Sandanski to Diakovo 106km
To Sofia 65km
It's 7am on Xmas Eve, and I'm in my tent on top of a hill. It's -10°C, and the tent fly is frozen solid. My sleeping bag is soggy from condensation, and my sweaty clothes from yesterday are still wet, but warm, from being inside my sleeping bag with me, but I'm busting for a pee...... damn.
It had been cold yesterday too, but I'd woken up in a hotel, with warm dry clothes. My first km though, had been up a slippery cobblestone street, and I was sweating by the time I got to the top. The next 2km was down a rutted farm track, brakes on full, and the sweat had frozen next to my skin. Hmmmm. Then the next 20km followed a very narrow road, busy with trucks, but the light was delicious, and I was following a beautiful tree lined river, so I warmed up, except for my left hand. Then I passed through a tunnel, and the next 60km was in freezing fog, with ice forming on my raincoat, gloves and glasses, and I'm sweating, because I'm working hard, even though my feet and hands are freezing. Hmmmm.
A second tunnel, and I emerge onto a motorway. Hmmmm. Cycles are not usually allowed on motorways, but there is no option, and the road is wider, so safer for me, but I still can't see more than 50m. For 30km there is no exit, and only one service area, but it sells hot chocolate...... thaw time is delicious, but thawing frozen fingers is very painful, and the lady at the counter has never attended a customer relations course...... grumpy or what.
Finally, I find a motorway exit. I've done 100km and do not feel up to the 60km into Sofia, and I break out, above the freezing fog. An apple orchard, on top of a hill, bathed in sunshine...... camping spot. I even get to hang my soaked clothes on a tree for a couple of hours, in the sun. I've never before realised how much your body sweats when doing activity. In Nepal and India it was obvious. Tessa and I were drinking 9 litres of water a day and not peeing. Here, I'm not drinking as much, but the sweat is still happening, but not evaporating in the heat.... there is no heat. So every item of very necessary clothing, that keeps me warm on the flats, into the wind, and downhills, is soaked..... lovely.
But today, Xmas Eve, nothing is dry. I'm okay packing up, but there is a chilling breeze, and I don't want to sit around, so decide I will eat along the road, hopefully in a warm cafe. As soon as I start riding, everything freezes, and when I drop down a hill into the freezing fog, snow like flakes form on my gloves, and raincoat. It looks rather Xmassy, my raincoat being red..... After 30km I break out of the fog again. I'm very hungry. Never before in my life have I been so connected to the types of food I've eaten. I'm always thinking.... yep I've had protein, yep I've had fats, but I need more carbs, and vitamins. Right now I need everything. I'm squeezed around a traffic island by trucks, who are jockeying for road space now they can see the road, and find a drain to rest in, to eat. I've got bread, cheese, biscuits, an apple, and a litre of frozen "slushy" orange juice, but the sun is shining on this spot, so once again the thaw starts. Eventually, my hands are warm enough to operate my phone, and look at my map. Bugger. I was meant to turn off at that roundabout 500m ago....... Damn it. I wheel the bike back, against the traffic, on a very busy motorway, and around the roundabout the wrong way.
5km downhill, and no fog, but another cafe. Another grumpy serving lady, but yummy warming hot chocolate, and Internet. No positive responses from Warmshowers hosts, but a hostel recommendation. Great. More downhill. The roads are busy, and icy, but it doesn't take long to reach the city. There are trams, and slippery tram lines.... but I'm careful, and then slippery cobblestones again...... but just over to the left.... a cycleway, and it's not cobbled..... woohoo.
Folk in the city seem pretty relaxed, and the cycleway takes me right to the door of the hostel, and a delightful hot shower...... and they will put my clothes through a wash..... which is great because all I have that is not soaked and frozen, is one pair of shorts and one shirt.......
There are people here that speak English. A few Aussies, who I will tolerate because it's Xmas, a couple of Americans, some Poms, and some brash Canadians, but it means I can have real conversations. There's talk of going to Star Wars at midday tomorrow, Xmas Day, followed by a huge Xmas dinner. I turned down the midnight Mass invite. I reckon I'm getting the balance reasonably right. Only two exceptions....... Amount of Marmite carried...... far to little. Length of time between Juju visits......far too long. Hope you had a Merry one.