371-381: tour to Belogradchik
pics #1799 - #1923
Wednesday November 9th - Yellow Galactic Sun
I leave my hosts, Stojanka and Petar, where I stayed ten days. It was agreed for a week-end initially! With the loaded bicycle, I join Magi to her yoga studio and we practice together: she follows me in the Primary Series. It's been a while that I did not practice. I am happy of my condition, feeling fresh and flexible. Then we have a tea and a talk at the neighboring tea house. After that I go for groceries before hitting the road and leaving the city. I enter the Iskar canyon, that looked so nice from the train.
Thursday November 10th - Red Solar Dragon
It is always uneasy to get up early after getting used to late awakening in the city. The Iskar canyon under sunshine is wonderful: the grey-white of limestone contrasts with warm colors of deciduous trees and the dark green of thorny trees. Following advices of Martin, fond of cycling, I rose my saddle a few centimeters up. It is helping on uphills! Rather soon, the weather is covered and I camp in front of a monumental limestone wall, just before rain starts.
Iskar canyon, with sun
Friday November 11th - White Planetary Wind
It is still greyish today, which is rather disappointing in the landscape I cross, with astonishing cliffs and rocky crests. There is a monastery in the rocks put up in the cliff. Then it is the end of the canyon, I am reaching more flat land: This was an easy crossing of the Stara Planina, a mountain range going East to West, separating Bulgaria's central plain from the Danube valley.
Saturday November 12th - Blue Spectral Night
Great sun today, which is even more frustrating taken in account that the great landscape was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Today is sort of flat, without avoiding the down and up at each village, settled on river banks. I am also annoyed when I notice that I lost the plug to recharge the mobile phone. Another device to let go of?
Sunday November 13th - Yellow Crystal Seed
No sun today, but I ride well, there is a mountain range on the left, hills on the right. I cross with a Swedish cyclist, who left the Polish coastline in September. He wishes to rally Turkey and try to enter Iran. People do not consider much the climate conditions they will meet. It reminds me of this Hungarian couple, who left Budapest in June on the same route than I. At the time, they just arrived in China and must take the bus to Pakistan after freezing in Tajikistan. For my part, I veer to Belogradchik, while the sun discreetly appears. Not enough to contemplate the monumental rocks under its light though. Contrary to last time, there is no fog to hide them all, and I must admit that it is a spectacular view: red rocks sculpted by the wind, evoking cyclopean ruins. I climb up to the citadel, this time I can see it! It is ideally protected, the battlement includes some of the impressive rocks. I go down again to camp and notice that my water bottle felt down. I quickly mount the tent and get back on the bicycle. Luckily, I find my 1,5 liter bottle on the side road. Good sign!
Belogradchik rocks and fortress
Monday November 14th - Red Cosmic Serpent
It seems that it is warmer this morning, certainly because of camping under trees. Many oaks, which acorn shells are hairy. I take the longest road to Dolni Lom, in orer to see something new from two weeks ago. Soon the sun appears, and it feels that I have been one day in advance when looking back at the remarkable places that I passed by. Nevermind! This arid landscape is beautiful too, rocky crests on a side of mountains, a soft slope on the other side. It must be rough to live there, the ground is so stony. Later I cross the same valley after Dolni Lom, with head-wind during the downhill. I find the route that I followed walking while going to the train station, and finally turning right to Berkovitsa. I will pass by there tomorrow. I camp nearby the road, tired. It is a cold night: I must put on a pair of socks to protect my feet from the cold.
Tuesday November 15th - White Magnetic Worldbridger
A little frost has covered the land this morning, clear weather. Though, going up and facing the sun, I get warm fast. Yet after Berkovitsa, the sun disappear because I am on the north flank. People collect wood, with chainsaw and truck, or by hand, hold people curving under the weight. It is getting colder, the sun goes down faster than I climb. The road coating is specifically designed against frost, with strong profile that allows vehicles to grip well. The snow appears in the forest. The top of the pass is at 1400m, reached when the sun has come down. Having a tea to get warmer and another layer of clothes to prepare for the downhill. Not making it very long because it is risky to go down with the front light to see the road while speeding up fast. Yet camping on the north side would have been more dangerous, knowing how cold it is. I cook and camp next to a ruined farm. Intense cold tonight, a second pair of socks is not enough for my feet not to feel cold.
Wednesday November 16th - Blue Lunar Hand
This morning the nice white frost is inside! It was so cold that my exhales condensed on the top of in the inner tent where it crystallized. Some of the water in my bottles froze too. Some short uphills and long slopes down through the mountains before being in the plain that leads to Sofia. This time I reach the capital city on the bicycle! groceries at the market, where I find a replacement plug for the charging the phone. Filling of my water bottles at the hot spring. In a high buildings neighborhood, I look for my hosts place, being chased by aggressive dogs. Finally, I meet Kremena, who is a raw food eater, and listens to Mantras all day. Calm and quiet.
