LAZAROW WORLD HIKE-ABOUT
Bulgaria: Western Rhodope Mountains. Maybe the 'autumn years' are the toughest but pretty amazing.
'WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HIKE-ABOUT?'
Hike-about is an adventure that commenced June 2010. After storing our household movables, ridding ourselves of a house but retaining our 'home' together, we set off with the purpose of hiking in different parts of the world, not forgetting the home country, the USA.
Our primary focus is hiking to mountain peaks but any challenging hike will do just fine. Extended stays enable us to enjoy and experience living in various places amongst differing cultures. Hike-about has evolved into a way of life. It's also a process of discovery, both the world and ourselves.
We work and live 'on the road' but return to the city in which our grandchildren reside, every couple of months. This provides us the wonderful opportunity to be with them as well as a child or two, even three and of course, friends.
By December 2018, the blog contained over 1,000 hikes, each a set of pictures with stories and anecdotes from the trails. An index to the right allows the viewer to identify earlier experiences.
Finally, we are often asked about the journey's end. Our reply, as accurate as we can state, is: "When we are either forced to cease through health issues or the enjoyment level no longer reaches our aspirations, we will hang up the boots."
Whereas we continue to update the blog regularly, we no longer circulate email notifications each time, VIP's excepted and special occasions.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
In all our years, we have not had an experience as at The Extreme Devil's trail.
The Extreme Devil's trail presented us with unique challenges and sights, in Bordino, Bulgaria.
On top of the world along Kutelo Ridge, Bulgaria.
Bulgaria: Peering down from the 'Eagle Eye' ovelook, an eye for color.
First set of chains at the Sentinel, Drakensberg, South Africa. We learned recently that one of the chains snapped.
Jen makes her way under the chairlift.
To state that the natural scenes in Bulgaria are outstanding is superfluous. We don't think our thoughts and words are able to capture the essence of the beauty which in and of itself is obvious. Most parts of the world are beautiful so one should not interpret the earlier comment pertaining to this country only. Nevertheless, the autumn colors, the mountains and alpine lakes and the manner of reaching these positions on foot are awesome. We discovered this last year and our return to this region is as a consequence of the earlier visit and an endorsement of our earlier opinion and view, the latter in both meanings of the word.
Besides the outstanding visits to Pirin National Park, a place covered in mountains including a couple of hikes we rate our best, Rila Lakes provides access to alpine lakes, specifically, the 7 Rila Lakes. We visited the park on two separate days and approached the hikes differently. In fact, for a person to capture a view of all seven lakes from one position, a hiker has to climb quite high to reach the ridge. We did this on Friday. On Sunday, we focused on one lake, Kidney, and approached it from the other side where there is a goat path. Should one look at general pictures of this lake, they are always taken from the popular side, along the trail. Instead, we climbed to a peak on the opposite side of the trail, where we were alone and attained incredible views. We estimate there were a few hundred people in the park and yet not a soul in nearly two hours was anywhere near us. The period included breakfast and a rest in the surprisingly warm sunlight. We also observed an 8th lake from this peak.
We do find that by exploring both the regular trails and going off-trail, at times, we obtain added stimulation, face additional challenges and observe incredible sights. The climb up the mountain, while creating an adrenaline rush, made the day. It's hard to get much better than that. On each day, we accumulated close to 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
We have published a few pictures from both hikes, a summary rather than a full blog. The idea is to absorb the beauty, coloring and unique area while relaxing with a beer (Diet Coke) on a Sunday.
On her way down from the peak, Jenni tries to rid herself of the adrenaline pumping through her body. (Lower-left)
Two days earlier, we reach the ridge and observe all seven lakes from one position.
On our way down, an opening in the forest reveals a miracle...another one.
Kidney Lake from our recently discovered peak. The picture below reveals the peak climbed. Note another lake behind it and to the side.
Kidney Lake, the earlier hike, from the regular side although higher than the typical viewing point.
Reflections off glass.
Giving the 'eye' to a lake of that name (Eye).
Enjoying the high point of the 'lake district'.
