first night and where we left our cars) just as the sun was setting. Perfect timing! 🙂 After we ordered and ate almost 7 pizzas at the restaurant we felt ready to head back home to Timișoara 😀 It was a great trip, with great friends and with many adventures. We saw amazing places, we did some tiring climbing and some thrilling descents. 3 days of another epic Bike Tours adventure! 🙂


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