Camp for animal and bird protection Kartali 2018 Rhodopes Mountain Bulgaria
Trekking in Bulgaria – Eastern Part of Rhodopes Mountain.
This year I decided to go back to my country of origin to do some trekking and connect to my roots. People like me who have been living abroad are like trees without roots, we have lost this feeling of belonging to one place, this feeling of deep love to the native lands. Personally I have been deeply patriotic at the beginning of my travels. I was 18 when I left Bulgaria and with the times, this patriotic feeling was not as strong. Only now I realise how important it is to go back to the roots.
This year is a bit special for me because I quit my job to travel and to experience the total freedom. What best way to experience this than to trek. So that is when I decided that the starting point of the trek will be my beautiful beloved country Bulgaria.
Mountains constitute a significant part of Bulgaria and are dominant in the southwest and central parts. Bulgaria’s highest mountains are Rila (highest peak Musala, 2925 m; the highest in the Balkans) and Pirin (highest peak Vihren, 2914 m). The large mountain chain of Stara planina (Balkan Mountains) runs west-east across the entire country, bisecting it and giving the name to the entire Balkan peninsula. Other extensive mountains are the massifs Rhodopes and Strandzha in the south.
In parallel with the trekking, I decided to also be part of the Nature Rescue Camp called Kartali that takes part every year in the Eastern Rhodopes. I was lucky that this year my dates coincided perfectly with this camp as it was an amazing experience. Synchronisation as part of my life! This camp reveals some of the secrets of the biologists, explorers and inventors.
This year the camp was on the 11th of May and it was located every year at Studen Kladenets Hunting Area, on the shore of the dam, in the Eastern Rhodopes. This place has very strong energy coming from very ancient and rich history linked to the Thracian History. The name Rhodopes, according to the legend, begins with the Thracian queen Rhodope who was turned into a mountain along with her husband king Hem. These two were, as a punishment from Zeus and Hera, turned into mountains so that they could not be together. Because of their great love, they have called themselves new Zeus and new Hera, and that insulted old one, and they decided to separate forever two lovers, and now we have Rhodope and Balkan mountains. Also, the legend says that Orpheus, singer of the Greek gods, was born in Rhodopes. It is said that much of today people and animals, who live in this mountain are descendants of those who Orpheus enchanted with his singing and brought here. Tragic love between him and Euridice happened in this mountains.
Thracians were the first people to settle in mountains. The have left many archeological sites and various culture behind them. Many cities, religious sites, oracles and other places are kept and preserved in good condition. Most famous are Perperikon and Tatul.
Both of them are thousands of years old places. Perperikon was inhabited 5000 years B.C., and it was a sacred city with the cult of god Dionysus. Tatul is temple dating 4000 years B.C., and here you can find sarcophagus and a tomb from an unknown Thracian king, and in this place cult of Orpheus was idolized.
For the first time this year, participants have taken part in a demonstration to detect poisonous baits for predators in the wild. They have learn the purpose of capturing and ringing birds, have taken part in the marking of terrestrial tortoises, as well as to find out whether it is easy to explore butterflies and whether there are orchids in the Eastern Rhodopes. All this was possible thanks to some of the best experts in the fields of exploration of birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants, butterflies and other animals in the wild. Particular attention was paid to the vultures, because the Karteli Nature Conservation Camp is very close to the breeding nest of Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes.
We left from Sofia late in the evening by car on the 11th of May. We were supposed to leave around 5pm but Petar had some issue with the tyres of the car so we had to change and then we left around 6.30 pm. We had 4 hours drive ahead some of the road was via very narrow mountainous roads. We were 5 peoples – my cousin Jorko, Petar who he is specialist in making maps and knows very well the place, Gloria and Vasi – two girls from Sofia and me. All the way we had rain and storm. The car was like a small van and it was comfortable. We arrived late at night around 11pm and we joined the camp fire and music. We were around 100 people on this campsite.
We stayed a while on the fire, talking, listening to bulgarian music. The night was amazing, full of starts. I met some of my friends I had from Bulgaria, which was an amazing synchronisation to see them there, after years if not seeing them. Synchronisation as part of my life! We were drinking and singing, remembering some of the Bulgarian songs. It was really touching my heart to be in the mountains of my homeland listening to these songs. Later we installed the tents and since it was night time, it was rather not easy.
The night was meant to be short, wake up as at 7am…
We woke up by a man who was banging on a kitchen pot and calling us for breakfast. We got up and had typical Bulgarian breakfast called Banitza. Then we received a short briefing and we could join some of the groups. We had a choice between few groups:
- Small Bird watching and putting rings on the birds
- Botanic group
- Animal Watching Group
- Vulture Watching
We decided to join the group of Vladi to watch some of the vulture nests. Vladi works in the Bulagrian Organisation for Bird and Animal protection and more precisely he works on a project for the repopulation of certain breeds of vulture that were living previously in Bulgaria. I wanted to see the vultures but I also had another mission to learn to use my drone that I bought recently so to make videos of my adventures and some of the guys in the camp were really knowledgeable about these machines.
We left right after the breakfast and we did a few hours trekking. We passed some small villages and a lot of beautiful stoned build house that were abandoned. We reached a nest of vulture that was no longer used. We also saw many vultures in the sky. Amazingly beautiful birds.
We stopped in one open area where we wanted to try the drone and make a video. It worked quite well, we managed to get the drone to fly and captured the first video. Yeah! Really enjoyed that moment!
Later we started walking back to join the camp for lunch that was served. We had lunch with all the people there and the idea for the afternoon was to do canoe kayak on the dam. There was an instructor who took us to an amazing tour of the dam ‘’Studen Kladenec” that is the 3rd largest reservoir in Bulgaria and it has a surface of 29km. Where the dam is now used to be train road in the past but now the train road is moved up in the mountain.
At some point we were rowing, and on the right side we saw a pack of hind and maybe also a deer, however we at this moment of the season is difficult to recognise them because they don’t have their corns. They noticed us but for a split of a second we stare each other in the eyes, and we exchange some energy and after they run away…light and free. Beautiful and elegant creatures…such a grace.
On the way back with the kayak we stopped at a little house on the coast of the dam, it was owned by a lady that made home made cooking there. We had some food , a beer and stayed for a while looking at the beautiful views.
We went back to the camp, put some warm clothes since we were wet from the kayak. We had dinner and we spend another awesome evening at the fireplace with music.
On the next day we went to see the place where the village people leave dead animals for the vultures. It was a place that was on the top of the hills that had lots of bones and leftovers. We could see the vultures circling in the sky. This was quite dark image of this place, like Narnia, fairy and dark in the same time. In this area I have found some really good looking feathers to send for a friend in Spain who asked for them.
The following days we have done some more treks and saw more animals: frogs, birds, turtles, insects. Some more nights on the fire…
It was great experience, meeting some really interesting people and will definitely go back to next year Kartali 2019, yeah!!