Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rila's 7 Lakes

Hiking in Bulgaria is something that I don't do enough!

this friday, myself, Carin and Ethan set out on a hike to the Rila Mountains' "7 Lakes" in the southwest area of Bulgaria. Our goal: hike to the lakes, hike around the lakes, and on the second day, hike to the Rila Monastery.

On Friday, we happened across this little white shuttle (marshrutka) that took us to our starting point, a "chalet" ('hija' in Bulgarian) called "pinoerska." from there, we started a VERY steep hike. After 30 minutes or so, I thought we were on the brink of death! Thankfully we took a few breaks and then the trail got a bit easier. After about 3 hours of hiking, we came to the first of two hijas near the 7 lakes called "Rila lakes," where we met Ethan's Bulgarian friend Milen. After a quick 40 minute hike, we arrived at our hija, "the seven lakes."

some of you may recall that I made this hike last October with a large group of PCVs. Last time, we stayed in the first hija. THIS time, however, the hija was full, and we our trek to the 2nd hija was one in search of a warm place to sleep. The 2nd hija is much older and lives up to the second meaning of "hija" in Bulgaria- meaning it was more like a hut than a chalet! Our bathrooms were outside, the only running water was a little stream, and our beds were a shout-out to Snow White and the 7 dwarfs! Our room was just big enough to house the largest bunkbeds I have ever seen in my life! the bottom row had 7 pillows and 14 blankets, and the top row was identical. The interesting thing was that each row of beds was CONNECTED...when I saw the room, I laughed and laughed. Sadly, we didn't get a picture... This one of the wackiest things I've ever seen!

After settling into our room, we went to explore the 7 lakes. The hike was MUCH easier given that Milen served as our map and that our heavy bags were saving our bed spaces back at the hija! We scaled flat rock surfaces, maneuvered around horse/donkey poo, and were generally in awe of the landscape. We sat down for a rest at the "Kidney" lake for a quick stretch and to listen to Milen play the Bulgarian folk flute as it hauntingly echoed off the mountain cliffs. By the time we started descending the mountains for our hija around 5:30, it was so cold that we had to hustle to stay warm!

The next day, we woke up early in expectation of our 7 hour hike to the Rila monastery. This hike has become a favorite of PCVs, and as Carin hadn't yet seen the monestary, we were quite excited! our excitment was slightly decreased, however, when we realized a storm was brewing on the ridge leading to the monastery; our trip was post-poned for a later date when the chances of being struck by lightning were decreased. We decided to hike back to our destination point and grab a bus to the monastery, and had a pleasant descent. We had some extra time, so we hunted for wild blueberries and raspberries and gave inspiring advice to our fellow hikers who were on their way UP to the lakes. We knew that the hike had been harder than we'd given ourselves credit for when one man shouted to his group, "as long as there are living people coming down, we're going to be alright!" I had myself a nice chuckle and enjoyed the crisp morning air and the fact that we'd soon be at hija "pinoerska," sipping hot chocolate.

so here's a picture of one of the lakes, and one of our group and a second lake! Please check out my webshots for more pictures!


At 11:52 PM, Anonymous Angeline said...

did you find wild blueberries and raspberries????

Since I want to be just like Toni, and she went to "7 Lakes", I'm going hiking at "Land Between the Lakes" this weekend.
Ha! One day I will be as awesome as Toni!

At 11:12 AM, Blogger vassi said...

Those are some beautiful pics, Tones! Hey, did you ever find a phone, because i may have a few and one of them is yours if you're still looking. Take care, chica!


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