Covid-19

coronavirus-information

Covid-19

Running your own business is one of the greatest adventures in this life. Hundreds of layers of complexity merge together into this one perfect dance of success. From the outside it all looks so easy on the inside it is like juggling chainsaws!

Just like juggling chainsaws it is amazingly satisfying, happy guests, happy staff a steady income, a little glory from a job well done. It’s awesome!

Covid has thrown a few new challenges into the mix, limited capacity, limited numbers of guests travelling, restrictions and new rules really add a little spice to the game!

We have come up with a plan! Hopefully it will be acceptable to our guests.

Social distancing.

The bar and restaurant will work with 50% occupancy, there’s lots of space so we ask guests to spread out.

Testing

All our team will have appropriate and regular Covid blood and PCR tests.

Lock Down

If one of us gets a positive test we will close the Restaurant and Bar. Our guests are more important than our profit.

Take Away

Depending on the local situation with numbers of covid cases/hospital occupancy, available testing capacity etc. We will run the restaurant as take away only.

These are not the laws of the land, these are our choices. If we appear stricter than the country allows it is because we care. I would rather make a little less money than make problems for our guests. I hope you all understand if we cancel an event it is because we love you guys and want to keep you safe.

 

 

 

Indian food in Bansko

Indian food in Bansko

Indian food in Bansko

Indian food in Bansko.

 

Indian in BanskoThe Hotel Avalon has been offering Indian food in Bansko. for over 10 years now. It’s a slightly strange situation, an English guy cooking Indian food in Bansko but it makes sense I promise. A little bit of history will help.

On leaving school I trained and worked as a British modern chef. Cooking in most of the best restaurants in Bristol and upsetting nearly all of the head chefs. I never lasted long in one place! I’d work 3 months, learn everything I could and then dash off to the Alps to ski all winter or to Asia to wander around the Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindu Kush. My passion for food followed me to Asia. Where sat in wooden shacks in smokey kitchens I’d prize recipes out of everyone I could.15

Mostly we wouldn’t be able to talk in a shared language, there’d be lots of show and tell, spices would have local names, recipes would vary from village to village, but the general idea built up as I wandered through each region. For almost a decade I never really got a chance to cook any of the dishes I was learning. The U.K. was and still is in the throws of the Jamie Oliver food revolution. Cooking was all about “bung in a bit of Basil and slosh a load of olive oil”. I kept learning eating and tasting and writing everything down.

I was sent to Bansko in 2003 to do a job and decided to stay. I tried cooking a bit of “pukker grub” but no one was really interested in what I’d learned in Bristol, so we did a curry night. I thought I’d cook curry the British way and it was a total disaster, people wanted spice. There’s only so much shopska you can eat before you start craving a bit of flavour!

18The adventure started gently, I began by cooking Indian food in Bansko with easy classics from Delhi and Nepal. Then a few Pakistani dishes, aromatic and spicy numbers from up by the Afghan boarder. People loved it! I added some dishes from Goa, then Sri Lanka perfect for the summer. I’ve interpreted some Kashmiri dishes and made them my own ( so popular people now copy them!!) Afghanistan inspired me to make a chicken dish, sour and soapy with lemon and Cardamon and a bucket load of coriander.  Snacks that you would only find in the foot hills of Everest and now served as Indian food in Bansko ! As the years go by we keep changing the menu, this summer I unleashed a couple of new dishes that I thought our guests might like. One a creamy coconut dish packed with chilli from Sri Lanka and the other a mushroom and aubergine “Balti” full of tamarind and rich spices. It appears our guests are willing to be adventurous!

I will keep pushing the boundaries. I have a few dishes with goat that I want to try and a butter “carrai” from Tish Mir that might be too rich for western tummies. I’ve eaten countless versions of bean curries that I’d like our guests to sample. Now we have a tandoor maybe some of the highly spiced Afghan kebabs of offal might come out. Who knows, I keep going back to Asia and every time I get a new recipe or two and every time our guests love it. The adventure that is Indian food in Bansko continues!

We have a huge following of regulars and I’m proud of what we offer, people book months in advance and as a chef that is the most wonderful compliment. I love cooking Asian food and thousands of you love eating what we cook, thank you for your support!

