Some pictures of the Worlds most interesting caves were being circulated on the Internet and as soon as I saw the beauty of Bulgarias Devetashka cave, I knew that I had to go there.
Earlier in the year, friends of mine Dee and Mika moved to a small village in Bulgaria with their 4-year-old son Sky and it quickly transpired that they are only 30 miles away from the cave that I was so keen to see.
Two more friends Jinny and Liam were already heading out there so I booked a flight out and joined them for a week to see Dee and Mika and of course go for that cave!
The village that they live in is called Dobromirka, it was like going back in time watching men passing through with their horses and carts and the women herding goats and geese, the sound of cow bells tinkled accompanied by the barking of dogs, hundreds and hundreds of dogs in this and the surrounding villages.
Dogs are not treated well here, they are kept out in the yards on short chains and used purely as alarms for their owner’s property and of course as soon as you walk past it sets off not one dog but all of the dogs in the area, like an audio domino effect.
My friends Dee and Mika moved over to Bulgaria not only with their son Sky but also with a three-legged cat called Ziggy who has lived with Dee on a bus and travelled around by bike, moped, car, van, coach, bus, boat and aeroplane, quite extraordinary.
They have now adopted a young Doberman dog called Lola, a Horse called Zoran, a Foal yet to be named, a golden wolf dog called Zucho, a kitten called Sweetie and a three-legged puppy called James.
Being used to camping out such a lot and enjoying the night sounds of crickets, I decided to make myself a camp outside and slept out at night joined by Zucho the dog, James the Puppy and Sweetie the kitten, who all fought for a patch of warmth.
I also had a Praying Mantis that Liam and Mica found on a door that I moved to my camp so that I could observe it, I have always been fascinated by mantids and this one was great to watch as it stalked about looking for potential prey at night and by day became statue like.
I found the villagers to be very friendly as once they get to see you around and know your face they are very accepting and welcoming, taking a photograph of some elderly locals on a village corner, one of the men took off his hat in a sweeping gesture of politeness.
We went to a large town called Sevlievo to buy food and whilst walking down a street spotted some stencil graffiti of Adolf Hitler, Jinny and I both photographed it and found more of them on each corner of the street. Interestingly in less than an hour when we had turned back to walk to the car we instantly noticed that the Fascist graffiti had been hastily washed away.
If you go to Bulgaria go easy on the Rakia, at 47% it is strong stuff and two of us were very hung over from drinking two bottles of it in one evening, local delight Rakia is deceivingly easy to drink for its strength.
It was on this such day of extreme hangovers that we headed off to Devetashka cave, the sun was shining and so we set off in the four by four on the 30 mile journey, although 30 miles does not sound far, it takes a fair while to get there (almost 2 hours) as the roads can be uneven and pot holey in some stretches leading to this area.
Devetashka Cave Wednesday 31st October
Devetashka cave is in the Lovech region of Bulgaria located between the two villages of Doirentsi and Devetaki, on route we passed some of the most beautiful countryside, unspoilt and with the trees showing many colours in their Autumn season stage.
There were some dramatic rock formations up on the mountains and the sky was a vibrant blue making for some striking landscape scenery.
Further on we passed through a pretty wooded area with some little painted log cabins, which looked like something out of a fairytale.
We also saw a pack of wild dogs at the roadside.
Eventually we turned down a steep, narrow, windy road that led us to a park up spot then a short walk over a bridge to the cave, this bridge over the Osam River was created as part of a film set for The Expendables 2 in 2011. It is controversial that some of the filming was done here as the crew removed much of the foliage outside the cave and also disturbed the Bats during their breeding season causing a dramatic decline in their colony.
You can not visit this cave between the months of June and July now due to this, as the Bats must be left undisturbed at this time to repair the damage done and need to rebuild their numbers back up, it is now protected as a Natural landmark (since 1996).
Devetashka Cave is one of the largest caves in Bulgaria and its foyer is classed as the largest at 30 metres high and 35 metres wide, unlike my experiences in Vietnam there was no climbing required to get into it, instead you can just walk straight through the huge opening into this natural wonder, which is up to 100 meters in height in places.
Inside it opens up to 2,442 meters that you can explore, the cave is naturally lit as it has 7 openings in its roof of differing sizes which on a sunny day exposes the bright blue sky and the sunshine streams through.
It was discovered in 1921 and from 1996 -2007 the cave was archaeologically excavated and shown to have been inhabited by humans from the mid Stone Age through the eras as various bases including a sanctuary, a military base and a secluded area to store oil.
I walked into the huge entrance and was immediately mesmerised by the sheer size and beauty of this cave, shards of light shone in from the roof openings and inside was a river with the greenest foliage, a self-contained eco system.
