Normally, she was a “what-if” person, always trying to run different scenarios that could have happened. What if I had gone to Italy instead?; what if I was still living back in India, would I have ever dared to do this solo trip?; what if I had brought a friend along?
Not today. Today, only the days to come were on her mind. Lying awake in her bed in the guest house in Sofia, she kept repeating the things she would do that day and the next few days of her trip. The anticipation of the trip had drained every single ounce of sleep from her.
A familiar tune from her phone snapped her out of her lucid dreams, urging her to get up and get ready. It was, at last, time to find out if the dreams were good enough to match the reality or did reality surpass her imagination.
The first thing on her itinerary was bungee jumping – an adventure within an adventure. Determined to do an adrenaline pumping activity, she had booked her jump weeks ago. She loved challenging her fears and conquering them.
Traveling towards the pickup point, she had the chance to look around Sofia in daylight for the first time. Sofia was splattered by an unapologetic splash of green – lush trees and parks everywhere. It is then she realized how much she missed the greenery back home!
Bulgarians are usually lazy, life enjoying people – people who have quotes promoting procrastination. Naturally, the city was deserted on an early Sunday morning. Only those people who had no choices but to work on Sundays or catch a train to visit their long-distance Aunts, or walk their restless dogs could be seen dragging their feet along the roads or waiting at the bus stops to catch the “never-on-time” buses.
It could pass for any normal city – with the towering Vitosha mountain at its foot and its European and Communist-style architecture, the beautiful orthodox churches and the cobbled stone pavements. It was a relatively clean city with tram lines running in the middle of the road along with the cars and the street signs both in Bulgarian and English languages – Tourist friendly, she thought!
The journey from the pickup point to the Prohodna caves (Yes. She was going to jump from the top of the cave into it!) was pretty much boring apart from the introductions. You could see a few people already assembled at the jump point and were waiting for the guys to set up the equipment. Well, in her head she wanted to get this done first and then enjoy the walk around the caves and the hiking trails later. And that’s what she did!
She was the second in line for the jump and oh boy, was she nervous! As they were chaining her up in the belts and safety equipment, she could hear her heart racing! “Breathe” is all she could tell herself. Standing there at the edge, ready to jump, she couldn’t help looking anywhere but down and her phobia kicked in! “Look up, don’t look down!” is what the guy kept repeating, but in vain! For a split second, she wanted to give up. I can’t do this! I just can’t. But a small voice inside her pushed back – “You have come so far already. It would be a such a shame to give it up now! You know you will regret this later. And regretting things is just not your style! Just trust yourself and do it!” Finally, she asked the guy to push her. And without warning, she was in free fall – plunging rapidly down inside the cave. You could hear people cheering and clapping for her! But all she could hear is her own scream – she was screaming at the top of her lungs – and the blood pumping into her ears! What an adventure! And how very glad she was that she did it! Did she enjoy it? Hell Yes! Would she do it again? Absolutely! But next time, she’ll jump on her own – she promised herself!
Back on the firm ground now, she was still basking in the excitement of the jump when she was invited by a Bulgarian family to join them for the sight-seeing around the caves which she gladly accepted. Despite the language barriers, they were so friendly and warm, they literally adopted her for the next hour or so – from talking to her (using the translator, of course!), to making her meet their family-friends who were also there till buying souvenirs for her – until they decide it was time for them to leave.
She continued her hiking around the caves – Prohodna caves known for the two eye-like holes in its ceiling, the eyes of the God. Since it was Sunday, you could see a lot of people around – some just came to see the caves, some brought along rock-climbing equipment and you could see them scaling the walls of the caves, but a lot of people brought along their dogs – looks like Bulgarians really love dogs!
Well, after a lot of walking and talking and observing, it was finally time to go home. The way back was filled with more conversation and a stopover. Despite the restrictions of the language, she was treated as a guest in the country and really looked after well – so much so that she was offered food, compliments, respect and a ride back to the guest house!
Back in the guest room, she lay on her bed staring at the galaxy painted on the ceiling and looking back at the exciting day she had. Yes! She was definitely tired! But, at the same time, she was happy and content.
Tomorrow would be another new adventure and she was looking forward to it!
This is a continuation of the earlier post - A trip down the memory lane – the arrival