This post is also available in: Български (Bulgarian)

They say that man is a man when they are on a journey. But when they are on a journey in the mountain, you can understand what kind of people are they.

The mountain has a magical, peaceful effect. The life there is quite different – simple, slow, calm, real. A few months ago I found the Facebook page Backpack and poles (originally – Раница и щеки) and without much hesitation I was soon part of the group that would go in the Rhodopes mountain for 7 days of adventures and trekking. Let me be honest with you – despite my Balkans‘roots, I am more urban type of girl and this was something new to me. Of course, leaving your comfort zone is always the right choice and this experience was the beginning of something that will last for a long time.

Before the trip

You should take the mountains seriously and If you want to make this experience really enjoyable, you need a preparation in advance. We had a certified mountain guide – Albena, a person that can’t be described. You need to meet her and her good heart, sense of humor and attitude. So before going to the trip she told us what we need to have. I am a person who travels a lot, but this trip reminded me some forgotten sensations. The entire preparation, enthusiasm and curiosity of what was about to happen brought me back to my childhood when I couldn’t fall asleep the night before our family seaside vacation. When you start getting ready for such an adventure you can easily get amused how great your friends are, because everyone is giving you useful advises or they are directly borrowing you what you need to have. Preparing your backpack requires you to think carefully and above all to be wise. Based on the conditions you have to decide what you need to take, to fit it in your backpack, but not to make it too heavy, because you are the one who will carry it on. The “must have” equipment is a “must have” equipment. No compromises.

The transitions

7 days, 6 mountain huts, 3 peaks, 2 caves, 2 villages… The statistic here is not so important. Nevertheless, we started in Smolyan and then we moved to Smolyanski ezera hut. Then we started a walk to the beautiful Chervena skala rock with an astonishing view over the city. The day after we made a walk around the lakes of Smolyan, then we took the lift to Snezhanka peak and then we reached Perelik hut. Day 3 started by climbing the highest peak in Rhodopes – Perelik. Then we moved to the second one – Orphey and finally we reached the Lednitsata hut. The next day we made the most beautiful walk to Mugla village. The same day we made a short sunbathing in Kazandzhi dere. After Mugla we started our trip to Chairski ezera hut and we visited the lakes around as well as the famous “Drunk Forest”. The last transition was the one to Trigradski skali hut and as a final of our journey we visited the two caves – Yagodinska and Devil’s throat.

Discoveries

It is amazing how many things you can learn about yourself, the others and the world around. It is amazing how your body adapts to the new environment, how it overcomes the pain, heals itself and moves its own boundaries further and further away. Before the start of this adventure I promised myself two things – no internet connection, meaning no communication to the world, and writing a journal at the end of each day. Both experiments turned out to be successful. The communication to the outside world was only two phone calls and 1 sms per day to some of my closest people, so they know that I am safe and well. Regarding the journal – old and successful tool to realize what is happening around you through writing. It helped me to be present more than any other time in my life. The world to me was the nature, the people around me and the food I was eating. That’s it. Nothing more.

The people

This journey at times seemed like a social experiment. Like reality format, in which the relationships between people move in different directions and change their shadows every day. The dynamics were intense and at times even unpredictable. At first, some people are more sympathetic, at the end others. You might like some people at a first glance and finally you know that you will miss them for sure. Some people make you laugh, others make you angry or just amuse you. In our group there were people from all over Bulgaria, even from abroad. The heart of the group were the children, thanks to which we were also moving back to childhood at times! The hero of the group was Kerry – a dog, which “survived” the love of the kids, overcame displacement and crossed fearlessly all the rivers that stood in our way. For a Cavalier Charles King Spaniel, born to drink tea on a velvet royal cushion, this journey was a Survivor experience.

Journey to your true self

To challenge yourself and give yourself new experiences and sensations is one of the most meaningful and enriching things one can do. In this trip in the Rhodopes the kilometers were not important – it was important to keep walking. What matter is that when your knee starts hurting, there is someone to help you or you can help others in need. In this journey, the conditions were not important – the experience was important. When you sleep in a room with another 12 people, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have personal space, just relax and enjoy the break. When your toilet is in the yard, and the bathroom is heated by woods – you should be happy that you have them at all. When at 22.00 they turn off the electricity in the hut – say thanks to the guy who has a solar battery (or however it is called), drink your rakia, listen to the U2 album that someone else put on their phone and enjoy the moment. In this journey, it is not important that you are detached from the world – it is important to enjoy the world around you. If you do not have a mobile connection – talk to the people next to you, if you do not have a TV – play cards, play with kids, pick herbs, practice yoga, meditate, breathe deeply, enjoy yourself and the silence.

This journey in the Rhodope Mountains was a journey in a parallel reality, beyond time and familiar space. It is true that in the mountains people are different. It is also true that good people meet each other on the difficult roads. I will never forget the old ladies in Mugla, nor those in Chaiyarski ezera t. I will never forget the sky above the Smolyanski ezera hut, the stars, the discussion about the falling stars, the UFOs and the planes, the darkness and the fact that they locked us outside (eventhough for a while). I will always appreciate this “mountain gourmet adventure” and the most delicious, Smilyan beans, all the varieties of the patatnik, the nettle soup in Snezhanka, the kiln banitsa in Mugla, the blueberries juice in Chairski ezera. Now I know what I should do when there is a storm in the mountain, I know (thankfully, only in theory) what to do when you see a bear, I know how the silivryak looks like – the immortal flower of Orpheus, I know what the difference between stalactite, stalagmite and stalactone, what kind of people used to live in the Yagodinska cave and why you should drink tea of a Cat’s foot herb.

The mountain has a strong and healing power that I believe it finds you at the right time. All you need is desire, love, backpack and poles.