16If you would like to try “Indian food in Bansko” it’s not just Indian ( Punjabi, Kashmiri, Pathan, Chitrali, Nepali, Sri lankan!) please book by Email:- hotelavalonbansko@gmail.com

Our curry nights are every Thursday in the summer season. In the winter every Thursday, most Fridays and some Wednesdays.

We start serving at 7:30 with a selection of Asian street food starters, Papad, samosa, bahji, sukuti, raita, pickles and chutneys.

The main courses are served at 8pm 9 different dishes split pretty much 50/50 between meat and vegan, we adjust the selection according to the season and what’s available. There is also a pretty wide spread of spiciness and heat. About half the meat dishes are cooked in the Tandoor to get that unique flavour as well as our Naan. The Basmatti rice is the best I can find in the U.K.

 

 

 

 

 

The little world of Don Camillo

The little world of Don Camillo doesn’t seem to have got across the channel . On the continent it has been a huge part of peoples lives for nearly 70 years. I was introduced to the books by The Old Man and a very strange choice it was to suggest to a teenager. The stories have stuck with me for life, I have read and reread them over and over and love the characters like members of an extended dysfunctional family.

The little world is somewhere in the flat misty plains of the Po river in northern Italy, that agricultural land that gave us Parmesan, risotto, Balsamic vinegar and Barilla pasta. Lush fertile land breeds a type of hardened man that knows, through graft he will succeed the Po valley is such a land. miles and miles of flat green fields, soil as black as tar, bordered by the Alps far to the north and the Apennines to the south, the food and wine, the people and the climate have interested me since I first stepped into the little world through the books of Giovannino Guaresch.

December the 26th 2013 is Avalon’s 10th Birthday and as we can’t really take a holiday right at the beginning of the season I decided to take Vania and Dylan on a trip overland through the little world of Don Camillo, the drive from Bansko to Igoumenitsa in Greece was a bit of a pain but once we were on the ferry things slowed down to a more manageable pace. 3 hours a day of driving followed by lunch and a lazy walk around whichever town we ended up in.

I wont bore you too much with details of meals eaten and wine drunk castles visited and views seen but there are some details that really stand out. The first place we stopped was just outside Modena a small nothingish little village with one bar and a couple of hotels, the main square was an exact replica of how I imagined the village of Don Camillo, arcades, a huge church tower and the whole village packed into the one barrestaurant, young and old alike eating and drinking. The food was incredible! Just a pizza and a risotto to share between the three of us but wow what a rissotto, plump white rice in the creamiest starchy sauce, flavoured with nothing more than a hint of Rosemary and Balsamic. As the evening wore on the background music changed to techno for half an hour to get rid of the olds and then back to chilled house for the rest of the night to make the place more of a bar than restaurant.

The next 14 days carried on in much the same vein, France and Italy really blow the mind when it comes to living well, we stopped a few times at motorway services to have lunch and even there you will find a better steak than anything in Bulgaria and a selection of hot cooked food that would baffle the average British motorist. The pace of life on the continent really is lovely, lots of muddling around talking rubbish, drinking coffee and making lunch a proper sit down meal rather than a rushed sandwich at the desk. Compared with the hectic 10 days we had in the U.K. our two weeks on the road were snail like!

Back in Bansko we have been plugging away at getting the hotel ready while the town hall plugs away at smashing everything up before the season starts. Sadly I do understand why our Dumb Mayor Georgi Ikonomov  has decided to attack the town with a buldozer but none of the reasons are publishable here due to worries about prosecution! 3 out of 6 of the main roads into Bansko are now shut due to building works, 1/4 of town has been without water for the student holiday which supposedly brought 11000 tourists to Bansko for the weekend. The whole area around the gondola station has been smashed to pieces in a frenzy of destruction. All this just in time for the start of the season. Obviously none of this could have been done in May, June, July, August, September or even October. I now fully understand why the leader of Ikonomov’s party refers to him as “Our Dumb Mayor from Bansko” and recently at a party meeting trying to find something nice to say about him suggested he wasn’t too bad at watering the lawns!

