Nea Karvali to Dimitra 102km
To Sandanski, Bulgaria, 100km
This week, in 1977, Eileen and I decided to cycle from Auckland to Whangarei, to spend Xmas with her family. Eileen whipped up some panniers on her sewing machine. I tied them to the bikes. We filled them with our tent, food and Xmas presents, and headed north, crossing to Devonport on the ferry. Our first ever cycle touring. I think we camped in Warkworth that night. It had been a tough ride. No training, no bike prep, just loads of luggage, and being the week before Xmas, very busy roads. The head wind the next morning stretched us, and the the Brynderwyns were a challenge. Somewhere along the Waipu straights, I think Eileen's Dad turned up in the car, and took all the luggage, and maybe even Eileen and her bike. We did not cycle back to Auckland.
Two years later, in April 1979, we were in Greece. It was 40°C, and we were on an island, on the beach, melting. I lasted less than a week, before I insisted we go somewhere cooler, and where we could do something other than sweat, and dodge the sun. Who would have thought, that 38 years later, I would be once again cycle touring, and in Greece. This time it's 4°C, while it's 36°C at home, and I'm enjoying both the cycling, and Greece, much more than those previous experiences.
Today I cycled 60km along a stunning coastline. Beautiful beaches, pretty towns and villages, castles, ancient walls, bridges and towers. I was so tempted to go swimming in the clear blue waters, but 4°C made it just a little too challenging for this not so tough adventurer. (I'm sure Tessa would have been in like a shot). I was very tempted to stop and camp at one of the bays, but yesterday was Sunday, and not much is open here on Sunday, so I had very little food, definitely not enough to last overnight. And then, just as I was about to leave the coast, my first supermarket, and a restaurant. But nowhere suitable to camp. I did however have a feast..... chicken kebabs, baked potato, and toast. Everything was covered in garlic, and olive oil, just like I remember from 1979, and it was yummy. Another thing I remember from 1979 was the smell of very ripe cheese. No refrigeration in Greece way back then, and the cheese was kept under a damp cloth. Thankfully, the supermarket today was able to supply cheese that wasn't nearly as smelly.
10km after leaving the coast, just after summitting a rise, I find a Cafe. The yummiest chocolate cake, and hot chocolate I've had since leaving home. That, and the garlic and olive oil, have set me up for a night in the tent. I hope it doesn't get too cold.
On the road again, with a very frosted tent, and I'm heading towards the Bulgarian border. At one point a group of men are rearranging a detour, the road is very narrow, and I'm dodging trucks. The boss calls me over...... "Hey Mr Kiwi. You can ride on our new motorway. It opens tomorrow, so no traffic, only you, so very safe." I don't have the heart to tell him I don't like motorways, but duck behind their vehicles, and for 30km cycle on a brand new, not yet open, motorway. And the wind is fierce, and cold, and in my face.....
I pop out at the border. A Greek man stamps my passport. No one else wants to see it...... I'm in the Republic of Bulgaria. Wow I'm back in an "Eastern block" country. I know, because I visit a supermarket. It stocks sausage, tinned fish, biscuits, chocolate, pickles, vodka, cigarettes and condoms. What else do you need? A couple of hundred kms to the capital, Sofia. Should make it by Xmas.