a blog about Carpathian shepherds on the road, and other journeys


Thursday, 3 November 2011

Shepherds' update

Having had to return home before my shepherd friends went on the road, I made contact with three of them this morning.  The first, Nicolae from Jina, was in too much of a hurry to talk to me and asked me to ring him back after three hours (when I did he said he hadn't left the mountains yet, because it's still too dry on the plateau and he's got nowhere to take his sheep. He's going to wait at Crint until it starts snowing).  The second, Ghita, also from Jina, said he was near Cluj, everything was fine, and he hopes to reach Zalau in a couple of weeks.  The third, Dumitru, from Rasinari, hasn't set out yet because of the seceta (drought).  He told me he will get going on Monday.  He'll be taking five other men with him and about 14 donkeys, I don't know how many dogs, and - almost forgot - all his sheep, which number at a rough guess 1500 (but don't quote me on this, because Romanian shepherds are rather shy of admitting how many head they own).

There is a new law which limits the numbers of dogs shepherds are allowed to take with them on the road to two per thousand head of sheep. Ghita is angry about that, and is urging for a change in the rules.  I guess he is walking with about 1000 head, and two supporting shepherds.  From his point of view the two-dog limit leaves his flock extremely vulnerable to attacks by other animals, and, although he didn't say so, by people.  In our short conversation he said they hadn't had any problems.  But - was it my imagination? - when I asked this question his voice changed, as though it made him tense.  It all seems very remote - and archaic - from my desk in a dry house in wet west Wales, where the sheep are still on their Preselau arosfau (hefts) and will only go to winter grazing at the end of November (by truck).

In December, the Welsh National Wool Museum will hold the third 2011 UK showings of Dragos Lumpan's photo exhibition, The Last Transhumance, which yours truly helped to get off the ground.

My previous two posts were made in retrospect - the events they describe happened in September.

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