After the flatness of Romania we were instantly greeted with a more hilly terrain as we left the Danube and headed cross-country to Pleven to meet up with our Warmshowers hosts Galin and Filipa. After a very wet ride into the city and four nights under canvas it was great to experience some Bulgarian hospitality! In return, “we” cooked Steak and Ale pie (with Bulgarian Lager instead of ale) (tasted OK actually!) whilst Tim fitted the new pannier racks that had broken on day 2 back in Croatia. Our package of spares arrived just in time, but were at the local DHL office, so a short walk to collect it and our bikes were then given a through fettling in the basement! Galin kindly showed us the local sights and helped with some vital shopping (powdered milk, power adapter, map!) and Rebecca tried on Filipa’s pilot suit!!
Leaving Pleven we headed to the waterfalls at Krusuna, arriving in the afternoon we set up camp, ate, and then had an evening stroll, not realising that the walkways were a bit on the “extreme side” perhaps we should’ve taken a torch! We also stumbled across our 2nd Bulgarian Aeroplane Statue (Mig 15?), the other was a passenger jet with a “bomber” glass nose in a town park! (click photos to enlarge)
Deciding to take a smaller road we headed off into the mountains. The road turned out to be unsurfaced but still ride-able, so we reduced our tyre pressures and headed uphill. After a couple of hours we’d gained 400m in 10km but the road came to a fork which wasn’t shown on the map, so we took the “main” path and continued, eventually peaking at 810m but still smiling – we’d even spotted wild boar! A few kilometres onwards and the path started to deteriorate, but we carried on, crossing fallen trees and taking the “obvious” route until we ended up in the middle of nowhere, with the GPS not even showing the “road” we were supposed to be following. Not wanting to turn around and hump back uphill over the fallen trees, we took the “direct” route back up to the “known” path. After 5km of relaying the bikes/bags through a dense forest/slope we got back to THAT fork. It was a 5 hour detour but we we back on the track. Down into Kotel it had been an epic 11h day, so we checked into the first hotel/lodge just before dark, not ideal, certainly an adventure, but still fun (in retrospect)! Maybe Ray Mears would’ve retraced his steps?
Detours over, we headed over to the Black sea, through beautiful scenery, and plenty of free camping but staying on the Tarmac this time!
We’d made it to the Black Sea but the headwind necessitated some serious slipstreaming to make decent progress. The beaches were quiet and the sunrises beautiful, but the swimming was a bit chilly!
Back up into the mountains to cross the border into Turkey, over 800m climbing with 50kg bikes in 35degC heat, and consumed 3x our normal daily water volume…. sweaty does not even describe it!! However, the camping spots, views and river swims make up for the effort!