Cycling To The Muddy Volcanoes Of The Carpathians

With the recent Bucharest weather we have been casting our minds back to a balmy few days in November late last year. We were able to join a group that planned to cycle from Buzau, Romania to the muddy volcanoes at Berca, Romania. It seemed like a great way to get a last few miles under the wheels before winter took hold of the weather, and what a glorious day we had!

The lovely Ionut Maftei from CarpaptBike organised the event for a group of like minded people, all keen to exploit the cycling opportunities that Romania offers. Having organised the event at short notice, the first challenge of the day for Ionut was to coordinate the meeting of several cars, many of them wearing bikes on roof bars. This was complicated by the presence of a Sunday market where the first meeting point was planned and the addition of many other cars trying to park in the same area.

Most people had made an early start from Bucharest, Romania to join the event, and the glorious weather helped to create a real sense of anticipation even with the minor delays. Finally the group was assembled, padded shorts were ready to take the strain and we started the cycle.

It did not take long to move from the gentle flat roads surrounding our starting point to some gentle foothills and some steeper gradients. The group quickly spread out across several hundred metres, but spirits were good. As we got closer to our destination the hills seemed to get steeper and longer, which was partly true and partly due to onset of tiredness (and hunger). On (and on) we pedalled up the final hill until we reached the park with the famous volcanoes.

After a quick stop for a late lunch, most of the group paid their money and went for a walk to explore the volcanoes. The Natural Reservervation at Bercan has almost 30 ha of land. Known in the region under the name “Mists”, Muddy Volcanoes have the same structure as the real volcanoes, occurring as a result of a similar process. The result is miniature volcano cones that do not exceed 5 to 6 m in height, with outflows that are much smaller. They create the same effect as their bigger, lava based brethren – an area that is both barren and spectacular at the same time.

The volcano phenomenon starts deep below the ground. Gasses erupt from approximately 3000 meters below the surface and work their way upwards through the underground layers of clay and water. As the gasses make this journey they push up underground salty water and mud that eventually ‘erupts’ through the mouths of the volcanoes. The gas then emerges as bubbles, creating odd patterns in the mud. After the long journey the mud finally dries off at the surface creating a relatively solid conical structure, resembling a real yet very petite volcano. The mud expelled by them is cold, as it comes from inside the Earth’s continental crust layers, and not from the mantle.

With the tour of the volcanoes completed, it was tempting to sit around and enjoy the late autumn sun, but a look at the time stripped away the relaxed atmosphere as we realised that the lateness of the year meant that cycling back to the cars before the sun vanished was going to be a challenge. The good news was that remembering all of the uphill work to get to the park meant that there would be a lot more downhill cruising on the way home. Even with the hills on our side, the last section of the return journey was completed in darkness but we all got back safely and exhilarated after an excellent day out. The weather had held, the sun had shone and we were now on our way back to Bucharest for some well earned pizza.

Thanks again to the team at Carpatbike. If you want more details about their organised cycling trips in different parts of Romania then check out their website at: http://www.carpatbike.ro/