PART 1 : DEUTSCHLAND
From Wednesday 24th August 2016
Crapton’s log: Splardate 001
Travelled 12,551KM from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam with a 10 hour layover in Dubai where I rented a Snoozecube for 6 hours then from Amsterdam to Utrecht where I sat and watched my 5pm train as it left the station and. Sat for 2 hours hoping there would be another. Finally made it to Essen at around 9:30pm. Met fellow Tribal dancer Nina and her partner Heike, who are kindly hosting Nanci (YogaBitch) and myself at their home.
Ate some awesome carrot and squash soup then set up camp in the back yard. Nanci likes to sleep under the stars and I am just enjoying the fact that I can go outside at nighttime and not melt from the heat within 30 seconds.
I awoke this morning and slowly crawled from my cocoon and drank several cups of Pu’er tea. During the night, My airways had almost completely closed shut Due to grass allergies. Luckily death did not occur.
I am still part slug, sat in my sleeping bag. My partner in crime, Nanci is doing Mycrodoga (yoga with Mycro the dog) Since my brain is still rebooting and my meds have yet to take effect so I am watching from a healthy distance.
2pm. Cat has bolted. Cat is not meant to be outside but the door wasn’t shut properly so he managed to escape. Clambered through the undergrowth after him to try to retrieve, to no avail. Had to leave Nanci to deal with it as I am off to visit my auntie, uncle and cousins in Bad Lipspringe.
After an unsuccessful attempt to catch a bus, I went back to the house and downloaded an online taxi app. Finally made it to the train station. Hope I am on the right train. Wifi is not easy to get hold of here. Pokemon Go isn’t happening either.
Made it to my relatives house for 6pm, had some yummy soup and stayed the night. Uncle Wolfgang drove me to the train station very early next morning.
Crapton’s Log: Splardate 002
I arrived back in Essen to find Nanci already awake, doing some chanting and practicing Pranayama (Yogic breathing exercises)
Instead of joining her I went outside and gave my lungs their daily beating with some Indonesian cigarettes.
While Nanci and Nina went to an event I opted to stay home, do some coursework and sleep.
Later that evening we attended an ATS® Workshop with teacher Nicole Shiroshakar whom it turns out is a fantastic teacher. One of the things I really like love most about attending other teachers ATS classes is seeing how they teach. I always learn something new or think of something that I wouldn’t have thought of before.
Exhausted and talking absolute nonsense because of our blood sugar levels, we headed for the nearest food outlet, ordered portions of potato gratin with broccoli, slathered in cheese.
We were soon exhausted and hit the hay but Nanci and I lay awake and continued to talk a lot of random nonsense and laughing hysterically until our stomachs ached, over the most ridiculous things.
I failed to write anymore from this part of the journey but what I can tell you is that it did involve me drinking an entire Rockabilly Car and Bike Festival under the table. True story!
PART 2 – BATS, CATS, WINE, MOUNTAINS, WRESTLING and DINOSAUR in BULGARIA
After spending one week in Germany with friends and visiting family, my partner in mountain crime, Nanci Traynor, Mycro the dog and I headed for the Balkans. Upon entering Bulgaria, we rescued a tiny Bat, he was just on the floor of the walkway between the aeroplane and the airport. We alerted the airline staff, for a moment they probably thought we had bought the little guy in with us which would have been very bad for all concerned. After releasing Mr Bat into the great outdoors, we made our way into Sofia. We wer hosted by some awesome crazy Balkan dudes who were kind enough to let us take over their lounge for a few days before we packed our shit and headed up the Stara Planina in the Balkan mountains for a seven day hike. A train from Sofia then beginning in Gara Lakatnik, on to the Trastena hut following the E3 route, ending at the Leskova hut.
We survived to tell the tale.
Ready for our adventure
At the train station with Mycro the dog
Day I – The Ascent
With our heavy backpacks on, groaning and huffing and trudging upwards for what felt like forever, we eventually made it to the village of lakatnik where we stopped briefly and had a beer at the local grocery shop.
