Internal steps in Rila - An article by Tom Devictor
It's been a long time since my legs were warmed up. Direction Sofia then Razlog. This trip will do me a lot of good. Nil and Marie have a lot of hiking experience now. My head is full of questions and at the same time I think of yesterday.
Last night, the second trimester ultrasound promised a beautiful, healthy baby.
My backpack is ready. The equipment I had at home was far too heavy. I did some shopping and Nil and Marie lent me a 2 kg lighter backpack than mine, poles, socks, a harness, etc. Finally, I gain easily 6 or 7 kilos compared to what I usually carry. I have to trust them, they are the experts.
I watch the ground tear off, Roissy leave, then Paris on my right. I'm above the clouds now. Adventure is coming. I met Nil at the Gorges du Verdon when I joined Clermont Ferrand - Antibes hiking. He jumped in all directions, we met on a section of trail. I had my twenty-five-kilo backpack filled with twenty kilos of superfluity while he was frolicking with his super-light bag. Certainly, we don't have the same morphology. With all due respect, we could be compared to Timon and Pumba. The plane lands. I find Nil and Marie. They join me with their fluo orange shoes, their camera around their neck, their house on their back and a smile that overflows from their lips. We are sleeping this evening in a silent inn run by two smiling guys.
I remember the discovery of the egg cheese gratin accompanied by the Bulgarian wine.
What will be your name? We often talk about it with your mom but we are a bit lost. I like Sofia, Ania, Mali, Allie. What if you're a little guy... Victor? Victor Devictor? Devictor Hugo? Thor Devictor?! We don't know... It seems to me that in Thailand, children take a name around the age of 5, I like this rule very much.
Sofia... It's pretty as a first name. It's nice if we give it to a girl, for a boy, no thanks. But we don't want to know the sex, by choice, by mystery, by oddity. Our midwife approves of this choice not to know the sex. She is brilliant, gentle in her words, harder in her feel, professional, smiling, reassuring, wonderful. I am speechless in front of the ultrasound photo of your fan-shaped feet. I'm gaga, like all the others surely. Then I am a little proud of your cranial perimeter which is in the upper normal, it is an ancestral trademark of my family. But aren't you also in this protective bubble so that we leave you a little quiet? Grow up, eat, drink, stretch, rest, gain strength soon, because you're going to have to endure our love. And it is great! Very very large.
A rusty voice rooster crows in the middle of the night and then goes back to sleep. It is at 6:20 am as it hums its usual tune to ring the start of the day. We prepare our bags then leave the hostel after having breakfast. Dobarsko is at 1080 meters above sea level. Our goal is to reach the Makedonia refuge at 2100 meters after crossing the summit 200 meters higher. The bags on the back, here we go. Nil and Marie imprison the place in their camera. Each rarity, beauty, moment that they deem fit to shoot is an opportunity to film or photograph. Our first stop is the St Theodore Tiron church in Dobarsko. It dates from the 17th century and has the specificity of housing paintings of Jesus on a rocket seat. It's original, the frescoes are magnificent, the place is very powerful, we light a candle and then we leave. The ascent begins at the exit of the village. The charms, beeches, acacias, disappear gradually with altitude. The fall colors enchant the climb. We are fortunate to attend this color show. We leave the road then take paths just trampled. The oxygen decreases, the flora changes, the mountain hardens. They have a professional rhythm, I'm trying to follow, for the moment, I'm getting there. The mist allows us to see at a maximum of fifty meters. The spectacle is in this mixture of sumptuous stones which strew the course. Each rock seems sacred. It is a very mysterious place which exudes mad power. The energy of the stones is abundant. We benefit as much as the pines along the way. It goes up, it goes up. The pounds gained during pregnancy are too much, I can feel it. From the top of the mountain to the refuge, Nil and Marie move like ibex. There is only one route, we will meet a little later. We arrive at the beginning of the afternoon at the Makedonia refuge. It's empty. Marie lights the wood stove, Nil hands out a rope, we dry our wet things and enjoy the warmth. The fog is still as thick. We decide to stay in this comfort and leave tomorrow morning to enjoy the panorama. The guard arrives in the early evening with his wife. Joe is a high mountain rescuer. He is also a trainer and passionate about motorcycles. After connecting the electricity, he suggests that we take a beer or wine with them. We leave for a beer and wine and come back after eating a lot and drinking rakija... We go to bed after this pleasant evening, it is 22h.
