In the morning we got to continue riding downhill along the gorge through the narrow alley of rock that the river had carved. The fast flowing water and towering rock face combined to keep us nice and cool until we arrived at the bottom.
We knew that after this first descent we would be climbing up again, and this time up to the highest point of our whole mountain passage across Bulgaria. The climb followed a winding river up most of the way. It was a really pleasant ride beside the water and shaded by the tall trees that grew on the sides of the slopes.
As we began to reach the summit we started noticing more and more hotel and holiday home development. It seemed like every kilometre or so we passed a new building site. Ski resorts were being developed on a wide scale all through the mountains.
Out here, up in the highlands the trees that lined the road further down were more dispersed and we could see out across the the tops of the mountains. We stopped in a newly finished hotel for a lunch where we were the only people aside from the staff.
After lunch we started on a nice long descent. It began with a lot of switchbacks cutting across the mountain face and then evened off to a gradual downward slope as the road picked up the course of a river. We had a short stop during this descent while Finn repaired a picture after a huge piece of shrapnel lodged itself in his tyre.
We were once again riding beside one of the numerous rivers that course through the mountains in Bulgaria. These streams and rivers have led to a feature where every couple of kilometres a tap has been hooked up to some of the water courses that flow underground and fresh spring water flows out by the side of the road. We were therefore never thirsty during the cycle across Bulgaria.
Towards the end of the evening ride after we had followed the winding river for a while we had stopped outside beside a house which had irritated the owners dog. A young guy came out to it and after hearing us speaking English started talking to us.
This was Bibor, a young Bulgarian guy who was back in his parents house in the countryside for the summer. We talked to him for a while by the gate until his mother invited us over for some tea and coffee. We very graciously accepted and sat outside on their house porch. Bibors parents gave us coffee and water and even some chocolate. They were all out of the porch seeding and coring a load of peppers.
“We grow the peppers and now we are making Bulgarian Ketchup!” Said Bibor.
We found out from them later that this was Ljutenica, a Bulgarian relish/sauce that’s made out of Peppers, tomatoes and carrots mostly.
“You want to try some?”
Of course we said yes, and Bibors mother brought us out two slices of bread with the home made Ljutenica spread over and it was delicious. Once we finished that she brought out more again, and then his father brought over a bowl of fresh watermelon gown on their farm. It was a fantastic little break and we stayed a while and chatted to the family.
After this great pit stop with Bibor and his family it was time to go and find somewhere to camp. Before we finished we had to pick up some bread for the morning and stopped into a little hole in the wall shop in the next small village we arrived at.
A coupe of curious guys who had been hanging around outside the shop and one of them had some good English (he had spent a couple of years in Aberdeen). We picked up the bread and then the shopkeeper chuckled and told us he had seen us yesterday when he was driving a bus.
Leaving the village bread in hand we rode out along the banks of the river until we came to a wide sandy meander where we could set up for the night. We did some laundry in the river and slept soundly under a clear sky.