THE SHEEP MOUNTAINS. Rolling ridges on all sides, the Cindrel Mountains, the Cibin peaks, the summits of Sibiu rise more than twenty-two hundred meters into the sky. Years ago, they were deserted, nowadays you can catch a bus from Sibiu up to the Păltiniş Resort. Beyond that lies a nearly impenetrable windfall of trees followed by lonely grassy mountainsides – the first stair to the Lotru, Parîng and Şurean Mountains. Cindrel Ridge is deserted – Cînaia, the only refuge, contains a single rickety old table. Below the highest peak, fog. We wander across Devil’s Plain above glacial lakes, one of few places in Romania the rare Eurasian dotterel calls home; I encounter him next on plains amid the Ciucaş mountains. On tallest Cindrel Peak, dark garnets fall from their sockets into waving grass. We gather them, not knowing why, but they do not bring good weather. Wet to the bone, we forge our way down from the summit to Ştefleşti Pass, empty and desolate, which divides the Cindrel and Lotru ranges. The miserable path descends on both sides to the waters of the Frumoasa and the Sadu. A sheepfold, sunk in mud, lies deserted in the dusk. The shepherds must have remained on the misty hillsides whooping, calling, playing their flutes. Above scrubby forests, grass, grass, grass.
Evening falls above the Ştefleşti sheepfold, foggy and dismal. Everything is soaked and soggy: mountains, grass, forests, us. We build our shelter in a mossy pine grove – fresh, beautiful – like nothing you’d see at home. In such hearty habitat, tree branches hang with hoary likens, thick and unburning. Vain our attempts at drying, vain our breath on smoldering flames. The fire languishes, wet wood smoke blends with billowing brume. The frontier between Cindrel and Lotru: the very edge of the world, little brother.