Surrounded by Romaniacs in Sibiu, Romania

The huge stickers for you car were selling like hot cakes

Dave the motorhome is still parked in a field near the village of Gusterija neat to Sibiu, Romania. He’s just a little over 100m from the finishing arena for the Red Bull Romaniacs Hard Enduro Rallye.

Last night we went for a walk that Orvi, who lives in the house across the road from where we are parked, suggested. The hill top opposite is home to a huge cross which lights up at night, and also gives a view over the city of Sibiu. To get to it we wandered up past the finishing arena; a JCB was hard at work creating a mound, a tanker delivered water to fill a huge ditch and campers secured the best viewing positions. Then two huge Romanian-registered motorhomes wobbled past us and parked up. We’d opted to stay down at the bottom of the hill as the ruts in it could easily take off one of Dave’s wheels. It was tempting to fetch Dave and join them as they were setting up for a BBQ, but we erred on the side of caution and stuck with where we were.

Last night, the calm before the storm!
Last night, the calm before the storm!

The walk to the hill top took us over a huge motorcross track, open and free for anyone to use. As we scrambled up the steep jumps we speculated on where the riders would go, surely if they were finishing just the other side of the trees, then they’ll be using the motorcross track too? At the viewpoint, an electric spark cracked rhythmically and the cross lit up. Below us Sibiu, shrouded in mist, also lit up as the street lights came on. In the distance the Carpathian hills had clouds hanging below their peaks.

Someone got caught seeking out a very muddy puddle!
Someone got caught seeking out a very muddy puddle!
The cross on the hill overlooking Sibiu
The cross on the hill overlooking Sibiu

Back at Dave we moved him as far off the road as we could on Orvi’s advice, as the rough road tends to flick up stones when cars and bikes go past. Throughout the night big sounding stuff went by, but Dave was fine. The big-sounding stuff was chased by Orvi’s dogs, who barked us to sleep.

This morning we peeked out to see many more cars and trucks up by the finishing arena, it was all starting to take shape. On top of the massively steep mud slope was a Red Bull arch – the finishing post – clearly visible from Dave. Cars and off-road bikes continued to pour past, some of the bikes opting to use the fields instead of the road. We joked that the ubiquitous Red Bull mini cars with oversized cans on the back would never make it up the gravel road, then ten minutes later two drove past us. Figuring it was all about to kick off, we slapped on some sun screen, packed some snacks in our rucksack, dug out the camping chairs and set off to find our viewing spot.

Red Bull comes to the countryside
Red Bull comes to the Romanian countryside

Ducking under some bright orange KTM tape we were inside the natural bowl shaped arena. We climbed a small mound of earth to one side and set up camp on a flat spot right opposite the finishing post. Realising that we weren’t going to get any shade, Jay headed back to Dave and grabbed an umbrella to create our own. By the time he had returned our chairs were surrounded and the place was filling up. The Offspring, The Sex Pistols and numerous other angry sounding tunes blared out from the speakers set either side of the Red Bull branded Hummer that the DJ sat on.

Where's Julie?
Where’s Julie?

The announcer thankfully used both English and Romanian to tell everyone what was happening. There was so much going on we didn’t know where to look. Someone attempting the steep finish climb (unsuccessfully), a JCB still piling up dirt, banners being hung around the security fencing, armed police with bullet proof jackets wandering around, off-road bikes weaving through the crowds – it kept us entertained until the helicopter arrived and landed in the motorcross field behind us. A signal that the first of the riders was due.

The huge stickers for you car were selling like hot cakes
The huge stickers for your car were selling like hot cakes
They start them young around here!
They start them young around here!

Of course this was hard core stuff, we’d been foolish to think they would use the motorcross track, that was far too tame. These guys only seemed to tackle vertical slopes, many many of them. Sometimes the bikes made it up and the riders didn’t, other times the rider scrabbled over the last bit of dirt while the bike fell away. Then they had to try and reunite themselves with their machines – as there seemed to be only a few spectators among the trees on the steep banks to help them.

Any means was used to get down the near vertical slopes
Any means was used to get down the near vertical slopes
A shattered Mart Meeru from Estonia struggles
A shattered Mart Meeru from Estonia struggles

Attempting the big finishing slope was optional, but soon the first rider arrived at its base, but when I say big, well that really doesn’t cover it, it was huge. He made it about three quarters of the way up, then his bike ground to a halt and tipped over. Again and again this happened until eventually someone made it, to a massive cheer from the crowd.

The slope to the finish line.
The slope to the finish line.
Simon Jose Luis Fatule from Peru eyes up his next challenge.
Simon Jose Luis Fatule from Peru eyes up his next challenge.
Emanuel Geyenes from Romania at the start of the steep climb
Emanuel Geyenes from Romania at the start of the steep climb
It was bad enough that the main slope was almost vertical, but then you had to navigate around its victims
It was bad enough that the main slope was almost vertical, but then you had to navigate around its victims
So near, yet so far!
So near, yet so far!

