The Magic of the Carpathians

Forming a big S, the ACT Romania route crosses the eastern arc of the Carpathian mountains. Niki Krutak from Touratech Austria was there during the documentation of this stretch and describes his impressions of this fascinating country.

The country captivates us on our first evening there with its unique hospitality. Here in Baia Mare, in the particularly charming landscape of the Maramureș County, our landlady gives us a warm welcome with the traditional Sarmale stuffed cabbage rolls and strong schnapps, which we later do justice to with deep

sleep in the ancient, lovingly renovated farmhouses. From bed linen to breakfast, everything at the Country Lodge „Iz de Maramureș“ is of high quality, and feels like a tradition dedicated to good things and not merely to please the visiting travellers.

The fact that we will be saving the life of a newly born puppy here lends a special touch to our team’s first evening together.

Little „Lola Aventura de Maramureș“ now enjoys excellent health and will grow up happily in the Black Forest.

But above all, we’ve come to ride the new ACT route and shoot a lot of film. After ACT Portugal and Greece, it’s now Romania’s turn. This a land which invites its visitors to travel back in time to the Middle Ages, and where adventure motorcycles are as welcome off-road as on the legendary paved mountain roads.

Despite the friendly, helpful people and the picturesque villages, this country should not be misunderstood to be „quaint“. More like „wildly romantic“, with a strong emphasis on the „wild“.

There are bears and wolves and nature is sometimes as unpredictable as the traffic on the road. The mountain roads are often impassable until June and, in the plains, the loamy tracks become a slippery challenge in the rain.

This unpredictability ended in disaster for the scouting team - ACT track manager Filipe, adventure film maker Stefan Klabunde, and scout Jakob. Torrential rain, technical problems and Jakob’s bad off-road accident prevented efficient scouting, day after day, so that when we arrive to shoot the film, we are welcomed by a track that is only half finished.

At six in the morning, we wake up to the buzzing of Stefan‘s drone flying over our first camp spot in the morning sun.

During the coming days, Stefan and his film/photo team Canan and Katja will keep pulling new film equipment out of the Landrover and always report for duty with full batteries and empty memory cards... excellent work by the Rugged Frames film crew!

Then, we call up Day1 in the track memory of our navigation device and are finally „in ACTion“! We’re off to the forest. A few days ago, it rained so much that the pre-scouting team had to rent a Jeep to drive along the route once more. Water is still standing in the forest, the first river crossings shoot up spray several metres high - but, everything is under control.

The mountains of the Maramureș rest on a rockier foundation than the more southern areas of  Transylvania, where it gets muddy right away when it rains.

Up here, we make very good progress on gravelly forest roads. A short conversation with the crew of a police Rover and we know how close we are to the Ukrainian border: it‘s a border patrol.

On the morning of the second day, we pass massive floods and then come to the forest section where Jacob plunged down two metres into the stream with his Husqvarna, breaking nearly every rib in his body. An efficient rescue effort got him to the hospital in no time - so that’s something else that works well here.

The track is actually easy to ride, even if the water runs down from above - like riding along the bed of a stream. However, everything is based on the ACT idea: sections that are easy to negotiate with an adventure motorcycle with luggage, everything perfectly manageable under normal conditions, and easier alternates available when needed.

Since we are in a large group and do a lot of filming, our days are long, the breaks short and the daily lunch snacks from the hood of the Land Rover become a key element of our expedition. On the third day, a river crossing on a rolling ferry provides the highlight of the day. At no other point has Romania felt more African to us than when loading and negotiating prices with these skippers.

Later in the day, we feel as if we’re in South America, the scenic diversity is fascinating. Dangerous diversity on the roads as well: One minute a commercial truck from Bucharest bombs past you, you swerve to avoid an unlit horse-drawn cart the next. Extreme caution is required on roads here.

