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Western Balkan Mountains - Chepan

Western Balkan Mountains – along the ridge of Chepan


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Чепън планина

It’s time to explore another not so famous, but very beautiful place – part of the Western Balkan Mountains. It’s called Chepan mountain and today we’ll visit it’s two peaks – Chepan and Petrovski Krust (Peter’s Cross). It’s about an hour drive to the north-west from Sofia, and just above the town of Dragoman, to it’s north-east.

When traveling, does’t matter how far, I like to feel like an explorer, I like to feel the places with their air, views, smells and sounds, and with my own rhythm, spontaneously, without a precize schedule, I like to let my legs and eyes lead me. I guess that’s the reason why I’ve always been avoiding organized excurzions. I don’t like the idea of being this suitcase-tourist dragged here and there by a guide, following a strictly predefined schedule. Actually that’s why I started this blog. It’s often someone else’s blog that gives me ideas about what to explore next, so I decided I should start doing the same – and, voilà, here it is.

Not so long ago, while searching for a place to hike, I accidentaly popped on Planinaria‘s website. Organized hikes, groups, no thanks, I thought, and I closed it. Then I realized some unfamiliar names passed before my eyes… what mountain? What peak? Hm, interesting. Let’s check that again. Some minutes later it’s on my reading list, and about a week later here we are – me and Micky, early in the morning, at Obelya metro station, the last ones to get on the van, eager to see what this Chepan mountain is like.

About ten people here, we’re the only “new” ones. While sleepily sipping coffee from our cardboard cups, we curiously observe the others. It seems like they all know each other, they speak and make jokes and laugh, and our guide seems to have a pretty good sense of humor too. So far, so good, I say to Micky, while the van makes it’s way through the thick fog. The guide says it’s going to be sunny up there.

So, here we are: Dragoman – Golemo Malovo – Rayanovtsi – Malo Malovo. We get off the van next to an abandoned building and are ready to start our little hike. And indeed, the sun is shining! We will not want our money back, Micky says. :)

Чепън Планина

We start up the old dirt road and after a couple of minutes – straight up the grassy-stony hill with the idea to climb the ridge. Then we’ll walk west along the ridge under the December sun, on the few inches of crispy snow, through the peaks, until we get back down to Dragoman. Down there on left (southern) side, the Sofia valley is covered with fluffy white fog, and just some little islands are bulging out of it here and there. There on the other side to the south-west is Vitosha.

Чепън Планина

Чепън Планина

The north side, though, is clear. We can even see the Kom peak (the snowy one).

Чепън Планина

It’s surprising how this tiny little mountain with its tiny little highest peak of 1205 m. reveals such stunning views… I would have probably never learned about it… But, that’s why we have a guide here. And a group, which fortunately did not confirm my initial expectations that it would be like a gathering of the retired tousts. On the contrary. :)

Чепън Планина

Чепън Планина

Great choice for this time of the year, I’m thinking. The ridge is broad and rounded, that’s why people call the place “the small Pirin”. “Ups” and “downs” are smooth, the sun is mild, but warming. Maybe during the summer the heat would be unbearable, and I don’t even want to think how many snakes would be sneaking from these stones. Well, I don’t know. I only know that now it’s just marvelous. :) Everyone seems to be enchanted by the 360° view – in whatever direction you look, it’s amazing. I can’t say anything else but: wow. Those words and pictures are just nothing in comparison to what your eyes will see if you go there yourself.

About 3 hours and a half later we reach the first peak – Chepan. Time for a short break and some snacks.

Чепън планина

To the south we can see the heights of Tri Ushi (Three ears). Somewhere under the thick white cotton between us and them, must be the Dragoman swamp.

Чепън планина

One more hour and a half later, we reach the final point of our route – Petrovski krust peak (Peter’s Cross). It’s name comes from a famous merchant from Dragoman, who’s supposed to have been killed here by some bandits during the Ottoman slavery. Time for a last break.

връх Петровки кръст

We can also see remnants of an ancients sanctuary of the Thracian god Sabazius. I didn’t picture that, though. To be honest, those views around imrpess me more, much more than these two bowl-shaped holes carved into the stone, where the blood of the victims of some sacrificing rituals is supposed to have been gathered. Well, I don’t know. Maybe one day I will start understanding why people are so fascinated by such things and will start appreciating them too, but as of now, I just can’t feel it. So I continue walking and looking around.

Чепън планина

Чепън планина

To the west (northwest) we can see some Serbian hills.

Чепън планина

A paraglider is standing there – like petrified, hoping for some wind. The place is known to be windy, but not today. Bad for him, good for us. :)

Чепън планина

The sun is going down, we too. No way, in the end there is always a downhill. :)  We make our way through the muddy dirt road towards the sunset, covered with mud till the knees, but all in a perfect mood. No surprise – I guess even the sourest person on earth would come to love life at least for a little while, just by looking at this magical place. :)

Чепън планина

Often during ountain hikes I fall into thoughts and “conversations with myself” :D and for that reason I stay silent for hours, and my companions wonder why I become so unsociable. Well, this time I was so deep into what was before my eyes, that even if some thought passed through my mind, I didn’t even notice it. But now it’s come to its end, and we have to dive back there, where we crawled out of: into the fog. :)

Чепън планина

Walking was about 5 hours, without the breaks and with a not very fast pace (you just can’t help but stop and look around every now and then!).

The van is waiting for us at the beginning of the asphalt road. My shoes are full of mud and water, but this time I’m prepared – I take a pair of spare socks and two multifunctional things called “plastic bags” – here with insulation purpose – out of my backpack, and now I’m almost a new person: with a ventilated head and dry feet. :) Slightly tired and very hungry after conquering these two giant peaks, now we’re ready to conquer the pub. That was a great days. And, Planinaria rocks!

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