Love this one.
We'll show the hikes and complete selection of pictures at a later stage.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Thursday, October 17, 2019
43.02 Bulgaria: Pirin National Park. 6 hikes, 2 pictures each, tired bodies but invigorated souls and 'egg on the face'.
Muratova Lake, a different view from usual.
Muratova, summer and autumn, mixed seasons.
Rybko Lake, extraordinary because of weather issues. A grey day turned out to be ideal.
Above Rybko Lake on the way to a third lake with an unpronounceable name.
Strolling on Kutelo Peak and ridge. 3rd highest point in Bulgaria, 20 feet less than number 2, 60 feet less than number 1.
A little intimacy on the cliffs, after a long way down from Kutelo Peak.
Bezbog Hut (first hike).
Below Bezbog Peak.
The view from Vihren and Kutelo Peaks; mountains, ridges and towns below.
Jen stands on Vihren Peak.
Here comes Jenni, bottom of Bezbog peak.
Bezbog Hut (second hike), a favorite spot.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Walking back from Bezbog hut under the non-working ski-lift on the day.
We have often wondered about the concept of putting the cart before the horse but never on the side. In the scene above, which we witnessed on the way down the other day, we also wondered whether the horse was drawing the truck or the other way around. Could the truck be considered a horse of another color...blue? Life can be awfully confusing. When we passed the odd couple, we noticed the horse was covered in flies. We then realized 'there were no flies on the horse' would not make much sense which at the time reminded us about not having the cake and eating it. This really has been a puzzle. We've always elected not to have the cake but preferring the right to eat it. Ownership makes no sense. Is this kosher? We mean the concept, not the cake. Life on the mountains is becoming extremely complicated. Why did we ever leave the simple and calm cities? Makes you wonder, rather than wander.
Each day or rather most days, when we are through having fun on the mountains, including the occasional stress and strain, we return to the apartment and carry on with different facets of life. Recently, for an eleven-day period, we hired accommodation in the town of Razlog, just outside Bansko, in what appeared to be a time-share complex. Not that the legal structure impacts us in any way. The units are lovely relative to local standards with few occupants during the week. On weekends, we had two during our visit, the place fills and notwithstanding the chilly conditions, many take to the swimming pool, while we seek hot showers. We do enjoy a swim but not during early winter in the mountains. Mid-winter, yes.
We enjoyed the stay very much and can't say we wanted to leave (actually, can say we did not want to leave). To the contrary, we were below the glorious Mount Vihren and its sisters and brothers. What a family! If we had the financial resources and were a little crazier, we might adopt them. Talking of crazy—what an interesting concept. We've thought about it quite a lot over the years especially when Jenni wanted to do what seemed like ridiculous things while I preferred to sit around, read a book and sip a glass of 'cheap red wine'. The latter is also a piece of music written and sung by the inimitable Brian Murray, a good friend. Where was I? I must be going crazy. Aha!
We discovered that 'crazy' is relative.(Relatives are also crazy although not all). A person who does one thing stranger than yourself, most of us consider that person crazy. We think if people weren't crazy, life would be extremely boring. Mind you, the wine industry would benefit. With this in mind, we think one should strive to be crazy without being crazy-stupid. There we go again—it's our 'relative'. Let's move on to the real purpose of this communication.
Actually, it's a story of communication and bridging the gap between people of different languages and cultures. At the apartments, they offer a breakfast. It's probably one of the most diverse and splendid menus we've seen. Unfortunately, it's wasted on us but who says one cannot admire it. They also offer a weekend buffet which is very well attended. During the week the dining area is empty. We visit it when our hiking schedule allows—on days we don't need an early start or while waiting for better weather. On bad weather days, they have to 'boot' us out by noon.