Then continued onwards towards a hut known as trastena. This area is famous for raspberry wine and we were on a mission to find some. Each time we passed another human being Nanci would ask about the raspberry wine and they would all point in the same direction which was up the mountain.
We met an old sheep herder who warned us about seven karackachan (huge mountain dogs) so we took the route around to avoid them. As it was nearing sunset we decided to stop and find a spot to set up camp.
Dinner was cheese and tomato on what we named Lambas bread for This bread was awesome and would last us a good 3 or 4 days. Then on with the wools and to bed.
Day II – A Random Hut
As usual I didn’t sleep too well but Nanci is an early bird so I caught up on a bit when she went off walking in the morning.
Oats for breakfast but the sodding camping stove was buggered. The pipe had a leak. Brand new as well. Arse! Managed to make the oats though then Nanci lost her mind briefly and said she didn’t want to continue without a stove but she soon came to her senses and we packed up, said hello to the old shepherd from the previous day who was up there fetching his sheep with 3 large mountain dogs, Mycro fled and hid in the woods until the sheep and dogs had gone.
We hadn’t walked far when we spotted another sign for Trastena and a few hundred yards after that we spotted some buildings down the hill so we went to have a look.
We found 3 empty huts, 2 of them locked and there was also a small modern church.
The Church near the random mountain hut.
View through the church doors.
There was fresh running water, apple trees and yummy grapes so we decided to stay. Not inside the hut though, just on the large porch area in our sleeping bags. I bagsied one of the sofas. We soon figured it wasn’t actually Trastena though after reading a description of Trastena and realising it didn’t quite fit.
Crap at fishing
There were 4 large concrete fish ponds down the bottom of the garden. We went down to have a closer look and Mycro followed us then lost his footing and plopped into the water which didn’t amuse him nearly as much as it did us. He went off sulking back up to the house, cold and wet and covered in green pond gunk.
Later I attempted and failed to catch some rainbow trout. The buggers were far too fast and sneaky for me and my efforts were not helped by the completely unsuitable net which was more likely for clearing the ponds of leaves and crap.
I fell asleep whilst squatting at the edge of the fish pond for a while as well. That’s perfectly normal for me though, I mean falling asleep in random situation so, not the fishing.
We slept during the afternoon then Nanci made a fire in one of the outdoor stoves and cooked up some beans and spices for tea then we hit the hay around 9pm, just after dark.
Nanci is the twisted firestarter
Onward and upward and occasionally backward.
Day III – Raspberry wine & Kittens
I slept in late and Nanci cooked up some yummy nosh for breakfast. I had two some awesome lucid dreams featuring horses. One was about a girl in a small village in medieval times who fell for a guy as they were both about to leave town for some reason but she went after him on a horse, I can remember the details but it wouldn’t sound all that interesting if I wrote it down. In the second, I was a professional con man who rode from town to town pretending to be important and conning the kings and queens of various places and obtaining jewels and horses. Again I can remember much more detail but writing it down wouldn’t do it justice and besides it would sway too much from the point which is simply to document our hike.
I had read on someones hiking blog that the walk was an hour and a half from Lakatnik, it was more like 4 hours even if we hadn’t stopped twice.
We continued to follow the old Roman road. The scenery was epic looking back down over the mountain we had climbed. We saw lots of lizards, hundreds of butterflies and a baby snake.
Finally made it to Trastena!
Although there were now regular signs to Trastena, we had begun to imagine that it was a made up place and the signs were just there to mess with us. Then we came to clearing and behind some trees we stood a large white building with some canvas tents and some vehicles parked outside.
We had finally made it to civilisation or shall we say one man and his kittens. The house apparently sleeps 30 but we would be camping out anyway.
Bulgarian pops welcomed us and with Nanci’s limited Bulgarian language skills (she is working on that) we were able to obtain a lovely bottle of the famous raspberry and grape, Trastena vino.
