Bike-Ride To Australia 20th-November 2011

Hills

Bike-Ride To Australia 20th-November 2011 Pirot, Serbia to Valkarel, Bulgaria. 84 miles. Well, I’ve finally made it to Bulgaria! It was only a short ride this morning to the Serbian/Bulgarian border, and there were no problems with the crossing.

Cycling through Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, I could help but notice the large amounts of tanks! I hope theirs, not something going on that I don’t know about, i.e. war! As is usually the case in big cities, I got lost! I eventually found my way out, but I had to cycle down a motorway for a couple of miles. By the time I’d got off the motorway, it was dark.

Cannons
Is there something I don’t know

Off the motorway, I looked at the map for the next town in the hope of finding a hotel. There was nothing! With no sign of a bed for the night in the next few miles, I resigned myself to a long ride in the dark to anywhere that half looked as if it might have a hotel. I was halfway up a long climb when a car pulled up alongside me. Fearing the worst, I was all set to turn around and peddle like made back down the hill. I needn’t have worried. The man in the car was just asking if I was okay. I said yes and asked if there were any hotels nearby. None for miles, but I want to help you, you come and stay at my place! He replied in his broken English. You follow me! And with that, we proceeded up the hill. Stoyan (whose name I later found out) led the way with loud dance music blaring out from the speakers in his car!

Tanks
There are tanks everywhere
Are We There Yet

The hill was a lot longer than I thought, and I was grateful to arrive at Stoyans house. Stoyan made sure that my bike was secure for the night before taking me in to meet his family. He had two small children, a seven-year-old boy and a baby girl of seven months. His wife, whose name I never got! (Or rather I did, but it went in one ear and straight out the other!) Served us up some cold meats and cheese while Stoyan broke out the Raki! While we sat eating and drinking, Stoyans wife was on the phone. And from what I could work out, she was telling her friends about the English man they’d found on the road! And sure enough, a few minutes later in walked Stoyans brother and girlfriend, and a little later their dad!

Bulgarian family
Stoyan and his family

They were all pleasant and friendly, and we sat around talking for the evening with none of us really understanding each other! But it was a very entertaining and enjoyable evening. The warmth and friendship some people show towards strangers is very touching and much appreciated.

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Bike-Ride To Australia 19th-November 2011

Mountains

Bike-Ride To Australia 19th-November 2011 Knsjazevac to Pirot 41 miles. It’s been hard going today, not because of hills or a headwind. But because of a Romanian football team!

After supper last night, I remained at my table to write the days blog. And as per normal, I had a few beers. I think maybe five! It was just one of those evenings when I’d got a taste for their strong dark beer, my favourite! Anyway, I’d just about finished my blog and was thinking of going up to bed when a group of men sitting across the room beckoned me over to join them. “Hey, Mr English, get off Facebook and come and join us for a drink,” said one of the men in his broken English. I tried to explain that I wasn’t on Facebook but gave up and went to join them.

Stara Planina Serbia
Somewhere in the Stara Planina Serbia

From now on, everything is a bit of a blur! But what I do remember is that they were a Romanian football team, who were here for a football tournament between themselves, Croatia and Serbia. And they were drinking some homebrew out of old coke bottles, they poured me a glass, or rather a plastic cup. Bloody hell! “What the hell was that?” I asked. “Romanian whiskey”, they replied, as they laughed at my response! I thought it was more like vodka, but they insisted it was whiskey! Anyway, my last recollection was of the hotel manager taking me to my room!

The Following Morning

I eventually woke up at 8 o’clock and wondered what had happened last night. As I got up, I noticed the shattered shower screen lying in the bottom of the shower! And remembered falling through it! It then started to come back to me, the Romanian football team and their homebrew!

Waterfall
Waterfall along the route today

I went downstairs for breakfast, wondering what to do about the shower screen! “good morning,” said the manager “how’s your head? You drank a lot last night,” as he pointed across the room to a table strewn with empty bottles and plastic cups! “I’m fine”, was my reply, as I thought about the shower door. In the end, I plucked up the courage to tell the manager about the door and that I would pay for the damage. He’d been so good to me! And I felt so guilty.

After looking at the damage, he said 100 euros would cover the damage. Which I thought was very reasonable. I’m sure the actual cost was a lot more! As I left the hotel, apologising as I went, the manager wished me well on my journey and hoped to see me again someday. I bet he doesn’t! It was now 10 o’clock, and I’m pretty sure I was still drunk! I’m sure that had I not felt so guilty about the shower, I wouldn’t have moved hotels!

Man sitting by bike
I’ll just have a little rest

I should have made it to Bulgaria today, but I kept stopping to rest! I mean, take photos! I was glad to finish riding today!

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Bike-Ride To Australia 18th-November 2011

Bike-Ride To Australia 18th-November 2011 Zagubica to Knajazevac 75 miles. Another chilly night in my hotel room last night! And I forgot about the idea of taking my sleeping bag up with me! No wonder it was cold. The weather forecast on the TV said it was -6 last night! Mind you, I can’t really complain, bed, breakfast, evening meal and beer, for €30!

Hills in Serbia
On the road near a place called Bor

IT WAS FREEZING when I left the hotel, forcing me to dig out an extra layer from my panniers! I needn’t have bothered! I spent the first three hours going uphill and soon took that extra layer off, plus more! By early afternoon the temperature had risen quite considerably, so much so that even going downhill wasn’t cold! Mind you. I’ve not been flying downhill as fast I usually do. The roads are in such a bad way! I was worried my bike would break, or even worse, I’d come off!

Tonight should be my last night in Serbia. I’m hoping to reach Bulgaria tomorrow. Another new country to notch up!

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