Day35: 1 km west of Plovdiv to Peshtera, Getting into the mountains

My night next to the sunflowers went pretty well. The noise of traffic passing 5 M away did not keep me awake, but it was uncomfortably hot till it suddenly got very windy about 10:30 PM. I was lucky that the wind was from the foot end of the tent since the gusts were quite strong and, other than a lot of fabric flapping, the tent, which was designed to be pitched foot into the wind, handled it very well. Then, about 12:30 AM, I woke to the sound of light rain. I scrambled out of the tent and moved some stuff into it's vestibule. The main issue with the rain was that it got my tent wet and I ended up having to pack it wet.

Since I was worried about the non-stealthiness of my site, I got up at 6AM and had the tent down by 6:15. Then I had breakfast, cleaned up a bit, and packed everything. I was on the road by 7 AM. That seemed good until I saw that folks were already working in fields a km or less from my site.

Early start

I lucked out on coffee as I passed a small place that was just opening and the lady there fixed me espresso and, when she suggested I should eat something with it. I declined because I didn't understand her Bulgarian. I guessed, wrongly that she wanted me to give her correct change and offered to do so. Instead, she gave my a wafer pastry as a gift so I'd have something to eat with coffee. I offered to pay for it, but she declined, indicating it was a gift. Neat folks, these Bulgarians.

I cranked on down the increasingly busy 66 - rush hour and all that - to Plovdiv which was about 40 km away. I stopped again about ten km before Plovdiv to eat a banana and rest a bit from the stress of the heavy, in bursts, traffic. Fortunately, there weren't many big trucks on the road, but there were quite a few big buses and the lanes were wide enough for cars to pass me into oncoming traffic, and pass into me a lot, but not wide enough for the buses to pass me when there was oncoming traffic. The buses did it anyway and, unlike the big trucks, didn't beep politely to let me know they were coming. It is uncomfortable to have a wall of metal suddenly come by a foot away from your bags.

Just before Plovdiv, I stopped at a Romoil - Rom as in Romanian, I think - station to clean up and snack. The restroom was setup to make it easy to wash your pits in the European way and had paper towels to dry with and even a small mop to dry off the floor afterwards. The folks at the station were very friendly and it was great to get cleaner, get some food, and visit with them.

First rest spot

Coming into Plovdiv

In Plovdiv, I finally found a real McDs so I was able to post last night report and work on my routing after Plovdiv. The issues I needed to deal with were amount of climbing - we're talking several days at over a mile vertical per day - and lodging for tonight. The route than minimized climbing - only 3000 m - didn't have any lodging for tonight, so I went with a slightly longer route with an extra 600 m of climbing which did have lodging - I'm in a **** hotel, and it really is, for 64 Lev - less than $45 - tonight.

The change in routing also got me off of 66 - that traffic level was getting old! - and led to me meeting the first tourists I've seen since Czech. They were two young Brits and a German. The Brits, Euan and John, are riding London to Istanbul and the German is riding to around the world. His name is Florian Schmale and his website is He is a photographers so there are nice images and videos on his site. It was great fun to visit with them about touring.

I decided to route to Peshtera which is about 40 km from Plovdiv. It was more pleasant cycling than getting to, or riding in, Plovdiv. However, it was damn hot - forecast is for 100s in Blagoevgrad - with a headwind. I was very thankful for the headwind.

Those look like mountains

Drying stuff

From my rest spot

I stopped for a rest break and to dry my tent in that heat and wind about 20 km before Peashtera. I stopped again a few km later to have a beer. Then I headed into the mountains. The first climb was really a nasty one. Steep grade, no shade, light tail wind, and hot. It doesn't get much worse than that. I realized, on that climb, that, if it kept up, I wouldn't have enough water to get to Peshtera. I considered going back to the town where I had the beer to get more water, but I decided to wait and see what was ahead.

Looking back from near the top of the first climb

Flat part of the valley

Getting prettier

Riding alongside the creek

Fortunately, the steep climb was only 2 km long and 100 m high - so only 5% but with heat it felt harder - and there was a nice valley after it. I stopped at the town in that valley and bought some more water. The valley just kept getting prettier and the climbing resumed, gently at first, but eventually getting up to 7 or 8 %. Damn nice riding before the steepest part as the road followed a creek up to its headwaters, then climbed up to the top of a ridge where Pashtera is located.

Crossing the creek before the steeper climbing


A spring on the climb

I knew there was at least one hotel here and several in a nearby town. I was going to check that town out first, but the road leading to it was too steep. I decided I'd rather keep on following that creek! On the way up I saw several springs by the road. I hope I see more in the coming days as they will make the climbing easier and reduce the worry about running out of water.

Another, smaller town near Peshtera

That is where I'm staying

Tomorrow, I'll see how far I get. I'd like to get half of the climbing done, but that is an ambitious goal given that would be about 6000 feet vertical. It would also leave me a long way from any services, so I'd have to do the last part of the climbing carrying a lot of water.