THE CHASM MOUNTAINS. Land of plummeting rivers, land of mountain chasms. Nowhere in Romanian is there a more exquisite place. Waters plunge into the ground or rush forth from it. They vanish into caves to gush out again from others. Sheep graze upon the emerald grasses that surround great sinkholes, and brooks bubble into cul-de-sac valleys to flow, muddy and swirling, down into the earth. The warm Someş and cool Galbena, or Yellow River, float through karst tunnels. An abyss hundreds of meters deep plummets down into the Fortress of Ponor: water hurtles into darkness and ghostly green light streams into the depths through collapsed cavern ceilings. White cliffs above are illuminated by sunlight, all around the buzzing silence of Western Carpathia. Lost World: a beautiful name for the surrounding plains. There is no subterranean path through the Fortress of Ponor. Galbena’s spring lies across a mountain ridge where its waters rush out from beneath a cliff. Happening upon it in a summer hailstorm, you are certain to be astonished. Though water and ice are dumped in buckets from the sky, the river gurgles quietly on. Then, quite suddenly, the clear waters beneath the cliff change. Browning, they begin to rise rapidly. Under enormous pressure from the Fortress of Ponor, they spew forth from the stranglehold of the earth, arching higher and higher into the air. Within seconds, they have grown a meter, then two. No longer a peaceful stream, they have become a hurtling, roaring, yellow torrent lurching into the canyon below.

You would be in a bad way, little brother, down in the Fortress of Ponor, down in the Galbena valley. During such a storm, your back becomes bruised by balls of ice and the forests are fist-high in hailstones – you might even build a “hailman” on the banks of the Galbena.

Padiş lodge, the only human dwelling in the heart of the Apuseni Mountains. All around: velvety places to pitch your tent and cool nights on valley floors. Indian water buffalo pass your shelter in the night, regurgitating gently. To the south of Bihor lies Țara Moților – Land of Stone – where amid dense, low-mowed meadows and icy ravines, you can borrow a carbide lamp. Out of the steep-pitched roofs of dwellings grow little, red, narrow-leafed willows. Above the Gîrdy valley, black hogs root in dust near wooden mills.