353-360: to Sofia
pics #1674 - #1734
Friday October 21st - Red Lunar Dragon
I intend to go up the mountain to enjoy the view, but as the weather is covered, I quickly get down to the bath in Sokobanja. Thirty minutes in a thirty Celsius degrees hot water, followed by a massage. How great I feel then! With herbal teas from Ana, being outside in the clean air all these days, my cold is gone! I cook in the cool weather at the end of the city. Then I ride under grey sky, fortunately without rain. Then land is wild, it is windy and cold. A coal mine, some farms looking tiny at the feet of mountains slopes, colored in autumn red. The calm of this wild beauty is fascinating, and silence when I stop! I camp atop a hill protected from the strong wind.
Saturday October 22nd - White Electric Wind
It is still a moody weather today, not motivating, and some drizzle. In the narrow valley, a mix of different colors of dying leaves. The fog hides the sun. Not really raining, all of this as its charm, it is oh so quiet. In the next city I can finally have water, do some groceries, and eat a salad on a square near which a monument has been constructed. Something about important dates of Serbian history, and with fancy Cyrillic writings, it looks cool. I lose my map of the country, loosely attached on my front bag (I lost my map holder in the bus in Belgrade). Too bad, but Bulgaria is close, I will easily get there with compass only.
Sunday October 23rd - Blue Self-Existing Night
AS last week, on Sunday, I hear hunters slaughtering peaceful and defenseless wildlife. Still a low sky that would hung canals as in Jacques Brel's song. Sunday in Serbia, many shops are open: people work a lot for very little. Zaječar city seems gloomy, despite a small orchestra which happily plays cacophonous balkan music. One more burek, and a salad for lunch that I eat on the steps to a closed shop. There a man comes to talk and offers me a pot of jam. Perfect, i finished my sweet honey this morning! Road to the border. I am stopped there by the Serbian officers because there is a problem : I staid more than 20 days in the country without reporting it to the police. While sorry for their bad English, the border guards let me go in the end, emphasizing that the regular procedure would get me to court and pay for that. I will avoid that this situation repeats next year! Arriving in Bulgaria, I am asked to open my bags, but no one give a look to their content. They are suspiciously looking at me and the picture of the guy on the passport. At first sight, Bulgaria seems poorer than Serbia and Romania. But it is not served by the weather, still grey and lacking sun. There is a strong wind at night, I hope it will chase the greyish away.
Monday 24 October - Yellow Overtone Seed
Grey morning, again, no motivation. Due to the time shift, I wake up early and offer myself an extra sleep cycle.. The road goes on straight and down from the hill where brushes has been burnt. It gives a sensation of desolation. Entering the city of Vidin, horses are browsing on the racetrack. Looking for food, it is impossible to order something without meet and the staff of various snacks does not make any effort to be understood either. I am drifting around, finding interesting details, near abandoned places. I walk by the wild and calm Danube, slowly flowing to the Black Sea. I am facing the wind when resuming the route, on the deserted two-tracks highway. Getting on bumpy side roads, crossing sad looking villages, hardly lit by night.
Vidin: communist art on a flat
Tuesday October 25th - Red Rhythmic Serpent
Today is still grey and the sky offers this vicious continuous drizzle that will slowly but certainly drench me. Most annoying weather on a bike. I stop in a village, lacking will. It is the main square and a policeman invites me to talk with his English speaking colleague. We are in the mayor's office where my clothes are drying. With the English-speaking officer, we go to the shop for lunch, where it is impossible to find vegetables or fruits. Only animal proteins. My friend Petar told me that his country was meat eater. Back to the city house where some people managed to find me one paprika and an apple. In four police agents, only one has a uniform, no signs on the car. In the mayor's office, the furniture looks old, in bad state. But the wooden fire is doing wonders to dry my clothes. I put them on, warm, ready to go on, slowly, up and down, valleys and hills, under this boring drizzle. In Belogradchik I offer myself a night at the hostel -I deserve it after nine days of camping-, indicated to me by a man speaking Spanish. Being in a hotel room is the occasion to take a shower, take the soaps, wash some clothes, dry the tent, and sew the hemstitch of my trousers.
Wednesday October 26th - White Resonant Worldbridger
Grey day again! It is bad luck in Belogradchick where the landscape is fantastic, this the reason why i am there. Near the hotel is a shop were i can buy vegetables, finally. I climb to the fortress were the fog is low and thick, so that I can not see anything of it.! Leaving the city, some monumental rocks appear out of the fog, giving a mystical feeling. Is it the dream-time of aboriginal people? the dawn of time, or its twilight? Hard to tell as I have not seen the sun for a week. And for ten minutes, the cloudy cover becomes less the solar star appears, pallid through the clouds. On the road I pass horse driven carets, as in Romania. Grazing herds of goats, sheep or cows. A horse convoy. Warm smiles of locals. Mountain landscapes. A ride through a dry valley, red, stony which offers me a long descent. In the flat monument of massive concrete in a not maintained parl. Heavy, testifying the desires of greatness in the communists times. In small villages, it is impossible to find fruits or veggies in the small shops that are also pubs. I camp in the calm. Tomorrow: serious pass climbing.
Some of the Belogradchik rocks
Oh! Autumn colors!
Thursday October 27th - Blue Galactic Hand
I go to look for a secondary road that leads to Berkovitsa. I think I found it and follow a path in the forest, pushing the bike by my side, rather than riding it. Stranded, off-road, I let the bicycle and walk in quest of a passage through, no result. I turn back, trying again at an intersection, but without any result, reaching another point where no vehicle has been riding. Meanwhile, the chain jumped out and got entangled, so that pressure on links deformed them. As a consequence, the chain falls after each turn. I finally get back to the road, where it goes fortunately. In a village, I ask people the way to Berkovitsa and no one tells me about the secondary road that is on my map, which I spent my day looking for. I end up camping at the same place that yesterday. I doubt being able to reach Sofia cycling. But I spent a great autumn day of walk in the forest, it is fine.
I'm lost but I'm not stranded yet
I'M LOST BUT I'M NOT STRANDED YET
Friday October 28th - Yellow Solar Sun
This morning, people are collecting leaves down in the filed where I camp. I decide to use my chain tool to work the deformed links one by one. Last chance, and it works! The chain rolls several turns. Very happy I get on the bike, down the road, happily pedaling. But as soon as more pressure is needed n the chain, climbing a bit, or even on flat road, the chain jumps off repeatedly as I put it back, again and again. I must walk up the slopes. So I decide to work the chain some more, and the with the tool that breaks! I bought it in Decathlon, pretty pissed about about supermarket who are only selling low and unreliable quality tools in order to sell many times in order to make more profit. I am pissed about the stupid people who buy there -including me-, justifying this culture of waste. Weakened, the chain soon breaks. After a few kilometers walking, sitting on the bike in downhills, I arrive at a train station, a nearly ruined building, broken window glasses. My ticket is a form filled by hand, dated 1979. In the train a group of young men helps me for the connection. the railway goes through the Iskar river canyon. It is wonderful scenery and so ironic that the sun is finally shining in its splendor. At Sofia station, no one lift is working. A guy gives me advices that I do not need, and tries to get 2 euros from me for that. Annoying greed! I am roaming in the city looking for a cheap hotel. Little public lights, no marking for the pedestrian crossing, gloomy ... A man from Canada comes to talk and shows me the cheapest hotel he knows. Finally, relaxing in a warm place.