We’d come to the Kackar Mountains for one thing – hiking. After the amazing experience we’d had hiking in Valbona (Albania) we were hoping for something similar in Barhal.
During our stay in Barhal Village – following advice from the owners at our accommodation, we’d decided on two hikes in the area. One big and one small.
The Big Hike (Barhal to Kudret to Pançet to Sultangil Mah to Barhal church).
You would think we’d be used to it by now, but hiking in the heat of summer can be hard. And this was no different. Barhal is at the bottom of a deep valley, and most of the hiking is up, up, up. On this hike, it wasn’t the heat and sun that caused us the biggest issue, but the conditions around us. It was dry, dusty and the ground was loose underfoot – the spring flowers and grasses long gone.
In the first hour of us heading up the mountain, we almost had to turn around when we reached a pathway on the side of the mountain, too narrow and loose to safely cross. A slip of the foot meant sliding with the rocks down the side of a very steep mountain.
Kristen crossed up and above the path, and holding onto the trees made it over okay. When it was my turn, I slipped and lost my footing. It wasn’t fun. As well as being worried about my general wellbeing, I may have suggested to Kristen what I actually thought about hiking. It’s okay though, as she had time to take my photo (I presume for insurance purposes?) ignoring my discomfort. Can I retire from hiking now?
From there things got a bit easier (by comparison). We climbed higher and higher, and despite my earlier reservations, the views looking back across Barhal into the valley were amazing.
Continuing upwards for another hour through more rocky terrain surrounded by oak and pine trees, legs aching, we finally reached the highest point of our hike – the small mountain village of Pançet. We passed through the village and it was eerily quiet. There were signs of life, but no one around so we didn’t stay long.
The village was like something out of a fairy story. We entered the village through a huge orchard of stooping apple trees. There was a waterway running through the village, behind a maze of beautiful old houses.
We passed a few locals going about their business who stopped to say Merhaba. It wasn’t just the people who welcomed us, but the local animals came to say hi as well. A big and friendly mountain dog bounded up to us and accompanied us through the village.
We also found some kittens being looked after by a sweet old lady who welcomed us to pat them. When we finally said goodbye, they followed us for a while down the road. John looked like the Pied Piper.
We ended up getting lost and passed through the village twice before we found the way back to our path. It was interesting to see the village people going about daily life. Some of the older women we passed weren’t keen to see us at all, while others greeted us with big smiles. We didn’t see many men at all and thought they must’ve been off working on the local dam projects or out in the mountains with the livestock. Or possibly drinking çay in town somewhere..
Eight hours after we left, we’d arrived back at our pension. Legs aching and desperate for a çay. After the rocky start (haha), it had been a good hike. Not the most scenic we’ve ever done, but it was great to have been able to visit some of the local mountain villages.
The Small Hike.
From our room, we could see a ruin on top of the mountain opposite us, perched on a clearing. Late one afternoon, we decided to make the quick hike to the top.
Although it was only a 90-minute hike to reach the top, it was an incredibly steep climb and so very hard on the legs. Especially as our legs were still aching from our bigger hike the day before. On the path up, we saw a lot of bullets scattered on the ground. We’d been told the gunshots we heard (mostly at night) were scaring bears away from the village houses. But there were no houses here? So it remains a mystery…