Exactly three months ago we’ve tried to give an analysis of what is going on in Romania, and the future of offroading in this, probably most popular European country for organizing offroad tours (we’ve covered the theme in this post). In the meantime we haven’t become much smarter or better informed about the subject, so the essential dilemmas still exist. There have been people doubting that there is any truth in what we’ve written, with the key argument “but tour operators are conducting business as usual in 2017?”
Well, if you analize the Romanian tour market carefully, it’s not exactly “business as usual”, or at least not the way it was done some years ago. Of course, the big tour operators, especially those whose main focus of business is on Romania and Carpathian tours, have a vital interest to keep the tours functioning as normal as possible, hiding all the efforts they’re investing to achieve that. But subtle changes in the tour spectre can be seen.
The most significant change is that big, “transcarpathian” tours, spanning several counties and several Carpathian mountain ranges, have virtually disappeared. You may ask – why is it so? Well, in a situation with ever tightening administrative rules for conducting tours, those tours that would require the organizer to contact a big number of administrative authorities in several counties, have simply become too complicated, as well as too expensive to organize. So tour operators are concentrating on touring some fairly limited areas for (usually) a week, where having a local partner dealing with only one forestry administration office is quite sufficient.
Of course, they’re not allowing that fact to become visible through their marketing – all the tours are grand, epic, the “real” Carpathians, with lots of mud, snow, etc. – even when they’re in fact, taking place in the third league of Carpathian mountains. And if you ask them about the most attractive Carpathian mountain ranges and trails, they may just tell you that “offroading is not allowed there”. Or maybe they just don’t want to go to all the hassle of trying to arrange permits to take their tours there, when the same money can be earned with conducting tours in some anonymous mountain ranges? Yes, exactly those anonymous mountain ranges where they have their own guides working as foresters or rangers 🙂
What have we discovered since?
Actually, not many solid facts. And we have talked to many Romanians, either involved in the local offroading scene, or in some kind of mountain service. How many people, so many different stories. Everyone has his own theory, estimations and predictions about what’s going on. But, there are SOME solid facts. And to take a look at them, lets go to the Caras-Severin county.
There have been some articles published in Romanian on the Radio Resita website, that are without a doubt indicating what is going on (at least what is going on in the Caras-Severin county).
In short, they’re clearly indicating that Romsilva, in conjunction with the local hunting associations, is taking some drastic steps to limit access to forests and mountain trails, by putting up locked barriers on virtually EVERY forest trail they can think of. The main excuse for doing that is, in their words, to protect the forests from illegal lumber cutting (which has been a problem in Romania for ages). However, there is another reason for doing this, and that is to “prevent the disturbance of wildlife by unwanted visitors”. Of course, the mostly unwanted visitors are those driving vehicles with combustion engines, so they’re in the process of assembling special police task forces that would control forest terrain, and charge with fines of approximately 100 to 300 Euros those that are found to use the forest trails without prior authorization. Furthermore, it goes even so far to promise tightening of the grip even on hiking in the forests – but that is a slightly different subject. We’re focusing first of all on whether or not it is safe to roam the Romanian wilderness in a 4×4 vehicle?
A bitter taste to offroading Romania
We will continue our search for solid facts, and the procedures to organize safe 4×4 travel in present day Romania. We’ll travel to Romania in the next several months, and talk face to face to some people that should be well informed (and bring that information to you). But the facts that we will (hopefully) be presented with cannot neutralize the bitter taste that we already have about contemplating any overland exploration of Romania in the future. Although we’re very interested to hear the full, official justification of these drastic steps, it can’t change the notion that Romania is quickly headed towards becoming the next Slovakia. And Slovakia is a country where, several years ago, a combination of some drastic restrictive measures imposed by the government, has wiped that country off the European 4×4 map, banning all 4×4 travel through the forests.
So, if you’re planning on making an overland tour of Romania, you’re doing it at your own risk. You might still get lucky (as we’ve also been so far), and say afterwards “those jerks at Serbianoutdoor 4×4 are just panicking without a reason”. But if you get into trouble, don’t say you haven’t been warned!