Update on my life and my book plus the Ceahlău Mountains

Hello dear people. It’s been a while. This blog is turning into more of a quarterly than, well, a blog. I’ve been wanting to write a post for a long, long time, but finishing the manuscript of my guidebook to the mountains of Romania and handling the feedback has swallowed me whole. It’s not that I didn’t have the time – but I’m feeling so depleted that I spend 12 hours out of every 24 sleeping and am so tired that I can’t handle much in terms of cognitive and creative effort. But I do want to write. I don’t imagine any one of you wakes up in the morning thinking ‘When is that girl finally going to post again’ but I do feel some sort of duty towards you, and myself – mostly myself perhaps. I want and need to write, and share. So here is a little update on how things are going and I’m going to treat you to some more Romanian mountains – the Ceahlau. So scroll down if you don’t want any of the personal dribble or read on if you do. (You’ve been warned.)

My book & my life

So, update. If you’re following me on facebook you may have noticed that I handed in the manuscript of my guidebook on the 30th of April. I remember going on a celebratory, redeeming 15km run the day after – Labour Day – and thinking ‘Yay, no more Labour!’ I was wrong. Of course I knew there would be something called the Editing Process but I didn’t think much of it. Although I felt relieved I’d handed it in, my main worry at this point was whether my publisher was going to accept the book at all. I could hear them saying ‘This won’t do, Janneke’ in my head. Although I knew this to be a pretty irrational thing to worry about – after all they’d seen proofs and they were fine with those – I was more than a little relieved when I got a complimentary response from the head of production and felt especially elated when the editor in chief emailed me he thought the photography was ‘very excellent’. Him being British I felt that was quite a generous thing to say. So, those worries cleared, I felt a lot less burdened – until the first feedback came in and I realized I wasn’t quite done yet. Which I knew – I just hadn’t allowed to let it sink in.

So right now I’m supposed to be packing my bag – we’re leaving for Montenegro on Monday. But I feel like writing so that’s what I think I should do (and I will do some packing in between to make it more manageable, both the writing and the packing). (…) OK. Semi-packed at this point. I’ll leave the rest for tomorrow and try to relax tonight (but I still want to write). Let’s see how far I get with this. Let me continue with the update I was trying to give. I got an email from my publisher’s in-house desk editor on May 22nd; so, three weeks after my manuscript submission but it felt like three days. She told me my submission looked great but of course she also gave me some homework – mainly she asked me to write short, one or two paragraph introductions to every route (I believe there are 35 or so – can’t be bothered to look it up now). I had written fairly long intros for the parts (the book is divided into eight parts which correspond with geographical areas) but somehow hadn’t realized I was supposed to ‘sell’ every single route with a few sentences. So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past month mostly, along with some other tasks she set me – oh, and then there was the mapping. Another editor (so many people looking after me!) asked me to check whether the maps looked alright and make any changes necessary. I can tell you that was a lot of work – I had to change peak names, altitudes, cross out irrelevant peak/stream/road names, mark the locations of springs and camping spots, and so on. I think there were 105 maps I had to go over. I think I secretly quite liked editing them, even though it was a bit of a drudge at times.

The next three revision stages are called the copy edit, galley and layout. The first of these should be coming my way sometime in August, so I should really be done for a while now. And I need to. As said I sleep 50% of the time and am not very energetic during the remaining hours. I’ve been running diligently all winter but I haven’t done any sports apart from a two-day hike for the last two weeks. My body and mind are just telling me to slow down. So that’s what I’ll do – hopefully our two-week holiday in Montenegro will do me some good. It will be my first proper holiday in ages – one that doesn’t involve work. Although I will need to bring my laptop in case I need to answer sudden queries from my publisher – they will try to spare me during my holidays though. After Montenegro I’ll take a train from the Montenegrine coast to Belgrade (much looking forward to that – it supposedly is a fabulous route) and from there a bus to Romania, where I’ll be spending a month or so to do research for a tour I’ll be organizing next summer. And soak up some much-needed mountain peace in the meantime. And, if all goes well, I will start working at a travel bookshop here in Ghent in September. Not a bad prospect!

The Ceahlău

OK, I promised you some mountains. I’ve been meaning to write about the Ceahlău for a long time because I absolutely loved it. I went there last autumn and met a bunch of fabulous people at Cabana Dochia with whom I went on a trail that otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered. You will be able to read more about that one in my book, but I’ll give you a general idea of how to get there and what it’s like. Basically you can cover the Ceahlău in two days; it’s a compact massif. I started at Cabana Izvorul Muntelui, just west of the town of Bicaz which in turn lies just north of the famous Bicaz Gorge. I took a taxi from Bicaz to Izvorul Muntelui and from there set off on the red stripe trail towards Cabana Dochia, after having bought a cheap ticket (5RON I think) at the entrance to this well-maintained national park. After Poiana Maicilor I soon saw the steep rock walls and spires of Ocolaşul Mic shimmer through the trees. One kilometre of ascending brought me to Clăile lui Miron; two tall haystack-shaped rocks surrounded with myth. After that I crossed the Ocolaşul Mic plateau, past Ocolaşul Mare Peak (1907m) and various impressive rock formations, which I would visit the next day. I arrived early at Cabana Dochia so I left my pack there and climbed up Toaca Peak (1900m) via its iconic and improbable staircase. I still don’t know what to think – why build a staircase if there’s a path? Believe me, walking up 500 steps is way more tiring than walking up a rock trail that winds its way up. Anyway, the views were good – over Izvorul Muntelui Lake and the Ceahlău itself of course.

After I got back I met with some lovely people who I shared a dorm with – and they were happy to let me join their group on a hike to Ocolaşul Mare the next day. Again I won’t be writing about that here because it would require a rather lengthy explanation – it isn’t an official trail. So I’ll refer you to my not-yet-published book – I’ll post a link at the bottom of this post (and every other one for that matter) when it’s out! On day three I walked down to the town of Durău past the wonderful Duruitoarea waterfall. It’s not exactly easy to get away from Durău since there are very few buses that leave at impossible hours, so I hitchhiked and that went fine as always. Although I did get picked up by a wannabe priest (he said he was not fit to be a real priest – too sinful or something) whose first question, upon learning I was Dutch, was what I thought of gay people living together. I had a hard time explaining to him that the Netherlands is not one continuous Amsterdam boat parade – but I doubt my correction of his misconceptions of my home country had any effect on his views. But it was an interesting meeting anyway.

Well, I’m going to leave it at this and start doing something less creative and more passive (Netflix). Here are the details for the two main stages of the Ceahlău route. I would say this is a mountain range that is suitable for people of all ages and levels of experience – the trails aren’t very long or difficult yet the scenery is spectacular and Cabana Dochia is a great place to stay. They serve homemade bread and jam for breakfast, and there is mobile reception plus plenty of sockets. Not unimportant, in my opinion. For the rest I hope the photos are convincing enough to make you go there – let me know if you do!

Stage One: Cabana Izvorul Muntelui – Cabana Dochia | 2hrs 45mins | red stripe | 7km | Total ascent: 1000m | Total descent: 100m | Extension to Toaca Peak & back: plus one hour or so
Stage Two: Cabana Dochia – Durău | 2hrs 30mins | red cross | 8km | Total ascent: 175m Total descent: 1100m

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