Koncheto ridge

Koncheto thanks to panoramio.com

Koncheto thanks to panoramio.com

02/09/2013 A return to Koncheto it has been nearly a year since I was last on koncheto. For those of you who don’t know this ridge it is the saddle to the right of what looks like the highest mountain in Pirin when you look up from the village. I am not quite sure how butKoncheto has become a bit of a “must do” thing for budding hikers. Yes it is very high (about 2700m or 2800m) yes it has a cable to hold onto and yes there is a bit of a plummet down to Banski Suhodol on the north side of the ridge. But really Koncheto itself is only a small part of what is a truly spectacular bit of mountain. Last time I was up there we were a very big group of mixed abilities and frankly my mind was so focused on getting everyone off the hill in one piece that I forgot to really enjoy myself! So Yesterday I decided to go back up there and have a bit of a play on my own. As it turned out a new guest had just arrived in the hotel who is a bit of a mountain man so he agreed to join in. The route I normally take up both Vihren and Kutelo starts from behind the Bunderitsa hut, a lovely trail that rises steeply out of old pine forest into alpine meadows and then into high alpine sedge and scree slopes. the 1100m climb to the top of Kutelo took about 2 hours of hard walking but it is worth allowing 4 hours so you can enjoy the views and have a brunch at the foot of the north face of Vihren. last year to save the effort of starting the ridge from the top of Kutelo we traversed from the col between Kutelo and Vihren onto Koncheto. This year with no team to worry about we pushed on the extra 200 vertical meters to Kutelo, unfortunately the top was covered with cloud but occasionally we got a little peek through into the valleys below. The first 200m from the top of Kutelo down towards Koncheto itself is just as exposed as the main ridge with many thousand feet of vertical cliff plunging down from the edge. The ridge is wide enough so not too scary but exhilarating. It is well worth starting the walk from the top of Kutelo to enjoy the extra bit of ridge. It also means you don’t have to access Koncheto itself from the normal mid point which involves a much harder traverse across smooth limestoney marble.

With the wind and cloud it was really quite cold as we muddled our way along, the cable is a great help and makes things a lot easier, allowing the novice climber to get a feel of proper exposure above the huge depth of Banski Suhodol. The more faint hearted can stay away from the edge on the south side of the ridge using the cable as a banister and enjoy the view from the safety of a nice wide clear path. Banski Suhodol is an area I am yet to explore much but tales of bottomless caves and huge limestone caverns abound, One day I will have to go and have a proper look!

I left my guest on the west side of Koncheto as he wanted to carry on to Yavarov and then the golf course and back to Bansko that way! ( a little too hard core for me) and I shot off back to the Bunderitsa car park for some lunch. The walk down on my own was lovely, quiet and beautiful for most of the descent. About an hour out from lunch I started to hear faint voices rising up on the breeze ahead of me. I couldn’t make out the language but the tone of the conversation was truly international. ” I never wanted to come up this bloody mountain in the first place” ” I’ll never make it home in one piece” “just leave me here”…. A very unhappy girlfriend and a very harangued boyfriend trying to make it off the hill. I am pretty sure, from the dark scowl on the boyfriends face, that the relationship was broken beyond repair! With a chirpy Dobra Den I trotted past and left them to their domestic. Lunch in the Bunderitsa car park has turned into a splendid Sunday tradition, loads of locals drinking and making merry, cheap food and loads of mingling between tables lends an atmosphere closer to a working mans club than a sketchy BBQ in a car park. A group of my friends from Belitsa and Sofia joined me, I had a beer with the mountain rescue boys who had just come off the hill having finished an operation. Another table was full with the recently returned heros of the Eiger… all in all a great sense of camaraderie prevailed! Even if you are not planning to head off into the hills loaded up with ice axes and ropes this is a lovely spot to have a wander around, look at the oldest pine tree in Bulgaria and have a lazy lunch.

The Davies, Route 8

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The Davies, Route 8

Dzhangal#87

Djangal#87 Option 1

 

The Davies, Route 8 has two options. Djangal ( I prefer this spelling!) is a mighty peak made of great rock and has over a dozen routes to the summit. We think two should be enough for here!