Unfortunately they had run out of the pure raspberry one which we were only temporarily disappointed about. Holy shitballs, this stuff is amazing!
Later after a brief phone conversation with pops, English speaking son, we explained that we would be camping maybe a night or two and that we were very interested in obtaining more wine.
Just to clarify, Trastena is actually not the correct translation as I discovered when trying to tag the place on ‘facemuck’.
xижа Тръстеная translates as Trustenaja Hut. I’m not sure why it ended up being called Trastena wine. Maybe they figured the “Ja” would be too much for our foreign brains.
Wine and cats = I am in heaven!
Whilst sat on the porch outside the house, we were accosted by three motherless kittens. I happily allowed them to climb all over me for the remainder of our stay.
Our crap drawing
We put up the tent, had a snooze then Nanci, drew a rubbish picture of a chicken and some eggs and cheese I added a crap attempt at some tomatoes and we handed it to Bulgarian pops who laughed and went to pick some fresh giant tomatoes and some bits from the awesome vegetable garden and proceeded to fix us up with a spectacular omelette and salad.
I made the mistake of visiting the old outdoor toilet which was not unlike other experiences I have had in India and at various music festivals. Had I known there was an available toilet to use in the house I may have avoided seeing the inside of the old brick building with the grim hole in the ground and the filth that accompanied it. You will be pleased to know that there is no photographic evidence of this.
We had wolfed down our dinner and were half way through our second bottle of wine when Bulgarian pops brought out the rakia. Nanci opted out but being British I am unable to turn down free alcohol.
Nanci saved the last bit of her omelette for Mycro and left me to enjoy the booze and kittens.
“I could happily live in a place like this. So frickin peaceful and beautiful. Surrounded by raspberry fields and lakes and mountains and diverse wildlife. Free of bullshit. (mostly)
Saying that, there was actually wifi there but Bulgarian pops couldn’t figure out his internet situation. I can’t say I missed checking Facebook or whatsapp. People don’t need to be constantly connected like that. It’s actually very draining. I realise the irony in the fact that I wrote this on my iPhone, intending to upload it to the web but those things just don’t matter so much up there. You enjoy the simple and basic things like building a fire, eating wild fruits and just being able to have shelter at night and sleep in a warm sleeping bag, wool underclothes to keep out the cold and most of all fresh water sources when you can find them. And of course finding raspberry wine (yep, totally a necessary basic!)
Between here and Lakatnik we only saw three cars pass and a dude with some sheep and another dude living in a hut with some cows and dogs and I really don’t feel lonely at all. How can you feel lonely surrounded by the sounds of all the animals in the forest, plus Nanci snoring at night and ummm, Bulgarian pops with his Bulgarian TV.
8:22pm and it’s dark now. Sat on the front porch I can here nothing but Bulgarian pops tv, the sound of the trees, possibly a bell on a cow or goat, kittens purring and various insects. I am still supping the half glass of rakia and the 3 kittens have claimed my lap. I’d love to put them all in my sleeping bag but Mycro will freak out. He is actually scared of kittens.
I think Nanci has passed out in the tent. I’m not too good at early nights but there is literally nothing to do in the pitch darkness other than play on my colouring app or listen to beasties crawling around and allow my imagination to invent monsters and all sorts of messed up shit …ummm, wait, that’s not where we are going here. Oops!”
I ended up chatting with Bulgarian pops till late having discovered he spoke Portuguese and understood and little bit of Spanish although my Spanish is very basic (actually it’s appallingly bad) we managed to converse.
The next day two rather tall and sexy German dudes, Alex and Phillip arrived at Trastena. Their plan was to hike to Murgash. Phillip showed us how to make a hobo stove using an old tin and some white spirit. They didn’t hang around for long. After sampling the wine and rechecking their route, we wished them good luck and off they went.
Bulgarian pops also left for Sofia that day, leaving us with the house key. Nanci picked some fresh veggies from the garden and cooked up some soup in the kitchen then I decided to clean it from top to bottom. The grease on top of the shelves was so thick I had to scrape it off. Yes, I have some serious cleaning issues. It probably hadn’t been touched in years.