The other day we asked for hard-boiled eggs. The order baffled the young waitress in charge. She was charming with a delightful smile but had little understanding of English. Now that we speak eleven languages, we thought we'd sail through the language barrier. Alas, we forgot about Bulgarian. Da! We tried to explain, draw shapes in the air but to no avail. We called for a pen and paper and Jen drew the shapes. Easy enough but meaningless. Well, that left egg on my face but unfortunately, none on the paper. She took out her phone but we still made no progress. I thought we might use the translator to interpret but she had other ideas. Then she called an English speaker on the phone who asked whether we wanted the eggs cooked. Progress at last. However, by 'cooked' what did she mean? Fried, poached, scrambled?
Our waitress returned from the kitchen, again with a phone, and I spoke with another local who asked where I wanted to take the food. I'm pleased we were not talking about 'coal' or else I might have been tempted to offer a smart (stupid) answer. Fortunately, whatever answer I offered, and be assured it probably wasn't that smart, it seemed to work. Our waitress returned to the kitchen while we filled our cups with another hot beverage and waited. What would she return with? Hopefully, not 'pigs ears' which seemed to be a dominant delicacy on the menu.
As we began our third cup of tea and coffee, she returned with two small dishes, two 'yaitza' in each. If they were soft, when we broke the shells, we'd surely enjoy another surprise.
The weather had since cleared and we set off for Pirin Park, this time with eggs where they should be; we had doubled our vocabulary and we hoped we'd made a new friend. Yaitze anyone?
'The End...at last'.
Friday, October 11, 2019
43.01 Bulgaria, Bansko: Vihren Peak, an experience worth flying across the world; and a salute to Jenni.
Within minutes the fog moved in, changing the final ascent completely. Visibility disappeared toward the top.
Returning to Vihren hut, a treacherous, rocky and slippery trail. The hut is the commencement point for a number of hikes in Pirin National Park.
For a long time, I’ve made the misjudgment of pronouncing that one hiking experience is the best or closest to the best of all time. The problem with stating such opinions is that someone will remind me of what I said the previous day, week or month of a similar pronouncement. After all, a person, no matter how lacking in discernment, cannot have thirty favorite hikes or at least 10 best hike(s) of all time. Even I know that,…I think.
Well, where does that leave me? Fortunately, as I have aged and matured, (the latter is another opinion), I have also grown wiser ( an even bolder opinion). With this newly acquired wisdom, I am reticent to make rash judgments. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and lapses in judgment and wisdom can occur even to the best of them. Well, funnily enough, this has re-occurred and I would offer an opinion that the hike—mountain and rock climbing would be a more accurate description of the endeavor—is one of the finest experiences we've had. Is this a further lapse or a reliable statement? I believe the latter or I suppose I should wait until the next hike before committing. (continues below)
After close to 2 hours, we approach the shoulder for the final ascent of Vihren.
An extraordinary position as we begin the final ascent to the peak of Mount Vihren. It is unique and breathtaking. Note the perfect sky and hence, weather. Within twenty minutes, the visibility amounted to mere yards.
Perhaps, the inspiration for the song "Autumn Leaves".
Snow was much heavier than we expected...not making us happy at all. Who cares about your level of contentment? Get to the top already.
The views became even better.
...and the 'kid' kept climbing higher. I don't think I've seen a better performance for such a tough day.
We think to consider a destination in nature to be supreme, it should have at least the following characteristics:
The length should be reasonable in extent which depends on difficulty and elevation gain.
The vertical gain should be substantial and of course related to distance. Ideally, greater than 3,000 feet for a day-hike.
The trail should be varied including all types of terrain but not limited to, steepness, cliff edges with steep drop-offs, underfoot that’s testing, changing terrain, marvelous views and sights with as much variation as possible. Ideally, the climax should exceed the attributes of the earlier stages of the hike. An element of difficulty, toughness, even a little danger adds to the quality of the endeavor. Weather and light are additional elements that could enhance it. One could go on, adding in particular facets, but I think the point has been made.
