Day36: Peshtera to Vilingrad, a short, very hard, day

I think I set a personal record today for the shortest distance I've ever covered in a full day of touring. 45 km or about 30 miles. There were several factors in that record, but the biggest one was that I was simply wiped out by the climb from Peshtera to Batak. That was a very beautiful, but very difficult, 15 km. It was roughly a 3000 foot climb in 10 miles. I'm used to doing that much climbing in 20 miles, e.g. from my home to the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but doing it in ten miles on my loaded bike meant I was, too often and for too long, pushing my limits. As a result, when I stopped at Vilingrad at 2 PM, the lady at the hotel desk commented on how tired I looked. Six hours later, well rested and well fed, I'm still tired. Tomorrow, I face a more difficult climb.

Another reason I stopped here today is that, once past Vilingrad, there are few, if any, services for the next 60 km. I'm hoping that a small store exists in the village or two on that section and that, at least, there are springs where I can get water. I don't actually think I'll run out of water, but I may well run out of legs and have to camp. If I camp I'll need more water. I saw two springs on the way up from Peshtera this morning.

Last night I needed to use earplugs because there was a loud party going on at the hotel, but I slept well. The room needed an owners manual because of all the hi tech stuff. My key was a plastic block that I had to hold against a box by the door to tell the door to unlock itself. That took me a minute or two to figure out. I couldn't get the air conditioning to come on until I closed a window that was, the European way, open at the top. That took a little longer. It had ethernet instead of wireless and the jack was located perfectly for use with the short CAT 5 cord I carry. Everything worked and everything was well thought out. For the price, it was an incredible room. My room tonight, which cost $10 less, is just as good for sleeping, but 1/3 the size and not nearly as nice.


This morning, after breakfast, I visited with the hotel manager. It turned out he knew Asheville, where I live. Talking about the weather, he said "Bulgaria is never this hot." I said at least I was going up farther into the mountains where it would be cooler. Up here, in a big valley, it is both cooler and drier than anywhere else I've been recently. Climbing up was hard, and I sweated a lot so my clothing got wet, but heat really wasn't a big problem. I realized, as I climbed, that what I was climbing was pretty close to climbing NC 128, the road up Mt Mitchell, three times with no break.

The climb

I enjoyed that climb. There were some stretches that were so steep, greater than 10%, I just had to concentrate on keeping going, but the were others where I could relax a bit and just enjoy the scenery. Both yesterday and today, the hills reminded me of Colorado, but steeper. The climb, all the way up, was beside a creek or maybe a small river. There was a big power station part way up and some other evidence that a lot of water was being diverted to be used for power generation.

Entering Batak

Batak Church
The first church I've seen
with two storks nests!

Climbing after Batak
This was really hard for my tired legs

In Batak, I stopped at a small store and bought bread with cheese curds, yogurt, and Radler (here they call it lemon beer). Batak is not a fancy place but, after climbing another 150 m, and going down hill a bit, there is a beautiful lake with several resort hotels and other fancy services. I didn't stop.

The lake

After the lake the road climbs a bit and then has a lovely, 45 kph, 5 km long down hill into the big valley I'm in now. There are three cities in the valley and Velingrad is the biggest. It is at the western end and, when I leave it tomorrow, I'll a 900 m climb in 20 km followed by a long, 30 km, downhill that still manages to have another 350 m of climbing mixed in with 900 m of descending.

Tomorrows route