The night will be restful.
I think of my darling, of you little baby who surely moves, then I fall asleep.
Mom protects you all the time. She sleeps with her hands on her stomach and sends you a lot of positive energy. She can't wait for you to be there to take care of you two. We take strength together suddenly. In not even five months, we gained seven kilos each. We caress our stomachs, we bend our knees to pick up things, we dream a lot, we go to bed very early. If I imitate your mom, it is so that she cannot one day say to me "you cannot understand me". I even had a stomach ache before her one day when we had to go to the hospital. To tell you. I understand her well, even better! Then we change our mood, but in a good way. Mom has never been so kind. I love her even more at once.
Bulgarians join us at night. They went up to the refuge late and loudly. The fire goes out in the dormitory, the night is agitated by dreams.The next morning, we get up at 7am, eat and prepare the bags. The mist has still not dissipated. The weather forecast is clearing around noon. We leave.
The walk begins with 450 meters of elevation gain, enough to heat the legs. It is around zero degrees. The wind is blowing from the west. When we stop, we are refrigerated, so we have to move on. A bush crosses our path. It cuts us off from the wind and has the effect of a radiator. It's our first break. Vegetation is becoming increasingly scarce. Only tiny pines with icy thorns live in these heights.
When we reach the summit, we walk along the ridge. We cannot enjoy the landscape at any time because of the icy smoke that surrounds us. The hands are getting seriously cold. In this mist, only the fluorescent green foam gives color to our walk. We descend into the valley to find refuge. It is empty too. We settle down. Marie puts a log to heat, we dry our things next.
Three men enter. They wince, are obviously not happy to see us here. For an hour, we grope the ground. Nil writes a text to translate into Bulgarian. The angry manager answers "no problem".
But they don't relax. They sit at the table. One of them asks us "you want rakija?" (Local alcohol).
We answer cheerfully "yes, a little".
We go to the table, the mood is suddenly joyful around the rakija.
The manager prepares us a delicious omelet. His 38 year old son Vladimir speaks English and Italian and the third responds in Spanish. The day before, we were eager to see a bear. Joe had told us that bears had first to adapt to humans for a while and then show themselves from time to time, after taming them, but never to strangers. This evening, they behave like Rila bears. They felt us and then accepted us. We spend the evening drinking rakija, local wine and beer. The deal is good, the world has changed. We go to bed around 10:45 p.m.
The night is long, sleep does not come and will not come.
What are we going to do together? We throw you into this great bath of life without knowing anything about it. It's funny because we are all happy to give life with no other goal than to give it. Well, I have my idea anyway, my little plan for you ... Dad has plans everywhere, all the time, you will not escape it.I see you as a great “sage” who will change this world, that's all. President of the world republic which shows the way of acquiescence by its interior light. This is the path we will take you. You can do it because anything is possible.
Upon waking up, everyone seems surprised to have spent the evening together. Hoarse voices sing "dobar den" (hello). We pack up, pay the innkeeper and leave amused by this beautiful evening.
The view over the plain is clear, magnificent. Nil then takes out the drone and captures sumptuous images. Recreation is short since we are going to attack 450 meters of elevation to start the walk. My legs are light but my body is heavy. I'm exhausted quickly. Nil and Marie have a set, timed, clean step. It's up to me to adapt and not the other way around. They take breaks to wait for me from time to time. Then we go back up. We sink into the fog. The stones slide, the wind settles, the objective approaches.
It is important to look ahead while walking. Watching his feet leads to an unstoppable thinking. All thoughts surface, from very useful things to very useless things. There is no philosophy to walk looking at your feet. But there we have no choice. So, you have to choose the conversation you want to establish with your mind, your guide. I speak to myself while paying attention to what is under my feet. Here is also a possible summary of the walk for the moment. It is simply impossible to look at the landscape, impossible to hope to see or approach a wild animal. It cogitates in the cold, the wind, the stones. And it's wonderful.
Walk purge. As long as you raise your head sometimes. We descend to find a cabin to eat. The descent is pleasant, then the mist disappears until letting our first light pierce the surroundings. The landscape is sublime.
