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The last couple of mountain weekends have all been about fog, fog and fog. No surprise – after all it’s November. All have been about Vitosha too. There should be variety from time to time, so I decided it’s good to “close” the month with some place else. Something about an hour drive from Sofia would not be bad… let me think… yes! – Rila mountain sounds good. This time we’re heading south!
A dark Friday afternoon. Surfing the Internet for a couple of minutes brings me to the village ot Bistritsa, in the foothills of Rila, right next to the town of Dupnitsa. I decide too choose this place for the sole reason that I’ve never heard of it before, ever. Time for something new! We call Villa Bistritsa to reserve a room, pack a couple of warm clothes and pairs of shoes and jump into the car.
Almost as Google said, it takes us 1 hour and 15 minutes down the Struma highway. We enter Dupnitsa and I call out host to ask for directions, as I expected, it’s not full of road signs. The lady is extremely nice and thanks to her, we didn’t manage to get lost – she meets us in town and we drive another 2-3 km southeast after her. Here we are!
The villa is nice and cozy, we throw our bags in the room and sit by the fireplace with a beer, eager to learn where to go tomorrow. We learn there’s an eco trail starting right above the village (don’t ask me what the difference is between an eco train and just a hiking trail… my guess would be the maintenance of “eco” ones is financed by the EU, as you’d read on every sign). It goes through several resting points with nice wooden pavilions and stone fireplaces to reach a small glade with some rock formations and a forest lodge. Somewhere in the middle is the Bistritsa waterfall and the lady says it takes about 2 hours to reach it. With those short days when it gets dark at 17:00 and this unpredictable weather, we decide that probably the waterfall is enough for us.
On the next morning on the table downstairs there’s a super rich breakfast waiting for us. We prefer to order some omelettes and receive two huge portions made of fresh eggs. Yummy! So, we have to prepare some sandwiches from what’s left, and it’s a lot! A bonus for your hike, our host says, and I hesitate for a second, but she’s so nice that you just can’t refuse. She walks us to the door and hands us some apples, too. So, one thing is for sure – we won’t starve today. I’m kind of touched – I love to meet people who do this little extra effort in their job that makes you so happy to spend your money exactly at their place. The world seems to be so much nicer in such moments.
At 10:30 we start – jackets, hoods, shoes, water, food – towards the waterfall. We go up the street, cross the bridge pass the church on it’s left side. It’s chilly, the wind brings fog, there is almost nobody around, just some dogs barking in the yards. I love old and abandoned cars, so I can’t help but picture a few of them:
This funny sign says approximately that you must be a complete redneck if you throw your garbage, eat sunflower seeds and spit on the streets. Of course, it’s at least 30 years old.
Just above the church there’s a parking. We start walking up along the last houses and soon we reach the beginning of the Bistritsa eco trail and the first of the 13 resting points. One road goes left, one straight and up. We choose the second one. With a rapid pace through the fog, in about 15-20 minutes we reach the next stop, where our pathway gathers with the main trail – which i a pretty broad old dirt road. That first part was the steepest one and we’re supposed to enjoy a wonderful view from here, but with that thick fog we can barely see a couple of meters away. That’s ok – it’s beautiful anyway. Just compare it to a weekend spent in front of your computer/tv with some junk food, and you’ll forget about this mysterious missing view.
We continue through the fresh autumn forest. At times the ground is sandy, at times – covered with a carpet of brown leaves. We pass the next few wooden pavilions and in about an hour, we’re already by the Bistritsa waterfall. Wow, that was pretty quick. We both have the feeling we’ve just started – and here we are – reached the daily goal.
It’s small, but nice. Pretty warmed up, we take our jackets off, make a few pictures and decide to move on further, as far as it goes. The forest is really beautiful in it’s autumn colors and it starts to get slear again. Even if we’re walking on the north side of the hill, to our left we can see some sunny stripes. I insisted to carry the backpack in the beginning (otherwise I would have been feeling guilty because of this heavy camera, which I almost never use ), and now I start regretting it – just like my back, it’s so wet that switching is not really a great idea. Besides, my shoulders start feeling stiff, so I need to throw it for some minutes and move around. Some water would be nice too and therefore we decide to use the next rest place by the river for a short break.
Not long after this, we reach the end. A glade, a lodge, log tables and benches, stones.
I look at my watch – exactly 2 hours and 6 minutes, together with the breaks. Or in other wods, it’s half past noon.
Another trails goes from here – to the Ivan Vazov Hut and the Rila Lakes. This would be a wonderful “all-day” hiking route for a long summer day, but not for now – we don’t know the area, we’re neither early enough, nor do we have any survival tools in case it gets dark, so we throw a quick “naughty” look at each other for a second, which says “Shall we check what’s next, hm?” – but then we both agree that resisting the temptation to do stupid things would be the better choice. As my father says, mountains are not a joke, and even if it was long ago, I still remember very well this one time when I, along with 5 other people, got lost for hours in the middle of a muddy, slippery, steep, off-trail nothingness during a thunderstorm. I can tell you, it didn’t feel nice.
So we head back down. Even if it’s the same way, the different direction makes it look new. And the fog is somehow enchanting, makes the place look like a fairy tail.
A little later we’re back at the second resting point, and indeed, there is a view (this is the Bistritsa village):
So, the whole tour took us exactly 4 hours. Later I read that it’s about 9 km in one direction. The terrain is easy, even if icy at places, as it was now – just the first, and accordingly last minutes are a little steeper.
As before, when exploring the not so famous hiking routes around Belogradchik, we didn’t meet one single person here. Later our host said that during summertime, a lot more people come to visit.
We were back in the house around 14:30, so we decided that even if we sit to rest for a while and share a nice cold beer, there will still be time to visit the Stob Pyramids before sunset. And so we did. Next time I’ll tell you more about it.
So whether you have a whole weekend, or just decide to make a one day quick hike outside Sofia and start early enough, this Bistritsa trail is a great choice, I guarantee! : )