This hike has it all. Mount Vihren and the ridge across the way are special. (One of the reasons we returned to Bulgaria was because of this particular mountain and its neighbors—we were here a year ago). What made it particularly difficult on this occasion and special, although the latter is more about the after-completion boasting rights and feeling of satisfaction, was that the steep final fifty minutes up Vihren was covered in snow. This made the return journey tough, difficult and dangerous. At one time, although Jenni coped extremely well, I did feel disorientated. In good conditions there is hardly a trail so one can imagine what it’s like when the steep ascent/descent is snow- and ice- covered. Truth be told, I was not fearful but for the first fifteen minutes, confused until finding direction and a reasonable path that was not of ice. Once we noticed a type of path, it became comfortable but still requiring of full concentration.
The hike is divided into 4 sections. The first is difficult-rough, the second and third are only rough, while the final stage is rough-difficult-tough. Other than that, it’s a piece of cake.
The elevation gain is just on 3,300 feet over a relatively short distance with an underfoot of rocks that requires great concentration and foot placement. The peak is the 3rd highest in the Balkan range. On the day, we met a few people at the top, all who were surprisingly, English speaking, including an Israeli. On the way down, we came across a few people ascending who were all locals. Conclusion: English speaking people wake earlier than locals or are quicker. Seriously though, using our own criteria, we find the people of Eastern and Central Europe to be the toughest we've come across. As an aside, we'll offer a controversial comment which we'd support in a different forum, that: 'The more materialistic a segment of society, the softer its members. A good time to end, duck and take cover.
The town of Bankso, a long way below.
It portrays to us, the massive power and danger plus the majesty of nature.
Piqued and peaked with the fabulous Koncheto Ridge and Kutelo Peak behind.
At a much lower altitude in the early stages and before the weather turned.
Playing to the crowd...okay, to her husband.
While the chamois below are awfully impressed. This gives a good understanding how the weather turned in minutes.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the 'hero' decides to join the party and make an effort to try to reach the peak, too.
Finally, down from the peak, now another 2 hours to the hut while facing another magnificent wall.
Reminds us of the Earth's curvature.
Gives a nice perspective of the snow-covering, the vastness, how rugged it is and a whole lot of other aspects of mountain life.
...and how bleak it became.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
42.08 Poland: Dolina Pieciu Stawow or beautiful lakes, meadows and mountains; one of the highest waterfalls (Siklawa) and a great hike.
Siklawa flows fast and furiously.
Two lakes, two views and a myriad of reflections.
We find the names just roll off the tongue and gag and choke us at the same time. We commenced the hike in the carpark as usual, with the name of Palenica Bialczanska, and headed toward the trailhead some 35 minutes distant which name is Wodogrzmoty Mickiewicza. As mentioned previously, the trails are well utilized—read busy—although arriving early seems to beat the mob. The funny thing is the difficult and strenuous hikes are well frequented. You cannot intimidate the Poles easily.
The day before we undertook the big hike of some 3,500 feet of elevation gain so we expected to be weary for this one. Fortunately, we seemed strong for a change and made it back safely and in reasonable time. What is so enjoyable in Europe is that many peaks and strategic positions en route provide accommodation, food and beverages. Although we always carry our own food on day hikes, the thought of a cup of tea or a Coke when Jen spoils us is a real treat. It adds to the experience. One might think we don't drink much tea or Coke. Maybe, that's what they mean by 'location, location and...location'.
We don't do this often, in fact, seldom but when we arrived at a peak in Slovakia, Chopok to be precise, we looked in our packs at the cereal and yoghurt and compared it with the chocolate eclairs tempting us at the restaurant above the cable station. 'To be tempted or not to be tempted', that was the question. Who cares about questions and deliberations, it's all about the 'devil's chocolate cake'. I look back fondly to a time when we had willpower.
Particularly tranquil and made for a lovely day despite sore feet from the hard underfoot.
'Lil Jen' dwarfed by the cascading flow
A favorite, at the second lake.
Stadig oor die klippe (Be careful).
Some rather steep segments.
Enjoyed the lakes immensely. Fortunately, they don't allow swimming: apparently, it upsets the fish.
A powerful flow.
A little different of a perspective.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Jenni loves to take these shots before I'm even aware. It appears she sees me in a different role. In the old days, I could get a 'show-off' role, a good climb or something meaningful. Alas..., the times are 'a changing'. Also, note 'no cake', Marie.