Last week Leonid Rosca walked into the CEED II office in Chisinau, he had heard about our new website www.moldovaholiday.travel and wanted to know why we had no information about opportunities for Kayaking and Mountain Biking in Moldova. The reason was simple, we had not met Leonid before….
The Moldova Holiday website is the most comprehensive list of all that’s on offer in Moldova, for travellers and tourists. We have been building our web site since May and we are quite pleased with our efforts. The site has detailed listings of travel businesses, visitor attractions, accomodation, travel advice and, well, just about anything a visitor would need, or like to know. But, we didn’t have much information about Mountain Biking, Kayaking or outdoor adventure activities in general, thankfully Leonid was about to change all that.
Leonid runs ‘Explore Moldova’ for 6 years they have been organising trips on foot, mountain bike, kayak and boat in Moldova. In that time Leonid has discovered some real gems, fascinating historic buildings, wild places, scenic picnic spots. He had also made connections with many local Moldovans, keen to meet travellers and explain their way of life…. We set out to follow his directions and find out what the tourist guide books are missing.
Our first stop was by car, we had planned a visit to Sorocca to see the medieval fortress, en route we detoured to see a Church in Cuhuvestii de Jos which Leonid had marked on our map. The church is actually a construction site, the builders downed tools in the 1930’s after paying for the initial construction from their own pockets. The church was intended as a free gift to the local parish, but the builders wanted to recoup some of the cost by asking for donations on opening day.
The local priest refused and work stopped. The stones are still piled waiting for the builders to return.
Impressed by ‘our’ discovery we contacted Leonid and asked if we could find other sites. We are based in Chisinau and had some free time on that Sunday, where could we go, what else could we see? “Easy, lets take some of my Mountain Bikes” was Leonid’s reply.
We left Chisinau at about 10am on a cold and foggy November day, the journey by car took us due west to Vadul lui Voda a summer ‘beach’ resort on the Nistru (Dneister) River. Thankfully the sun broke through on the short drive and equiped with some of Explore Moldova’s brand new mountain bikes we set off for my first bike ride in Moldova. Our route ran along the river’s edge, part tarmac and part macadam road, passing empty summer camps built for workers in the aviation and textiles industries. (In Soviet times most large factories had a summer holiday camp for the workers, Vadul lui Voda was the place to be.)
Once across the Nistru the road climbed a couple of hundred meters up to the high river bank, which gave us commanding views back west towards our start and Chisinau, lost in the autumn fog. The climb itself was gradual but a surprise none the less, Moldovan countryside is gently rolling, not hilly.
After the very welcome and high speed descent back to the water’s edge (this time on the western bank), we found ourselves cycling through the forest which starts at the river. Lunchtime brought a welcome stop, my colleague Sergiu had some sausages and we built a small fire while Leonid served delicious Ceai (pronounced Chai….Tea!). We sat under the trees beside the natural river bank and apart from a fisherman across the water had the place to ourselves!
The trail back to Vadul is only about 10km, so we took a detour to cycle the forest tracks. The ground had been wet and the paths had been churned up by wild boar, their tracks were everywhere. Cycling silently we hoped for a sighting, but the woodland birds could see us coming through the bare trees, their warning cries followed us through the silent wood.
As the light began to fade we turned to ride along the fisherman’s tracks at the river edge. The going was flat and despite the damp and foggy conditions the dirt tracks were very firm. Local dogs took a keen interest but did not come too close, one or two fisherman and a passing boat were all that we saw along the way.
The total trip took about 3 hours, including a stop to cook our lunch. The landscape was very peaceful and practically deserted. Leonid’s bikes are a hybrid type of Mountain bike, hard tail, front fork suspension, lightweight and with enough gears to easily tackle Moldova’s gentle slopes. Although cold, the sun shone and conditions were dry with just enough mud to make the ride an interesting challenge.
So we have good mountain biking in Moldova!! “This is just my local route” Leonid tells us, “in Chisinau’s own back yard, just wait until we travel further and explore some of Moldova many landscape natural parks!” … count me in Leonid!