These parts of the Apuseni Mountains have been on our bucket list for quite some time. Over time, our tiny steps led us to secluded treasures and wonders. The Old Hidden Castle at Liteni, the village of Rîmetea, the Monastery Gorges and Rîmeți have all taken us closer and closer. When we finally reached the old “mocănița” railway, we began retracing the steps of my childhood and found the way to the “Sub Piatră” hamlet and the “Huda lui Papară” Cave.
Steep steps to “Vânătările Ponorului”
From the “Huda lui Papară” Cave, a path goes straight up through the forest to the grass covered plateau above. From this high point we could see distant villages, pastures, valleys and isolated houses with traditional hay roofs, specific for the Apuseni Mountains area. We walked along the ridge for a while, following a sort of cart road that led us above this seemingly huge hole in the ground. The walls of this large pit are all covered in violet stripes. We figured it out. We found “Vânătările Ponorului”. Some signs led us in the right direction and we began to descend on a welcoming pasture until we reached a river on the bottom of a valley. Continuing along the path, we reentered the forest and heard some loud noises. Apparently we were heading straight towards them. That is how we arrived at a balcony hanging above the void. The whirling river was far beneath us. On our left, an incredible waterfall was spreading drops of water all over us.
Part of the loud noise was indeed the waterfall’s fault. But not entirely. Down there, water gathered from three rivers disappears under the immense mass of rock. It enters “Huda lui Papară”, the cave we visited earlier and crosses it from top to bottom. It exits through the 40m high crack in the wall, the place where we tried to get into the cave, near the “Sub Piatră” Monastery, forming the valley we followed to get here, “Valea Morilor”.
“Huda lui Papară” Cave was right underneath our feet, collecting water from three streams. Two of them merge upstream. On the last meters before entering the undergrounds, they gave birth to some small gorges with tall and abrupt walls painted in eggplant stripes, a brilliant work of art, entirely realized by the hands of nature. That’s how the place got its name, “Vânătările Ponorului”, meaning the eggplant colors of the ravine. The third stream comes from a different direction and forms the spectacular 25 m high Dâlbina Waterfall, right over the walls of the “Vânătările Ponorului” complex. Beneath the balcony we watched the water struggling to slip into the holes in the ground, getting lost inside while making a piercing noise. We stood there for a while, watching this phenomenon. In the middle of the mountain, a large quantity of water simply gets drains in its depths. It’s amazing how it found a weak point in something that seems so powerful; rock. It managed to dig a hole in it and carved its way to the other side, leaving behind remarkable galleries and natural formations.
Steps of recognition on the high pastures of the Apuseni Mountains
We returned up to the plateau where a big part of the Apuseni Mountains opened before our eyes. A 360° panorama urged us to stick around for a while and try to pin up some of the places we had visited in our travels in these fairy tale mountains. In the distance, we recognized Brădești village. We hiked here from the Râmeți Gorges and it inspired a nice little story, the Moți Country: Clay, Wood and Hay. Back then, we saw the signposts for the “Vânătările Ponorului” natural reservation and we promised we would return. It seems that day had finally come.