Day30: Calarasi,RO to near Venets, BG: My first day in Bulgaria

It was hot last night and, even with no covers, I didn't sleep well. My morning breakfast was OK except for missing one big item. No coffee or tea! Grump! I left that pension about 8 AM, hoping to find a place in town to get some coffee. That didn't work so I headed for the ferry to Bulgaria. Getting to the ferry isn't obvious, but there are some signs and, with the help of my GPS, I followed them to a fancy place that I think was for big boats on the Danube.

The nice Bulgarian officer at the gate looked at my bike, said 'you must speak English', and told me I needed to go back beyond a fancy hotel - not far - and take the little ferry. As I rode down towards it, someone yelled that I needed to buy my ticket from the 'Casa.' I went back up to the Casa and stood there for five minutes while the woman who worked there cleaned the front glass of the beer display. Then she deigned to sell me, another fellow who was already waiting when I got there and several other people who had come in while I was waiting, ferry tickets. Mine cost 12 Lei, ~$3. Shortly after the folks who were buying tickets from her got to the ferry, it pulled away. I guess she enjoys making the people on the ferry wait...

First sight of the Danube

Romanian from the ferry

Bulgaria from the ferry

The other ferry

It was, for a Danube crossing, quite slow. The river is big here and the ferry goes up a smaller river on the other side to nearer to the city. The 'ferry' is a barge like platform pushed sideways by a tug, so it doesn't go very fast! As we neared the end of our ride, the sister ferry was pulling and and passed by us, so I got a good look at the setup.

In Bulgaria, I had to go through passport control. The officer there was concerned about my riding in this extreme heat. He warned me that I should get out of the mid-day sun. He was very friendly and, like a lot of Bulgarians, spoke English well. I asked where I could change some money and he told where an exchange place was. I changed $300 and, as soon as he saw the $100 bills, one of the fellows in the exchange place said 'You must be from the USA.' It really is easier to tour in a country, like Bulgaria, where English is a required subject for all school kids and a major factor in being able to get a job. Compared to Ukraine or even Romania, the percentage of folks with good English is much higher here.

As soon as I started riding in Bulgaria, I realized how laid back this country is compared to modern Romania. It was a nice change. I found a cafe to get some coffee. No one was there but every thing was open. I rode on, saw a Lidl store across the street, and stopped there to get some supplies. After that stop, I decided to try the cafe again. This time someone was there and I got my coffee for 1 BG. That is $.66 for good espresso.

I headed out of town on what my GPS said was highway 7. The sign said Shumem 108 km. After climbing a long - several km - and not very well paved hill, a sign said Shumen 110 and directed me to head east. That was good becasue the wind was from the north and climbing that hill was so hot that I had taken off my helmet and my gloves. It was about a 3 km ride to the east and that, with the cross wind, cooled me down nicely.

Heading south on '7'

Not great, but quite rideable
damned hot riding!

Large field of sunflowers on the road going east to 7


7 with new pavement

When I headed south again, now really on 7, I realized it was after noon and I still had more than 100 km to ride. The road was good and the wind was good except for climbing steep hills, so I figured I'd be OK. There was a town about 40 km ahead where I hoped I could get lunch. This part of Bulgaria, like some parts of Romania, is wide open space without a lot of people or services. There wasn't much traffic, the road was OK and the riding, although sometimes hot, was pretty good. I stopped, about 10 km before the town where I hoped to get lunch, to snack. I stopped by pulling off on a short road that led through the woods planted on either side of the road, to the big fields behind them. At my first stop, I snacked looking out on a pretty valley where wheat being harvested and lots of sunflowers were growing.

The view from my first snack stop

Not quite as easy, but quite pretty
and you can see how the woods separate the road from the fields

That is a wagon ahead of me
I've been riding for a long time but I've still got a long way to go

Easy riding

7 under construction

When I got to my lunch place, I couldn't find anything other than service station food. I ended up having a beer, a strange sort of pastry with cheese curds inside it, drinking another coffee and refilling my water supply. Between my snack stop and my 'lunch' stop, I ran into the start of paving on the road.

I had been riding on very nice new pavement, but now I was riding on old pavement of varying quality which was being prepared for new pavement. As I rode on, the road quality descended to near Ukrainian standards - I was having to do pothole slaloming - and my riding speed was cut in half. This was not good since I still had 75 km to go! I stopped with about 50 km left to go to get a coke at a small store and drink it with half of a second pastry I'd picked up at my 'lunch' stop.

7 getting harder to ride

Cutting wheat in a field in the middle of sunflower fields

Old 7, rather rough

But still nice riding

The road got so bad that I realized I wasn't going to be able to get to Shumen tonight and that I wasn't going get a decent meal before I needed to stop for the night. I had been seeing all kinds of good stealth camping places, so I wasn't too concerned, except that I needed get more water before I could stop.

Eventually, after some really bad road, I got back to paving in progress and my progress improved. Several folks in cars and the construction folks at the end of that paving section, cheered for me as I rode by. They knew what I had been riding through.

Not nice riding anymore

Fun, a mosque
Tonight, at my camp, I heard a call to prayer

Ugly, ugly 7
but beautiful country

Looking back from the woods in the previous image
There is a minaret just past the right side of this image

Not fun, riding with potholes

Looking out from the road to the west
Pretty country, horrible road

On very new pavement

I stopped at a service station which said it had a cafe - it didn't! - and got a Pepsi and a Mars bar. I also filled my water bottles. Then I cranked up the longest steep hill of the day for about 100 m vertical in 1.5 km and headed into the woods to check out a stealth camping site. It looked good. However I didn't have my water bottles. I'd left them at the service station back at the bottom of that hill. I'm lucky I noticed the loss then rather than later, and the ride back down the hill was nice, but the climb back up was not.

I went back into the woods and set up my tent. Then I started working on this ride report outside my tent. That sort of worked. It was cooler and I was comfortable, but too many mosquitoes found me so I moved inside the tent. I wanted to see if camping in this heat would allow me to work and sleep. So far, I've been more comfortable - cooler - in my tent than I was working in my room last night. It is only 8 PM now, since I set up camp around 5 PM, but the last of the sun hitting my tent through the trees has gone away and I expect that my tent will be cooler tonight than my room was last night.

Tomorrow, I'll ride into Shumem, which is still 30 km away, to get food and supplies and then ride on into the mountains. I'm not sure how far I'll get or where I'll stay, but these mountains are popular with tourists so there should be a lot more services and options available to me.