Later in the afternoon we walked up the hill to where Nanci said she saw some horses. They were wearing bells which is what I had heard from over in the raspberry fields the previous night. We followed the sound of the clanging bells and soon enough we found a family of about six horses including a young foal and a beautiful black stallion.
From up there, the view of the lakes and mountains is epic.
Later we packed up and went to bed early as we wanted to be up early in the morning to leave.
I awoke to find out that one of the kittens was missing. The slightly ‘special’ looking white and brown one. Nanci said she hadn’t seen it all morning. We figured maybe an owl had got her during the night. I was rather sad about this but as we headed over to the house the cute little mong faced kitty came running over to us. We were glad it wasn’t dead after all. Yay!
We had some morning wake up coffee, ate breakfast, said goodbye to the three kitties (I actually picked them up and kissed each of them, one at a time) then we headed up the hill for our next hike.
Aiming for the Leskova hut we hiked for most of the day and got right to the top of one of the peaks where we stopped to check the nap and ate some dried figs, cashews and chick peas to get some energy.
At this point we briefly lost the trail and had to climb down some massive rocks and through a forest where we eventually found the trail again. We thought so anyway.
By now it was getting towards sundown so we decided I find a place to camp. We found an old house that had been stripped of everything and left to ruin.
Random old hut where me made our home for a night
After setting up camp in the garden we built a fire and cooked up made some mushy pasta before heading to bed. It was cold and uncomfortable so neither of us slept too well. Even Mycro snuggled up in between us. Normally he would just growl at me. Maybe it was because he pee’d on my pee which is probably his freaky dog pack initiation thing… or it could just be a weird fetish of his. Nanci says it’s so the zombies don’t find us.
We got up early next morning having had little sleep and since we were low on water and our feet were beginning to fall apart we made it our mission to find the Leskova hut.
We grazed on delicious blackberries along the mountain trail. A pack of horses galloped past us which was a pretty awesome sight.
We found St Duh (it’s probably not pronounced like that but it amuses us) which is a clearing of really old trees and an old cross. Nanci told me more about the place but I forget.
Leskova would be about an hour from here. We passed a huge herd of cows and some herders who pointed us in the direction of Leskova.
After trudging down a steep hill which totally killed our feet, a bit of a winding trail and we finally made it to the Leskova Hut.
Yay! We made it to Leskova Hut.
Our feet were sore, our backs aching, both of us were ready to pass out. As we arrived we were greeted by a group of huge Bulgarian men who were drinking beers, chopping wood and cooking up some food. They welcomed us to join their man party of course we did and we spent the evening drinking whiskey and dancing (at least, speak for myself on the whiskey and dancing front) I even challenged one of the guys to a wrestling match (hilarious) and Nanci attempted to arm wrestle the one with enormous forearms and at one point we both managed to take one of them down. Sadly I was far too distracted to remember to take any photos.
Much later, the guys packed up and left in their 4×4 vehicles and I finally rolled in to bed after everyone had gone. Nanci had sensibly bailed a few hours before me.
I was awoken during the early hours by an urgent need to pee but the toilets were a trek down a steep bank and my feet were very sore and it was still too dark to attempt such a feat so I found a suitable hedge.
I rejoined the living sometime around midday to find Nanci cooking some oats and grains and dried fruit for a late breakfast.
We spent the day resting and nursing out battered feet. I discovered three open wounds on my left foot and one on my right. Not good. All bandaged up, I shuffled slowly down to the toilet for the unavoidable daily poop. The descent and ascent in total took me around 10 mins, again a hole in the ground in a hut but much less horrifying than the one at Trastena .
We took out the old maps and planned the next route which would be back down from the mountains and to the train station. We hoped to find someone driving our way to give us a lift since walking would be painful and most likely at snail pace.
Late in the afternoon We began to roast some potatoes and an onion on the fire, Nanci did the wood chopping and I made a salad with leftover tomatoes and cucumbers from the hut.
