When morning comes around it's light and cold again, a disadvantage of being hidden by the trees. Wearing every item of clothing I have except my trunks and cycling shorts I make breakfast with my legs poking out the bottom of the sleeping bag. For a change I put some music on and wait for the coffee and food to work its magic. As the sun peeps over the top of the trees I feel able to remove the sleeping bag and spend the next hour writing up the blog and gradually defrosting. It's not that the temperature ever gets that low, just that my sleeping bag is the equivalent of sleeping under a newspaper. I head off out of the forest back the way I came and back onto the road.
Ten km later I find out why Bulgaria has a reputation bandied about by people who have experinced its roads as the worst roads in Europe. Your writer finds no reason to disagree with this. Some countries have dirt tracks and a dirt track should be viewed as such. I don't think they can be compared to a road. Bulgaria however, seems to have a knack of taking a macadamised road and then digging parts of it up and leaving it like that. I think the thought process behind this is two fold. A pothole will form and get deeper and deeper then larger and larger. By scraping off a few levels of tarmac to about the width and length of a lorry it turns a small annoying pothole into a sort of kerb which you can go down and then come back up again a bit later. You could of course also argue that they dig the road up to make you go on the new motorway that you have to pay for. This 10km stretch of road, although fine for bicycling because you can find a strip of road most of the time, is by far the worst road I have ever seen or been on. Therefore making the road outside of my house the 2nd worst. Are you listening Mike Penning, MP for my constituency and also Roads Minister!!!!!!!!!! A letter is on its way.
The roads are also noticed by Stevens, and if I look carefully in some of the deeper holes, which reveal 6 or 7 previous layers of road before it, I'm sure I can see his wheel tracks in there from 1885. At Ihitiman I have what could be considered my most unpleasant experience yet. Two gypsy kids aged about 13 consistantly badger me for about five minutes about the bike, the shop keeper comes out and shoos them off. Yes this is the worst experience I have had so far. I'm either lucky or the rumours you hear about these parts are grossly exaggerated. I know what I think. Out of Ihtiman the road gets better as I edge ever closer to Pazardzhik. It's too big a place for me to try and camp near so I start going about camping spot hunting duties. I find a little shelf of grass just off the road and overlooking the plains towards the hills. It's perfect; near the road but out of sight. Living on a main road myself the traffic doesn't worry me too much. Trouble is I have neither water nor beer. One or the other is just about bearable but not both. I head off East and come across a overpriced bar come club and although not much in £'s I decide it doesn't need my money and carry on. I see a village perched up towards the Balkans with an even better view than I had before and climb the 2km of 5% hill towards it. As I get closer various loads of horse and carts filled with gypsies pass me by. It looks like they have a little enclave here attatched to the village. I keep going into the main part of town and find a neat square with a couple of bars around it. I bounce up the kerb and cycle straight across the square to much pointing waving and staring from the outside tables occupied by the men drinking at them. The hill has worn me out a bit and I've got a sweat and a pant on. I motion to the nearest table that I'm out of breath and they laugh. I ask if I can get a beer here and before I've sat down, an old boy has jumped up and gone and got me one. He wont except any money or a round in return and says in German/Bulgarian that this is Bulgaria not London. I ask if this is a pub to which one of the other two guys drinking at the table makes an imaginary twirl of his imaginary moustache. I find this most intriguing, what he is trying to say is that this is an old mans club, not really a pub, but I am most welcome. I'm then offered what I think is a chicken leg, being told its homemade. It's pieces of pork mashed up with spices and breadcrumbs but cold. It's delicious. I ask what it's called and this causes quite a stir. Eventually the owner of said food just says “schwine” I ask about camping and they decide it will be alright to camp up on the green behind us. But it's better to wait until everybody has left the club, which wont be long. I do this and set up tent in the now half light. What I hadn't realised, sat with the old gents was that music was playing from behind the building. It transpires at Midnight that there must be some sort of club behind there. When this finishes another load of music starts up somewhere else continuosly until about 5am, then dogs bark until it's light. I get no sleep whatsoever. I also don't get my view in the morning.