3 days that we do not see anything, there the spectacle is imposing. The cabin is close. Two men with their large dog seem playful. We say hello to them before entering the bivouac.
They are 8 or 9 inside. A smell of grass (grass which is not from the fields) lines the place. They all smoke, drink, laugh. We are well welcomed by these young hippies. They prepare their bags to go home.
We eat and go back down the hill. This opening of light warms our hearts and minds. We enjoy it for an hour before immersing ourselves in the fog. We are climbing, always.
Arrived on the ridge, we go west towards the Rilomanastirska Gora, a nature reserve. The descent begins. Slippery stones do not help comfort my inexperience in the mountains. But they teach me to be careful where I put my feet and hands. The refuge is not very far away, a last descent takes us there. It is located a few steps from an almost invisible lake. The place looks splendid. We will see it tomorrow morning.
The refuge is comfortable, with a wood stove. Fir is placed next to it. We settle down, prepare the fire and eat in a good mood. Hopefully tomorrow the sky will be milder. I go to bed tired from the previous night.
The day was magical.
There are a few principles that we will have to see together. First, this world desired you, not just your parents. So thank him every morning and every evening for welcoming you and for being able to express yourself within him. Second, this world is corrupted by the separation we put between it and us. We think we are multiple when we are one. Each being is only an expression of the world, a consciousness, nothing less, nothing more. We are the world, there is only separation in the head. So selfishness must be a daily struggle. Third, this world is love and it is difficult in these times to give it. As the first wise president of this world, your mission will be to enlighten spirits so that they no longer reflect anything but love. Spread this love as soon as you can.
The refuge by the lake
We wake up, the fire has been out for a long time. The light enters the cabin slightly, it's cold. Weather announces fog and rain. A refuge is located 1.5km “as the crow flies”. Our first step is already to take shelter there. The lake surrounding our refuge is visible. It is located in a stone theater. On the other side, our eyes look down on the valley. It's wonderful. Nil takes out his drone, takes a tour of the field and puts the object away. We leave under a feverish light.
Rocks block the path. No, this is the path. A flow of stones is visible in the distance. It climbs almost 200 meters. This is what we have to go through to get to the cabin. We are climbing. Some stones fall over several meters. 3 chamois look at us mocking. The ascent is long. We are coming up. The cabin is below. Some more efforts and we are safe. It took more than 3 hours to progress only 1.5 km. Wind rises. We enter this rustic cabin. There is nothing to heat, nor water point nearby. The fog thickens, the rain falls. The water slides under the bed, skirting a channel which almost reaches the opposite wall. We stay all afternoon here because it is impossible to go out. It's cold now. Each of us dresses in our sleeping bag. I dream of a raclette which won't happen. We go to bed early.
Help the thieves, forgive the killers, embrace the bearers of hatred, smile at the happy ones. Those who no longer carry love in them fidget like lonely children. They just lost their way. Be light to guide them. This is what the world expects from you, and, incidentally, your parents. Be poor, it'll save you trouble. The rich get bored, they only think of getting rich and die with their money. We can think of them as too spoiled or just too separate, it's often the same thing, they're unhappy.
The refuge in the wind
The wind hit all night. But this morning, the sky is blue. We need to find water because we will soon run out of it. The target of the day is about 15 km. We will sleep this evening at the 7 lakes. We leave the bivouac. To reach the 7 lakes, we must reach the valley to go up the other side. There is a clear sky, finally. We can perceive the environment around us. Our eyes slide to distant mountains. A frozen lake followed by a watercourse dug in this magnificent setting finally pleases us. We are now starting to climb on the other side of the valley. We meet a few chamois and walkers in the distance.
We are on the European E4 trail. The view is impressive. All those days of thick mist paralyzed the feeling of being at the top of a world. Nil and Marie immortalize these moments, as always. They always walk fast, are always such agile. But I follow them better and better. It is a rich experience in a sacred atmosphere. This sporty and contemplative mixture is possible. It is also odd this association. We are walking fast, my body is constantly striving, and when I stop, my heart opens straight to the mountains. As if working out heated my psychic machine. The more I drool, the more I am consoled by the landscapes. And Nil and Marie haven't finished making me sweat.