To the back of the cave is another smaller cave and a rocky area where the Bat colony is, I could hear them but even though I tried for some time with my torch and camera, I did not see any of them, they were far up in the eroded holes in the rock formation.
The others stayed only a very short time and so I found myself alone in the cave and enjoyed photographing it from many different angles, especially the side where the river flows and of course images of the roof openings, which look very dramatic.
Further back in the cave is part of a tumbledown wall and a barbed wire and tape no entry sign, there are also a couple of huge circular concrete platforms.
I initially wondered if these huge circles could have been used as gunner platforms to aim through the huge openings above, however there are no central holes in them, another idea would be that they were used as platforms to store the large oil and petrol tanks or barrels which makes more sense.
To the right of the cave opposite the river is a small hill with some stone steps and a narrow little tunnel at the top which I photographed and walked through, Lola the Doberman dog had been up here with me earlier but she did not like it, started to whimper and ran off, which I thought was interesting.
Strangely I also felt very uneasy in this part of the cave, the rest of it had been fine, it was just in this small area where it felt ‘odd and eerie’ there was a large circular platform in this part also and a smaller cave at the edge, which was taped off at the entrance (possibly unstable for rock fall?).
There was a mound of stone and rubble in this area also, I stayed and took a few photographs but was only too happy to get back through the tunnel and be out on the other side in the larger part of the cave, in fact I felt instantly happier and at ease again once back through the other side of that tunnel.
The only explanation I can think of is that with all the historical comings and goings of people inhabiting that cave that there must be some ‘energy’ left and perhaps myself and the dog were picking up on that.
I contacted a friend of mine who had been to this cave a few weeks earlier than myself and asked if she had felt anything in that area on the right and she said that she had also felt very uneasy just on that side.
The river and waterfalls inside the cave sparkled with the light that flooded through the openings in the roof and as the light of the day changed from blue through to a golden sunset orange they looked like liquid fire.
The foliage was a vibrant green and also looked amazing in the foreground with the cave entrance illuminated by that sky, it seemed a shame to leave it but as the light was fading and the others had waited so patiently over the bridge back in the vehicle, I headed back out.
I could have spent many more hours at the cave, it was absolutely fascinating and stunningly beautiful and certainly one of the most impressive caves I have ever seen.
For full Gallery of images: http://www.amanda-king-akimages.com/Portfolio/Amanda-King-Devetaska-Cave/
The remainder of the trip was great, the boys moved my bedding back inside the house as the temperature dropped to -1 one night, it was November after all and sadly my Praying Mantis died in the cold snap.
So back inside I went and was grateful for the heat, though did get subjected to Lola the Doberman (who stays inside the house) pouncing on me in the early hours, Dee would already be up and out feeding the horses.
I would then get up and take the dogs for a walk over the iron bridge and up into the woods opposite and enjoy the surrounding views of Autumn leaves as they began to change colour a little more each day.
Despite the cold snap on a sunny day, the warmth cut back through and Dragonflies would appear by the dozen flitting territorially across the village river, I adored taking Zucho the golden wolf dog out for a walk as he would stick with me faithfully no matter how many hours I was out for.
Often on walks out Zucho, who lived partly with Dee and Mika but was also a wild dog who roamed, would always find me and join me on my walks, he is a lovely dog and on my last day there I took him out for an extra long walk whilst looking for more Dragonflies.
I headed back with Zucho in tow to find that Jinny meanwhile had been busy getting the yard ready for a Halloween party for the villagers as they had never experienced one before, she had done an amazing job and I ran upstairs to get the bits I had brought to add to it.
It was a great night, the villagers all came and brought food, one lady who was 91 even turned up and Jinny painted the faces of everyone, the children ran about excitedly looking to collect the plastic spiders in the webs that were scattered about in the trees.
It was a great night, the Rakia and local wine flowed as I made a video of the night and Jinny did some seriously impressive fire spinning for the villagers, even the Mayor was dancing and Sky shared his toys with the village children as they all played together, it was all good.
On the final morning of leaving I got up and cuddled little puppy James and kitten Sweetie, took Zucho and Lola out on a final walk and gave them some treats, then prepared to leave with Liam and Jinny as the Mayor was driving us to the airport.
I had a fang stuck on one of my teeth still from Halloween and did not want to force it off, so had to go through customs, etc. with one fang, in fact it remained in for several days and I found myself shopping in Sainsburys with it also 🙂
This was a great trip, with lovely friends and a seriously awesome cave.
For the complete photo gallery of Devetashka Cave, please go to: