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We’d all started 11 days before, 580km west at the other side of Bulgaria on Peak Kom with the rather ambitious idea of running across the Balkan ridge that was the Kom-Emine trail. It was tough.

Even looking back with rose tinted glasses a few weeks later, positive memories floating to the top of the pile, there is still strong recollection of the challenges we faced as well. In reality it was the challenges we were there for anyway, but the good times were a nice addition.

The trail was everything and nothing of what we expected. Given that it’s Bulgaria’s National Trail we expected wide, well marked and clear paths, some mountains and then a lot of flat near the sea. We got some of this, but there was also plenty of bushwhacking, scrambling and signs suddenly disappearing as we’d missed a hidden turn down or up a hill.

The promise/threat of bears meant we sang for our supper at the end of each day, not wishing to surprise a mother and her cubs when running around a corner or end up in a tussle with a wild boar. The wild life was always there, a mixture of farm animals, shepherd dogs, deer, a herd of wild boar and a baby boar in its own. We thankfully collided with no bears, although seeing one would have been great.

The huts were fantastic in their simplicity and outdatedness. Some seemed brand new, but we passed plenty of derelict and abandoned shelters, which was a real shame. Each had a different menu, more often that not telling you what you would eat, rather than asking. All this would have been impossible without Zhivko though.

Zhivko was our guide/confident/friend/supporter who we hooked up with on www.bulguides.com. The guy went above and beyond what you would expect from a guide and drove across the country with our bags in an adventure of his own, joined by his girlfriend and friend for the second half, which was brilliant. He actually came and stayed with us in Chamonix this week too.

All in all it was a fantastic adventure, an experience that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives and certainly the strangest Christmas present Natalie has ever received, with a surprise at the end too. I’ll do my best to outdo it this year though, so keep your eyes peeled for the next escapade.



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