We reach the summit of Malyovitsa at 2732m. There is only us now. The mist covers the peak. It is the highest peak we will reach. It is also a relief because this hard step is behind us. Direction the 7 lakes now. We wind through the ridge for 8 km, from east to west. The site panoramic view is breathtaking. We are at the top, in the most beautiful place of the Rila, on one of the shoulders of the world. These three days of fog have been like wings to us. I am happy without much reason. So I sing.
Rila monastery is below. Many people testify to the special character of this place. But going there would have largely deviated us from our trajectory. I will come back with my darling and our baby.
The 7 lakes appear. It is the sacred point of the site, the most enchanting place. Culminating at more than 2000 meters, the 7 lakes are gracefully arranged or at the end of the ridge. It is very special. They overlap, face each other, of different sizes. It is truly magnificent, charming, calm, strong, entrancing, magical. We set a break at the highest lake. Then a few kilometers of descent allows us to reach a refuge. We are hungry, very hungry. There is a cable car next door. It is obviously a refuge for tourists. We enter, nobody welcomes us despite the staff who come and go in the main room. We put our things down, wait, and ask a few minutes later how the shelter works. The looks are mocking.
The barman serves us 3 beers and demands that we pay him directly, while we expect to eat at the same time. Two unpleasant women are behind the kitchen of the school canteen ready to serve us. They heat potatoes, zucchini, chicken legs, rice, bread in the microwave and ask to be paid instantly too. The dishes stay cold, like the atmosphere. They are damaged by tourism here. It is the first time that I have seen Bulgarians behave like this. Marie leaves to explain to them the reasons for our departure. They chuckle in chorus.
We take our bags and leave 2 kilometers further down. The legs are on fire. This refuge was ideally placed, but the decision to choose another one was imperative. The trees appear as we descend. The sun goes down, the light goes out gently. We arrive just in time before the dark night covers us. We enter. Candles are lit, it is dark, the atmosphere is very special. It's very hip, retro, far from the modern world. A woman with multiple tattoos and piercings arrives with 3 teas. Marie and Nil add honey to it. This refuge is the opposite of the one we left some time before. Nil inquires about the rooms, the food, the drinks from the chief. She takes us to a room with bunk beds. We will sleep with another man.
The generator is on. Electricity comes and we discover the house better. Everything is made of wood. Old skis act as barriers to the bench, a stove is lit, drawings are placed on the walls. It's special and enjoyable. We meet French people. One is in a relationship with a Bulgarian, the other makes a tour of the eastern countries for 3 months.
We eat and go to sleep.
Money is the intermediary for those who cannot do it. You can manage without it. You will be able to grow vegetables, hunt spiders, train horses, swim on the turtle shells, orient yourself with a cloud, arm yourself with a feather, you will know everything you need to be free. Cultivate yourself, on everything, it's important.
Under the 7 lakes
When you wake up, the place is just as mystical. The hut stands on the north face of the mountain, a glade is stripped, unexpected objects are stored there. We eat some sandwiches with jam, drink our teas and coffees and leave.
We have to descend the mountain to the largest plain in Bulgaria. We leave the heights, the fir trees, the bushes, the ice, the stones, the cold, the wind, the fog, the falls, the ridges, the lakes, the excitement of the trip. Autumn returns with its sublime colors, with its poetry, with the beautiful death of nature which also announces its next rebirth. We see again the acacias, the jobs, the oaks, the beeches and the charms from the first day.
The leaves pile up on this greedy soil that we pack for better swallowing them. We breathe better too. Ideas are different, wiser, less tormented. The climb is a kind of catharsis, a pain in the effort you inflict on yourself. We look at our feet, we turn to our interior, we suffer from all sides. Arrived on the ridge, this is the contemplative moment, the one when our body has heated up enough, when we are ready to welcome beauty, ready to understand, ready to hear, ready to open up. The descent is a softer effort, a breath. Our eyes go farther than the tips of our feet, a bit like in meditation, it is a rest for the mind. This walking pyramid is real therapy. Now our senses are open to more easily encounters with animals. We will not see bears. We now know that for sure.
We have been walking for 4 hours. We arrive in the first village.
