• Marie & Nil

Backpacking in the Pirin mountains in Bulgaria - An article by Maya Bendifallah @bendidanslacuisine

Joining 2PVA for a week has been a goal of mine since they first announced their adventure. Marie and Nil are good friends so it meant more than just going on a fun adventure – it also meant supporting them in this new stage in life! My fiancé Geoff, who knew Marie and Nil before I did, originally wanted to come but due to an old ankle injury and new knee injury he wasn’t able to make it in person.

I didn’t know until a few weeks before I went when I would be able to join them and got lucky as they were in Bulgaria, a country I had never visited, and the week I had picked had a great weather forecast!

Bansko, Bulgaria. Photo: MB

They sent me a gear list and I picked up some gear back at their home base (near Paris, where I live) so I was ready to go. Looking back, what were the gear essentials I couldn’t go without? Marie’s sandals and toe socks that I wore until my severe blisters from steep uphill hiking (with Parisian feet) became less sensitive; my various snacks (energy balls with chocolate hazelnut spread in the middle, yum!); my portable battery to charge my phone and most importantly my DSLR battery, as this trip was an opportunity to take photos, something I miss greatly in my Parisian routine… I would definitely suggest bringing two for the next guest who likes taking pictures! Oh, and probably better checking the socks I brought for size/holes would have been useful.

Parisian feet blisters. Photo: 2PVA

Hiking high fashion. Photo: MB

The best hiking snacks. Photo: MB

In my happy place. Photo: 2PVA

The portion of the trip that I would be joining would be in the mountains, so we wouldn’t be crossing any villages and thus stay at people’s places. However, we would still cross mountain refuges, an opportunity to talk with locals. Luckily, some young English-speaking Bulgarians came through a mountain refuge so we were able to talk with them briefly. Otherwise, our interactions were severely limited by the language barrier!

The mountain refuge we stayed at, by one of the many lakes we hiked by. Photo: 2PVA

More lakes. Photo: 2PVA

Blisters aside, the walking (ie main activity) was very enjoyable and Marie and Nil were very patient with me, especially on rocky terrain where I really took my time with each foot placement (I have an old knee injury) and thus was considerably slower than them. Plus, Marie and I are convinced Nil is a robot, as he can go a while without eating yet is still 3x faster than us on big uphill sections while carrying more weight!

Rocky terrain. Photo: 2PVA

Slow descents. Photo: 2PVA

It was nice to take time to take photos (I have many of them far off in the distance, being slow has its perks!), to take in the fall colors, the animals, and the various mountain landscapes, ranging from green lush forests to dry and desert-like visuals. Luckily for us, the trail was well maintained and clean, so the 1KG FOR THE PLANET bags were not often filled.

Chamois & a woodpecker. Photo: 2PVA

Red forest. Photo: MB

Marie sitting in the sun. Photo: MB

Beautiful fall colors & green forests. Photo: 2PVA

Desert landscapes. Photo:MB

Some of my favorite moments included eating fresh parasol mushrooms on the campfire BBQ, sleeping in the bivouac (2x2m mountain hut), doing my first via ferrata (in a very cool location, with a steep descent on either side of the ridge), and making friends with puppies and cats along our path.

Parasol mushroom BBQ. Photo: 2PVA

Bivouac (2x2m). Photo: 2PVA

Via Ferrata – forward view. Photo: 2PVA

Via Ferrata – backward view. Photo: 2PVA

A quick and pleasant encounter (refuge puppies). Photo: MB

Marie & the cat. Photo: 2PVA

I am in awe and grateful for the many photos and videos they took of our trip and of the rest of their adventure. Personally, this is the most I’ve ever been photographed anywhere; normally, my photographic evidence is everything but me. It’s a nice change of pace to not only exist, but to have incredible images like those that come from the drone! It really helps to bring back to life not only the adventure I was on but all the ones I couldn’t participate in.

Drone shot. Photo: 2PVA

Photographic souvenirs. Photo: 2PVA

Lastly, it was a pleasure to hang out outdoors with friends by the fire, eating good food (shout out to all the bean soups and the Real Turmat dinners) and see the stars again.

Camping life. Photos: 2PVA

The milky way. Photos: 2PVA

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