Where in the World: Pirin National Park, Bulgaria

Where in the World: Pirin National Park, Bulgaria

Where in the World is Peggy Peg? - Pirin National Park, Bulgaria

Travel blog - The travels of Marcus and his family continues and so does his story:

I’m woken by the familiar sound of rain beating out a staccato rhythm on the motorhome roof. It’s been three days now where the rain has roused me from my slumber, my wife and children blissfully asleep on each occasion. Futile as it may seem I tentatively slide the window shutter down a fraction to check the skies, hoping to find a pocket of blue that will offer hope of better weather. No such luck. 

I close the shutter, returning the motorhome into darkness and ponder our options. We’d been drawn to Pirin National Park by the promise of glacial lakes, waterfalls and a vast array of hiking trails leading into the heart of the mountains that give the national park, one of three in Bulgaria, its name. The only water we’d seen falling thus far was from the sullen skies above. 

One more day I tell myself, and then if it doesn’t clear we will retreat back down the mountain and venture east in search of sunshine and clear skies. Decision made, I pull the duvet back up to my chin and allow the sound of rain dancing on the roof to lull me back to sleep.

A few hours later, with all the family awake, the air inside the motorhome is perfumed by the rich aroma of fresh coffee brewing. There’s something almost meditative about preparing the day’s first coffee; the sound of the beans cascading into the grinder, the slow methodical hand grind, the bursts of smell, the click and hiss of the gas stove and eventually a satisfying bubbling signalling it’s ready. 

After breakfast it’s time to make a decision as to what the day will entail. An eerie atmosphere fills the valley as we emerge from the motorhome to survey the scene. Dark wisps of cloud hang suspended in the air like evil spirits stalking their prey as long crooked fingers of water reach down the sides of valley walls still speckled with patches of snow in places. 

“Look, up there Daddy,” my son Harrison says. “Some blue sky.” 

I turn to look up the valley where, sure enough, there’s a promisingly large section of blue sky, from which several snow-capped jagged peaks of the Pirin Mountains protrude. 

“If there’s enough blue sky to make a sailor’s suit it’s going to be a nice day,” we say in unison, remembering one of my late Gran’s little sayings. A renewed sense of optimism begins to rise inside me, it’s not that I don’t enjoy playing games and drinking hot coffee in the motorhome, only that being out in the mountains, feeling the wind caress my face, being at one with nature, has always filled my soul with an indescribable joy. 

Moments later and four sets of feet are clad in boots signalling that we are ready to begin exploring. A set of wooden steps leading up into the gloomy forest catches our attention, not least because they disappear into a blanket of fog, leaving us all wondering what’s at the top. 

Harrison and Dorothy excitedly charge ahead, quickly vanishing from sight as the fog swallows them whole. Kim and I follow on at a more leisurely pace, comforted by the children’s laughter drifting back down to us. That is until it abruptly stops, replaced by an uneasy silence that fills the void between us. 

“Wow, it’s huge,” we hear Harrison say just at the point where we were starting to be concerned. “Do you think we can climb it?”

Moments later they reappear from the mist as we catch up with them, the focus of their wonderment now apparent. Before us stands a gargantuan tree, its gnarled old trunk as thick as a bull elephant, at the foot of which a series of great roots twist and emerge from the ground like a bask of dozing crocodiles lurking in the murky mist. 

Enthralled by the tree, Bulgaria’s oldest coniferous tree at an estimated 1300 years, we fail to notice the fat pearls of rain beginning to fall, a faint rumble of thunder reverberating in the distance eventually bringing us to our senses. So much for the blue sky, the little pocket long engulfed by the grey that we had come to associate with this corner of the world. We retreat down the steps, shedding sodden layers of clothes under our awning before stepping into the sanctuary of the motorhome. 

No matter where we travel, no matter what experiences we have, there always seems to be a reason to return to the places that, in their own way, etch themselves into our minds and hearts. And so it remains true for Pirin National Park, the draw being to come back in better weather when we can experience a greater range of all that’s on offer, which extends well beyond a colossus tree. 

Travel Advice

Where in the world: Pirin National Park in Bulgaria. Located in the southwest of Bulgaria, with the popular ski resort town of Bansko serving as the easiest entry point to the mountains, the park has been protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1983.
At 2,914 meters, Vihren Peak is the highest point in the Pirin Mountains, second only to Musala in the Rila Range. The peak is included among Bulgaria’s prime tourist destinations, and a stamp confirming ascent of the peak may be obtained at the Vihren Shelter.

How to get there: We entered Bulgaria from Greece, using the Kulata/Promachonas crossing, from where Bansko is a ninety minute drive. From here you can take a ski service road into the national park, which is a dead end road finishing at Vihren Hut. 

Where to stay: To get the full ‘at one with nature’ experience we suggest staying at the small field (listed as a camping space) behind Banderitsa restaurant, which is roughly two kilometres from the end of the road. It can be found via ///tested.recently.scoot on what3words. 

If you have any questions about our life on the road, which our favourite Peggy Peg products are, which football team we support or simply want to follow our travels more closely, you can do so over on Instagram through @marcusleachglobal and @our.roaming.odyssey

Marcus is a husband, a father, an adventure athlete and an award winning writer travelling the world in their Bailey of Bristol motorhome with his wife Kim and his two kids.

In our last blog post from Marcus he is exploring Meteora in Greece.
Read about Marcus' journey and his inspiration to travel here.