An old lady is doing her dishes outside. When she sees us, the one who calls herself Baba Danca, calls us with a broad smile as big as the crest from yesterday afternoon. She invites us to drink coffee. She doesn't speak a single English word. She expresses herself with all her heart, speaks without stopping. She offers us industrial cupcakes which turn out to be very good after all this energy expense. We leave 20 minutes after this original break.
We continue the road until arriving on the plain. Large fields of potatoes dot the ground as far as the eye can see. We walk until night. We still have miles of plain to swallow up. We arrive at the village of Larema, at the foot of Vitosha mountain, the one that separates us from Sofia. Arrived at Larema, Marie looks at where we could eat and why not, sleep. We walk a few hundred meters and arrive at a small restaurant. It's night. We enter.
A smiling elderly lady invites us to sit down. We order keftas, a salad, fries. Her son arrives, he is in his forties and is called Kris. His face is closed, he looks sad. He speaks slightly English. He turns on the television, his gaze lost. Nil begins the discussion, as usual. He asks her if there is a place to put the tent in the corner, explains the many kilometers that we have just traveled, the object of our walk. Kris thinks, takes time, seems lost by this request. It shows us a place further away. He is not sure of the place. A few minutes of television later, he leaves the restaurant and returns. He asks Nil to follow him. They both return, Nil seems happy. Chris prepared a room for us in the restaurant so that we could set up our mattresses and spend the night. Nil and Marie talk about their trip from Portugal and give Kris one of their business cards. Chris listens with passion to their story. He relaxes his face, a smile appears. He touches the business card like a child touches his blanket. He is filled with dreams, filled with kindness, he is touched and touching. We spend the evening chatting with him.
Customers arrive, a lady and her son about our age. We start talking with the lady. Her name is Lily, she has an inn next door, takes care of horses and is a homeopath. Nil and Marie go to bed. We talk for hours with Lily. She tells me how sacred and powerful the mountain of Rila is. Talk to me about the folk dances practiced to get the love of the mountains. She explains to me that she too seeks to perceive this white light, this etheric body which emerges from powerful places. She thinks that this world is changing, that there is something on this rocking earth, that everything is shaking up, that something is being prepared. I listen to it and agree to each word. We are on exactly the same wavelength, on everything. She directs me to sites to visit in Bulgaria and gives me a card with her name and phone. I promise to return just for these sites. She leaves with her son. We tell ourselves that we met this evening because there is no chance.
I join Nil and Marie. They snore.
We must spot the errors but also the wisdom of the ancients. Take the love of this world as glasses, without being blinded by technical power. Love is a mixture of respect and contemplation. Wisdom is the manifestation of this love.
Kris and his mother
We get up at 8am. Kris' mom prepares breakfast. Each of us has the right to a delicious omelet with cucumbers and tomatoes. We are enjoying ourselves. We ask Chris for the bill. He offers us all the meals and doesn't want a dime. It's his way of participating to the trip. We saw that the restaurant was not full last night ... There were only two customers in addition to us. They live modestly here, and they give. I am writing this moment with the same “ball on the belly which makes the eyes swell”. These people are generous, they are human, they are wonderful. Kris surely gives as much as he receives. It gives chills. And his mother’s face who accompanies our departure is so full of life. Her heart is like her generous cooking. We love these people.
We are going to climb the Vitosha to reach Sofia. 2 days from now I will be with my sweetheart and the small being she carries. Another effort to take them in my arms. We leave for 1000 meters of altitude to climb. We sink into the forest. I follow Marie’s footsteps. Nil is in front, as usual. Traces are missing here. Obviously, few people venture on this side of the mountain. It is easier than the first days despite a good blister popped the day before. I feel my solid legs going up, my weight reduced, but also the desire to quickly get rid of this hard part. The descents have been more difficult since my scooter accident. I feel like a blockage in the knees quite unpleasant. Already 450 meters. We are entering the cloud. The stones appear, it's been a long time. We are climbing. The cold awaits us. I put my gaiters on because the bushes pinch my legs when I go forward. I drink, always and again. Nil and Marie never drink. It's their secret, they don't drink anything! Finally, I didn't see them drink much during the week. Besides the rakia and a few wines, I was the only one to drink water! They impress me. Marie has a drop of sweat on her T-shirt. It's the first time. We arrive at 2000 meters. There is a surprising wind. It never was so loud.
