Friday, 11 May 2012

11 May Stage 29 Burgas - Svilengrad

Dep  11.10      Arr  6.30       Dist  96.9 km      Total  3038.2 km

All I wanted was a boring day on the road - and that's what I got - until...............I'll go through it in order.

The main priority was to get the bike in order. Last night I had asked the lady at the desk of this super-di-dooper hotel to let me know of any bike shops in the town. She said that she wasn't from this area. I was tempted to tell her that I wasn't either but that may have tested her a bit. I asked her if she could check with her colleagues and she seemed to think that may be a good idea. I went out for a walk and asked people on bikes around the town if they knew of a bike shop. Nobody remembered where they got their bike from. There was a nice pedestrian street with bars all over and I had a beer at one, followed by spag bol and chips which ticks all the boxes with regard to health and stodge. When I got back I asked the same girl and she vaguely remembered me and asked the man with the black t-shirt on.  He was a know-all and dictated the address of a place and said it was only about 5km away and a taxi wouldn't be too much. I got to the room and found a place myself on t'internet that was a lot closer. I think I went to bed then. It all seems so long ago.

All went to plan early on. Up at half seven (0530 in UK), went down for breakfast, which was fantastic but I couldn't do it justice with other preoccupations. I had a big-ish bowl of cornflakes-ish cereal, a jam pancake, two bits of what we call french toast, muddy coffee and fresh orange. I could have had more but just wanted to be out there. I got the bags almost ready and went down and asked a younger black t-shirt lad to open the door where my bike was to get the wheel off. This he did and I took the wheel to the place I had found myself. The lad there was a bit cocky and spoke no English so I was on my guard. I bought a decent pump and some tyre levers and three inner tubes. I asked him to put one on and he said it would be a bit extra. I can't remember the amount but it wasn't much. He did it in a twinkling but I thought I'd check with the pressure gauge on my new pump. He wasn't happy about this but it had to be right, right? It didn't hold, even at 20psi. He discarded the tube and tried again and he said some word that meant finished. The pressure was 30 psi when the writing on the side of the tyre says to be inflated to 90. He couldn't believe this but I pumped away and stood there seeing if it went down. It didn't and I left the shop a bit happier. Velozone it as called - not recommended if you ever find yourself in Burgas. 

I got back, finished the long drawn out process, and got going. As I left the room, the door banged and I thought nothing of it for a second, until it hit me - wind. There seemed to be a lot about but which way would it be? The route out of town went great and there were flurries of wind from different directions as I twisted and turned. The road surface was critical to progress and with this, the wind and the new tyres etc, my bottom was twitching in several different directions as I did the usual climb from sea level to anywhere inland. After the initial uphill bit it levelled out but with a general uphill trend. The road surface was variable but generally good  I really took my time on the bad bits - even if they were downhill, and wondered how long it would be until I stopped being neurotic about the tyres. The wind was certainly not against me so maybe it must have been behind, or had dropped since I left the Black Sea. I made good progress but was out of drinking water so decided to stop at the next available place. There is no logic to this but the next available place was a beautiful little bar/restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Some are shacks, some are palaces. I had a coffee and water but didn't fancy a meal so went for a papachinka, or something like that. I didn't know what it was but it sounded nice. It was a pancake and it did the trick. This place was in a foresty type area, quite high up and very picturesque as much of Bulgaria is. There were rumblings in the distance but no serious clouds around. I got going again and saw the dark clouds to my left and behind. The spitting started and stopped but the threat was there. I knew I could out run any storm if it started. I then saw two other cyclists up ahead, Paul and Ana from Romania. We had a chat and exchanged experiences and emails and I pushed on. The mental calculations, which get me through these phases, then started and I expected to be in Elhovo at about 6.00 which would have been a decent result. The clouds were getting heavier to my left but I was always in front and seeming to turn away to the right every time they got threatening.

I decided to get the cape and boots into a more accessible place just in case they might be needed but I felt a few spots so decided to get proper ready - just in case. I was about 20km from Elhovo at this time and expecting to remove the rain gear soon. The rain, though, got heavier and the wind started to kick in, mainly from behind but also from the side at times. The rain got heavier again and made pinging noises on my hat and a spot of rain actually hurt my hand until I realised it was hail. The road was very quickly transformed into a stream about 3 inches deep and the side wind was blowing me about. There were flashes of lightning every 30 seconds or so but there was no sense in sheltering. I was saturated 10 seconds after the proper rain started and there was nowhere to shelter anyway. Also, I knew that sitting on a bike was about the safest place you could be at such a time. The wind was strong and when it was from behind I was like a sailing boat with the cape on. I was actually on the brakes in order to keep my speed down. Also, there were twigs and branches all over the stream/road and I had a bit of dodging to do.

As we all know, at the end of a storm there's a go-olde-en sky, and there was in this case as I got to about 10km from Elhovo. What I didn't expect was that after the golden sky came another storm, or maybe the same one hitting me from a different direction. This time the hail caused me actual pain as it battered the right hand side of my body but I knew the town and a nice cheap, warm, dry, comfortable hotel was up ahead, getting ever closer. As I meandered past a parked car the driver flagged me down and said he was going to Turkey and he could pack my stuff into his car, a Peugeot 206, and take me further up the road if I wanted. I carefully considered his suggestion for about 0.2 seconds and decided to take him up on the offer. Kalin was going deep sea diving in Northern Turkey and was meeting Turkish friends at the border town of Svilengrad and suggested he could drop me there. He was a very pleasant, knowledgeable and interesting chap. He worked at the moment on yachts in the South of France but had done a lot of other things as well. There will be more to come on this part of the journey but I am here, blogging in the reception of the Royal Hotel in the Bulgarian border town of Svilengrad, having enjoyed the company of Kalin and his friends for an hour or so this evening.

Great to be back on the road. Delighted that the bike, my real true mate, is feeling better and happy to be that one bit closer to the promised land.

Today's track. The storm occurred before Elhovo where Kalin picked me up and took me to Svilengrad. It made the next day a bit shorter.

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