Sredets to Malko Tarnovo

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This is probably our last night in Bulgaria. We rode from the resort near Sredets to Malko Tarnovo, 5km from the Turkish border, on almost deserted roads through oak and beech forests. We’re staying in a doss house, discouraged by grottiness from showering this evening.

A breakfast highlight was the sulky resort staff who were more interested in their early morning cigarettes (smoked in the restaurant) than supplying customers with breakfast. We persisted and were ultimately successful. One waitress was on our side and made an effort to help us.

On the road, at a spring in the heart of the forest, two Bulgarian guys offered us a lift to Burgas, ‘One bike in the boot and one on the roof – no problem! Big kilometres.’ We thanked them kindly and continued on our way after filling our bottles.

The feature of the day were the flies. Who said Australian flies are bad? They haven’t experienced these little blighters. Strangely, they don’t settle or bite, but hover in dense clouds within centimetres of one’s face and hands – very aggravating and a great incentive to keep riding. We could drop them if we could achieve an air speed of about 15 km/h which proved a hard ask on the many hills. The slightest head wind was welcome assistance.

Tea time in the forest

We did manage to find a place to stop to brew a cup of tea. There was shade but it was in a clearing on the top of a hill with enough breeze to keep the insects at bay. Ah tea! We’ve been suffering from severe tea deprivation on our trip and it was a pleasure to stop and sip, slurp and gulp some – partial compensation for not getting lunch (no stopping and no opportunities).

We met a young Dutch woman, Suzanne, who left Holland 3 months ago. She’s cycling alone (with tent) and had got this far on her way to Istanbul. She had come via Serbia, Croatia and other countries that were formerly Yugoslavia. She admitted to having had a miserable night camping in the forest with the flies.

We’re now just 160 km from Istanbul as the crow flies but, STOP PRESS, we’ve decided not to ride there. In order to beat the traffic we’re heading south to the Gallipoli Peninsula. From there we’ll take a ferry across the Hellespont/Dardanelles (Rosalie’s tempted to follow Byron’s example and swim) and then another ferry across the Marmara from Lapseki (hopefully) or Bandirma to Istanbul. That’ll probably mean an extra 100 kms of riding but it increases the chance of survival compared to braving Turkish traffic into Istanbul.

Cycle route:
Sredets – Malko Tarnovo

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