Bulgarian tomatoes are enormous and quite delicious. We melted Leftover cheese on the spuds and made some coffee. Nom nom nom!
Nanci getting some cook on.
Nom Nom Nom!
Behold, Nanci the mountain women
Then early to bed for me. Or at least messing around on my colouring app and refusing to move from the bed in the hut.
We were apparently joined by another hiker by the name of Caleb. Like Nanci he was originally from Oregon. I never met our mysterious traveling friend as he was already donning his backpack and marching up the track away from the hut when I awoke the next morning. That there, was a man on a mission.
Day VII – The Descent
We drank some coffee and ate some beans, re-bandaged our feet and began our hike back to St Duh.
The upward trek back to the road was painful and slow. To distract myself from the pain I began singing annoying songs whilst trying to walk in time to the rhythm. I got through a healthy portion of “The Wheels on the Bus” which among the usual list and a great deal of others, featured murderers going “kill kill kill” and alcoholic priests going “drink feck arse”. I got through a lengthened and slightly more epic version of “on top of spaghetti” which an old school friend and I wrote back in our primary school days and then the obligatory (for me personally) “Where’s me jumper?” By the Sultans of Ping. Nanci was about half a mile ahead and therefore did not have to suffer my singing.
As we tailed the path before reaching St Duh, we were greeted by the awesome sight of more horses only these ones did not have bells on, they were wild and damn they were beautiful! They watched us as we passed, not at all afraid of us but wary of our presence.
Wild Horses of the Balkans.
Back to St Duh. We dropped our packs and hugged one of the huge ancient trees.
Around 6KM down the mountain later we made it to a village.
Wooohoooo! Civilisation and beer!
We found a place that Nanci recognised from her previous visit a few years back. They provide accommodation and serve food and drinks in a cute little garden.
It had all sorts of animals, ostriches, deer, cats … and this frickin T-Rex!
I had to snap this picture especially because I have a very special friend who is nuts about dinosaurs. (This one is for you, Batstork 😉)
After filling our bellies with food a a beer each, we trudged onwards for the final leg. It would be miles and miles to the next village and back down off the mountain it was baking hot.
As usual I fell asleep on my feet and began walking in a zig zag fashion with my eyes half shut and brain on standby. I even walked right into the foot of the mountain at one point which I thought was highly amusing. Luckily I am a pro at walking around in this state which in Narcolepsy world is known as autopilot or automatic behaviour.
My meds soon kicked in though and relatively normal function resumed at which point I began yelling “car!” Each time one passed to alert Nanci in the hope that one of us would be able to flag one down. It was unlikely that we were going to make it to the train station before sunset and we would have had to camp again somewhere at the foot of the mountain. Suddenly, I yelled “van!” And we both leaped excitedly as the kind man pulled over. Turns out he is the mountain village delivery man on his rounds although Nanci much prefers to believe he was sharing secrets.
He waved at various folk, both old and young through every village we drove through, occasionally stopping to hand over a pint of milk or take some money and an order from old Bulgarian pops. So refreshing to see humanity at its best for a change, people helicopter my each other out and smiling and waving at the delivery man on his rounds. If I weren’t so naturally bloody cynical it would have completely restored my faith in humans.
The nice man with a van dropped is off at the train station and we realised just how long it would have taken us to walk. We were extremely thankful but he refused our offer of payment and waved us goodbye.
Hooray! We made it … Almost!
After a long wait in the sweltering heat, our stylish old, slightly battered and graffiti adorned train arrived. Back to Sofia.
Waiting for the train back to Sofia
Abandoned communist buildings and quarry
Hooray! That was a bloody epic and fantastic seven days in the beautiful Balkan mountains and a month of crazy shenanigans. Thanks for inviting me with you Nanci! 🙂
P.S. SORRY IF ANY ANNOYING ADVERTS APPEAR ON THIS PAGE.
BLOODY CAPITALIST SCUM, Hahaha