MTB through the Strei Valley and the Orăștiei Mountains

As we promised we’ll start a series of articles about cycling. More exactly mountain biking. We’ll tell you about our adventure in the summer of 2016.
Epic Bike Tour 2016. That’s how we called it. This tour meant over 300 km of mountain bike trails through Romania’s mountains and country side. It was an amazing experience and we were an amazing team! So let’s start with the first stage of our adventure 😊

Brief useful information:
Date: 13 August 2016
Route: Boleștilor Inn – Petros village – Strei Valley – Grădiștea de Munte – Costești
Distance: 54 km (42 km without visiting the Sarmizegetusa Regia fortification)
Slope: +738 m/ – 810 m
Duration: 8 h (including a 2h stop at the Șipot Waterfalls, fixing a flat and picture stops)
Difficulty: medium (easy climb on the Strei Valley – 7.8% avg. slope angle, 5 km harder climb – 10% avg. slope angle, then a downhill until Grădiștea de Munte – 10.8% avg. slope angle)
Water sources: Petros, Șipot Waterfalls, Grădiștea de Munte, Costești
Accommodation: Costești village, Dar Guesthouse, 50 lei/pers/night, tel: +4 0723 215 504, +4 0724 072 375 
We start our adventure in an unlucky date some would say, the 13th, although be it, it’s not a Friday but a Saturday 😀 The only bad luck was the place we slept for the night before the actual mountain biking activity, Boleștilor Inn.

It’s a place with weird people that look like Mafia members of some sort. Anyway, they made a huge noise in the inn’s restaurant and together with the not so clean rooms made a terrible place for accommodation. So I would search some place else to sleep 😊
Let’s get it on now with today’s tour per see. We quickly pass the small section of  the national highway, E79, and then take a right towards the Petros village. We briefly pass through the village and soon enter the Strei Valley part of which we know very well from our previous three attempts to see the Șipot Waterfalls located 7 km away from the main road.

The climb up the valley is easy and we barely notice the slight slope. The dirt road is wide and very relaxing to cycle on. We simply admired the beautiful surroundings: the Strei river, the lush forest and the big stone walls surrounding the valley.
Half an hour in our today’s tour we reach the Șipot Waterfalls. This amazing and unknown waterfalls are so spectacular that they really deserve a visit. We already wrote an article about our visit here 😃

We let out teammates explore the waterfalls so we stood for about two hours waiting for them but we relaxed on the shore of the Strei river. Such a beautiful day, blue sky with a few clouds and the sound of water. You can’ beat that.
6 km away from the entrance towards the Șipot Waterfalls we encounter our first crossroad. It’s exactly where you see the milestone in the image below and we must keep left and continue following the Strei river along which we came up until here.

Starting from this point we go deeper in the forest as the valley gets narrower and narrower. I must admit it’s more to my liking since the landscape also gets a bit wilder with stone walls getting closer to our right side.
Just 4 km away from the first crossroad we reach the second one. Here you can spot a small refuge with a couple of benches and with a roof. A good place to stop for lunch on this route. 

After a half an hour break we continue our route by going to the left over the bridge you can see in the image below. From now on the road surface becomes rougher (due to a recent landslide) and narrower. This is the start of a 4.5 km long climb with an average slope angle of + 10%.
The first part of this climb was hard to tackle especially after coming in a relaxed rhythm on the Strei Valley. I was motivated because I got to test a teammate’s 29er MTB which goes extra easy over any obstacle 😎

2.5 km into our climb we reach another crossroad (image below). Although the main road makes a brutal 180 degrees curve our route is on the road to the right which looked secondary…to say the least 😊
Well, what can I say? Since I made this track, I had to trust myself, right? 😃 Although at first this secondary road looked creepy and filled with big boulders, it turned out to be my favourite part of today’s tourWe continue to go up but this time the slope is more gentle, with an average slope angle of + 7%.

I liked this part since it crosses an untouched forest which is situated at the border between the hardwood forest and the coniferous forest. I think the whole team got motivated by the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. It was not only gorgeous here but we were in for a fantastic surprise. Read below 😉
The surprise was this beautiful and small meadow (images above)! Perfect doesn’t even begin to describe it. At least this is how I felt at that time. Why? Well because it’s ideally placed just at the end of the climb and thus is a perfect place to simply throw your bike to the ground and yourself on the unnaturally soft grass. Some of us even took a power nap 😁

I actually think this first day’s route was worth it only for this place! Enthusiasm aside, the reality is that we managed to do less than half of the planned distance. We slowly got up from this amazing meadow and hopped on our bikes to continue to the destination. We started to go downhill and caught quite a bit of speed. In all the commotion we didn’t realise that we were off our track. We did about 1 km before we realised it and had to return in order to find the spot where we made the wrong turn.

Bare in mind that this route is not signposted and you should have our recorded GPS track with you so that you don’t get lost. In the image below you can see the spot where you need to go a bit to the right from the main road. This is the place we missed.

I’ll be honest. This slight turn to the right was not to my taste. The road was really rough and at one point we had to cycle through a river…OK, a creek, not really a river, but still… So this part was technical and not really bike – friendly.
Despite all these we were still doing a fast descent so we were thrilled. We don’t care about rough roads but it was a change of scenery since until this point everything was pretty smooth. Anyway, a descent is a descent and we’ll love it, no matter what 😁
After 8.5 km of going downhill we finally reach the asphalt road linking Costești to Grădiștea de Munte and finally the Sarmizegetusa Regia fortification. At this crossroad, a part of the team went another 6 km up to the fortification and the others continued to our accommodation in Costești since we already visited the fortification in the spring. Here’s our article about Sarmizegetusa Regia.
Our accommodation in Costești was great. Very nice owners, very clean guesthouse and a big kitchen and living room where tourists can gather and talk. There is no restaurant but there is another big hotel with a restaurant just 5 minutes away. It also includes a very nice hot tub for tourist to enjoy. We also met some Czech tourists here and told them some tips & tricks when visiting Romania 😎

Our route on the map:

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