Chilly and hilly

Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
1
42
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

It was in the hostel that I had considered a cult that I was saved. I was heading for trouble and making the wrong choices in my life. All I needed to do was to examine more closely my decisions and I would soon find the true path. I lacked direction, though I thought I was fine, and the kind mother of the family whose home was not a hotel helped me.

To be more precise, I very nearly rode 100km to a town where I would have found that the border crossing marked on the map was actually, if you look very closely, an exclusively military border crossing, and I would have been very unhappy. Instead I followed the advice I was given and headed for Calarasi. Unfortunately, after about 90km dusk was falling and my feet felt seriously cold. All the towns before Calarasi were marked on the map in the font reserved for villages of fewer than 1000 inhabitants without the slightest possibility of a hotel, and this was confirmed when I asked passers-by for directions to a hotel:
-Calarasi! Calarasi!

Just as I was entering the next village I passed on my left a large wooden building with 'NON STOP DISCO CLUB' written on the side. Clearly closed and deserted except for an old man sweeping the courtyard around it, it didn't seem a likely source of sanctuary. However, the second story of the building seemed to consist of two cabin-like rooms reached from external steps to a balcony. It seemed possible at least that these could be used for visitors to the 'club' or passing travelers like me. I pulled over and approached the old man sweeping.

-Excuse me, is it possible to stay in one of those two rooms up there?
-Perhaps, but you need to speak to the patron
-Who is the patron?
-You have to continue riding up the road until you come to the fourth junction. Turn left and you will see a large yellow house. The owner lives there, so you can ask them to open the rooms.
-Thank you very much. Bye now.

This conversation may appear unremarkable, but since I speak not a word of Romanian and he spoke no other language, this entire exchange was prosecuted exclusively with the use of charades. How would you mime 'yellow'? When I found the patron, a middle-aged woman who seemed kind and decisive, a natural leader, my acting skills were again put to the test.

-Excuse me, do you own the 'Disco Club' four junctions down the road?
-Yes
-Would it be possible to sleep in one of the rooms upstairs?
-Yes
-How much would it cost?
- ...
at this point we reached something of an impasse. She kept giving a dismissive gesture, a sweep of her arm down and accross her body, which I took to mean 'don't worry' or 'don't talk about that now'. I was concerned this might be an attempt to avoid naming a price until I'd used the room and couldn't back out, before ripping me off. I try not to be overly suspiscious, but I always get a price first. So the conversation proceeded for a minute
-Dismissive gesture
-How much (rubbing fingers with thumb in international sign)
-Dismissive gesture
-Finger rubbing
Until eventually realisation dawned. I had my notebook out so we could write the price down and negotiate if need be. It was a short negotiation.
-Zero?
-Yes!
-Really?
-YES!
-Thank you very much!

The room was unheated and the bare lightbulb had to be twisted to turn it on or off. It felt like luxury. There was nowhere to eat in the village and nothing to do, so I wrapped up in my sleeping bag and two blankets and went to bed at half-six in the evening.

I woke at four in the morning and lay dozing until six. I was cold in my blankets, so I dressed quickly and wore three layers of clothes. I have never noticed the exact day that Autumn turned into Winter before, but in Romania in 2006 that day was 1st Nov. It was damn cold that morning. Thick frost covered the ground and after twenty minutes ride the water in my bottles was crunchy. I wore a pair of socks on my hands because I only had fingerless biking gloves.

On the ferry to Bulgaria one of the other passengers told me, in between flurting bits of sunflower seed shell all over my bags, that the temperature -2C fortunately for my numb feet (I had put a third pair of socks on but to no avail) the day warmed up as soon as I emerged from customs. I started up the first (of many) rolling hills on the way to the Black Sea, arriving in Dobric, a town about 50km inland from Varna) just as the last twilight disappeared. This was my longest day so far- 140km and 12hours- including sub-zero temperatures, hot and sweaty hills, one river crossing and one border crossing. My last full meal was 50hours and 240km ago. Time to hunt and gather...
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