We were a teensy bit apprehensive about this housesit in Bulgaria because unlike every other housesit we have done so far, we never got a chance to video chat with the homeowners before our trip here. We tried several times, but they had work stuff come up, we had internet go down, and we both were traveling around the US and around the world so the timing never quite worked out. So we just took the risk, bought tickets to Bulgaria, and showed up on their doorstep!
Well, not quite on their doorstep, as Cassie picked us up at the airport when our flight arrived. She drives a cute little Volkswagon Beetle - the exact kind of car I always wished I had in high school. (Except I wanted red and hers is black.) As cute as the car is, it's a bit on the small side, and we just barely fit all of our luggage in with room for us. Luckily Matthew wasn't with her, and we have one less piece of luggage than we did last year, or we definitely would not have fit!
In most of our other housesits (except for Germany) the homeowners have been older - people more our parents' ages - which makes sense because that is usually the demographic that has the time/money to travel for a longer period of time. Here, we were delighted to discover that Cassie and Matthew are roughly our ages! It turns out we have a lot more in common, too, - a love of movies, politics, technology, travel, and so much more.
Since we didn't chat much more than logistics beforehand, we didn't learn why they were traveling until we got here. Cassie and Matthew are in India this month, preparing for and then running in an ultra marathon. What is an ultra marathon you ask? It's a marathon in which you run 100 miles in 72 hours. Yup, you read that right. This particular one - La Ultra The High - takes place in the Himilayan mountians which means not only are they running an insanely long distance they are doing it in the mountains. They said they have to prepare for all sorts of weather from well below freezing in the mountains to 100+ degrees in the valleys. Here's a link to a short (under five minutes) video about the ultra marathon, the Matthew interviewed is the one we are housesitting for!
Cassie and Matthew are together in part because of their shared interest in ultra running - they met at one of these crazy marathons about 4 years ago. The one they are doing now in India Matthew has done before, so he is actually going for an extra ultra distance this time - over 300 miles! Cassie is sticking to merely (ha!) 100 miles and if she finishes she will be the first female ever to finish this race! How cool is that? Meeting these two definitely has me feeling like an ultra couch potato right about now, considering I doubt I could run 1 mile even if you paid me.
It was fascinating to watch them do final packing and preparations for the trip. They were trying to pack as lightly as possible, but they also need all sorts of gear to complete the marathon. They needed everything from special supplements/food they consume during the race to stay healthy, to actual tents because they do pause to sleep for short periods of time during the 72 hours. They were also taking some presents for friends they have in the area, so that involved a quick run to the mall to buy a few things. We tagged along with Cassie so we could get some groceries, and I was delighted to discover this dinosaur display in the mall!
Along with being incredible athletes and adventurous travelers, Cassie and Matthew are also very generous. They pulled out a few gifts they had ready for us as well - Tibetan prayer flags, a knitted stocking hat (from somewhere awesome that has slipped my mind), and actual truffles from Croatia! I'm interested in learning more about the meaning and significance of the prayer flags, and while it adds extra stuff to our luggage I am excited to have them. The hat will replace one we bought Joel in England at a charity shop (that always looked kinda goofy on him) and we have yet to eat any of the truffles but I'm working up to it!
We usually try to have at least one full day with the homeowners before they leave so we can get to their home and the pet routines before we are on our own. This time, however, it worked out that we arrived on Tuesday and they were leaving on Wednesday, so we only had one night together. We ended up staying up till almost 3 o'clock in the morning chatting and enjoying each other's company. They invited us to stay a couple of days extra after they get back so we can hang out more together, and hopefully, that will fit well with our schedule/cheap flights we need to get to our next housesit in Australia. I am looking forward to hearing how the race goes for both of them - and I'm really rooting for Cassie to be the first female finisher!