- ODO 2911km
- Location Bike Hostel, Plovdiv
- Weather 20-34 Sunny all day
After picking a hilltop campsite with big views over rolling deciduous trees interspersed with neat rows of regimented conifers we settled in. I took stove duty which began spitting and sputtering as it struggled to cook 500g of pasta for three. Matt and Jelle set about starting a fire and our new friend – a small back puppy – comforted herself by jumping at passing fireflies.
We ate with the sun setting, music playing and fire burning throwing white ash over our tents and bikes. The sky opened up to the first full milky way I’d seen since I was camping with my dad on the North Norfolk coast at age 12. Settling back into the tent I left the door open falling asleep within the galaxies soft arms.
An hour or so into deep sleep -the type only won from a long days labour – our little perro woke me up with a bark. Out of the same window I had been admiring the sky there was now a dark green logging truck. Three men in the cab with shadowed faces. Woken by the beginning of a nightmare. Just as I got over the image and was drifting back to sleep. The truck returned, this time empty. And so the pattern repeated. All night.
Even with all this noise I was up at 8am ready to go. The other guys took slightly longer and by the time we’d broken camp, queued for the porta-loo down but the gate of Trajan and rode 15km is was 1pm and time for lunch.
Lunch was fun. Jelle suggested a cafe with a jovial group of drunken local old boys sat across from us naming as many football players as they could through their beer haze. The full range of characters sat round this table. The round quiet soul. The shapely fellow in an Olympics sponsor shirt quipping back and the ring leader – always a decibel above the other. Leaving an exhale of stunned silence when the first couple of beers hit the bladder and sent him to the bathroom. As they headed off back to their respective Sunday’s the ring leader brought his bike up to show us. Ukrainian and almost 100 years old and still going. A small green painted, hand built wooden child seat in the top tube.
The rest of the day was scorched mountains along the road into Plovdiv. Pushing to make up for the relaxed morning and get into the Bike Hostel – which I booked purely by the name. We arrived and settled in. Pushing our bikes past a feral dog chained by the door and said our farewells to Matt. My closest friend over my months working in Sofia.
Jelle and I went for food. It seems Plovdiv hasn’t escaped the vegan explosion and I welcomed some falafel before walking around the old town – more packed with monuments and artefacts than any inch of Rome or Paris yet widely unheard off. I found out that the town was awarded European Capital of Culture. An award that appears to bestow a town with a lot of brand new pavement and plaster. But well deserved in my opinion. I just wish I could stay long enough to watch Dante in an original Roman Amphitheater with the city skyline as backdrop.