And then it gets all Romanian again. Early in the morning, in the unique golden morning light of the Carpathians, we start off along a real off-road highway, high up near Cluj-Napoca. The fourth stage is actually supposed to be a day of rest, somewhat shorter and lighter after so much off-road riding in the first three days. But, for us, this is the longest day of the film trip, due to the many unplanned extra kilometres. However, evening brings a warm welcome in an enchanting Agriturismo (farm house stay), where we toast our team spirit later on around the campfire.

And then we approach the ACT finale, with a little more asphalt - but this of the best quality! First, we wind up the „Transalpina“ with wide radius curves and an extremely grippy surface. The architecture of the road is remarkably flowing and you ride yourself almost dizzy. Canan hangs out from Stefan‘s KTM with the camera like a trapeze artist, while we overtake her one by one on the right. Then, to the east, the beginning of the wonderful „Strategica“, an old military test track, which winds through the mountains for over 40 kilometres with fantastic views and a Ligurian Border Ridge feeling. Unfortunately, due to a landslide, we are only allowed to enjoy the beginning this time, once again accompanied by the buzzing of the drone, which takes spectacular pictures.

And then, on to the Transfagarasan Highway, the legendary „race track in the mountains“. According to an urban legend, the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu had it built in the 1970s as a playground for his Ferraris, although officially the main reasons were touristic and military.

A tunnel breaks through the 2398 metre high Paltinu ridge at the pass, but before that, we branch off to Lac Balea, which looks absolutely Norwegian, with its completely red lake-side guest house.From up here, we have a spectacular view of the north ramp of the Transfagarasan, which we have just zoomed up. The raised profile of the spoon-shaped serpentines - which allow for a far smoother ride than the hairpin bends of the Alps - is clearly visible.

Up here, we have reached the ACT Romania destination.

We’re not far from Sibiu, from where there are good connections to Vienna, Budapest or back to Baia Mare, or where the car and trailer could stand. But we continue to Bucharest via the Transfagaran South and the Dracula city of Bran.

If not before, at least now the tempting thought arises: if there were ever to be an ACT Bulgaria leading to ACT Greece, then a three-week Balkan adventure route would be created ....

PROJECT: ACT has set itself the goal of maintaining off-road routes in Europe that can be travelled legally, and opening them up to soft motorcycle tourism. At the same time, the tourism infrastructure in rural areas will be promoted. Initiated by Touratech, „ACT Adventure Country Tracks e.V.“ now operates as a non-profit association. Touratech continues to be a strong sponsor. However,there is now an opportunity for any interested parties to become involved in the project. Romania will become the third ACT. Adventure Country Tracks through Portugal and Greece have already been opened up and are very popular with adventure bike riders.

TEAM: The ACT scouting tour was a real Touratech chief party. Managing directors Marc Pelzer and Alberto Reinhart enjoyed the adventure spirit of the Romanian forests, and with Jochen Schanz, Martin Wickert and Élvio Andrade, the entire company management was there. Felipe Elias from TT Portugal was again Chief of Tracks. Niki Krutak and scout Jakob Weinknecht from Touratech Austria were old hands in Romania. Mirko Nagler from SENA provided up-to-date helmet communication, and Andreas Offer from Suzuki brought a prototype of a V-Strom Desert manufactured by Hessler Racing. Jens Wehrle once again excelled as Master of Logistics, and the entire enterprise was directed by Karin Birkel from Good Souls.

FILM & FOTO: Stefan Klabunde and Canan Gündogan from Rugged Frames produced a good terabyte of film and photo material, which will provide information on the new ACT track via, facebook and youtube, in the coming weeks and months. Katja Wickert attended the tour as photographer.

ROUTE: Following a route designed by Matei and Alba Albulescu, ACT Romania runs in a large inverted S from Baia Mare in the northwest to the pass of the Transfagaran highway. You ride through the most beautiful regions of the Carpathians. The route is about 1500 kilometres long, divided over five days, with good overnight accommodation at the finish points of the stages.

UPDATE: The official route will be presented on the ACT website in autumn and (depending on the snow) is expected to be open to the public from June 2019. The best time to travel tends to be September/October, when the dust of the hot summer has settled.

Further Information is available at

Category: Adventure | Travel