The Davies, Route 8. Option 1.  Starting at Bez Bog Hut via Popovo lake , Djangal Summit return to Bez Bog Hut, 6 hours. As another reletively easy introductory journey in the Davies Djangal is a very impressive peak. Which somehow to me has the feel of a real mountain. This trip should allow you to return to Bez Bog for a well earned drink by the lakeside before having to catch the ( unreasonably early) last lift back down to civilisation! Please npote the times of the last lift as the walk down can be unpleasant. ( normally last lift is 16:30)img_20130801_121822

head out from Bez Bog hutalong the very well worn path to Popovo Lake. Popovo is an ideal spot to rest and gaze up at what lies in sotre. Seemingly inpregnable, surrounded as it is by a band of rock , Djangal does have some weaknesses in its protective wall. As you look up from the lake there is a very large chock stone wedged in a small gully. It looks like there is a cave below the chock stone. This gully can be climbed on the right hand side but does involve a couple of climbing moves.djangal1

The “path” goes throught this main rock band to the left of thius gully, and can be seen from below as a left and then right tracking fault. Head up towards the chock stone. Turn left towards the break that becomes more obvious as you approach.  Go up, first left and then right through interesting ground to get above the chock stone. The trail continues up pleasantly tracking right along the fault. As the terrain allows the trail straightens out.

After 150m of ascent you will enter a circus or bowl shaped landscape that sits beneath the north face of Djangal. Head due south to find a poorly marked zig zag path which heads up and then across the north face. The path becomes well defined and crosses an exposed section. Take care here. A few minutes later and you emerge onto the spectacular summit . Very definately a sunmmit on which to linger!

Descend the steep and stoney  South South East ridge path. Passthe first large pinacle on the east side. A sharp notch in the ridge line marks a descent route downto the Kraveshki (Momini) Lakes. This route is often marked with a cairn (pile of stones).  If this route feels too steep continue around on the east side of the ridge. At the col between Djangal and Momin Dvor there is another descent path that is somewhat easier. This also leads to the lakes. At the lakes you will join the Popovo lake to Tevno hut trail. Follow this trail back down to Popovo lake and Bez Bog hut.djangal2

Djangal#87 Option 2

The Davies, Route 8. Damianitsa hut or Bez Bog hut to Djangalska Porta, Descent as for Option 1 to Bez bog hut or as described below to Damianitsa hut.

Djangal is such a dramatic peak when viewed from the west that Di thought a route from this side would appeal to serious mountain walkers. It includes some very steep vegitated slopes  and a few scrambling moves in exposed positions. The difficulties are short lived and the rewards long lasting.  We would recommend a short length of confidence inspiring rope if you are of nervous disposition.

Starting from Djangalsk Porta allows an approach from either Bez Bog hut or Damianitsa hut.  The route itself starts a little down on the west side of the porta. There is an obvious cairn (pile of rocks) and a yellow route marker near by.  There is no path other than one or two route marker stones left by previous adventurers.

djangal3From the cairn follow the contour round for about 100m in a south easterly direction. You will find a notch in the rock above the klek. Contour round for another 150m to another obvious notch between two boulders. Continue round leaving a very green patch below you. Above you now towers the very impressive rocky west face of Djangal.  To the left ( north west) of the first very large pinicle is a smaller spike of rock with two angular ear-like protusions. Head up very steep ground towards this spike. Little gullies appear either side of this spike and both can be used . Di has climbed both gullies and thinks the right hand side is a little bit easier.  You will find 3 meters of the route difficult scrambling which  brings you out onto the magnificent north ridge.

The north ridge is a viable option for the summit attempt but does involve proper climbing moves and equipment. Once you are on the ridge make your way south over and around large boulders heading for the steep north face of the actual summit . Head straight up this steep vegitated slope aiming just right ( west) of the summit. Scramble through some large blocks to emerge on the summit.djangal4

Descent to Bez Bog hut as described in Option 1 or if you are heading to Damianitsa descent the south east ridge. Below and beyond the first pinicle head noth west aiming for a point just east of the first pair of lakes. The first part of the descent is hard work and requires care over loose boulders. The going soon improves and quickly you will reach the lakes. climb a few meters up and around the grassy knoll and head west then north west until you meet the main trail down to Damianitsa. This trail is marked with yellow and white trail markers.

 

 

The Davies, Route 10.

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The Davies, Route 10.

#22 Bim 2520m, #23 Georgiytsa 2589m, #24 Sinanitsa 2516m, #25 Peak 2520m.

