The first night cycling together we camped with permission in a field round the back of some sort of service station. I didn’t feel all that great during the cycle, and the temperature dropped surprisingly significantly that night. Matze started building a fire. ‘Great idea’, I said. ‘It’s not just to stay warm, this is how I cook dinner’, he replied. What’s more, he didn’t have a tent but rather found a shelter or roughed it in a sleeping bag and reflective space blanket. Proper hardcore.
The next day we cycled past Nessebar and dropped in to visit the ancient city there. Or rather René and Matze did, and I kipped on a bench for half an hour feeling pretty exhausted. What a hellhole some of these sea side resorts are. Hundreds of half-finished hotels and appartment blocks dot the coastline.
The road climbed and descended ad nauseum. Well the downhills were pretty fun overtaking each other at over 50kph. We past through Burgas where I had my second siesta of the day.
That night we ended up in a tiny village asking if there was anywhere we could buy food. We must have been the only tourists ever to wander down this back street. It was clear there no shops but we were invited to sleep in someone’s back garden. They brought out homebrew schnapps and probably the best salad I have ever tasted. I wasn’t feeling at all good and therefore popped some paracetemol before dinner to take the edge off. The next morning I felt worse still and had a temperature of about 37.8 but was determined not to stay behind in this small village. As soon as I woke as I was already looking forward to crashing out at the end of the day and hoping I could just fast forward to that point. After some more paracetemol we cracked on taking on more and more hills as we approached the Bulgarian – Turkish border. I had been warned by the French couple that this road wasn’t very fun and they were dead right. What a nightmare it must have been for them with the carriages for their kids. The extra effort and stress because of how tight the roads were must have been considerable. Doubly so because there was snow at some of the higher passes when they travelled through in April.
The road widened and got a lot less busy the closer to Turkey we got. The sun came out from behind the clouds every now and again and there were some really fun kilometres put down. At crest of a hill a woman approached us and asked us a few cycle touring related questions. She was gathering information for the opening of the Iron Curtain Trail which she was working on. Not long afterwards it started to rain really hard. And it didn’t stop. We tried sheltering under trees until it passed. But it didn’t. 40minutes of waiting and we were pretty much soaked through anyway so we thought we might as well continue through the rain.
We were keen to get to the Bulgarian-Turkish border that night, but because of the rain it seemed increasingly unlikely. We decided to press on until Malko Tarnovo, the final town in Bulgaria before the border. It was about 8pm and I was feeling rotten and needed to refuel badly. I scoffed down some of the previous night’s leftovers to give me the energy to take on the hills.
We descended a huge hill all the way to a river at the valley bottom. We passed another cycle tourer sheltering from the rain under a tree in a poncho. We travelling too fast to stop and chat. We then had to climb all the way back up the other side of this hill which was easily 8km. We regrouped at the top and dried off in a bus shelter. We felt spent and were considering calling it quits and staying there for the night, massively uncomfortable as that would have been. In the end we flagged down a car to ascertain how much further is was to the next town. They didn’t speak English but we gathered that it was 6km further and all downhill. Well there was about another half K uphill but thank God the rest was down…
By the time we rolled into Malko Tarnovo it was dark, we had racked up a total of 110km and thankfully the rain had just about stopped.I felt whacked. With all the hills and cycling with a temperature I would have to say this was for me the most demanding day yet. On discovering a room at the local restaurant was well overbudget, we went to check out a shelter which we saw back in the park. It was some kind of Christian house of worship.
There was just about enough room for the three of us to squeeze in on the porch. Matze then tried opening the door, and amazingly it was open. It stank of wet paint, but this was a 5star hotel room compared to bus shelter we considered and perfect place to crash out….