You never really think something is going to happen until it does and we have had lots of surprises in our remote village in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. Living here we had become accustomed to the extreme environment and thought we had learnt from the last time someone got lost in these mountains but somehow we had become complacent. My marking of routes and reports back from hikers had made me believe I had sufficient signs. Unfortunately, following a catalogue of errors and bad luck, another guest had wandered off and become lost.
The first hurdle was the hiker forgetting the map which this meant she didn’t realise she was starting in the wrong place. Not following any markers was another mistake and then because of no map, going in totally the wrong direction. To matters matters worse, an unexpected storm rolled in, which was at first quite a relief to the hot lady but after a while became cold and irritating. When she finally called to say she was lost we both had a really bad feeling.
Word was put out and many people, including neighbours from our village and villages miles away, all rallied round to us help find her. Conditions were terrible. The rain deadened shouts in the trees, the river created a cacophony of noise and the misty air reduced visibility. The terrain was quickly muddy and extremely slippy as the rain poured down and the streams swelled. Unfortunately the delay in communication meant she covered a lot of ground as she had kept moving to kept warm. We walked miles to try and spread out the search until finally, thanks to her roaming mobile internet connection, we located her approximate position. For the final descent down the mountain, Lee was accompanied by the head forester, with his knowledge of the mountain tracks, and a visiting camper, who joined in and supplied head torches and walkie-talkies.
When they eventually found her it was nearly dark and Lee was again the hero, literally pulling her up the mountain, through bush and brambles and over fallen trees. The Forrester and camper scanned ahead as routes became blocked, retracing steps and taking different tracks, while Lee followed behind translating their shouts to the hiker and keeping her spirits up. It took nearly 4 hours to climb 3 miles but when she finally made it in the pitch darkness, I was so relieved. We rushed her back to Melanya for a hot shower and food. She was extremely grateful to everyone and apologetic for causing such a pandemonium but I think it’s put her off walking! It has also made us invest in some more useful search and rescue equipment! We still pride ourselves on our independent mountain walking holidays and this event has taught everyone valuable lessons.