Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Bulgaria - Rila National Park

Wednesday 05th July 2017
We parked up Tuesday night at a lovely little spot just shy of Yundola, (where there is a col and a market full of people selling honey, fruity and other local produce. There is also a bar and a small shop selling all the things useful to travellers). We’d driven down to Yokorunda to check out where the TET crossed the 84, then turned around and returned to Yundola as it was such a relaxed place.

Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny, so we drove upto the Belmeken Sports Complex, which appears to be some kind of international training ground for all kinds of sports including the Bulgarian football team, some skiers practicing on skates and lots of folks doing various forms of exercise at altitude.

The TET route has been changed from our original GPX line, so it took a bit of figuring out where it actually went now, the trail around the sports complex has been wiped out completely and now goes past a shooting range and a repeater station, winding under the complex itself to rejoin the original trail.

From here it traverses through dense trees, which form a tunnel to come out on a beautiful open plateau with some of the best views we’ve seen so far since travelling through Bulgaria. The rest of the day passed like this, riding through beautiful high granite mountain pastures, roughly contouring along the hillside. The summits above were, for the most part, thickly covered in alder and thick juniper, whilst the edges of the trail were alive with flowers and herbs, creating a lingering perfume as we passed by.

As we reached the descent part of the day, we dropped back into the trees with the trail following first some tarmac, then dropping very steeply through the trees on single track. This was loose, steep and a little daunting after the easy trails we’ve experienced so far. Still we followed the route closely, having some small navigation issues whenever we came through some of the beautiful inhabited parts of the area. There are tracks all over these places and things have moved around a lot, so you just have to make it up and wing it a bit to keep on track.

About two thirds of the way down, we met a local rider on his Yamaha XT 660, (this was an older bike, maybe early ‘90’s??). He didn’t speak any english so we made things understandable as best we could and he showed us some of the pictures of him and his bike at various high lakes around the area, something we decided would be good to go and explore.

Once down into Yakorunda, we stopped for drinks and food, (there are 3 petrol stations here too). For us it was back up the road now to a village called Cherna Mesta, where we hoped to follow a piste track back to the lake. This proved to be feasible and although we had a couple of moments of ‘will it, won’t it?’ We actually turned up right at the van!

Lucy went off to ride the track along the lake as it was so beautiful and warm, then between us we found a great place to park up for the night, looking at the surrounding peaks, swimming in the freezing lake and for me, changing knackered wheel bearings on both bikes. Some dinner, some wine and a lazy evening finished a great day off.