July 27, 2013

The Escape

Hurrying up to reach the place before it becomes dark. A small group of people- Yassen, Ivan and myself thirsty for adventures into the wild, with desire to escape from the ordinary routine days. This is why we are equipped with camping staff, tandem paragliding wing and good mood. Where do we go? I only know it is a place in the Eastern Rhodope mountains, on the Arda river coastline, in the camp of the Englishman Tim. The car is moving down the winding road through the fields and hills. The plants are colored in fresh green, the sky filled with fluffy white clouds, shining in the blue sky. Strokes’ nests everywhere and those beautiful names of the villages – Knijovnik, Zlati Bryag, Silen, Dolni, Gorni Glavnak.

Finally we step on the Arda river coast. The sun is falling low behind the rocky ridge. The wind is shaving the branches of the willows, the light is playing with the leaves and they are sparkling like silver coins. The camp is located on the other side of the river in the basement of a cliff, well covered by trees. Two kayaks start moving towards us…

A dwelling across the river into the trees. Under the falling branches there is a small beach, a place hidden from public view on the opposite side but with a great view of the surrounding area from our point.

Inside, neat and tidy sites for tents under deep shadow. A space with fireplace, household  tools, food supplies, improvised fountain, a spot designed for a kitchen.

One of my friends is impatient for some activity. He tries free climbing on the surrounding rocks before sunset.

On the next morning I notice that Yassen is staring at the sky. Large birds are flying above making big circles. These are vultures. He tells me “That’s not fair. I wanna fly around these rocks too”. Yassen is European champion in cross country paragliding. Later we realize that the place is a national park with protected species – Egyptian vulture and Bald eagle. Paragliding is forbidden. Tim wants to show us another place suitable for flying. Just few kilometers away there is a nice hill.

To reach the top, we have to walk into the forest, without a trail.

After an exhausting fight with the thick bushes and mosquitoes we go out in a perfect lawn.  The sky above us – clear, the sun – low on the horizon.

Tim is the oldest in the group and he’s never flown before, so  we decide to give him the chance to try a tandem flight. Yassen wants to test the wind and he raises the wing. It resembles a giant bird.

The fully equipped tandem – Yassen and Tim tries to balance the wing, waiting for the right moment.

“Run Tim, run, don’t stop”

As Tim will say later “The moment of waiting on the edge of the rock, feeling the wind which is trying to pull you up, but still you grab the ropes tightly before releasing the pressure, is probably the most emotional moment in my life.”

I wake up in a chilly morning from the birds’ singing and walk to the beach where I find Tim, our host, sitting on the sand and drinking coffee.

He is around 50 in a good physical shape, sun tanned, a guy with a big smile. He is very communicative, speaks a little Bulgarian, has a calm and nice voice. He came to Bulgaria long time ago wanting to discover new wild places saying that the nature in West Europe was already too sterile. He was stunned by the beauty of the nature and decided to settle down in Bulgaria. Soon after that he met a woman, Danny from Bulgarian town Shumen.

They married and lived in Shumen for a while, then chose to move to Rhodope mountains and build a horse farm. Many years now during summertime they’ ve been camping by Arda river, then in the winter return to their house, 10 kilometers away, in a small village.

Later during the day we visit his farm. The village is located in a picturesque valley.

The houses are old abandoned buildings from stones, now turned into a shelter for animals. Only few people still live here. As if the time has stopped a long before. In this surreal picture Tim’s pretty house standing out, bright and neat with a small but well arranged garden full of trees and flowers.

Soon the horses appear.  Nine healthy and fit animals. Tim is proud with them. He explains that last winter he left all horses outside, alone by themselves intending to make them stronger and smarter. They all survived.

After meeting the horses Tim insists to take us down the river with his kayaks.

We put the boats on the surface and float slightly down the waterflow.

The river cuts the land like a knife, forming a canyon. Then gradually the walls of the canyon go lower as the river becomes larger and calmer. We are passing through hidden places, which only Tim knows, discovering lovely small beaches good for camping into the wild. It’s incredible how much the Englishman fell in love with this land. He explored every single spot to find places that even locals don’t expect they exist.

We get deeper into the wild. The only company are the black stokes and cormorants.

There is a strange feeling of peace and harmony around. This feeling doesn’t go away long after we return to our common lives.

The whole material is published in 360 Extreme magazine


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