The Davies, Route 10. It is certainly possible to do this circuit in a single day, We would recommend an over night stay and the beautifully situated but basic Sinanitsa hut. There are 4 possible approaches to the hut:-

  1. The clearly marked yellow trail from Vihren hut via Banderishka porta to Sinanitsa hut.
  2. Follow the description in The Davies, Route 7. After descending #19 Muratov Vrah, join the main Vihren-Sinanitsa trail.
  3. Approach Sinanitsa from the SSW, this is rarely used by people from Bansko but a beautiful walk up through the southern forests.
  4. The Davies, Route 10. The Gergiyski lakes approach which I will describe here. Very much an off piste route through some wonderful country. 20160714_151306

The Davies, Route 10. From Vihren hut follow the gentle and well marked yellow trail up the valley to Muratovo lake, in early summer this valley is full of wild flowers, an alpine paradise!  From the lake you will be off the marked trail but the path is relatively clear and easy to follow.

20160703_152624Circle the beautiful little lake until you reach the inlet stream to the west. The stream emerges from a gully filled with boulders. Follow the faint track up the right hand side of these boulders. Near the top the going gets a little steep but not difficult. You will emerge onto the ridge which offers a great view of Vlahinski lakes and #21 Gredaro. From the ridge pick your way down through boulders and rough ground heading for the obvious pass between Gredaro and Muratov. There are some cairns and a faint trail but it is a case of hike and hope rather than following a clear path!20160714_123512

From the pass there is a wonderful view of the Gergiyski lakes. This valley is rarely visited and a pristine little kingdom of wild alpine meadows.  The “path” passes between the two largest lakes and then south west between a fine rocky peak and the main Georgiytsa ridge line. Again there are some cairns and a faint trail. Keep SW under the magnificent rocky structures of Georgyitsa peak which you will climb tomorrow.

20160714_112944Turn west over lots of boulders as you reach the sharp rocky NW ridge of Georgyitsa. Once you have passed this ridge turn back sharply to the SE. Contour around the curves of Georgyitsa and then head almost straight south descending into the bowl shaped valley with two tiny lakes (sometimes they are dry). Climb up about 50m through rocks and a steep klek filled path that traverses to the west. From here you drop down onto the marked trail to the hut.  This last section feels a lot longer than the description but keep your bearings and push on and you will reach the path eventually!The hut is sheltered beneath the impressive cliffs of Sinanitsa in mixed country of meadows and klek, Sinanitsa lake is pretty and inviting but the water is very very cold! Swimming is only for the brave as it sees little sunshine. Di suggests a lazy start as the return journey isn’t arduous. I prefer to leave early and then take my time on the beautiful summits of the return.20160704_103538

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Descend the ridge line steeply down to the south and then east. Just above the pass you will cross Momin Vrah which doesn’t quite scrape into the Davies at only 2480m.  From Momin Vrah descend steeply through the rocks to Sinanitsa porta. From the porta the main blue trail to Vihren hut traverses almost flat beneath the ridge line. Ascend the broad stony ridge line NNE  towards the unnamed peak #25 2520m.  From the summit keep along the ridge line NNE descending through boulders and then rocks, diverting off the true ridge where you have to. There is a rocky saddle between #25 and Georgiytsa. Ascend again NNE to the summit at 2598m.

The ridge swings NE and then E after about 1.5km you reach #22 Bim at 2560m. Descend ENE over easy ground to join the main path before Banderishka porta.  Rest at the pass before you descend again to Vihren hut.

Allow 6 hours for each day.  The return route is dry so make sure you bring lots of water.20160704_093255

The Davies, Route 9.

spanopolski-chukar

The Davies, Route 9.

Peak#26 2504m, Peak #27 2506m, Peak #28 2508m, Spanopolski Chukar #29 2576m, Karaulite #30 2533m, Banderishki Chukar #31 2738m, Peak #32 2500m, Bashliyski Chukar #38 2670m.

The Davies, Route 9. This is a long and arduous day with lots of bouldering that will test even the strongest legs. Be sure to pick a good day. Any adverse weather will turn a hard walk into a dangerous one! One early autumn day the Banderishki boulders were still covered in ice and I was forced to retreat. In July a hailstorm turned the mountains wintery and we quickly descended for an early beer! There is an escape route to the north about half way round the circus which I will describe in due course.