Humidity, cold, wind, here we are back to the first days of the trip. I don't have gloves. I am not so cold. But when we arrive on stones and we have to put our hands to keep balance, I no longer feel my limbs. Marie has electric shocks that paralyze her arm. We climb 2300 meters to the summit. A refuge is indicated there. We enter, two dogs stand guard. They are beautiful and do not fear the cold. A soldier warms his hands. He does not smile and besides, does not look at us. He leaves. The warden, Niki, doesn't greet us either. Nil goes to see him and asks him if we disturb them, if we have to find another refuge to order a drink. Niki answers embarrassed that no, that we are welcome.
We take our places, order hot drinks as well as a mushroom soup accompanied by a shallot sauce and peppers. It's original but very good. Then it warms up. This is the main. Niki is more and more talkative. He adores Nil. We stay 1 hour with him. We have to leave now. Niki offers us to drop a little lower, after the thick fog that flattens on the ridge. I tell Nil and Marie that it would be a great idea. My right knee took a hit and the descents are painful to me, unlike the climbs. After a time of hesitation, Nil accepts. I am pleased. Niki drops us off after the fog, we resume the descent. The autumn leaves litter the sloping earth. Beech trees line up along Vitosha Mountain. The stones give off a beautiful energy absorbed by the trees. A harmonious and peaceful circuit winds along this descent. Nil and Marie ask me to speak on camera about this trip. We find the perfect place and I do. We go down to Sofia laughing. We leave the autumn leaves, ripe oranges, burnt greens, candied chestnuts, braised yellows, stony grays, for a city color. This color that never changes. “The one who lives thanks to her electric poles and who has forgotten seasons. It's pretty universal, by the way. It is only in nature now that we live the seasons. But all the colors taken in this walk still color our steps and will color them for a moment. Take colors to paint with. “
This descent into town is soothing. The hard climb, the bewitching ridge, the descent, soothing. Yes that's it ! This is walking in the mountains. We reach the hotel, or rather, the room in downtown Sofia. We each have a dormitory for ourselves. And tonight we will go to the restaurant. The trip ends, I am happy and quite proud of myself. I am happy to have learned so much from them both. They are made for each other. Everyone has their character, their personality, their place in this adventure. They have experienced so much that everything seems easy to them. The organization as the trip therefore went wonderfully.
We leave for the restaurant, with friends, good appetite.
I would like to be like my father or my brother with you, two men, an example. Two men, one love.
The departure is close. Nil and Marie must find a room for the coming nights. A lot of work awaits them. We eat breakfast with the young foreign backpackers who are staying in Sofia. It jostles in front of the refectory, it pushes itself, it annoys Nil, it makes me laugh, it makes Marie indifferent, it changes the tranquility of the mountains, it smells of the city. I'm going for a walk in Sofia. I am attending an Orthodox Christian mass at the Saint-Nedelia Cathedral in Sofia. Time goes back, a century I think. The poor, the rich come to pray together. I see weakened faces, supplications, a crying woman, small speaking groups, a kneeling man, perfect gilding, white robes, an energy of prayer, of hope. I see these things thanks to this crossing on foot. This crossing which opens the heart when one is on the ridge. The crest in town, it is in these places of prayer. I have no religion and will not have one. But these places are precious, they are beautiful, they illuminate. We meet with Nil and Marie to eat together one last time and then say goodbye. Thank you very much for this beautiful trip, it was necessary for me. I hope I haven't slowed you down too much. Thank you the mountains, thank you the Bulgarians, thank you the refuges, thank you nature, thank you stones and trees, invisible bears, chamois, Joe, Niki, Kris, Baba Danca, the 3 mountaineers, hippies and others, thank you my darling for letting me go during your pregnancy, thank you Nil and Marie for these beautiful things and the organization.
The airplane takes off.
Let the light pass, become the smallest of shadows, become this prism, become what you have always been.By the way, if you're a girl, I'd like to call you Rila. This strong mountain with its sacred stones has a nice name. It remains only to negotiate with mom. And in this area, I don't have the right shoes…