Warm water spring, Sofia
Thursday November 17th to Saturday November 19th
Yellow Electric Star to White Overtone Dog
With Kremena's, I learned more about raw-food eating, a great regime, usually a vegetarian one. It uses sprouted grains and beans to provide proteins, fruits and vegetables for the minerals and vitamins. Above that Kremena can prepare fresh salad dressing. She also has good books, this way I could read for the second time "L'ecume des jours" ("Foam of the Daze") by Boris Vian. It is the first time I read a novel for the second time. Between the lines, between the colorful metaphors, between the fanciful universe created by Vian, I read a sharp critic of deviating aspects of the society of work, money, order, deviating aspects which have become the present-day rules. A firmly pessimistic book, certainly actual, despite its 55 years. I did not stay long enough to devour all of her library but I liked the first pages of Krishna Das' biography, which reminded me of my goal, once more: India.
I have been solving a few things as well: fixing the bike, my brake handles had a problem, fortunately there is a Magura distributor and good mechanics in town. I went to the Turkish embassy, where I learned that a visa for a period longer than three months must be asked from one's country of residence! Thinking about it, I reside nowhere! Thus my project to swiftly ride to Istanbul and go around south by the sea coast, is canceled. I will stay in Bulgaria instead.
Moreover I discovered cool places, dietetic stores, no smoking tea houses and a handwork bakery.
I am getting slightly bored to be just summarizing my days, which are more or less similar. This is why I am going to had more thematic articles. One of my goal is to share comments, discoveries, and to answer to questions that I am regularly asked. Even if words are very limited and it is hard to translate my feelings for whoever does not wear my shoes.
Traveling, Reason #1
Each time I am back in a city, I become sedentary for some time. Here I am in-between, free of time, but caught by the net of a civilization of comfort, laziness. While I explore the streets of a yet unknown city, the rhythm of people living under autopilot hustle the calm that country roads have brought me. The metro-work-sleep ("metro-boulot-dodo" : in French it rhymes!) paradigm, to which were plenty more false needs, funneling people's energy in order to keep them kindly and busy running the machine. In this recovered numbness, I lose the sun from sight, the pure air from the country, the healthy exertion after physical effort, waking and laying down following the luminaries rhythm. Honks, ringing, clicks, bips and alarms of all types, tarnish and shifty looks, blind signboards instead. Advertisement everywhere, always for the same beauty products to hide one's ugliness, luxury to hide one's poverty, leisure to hide one's boredom, tour-operators to hide one's desire for escaping.
The tourist must go far, very, far, by plane, tele-ported from an airport, fraught with securities and controls, to an other airport fraught with securities and controls. In the plane one watches a movie to kill the traveling time. How many illuminates dreamed of flying in the air above? And now that it is possible we get even more bored than during a preaching. Plane is cheap, fast, not frankly expensive, certainly polluting, but "we may well have some fun" -everyone will pay- and by the way, we also pollute at work, so why ask questions that upset while we go on holidays to relax.
As with advertisement, those unabashed but hell of efficient lies, holidays hardly give but the appearance of what they promise, a pallid disorientating and a rest that should increase your efficiency once back to work. Because the tourist stays a slave from his job, he had to plan it all in advance, to book his vacancy days, to book hotel and transports, to read in guides where and what to see, how long to visit the museum of broken clay pots? Constraints that force him during these few "free time" weeks, to follow an agenda and to wake up from an alarm clock! Free?
I am not a tourist, I am a traveler and that is radically different. After three weeks of tourism, one comes back to work. What if there would be three more weeks off instead? In the end of which, well there are six more free weeks? This is the way that human travels, since the dawn of time. Tourism is just a marketed ersatz
I came to notice that my summer getaways were not sufficient enough to quench my thirst for discoveries. How to fit, in five weeks of holidays, what my soul desires to experiment? How to discover this feeling of peace that bumps from the inside while my life is subdued to numerous external constraints which give me little satisfaction? Why going on this way because "everyone does so" even if doing so shambling? Do not we feel anymore the frustration that ensue? Frustration aptly funneled in plug-and-play substitutes, to convince oneself of being happy?
It is nonsense to go on in such a dead end street. I decided to take the side way, the country path, even -and mostly- if those are never the shortest. This desire of getaway is old, when I heard songs about living Ireland at dawn, as well as some telling about life in the machine. Later the same song resonated to my hear as a sentence while I was writing software for bandits. Traveling is an open window to experiment, to space, at the opposite of the life set as clockwork of the modern man, civilized and crestfallen. Other prefer to expel it by writing Mein Kampf. To each person its religion, to each person its parachute. Me too, I was too much in a hurry to contemplate, too proud to admit I had it all wrong, too weak to go on the other side of the mirror. What is on the other side? You should get to see there by yourself. There are still you and me, but we are different, yet alike because it is a mirror. But leftys, by reflection, became right.