The Davies, Route 9 is a hard day, take food and water, allow at least 10 hours. This is hard walking over difficult ground. If the weather turns run away! The route can be cut into two days by using the escape route as the exit from the first day and the entry for the second day

From Vihren hut follow the marked trail towards Sinanitsa hut  (blue trail / yellow trail).  The path follows the valley floor towards Muratov peak with the river on your left. As you depart from the river you will climb up past the pretty Muratov lake and arrive at Banderitsa Porter. At the pass you will leave the marked trail. Turn left here heading south east. There is a trail that ascends gradually over easy ground to the start of the boulder work which leads to the first unnamed peak, #26 2504m.  Keep to the ridge line for the best fun or follow the faint path to the south that runs along under the south side of the ridge. baderischki_chukar_end_donchovi_karauli

Hike up and down a little until the until a steep drop leads down to a very sharp notch in the ridge line. Follow the path round to the right  (south). After 75m or so turn sharply up to the left (north). A steep vegetated and gravely slope leads to the second un named peak #28 2508.

Continue east along the ridge for another 200m, turn right here (south) to reach the col before Spanopolski Chukar. This is a fine little excursion to a wonderful view point. Spanopolski Chukar #29 2576m, stands alone over looking the rolling hills to the south of Pirin. Do not linger too long as there is still a lot of work to be done!

Retrace your steps back to the col and then  contour round to join the main ridge. The climb up Donchovi Karaulite #30 2633m is short and uneventful, descend the east ridge of Doncho  to an open col. Here there is a large obvious cairn ( pile of stones) that marks the north bound escape route.  You are now about half way round in terms of distance but the hardest part is to come.

Traverse around a minor top (not a peak). There is a lot of Kleck (dwarf pine) that looks impassable but there is a path over and through it which is quicker than dropping down to the right (south).  The push up to Banderishki Chukar #31 2738m  feels endless, the boulders are large and hard work! At and near the main summit the boulders are massive slabs with impressive chasms between them. This is tough going! banderishki_chukar

From the summit descend almost straight south down through more boulders to the col and then up the north slope of Bashliyski Chukar #38 2670m. It looks close, it isn’t ! The final climb is up and over, around and under a mass of boulders and klek. A real sting in the tail at the end of a long day.The summit is at the far end of the ridge and offers fantastic views.

Retrace your steps to the col between Banderishki and Bashliyski, contour back to the ridge line. The unnamed peak #32 2500m is on the east shoulder of Banderishki chukar. The going is difficult. A short distance down the ridge from #32 a descent can be made directly north. Make for a small group of pools/lakes below the peak, just beyond the lakes you will find the main red trail from Vihren to Tevno. Join this path heading north west back to Vihren hut.

Breaking the day in two. Escape route.

The Davies, Route 9. Remember we mentioned that cairn at the col after Donchovi Karaulite? If you wish to break this trip into two descend north here. The first part of the decent is steep and the semi vegetated slope is slipery with sand and loose stones. Go carefully. After a drop of about 25m and slope eases, Descend vegetated then bouldered slopes to the little lakes that you could see from above. Pass the lakes on the west side (lakes on your right) following the stream that drains the lakes. The descent is again steep and boulder filled for another 25m. Now break right through a steep vegetated slope towards a flat area filled with giant boulders. Descend steeply again through large boulders heading towards the cliff that borders the stream that feeds Ribno lake .  Follow this stream down to the lake. Skirt the lake until you join the main path back to Vihren hut.

To continue your circuit retrace your steps on the second day up past the lake and onto the ridge at the cairn.

N.B. #27 2506m.

The Davies, Route 9. Unnamed peak #27. This peak looks eminently doable on the map and feels like it should be included in on this route. Sadly the route is just too long to add another diversion off the main trail.

I feel it is worth doing this little mountain as a single day trip from Vihren hut, the route is pretty simple. From Muratovo lake head in almost a straight line towards the summit. Skirting left (east) of the klek at the base of the summit you will find a steep rock filled gully that leads directly to the summit. Descend  east down to Ribno lake and the main path back to Vihren hut.

This is a short day, maybe 4 hours. Importantly it is a great introduction to hiking off piste. If you have never walked off a marked trail I would suggest this as your first wild adventure! The area is relatively easy to navigate and there is zero chance of getting dangerously lost.  The route finding and scrambling are all at entry levels of difficulty. spanopolski-chukar

Di Davies