An overnight trip to Maliovitsa

Rali and Irina at hizha Mechit
A week before our four-day trip in the Rila Mountains, Rali and I went for an overnight trip on part of the route to make sure we were familiar with the path. Irina, a friend of Rali's from their childhood together in Pleven, joined us. We drove to the village of Govedartsi, then climbed a steep hill for about an hour until we reached hizha Mechit. [Note: if you're planning a trip here and have a map of the Rila Mountains already, you'll see the name "Medarnika" on post-1989 maps, instead of the older "Mechit", but "Mechit" is commonly used.] We stopped for a photo here before taking the "easy" path to hizha Maliovitsa.

Squeezing three into a bungalow built for two
A little over four hours later, we arrived at Maliovitsa. The National Sports Academy had a large group of students there as part of their mountain climbing training, so beds were scarce. Fortunately, we know the hizha-keeper, Lyubo, well, so he gave us a bungalow. The catch is, the bungalow has only two beds. It's okay, said Lyubo, because there's an extra mattress under each bed. Naturally, the ladies took the beds, so I had to dig out the extra mattresses, whereupon I found out why they were under the beds: that was the last step before taking them out back and burning them. But I piled them together, draped a sheet over them, and that was my bed for the night. I was very sore the next morning, but Rali insists that's because of the time I spent in the bar the previous night. I think it was the "bed", though.

Rali on the peak
Our trip back to hizha Mechit was via the high and difficult path this time (which Rali would take the following week with the "A" group). Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very good. Thick fog and occasional drizzle combined to keep us from getting warmed up and to keep the stunning views hidden, except for a brief period when we stopped for lunch and the clouds parted. I quickly snapped this photo of Rali. After this, it was a few more hours back down the hill to Mechit, to Govedartsi, and back to Sofia. It was a good hike, but the best part--the stunning high-altitude views--was lacking this time.

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