We made a den for Charlie between our camping chairs so he could stay out of the sun and spent a great day sitting on our hill and taking it in turns to wander around. We watched over 350 riders from 40 different countries try to kill themselves, but thankfully no one succeeded. In fact we saw many tumbles, but they all got straight back up and back on their bikes, granted some gave it a kick first. Probably less than 10% made it up the huge slope to the top – each time rewarded with a massive cheer. Chris Warwick from Australia must have tried about 25 times, before we think he must have finally given up.

Chris Warwick from Australia - poor chap tried at least 20 times to reach the top of the big slope.
Chris Warwick from Australia – poor chap tried refused to give up

Once over the ‘finish line?!’ the riders disappeared off into the trees again and we could see glimpses of them now and again tackling smaller, equally vertical sections until they were in the main arena, where the riders had a choice – the ‘chicken line’ which was to simply ride over the line, or to try and cross the water. As the first person to rise to the challenge lined up the crowd were on their feet. They got to witness a spectacular somersault finish in the water, with rider and bike both getting submerged. A crew jumps in and feels around to help retrieve the bike and help carry it to the finish as there is no hope of it starting again. Funnily enough few people attempted the water jump after that, but the pro-riders who did make it across came and stood by the start of it and coached the local guys as they attempted to cross the pond.

That's how it should be done!
That’s how it should be done!

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Philipp Scholz from Germany almost glides over the water - with encouragement from the other riders behind.
Philipp Scholz from Germany almost glides over the water – with encouragement from the other riders behind.
Artem Denisenko from Russia shows some nice water displacement...
Artem Denisenko from Russia shows some nice water displacement…
....until the water gets its revenge!
….until the water gets its revenge!
Looking for bike parts in the water
Looking for bike parts in the water
Frederik Derycke from Belgium making a splash!
Frederik Derycke from Belgium making a splash!
Wade Young from South Africa gets instruction from the other riders as he reaches the water.
Wade Young from South Africa gets instruction from the other riders as he reaches the water.
Riho Kollist from Estonia makes it over the water - just!
Riho Kollist from Estonia makes it over the water – just!
Enrico Garavelli from Italy gets help to find his bike.
Enrico Garavelli from Italy gets help to find his bike.

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How not to cross the water.
How not to cross the water.
Not satisfied with snowboarding down the main finishing slope, this guys tries his hand on the water too!
Not satisfied with snowboarding down the main finishing slope, this guys tries his hand on the water too!

Back at home, something like this would probably have cost us £10 – £15 to go and watch, and would be full of security and rules. Here it was all free and although there were a few police around it was all very laid back and relaxed. Beer and Red Bull flowed despite about 25% of the crowd watching having arrived on  off-road bikes themselves. Once the competitors started to wander around too it was difficult to tell who was here to watch and who was here to ride.

The crowd
The crowd
A media frenzy at the end for Jonny Walker from the UK (3) and Chris Birch from New Zealand (4)
A media frenzy at the end for Jonny Walker from the UK (3) and Chris Birch from New Zealand (4)
These bikes take one hell of a battering
These bikes take one hell of a battering
All nationalities were in this small corner of Romania
All nationalities were in this small corner of Romania

It was an amazing experience and the best part was that it was all won by a Brit – Graham Jarvis. We’d never heard of him, but he’s out there on the circuit doing Great Britain proud! As usual we took way too many photos, above is the very edited highlights, (and video which we’ll upload once we get wifi).

Sometimes there are no words to express how you feel.
Sometimes there are no words to express how dug in your bike is
It's not just the track that is dangerous, you can break a leg on the podium too!
It’s not just the track that is dangerous, you can break a leg on the podium too!

After the podium ceremonies took place and the crowd thinned we headed back to Dave, but riders were still coming in for another hour or so. Just after 4.30pm the sky darkened and it has started to rain, thankfully cooling the air down and dampening the dust kicked up by the bikes. The locals riders that weren’t in the competition are now attempting the huge slope and water feature – every so often we hear a cheer go up, not sure anyone has made it to the top yet though.

Orvi suggested heading into Sibiu this evening, and offered to call us a taxi and will write down exactly where we need to go to come back. He’s told us the price of the taxi (less than €6 return) so we won’t get ripped off. At first we were reluctant, after a whole day in the sun we’re both tired, but it is Saturday night and it would be rude not to. So I’m off for a quick shower and to get my glad rags on.

Ju x

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7 Comments

    • It certainly was. We only found out about it by chatting to some people we met on the mountain pass. It was great to see it all appear, happen, then disappear again in a couple of days. Peace returned to Sibiu this morning…until next year!

  1. Reading your daily adventures is like being on tour with you, keep up the good work!!! Photos of the rally were brilliant :D

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