Saturday, 12 May 2012

12 May Stage 30 Svilengrad - Edirne

Dep   1015      Arr    2.30     Dist   33.8 km       Total  3072 km

I wasn't going to blog today. I had a few drinks last night in the company of Kalin and his friends so was going to have a day off in Svilengrad, do a couple of jobs, ie, washing clothes and stitching the pannier bags, and catch up tomorrow. As it happens the ridiculously bad weather on Friday made me change my mind. It wasn't far to Turkey and the sky looked OK when I looked out of the window so I changed my mind and decided to get this small leg over with and maybe stay for a day in Edirne to follow the last day of this year's Premier League.

There was no breakfast at the digs so I decided to get on the road and use my last few Levs at a cafe somewhere. The road was very poor but it joined up with the Sofia - Istanbul highway later on which was a lot better and I bowled along on the hard shoulder. I got some grub at a mini -market near the border, made my way through the ridiculously numerous checks on both sides of the line and eventually reached Turkey, which was a pretty good feeling I can tell you. I made it to Edirne and booked into a place which will be OK when it's finished. I wandered the half a mile or so into the centre in the afternoon and had a beer for 7 YTL which is a lot more than I've ever paid in Calis or Fethiye. I then carted my bags around trying to find someone who could do some stitching, with no luck at all.. I had a doner on the way back and actually did the stitching myself. After fiddling around on the internet for a while I then went out for my evening meal but there was a big football match on and that dominated proceedings everywhere. What's more, nowhere, apart from the place I went this afternoon, seemed to sell beer. I was gagging for a drink but  made do with a chicken shish kebab. The lad said they didn't sell beer but he arrived with a can in a black plastic bag as if he had smuggled it out from the shop over the road.

What happens next depends on the weather. The forecast is OK for tomorrow so we'll see what happens in the morning.

Today's track

Friday, 11 May 2012

11 May Stage 29 Burgas - Svilengrad

Dep  11.10      Arr  6.30       Dist  96.9 km      Total  3038.2 km

All I wanted was a boring day on the road - and that's what I got - until...............I'll go through it in order.

The main priority was to get the bike in order. Last night I had asked the lady at the desk of this super-di-dooper hotel to let me know of any bike shops in the town. She said that she wasn't from this area. I was tempted to tell her that I wasn't either but that may have tested her a bit. I asked her if she could check with her colleagues and she seemed to think that may be a good idea. I went out for a walk and asked people on bikes around the town if they knew of a bike shop. Nobody remembered where they got their bike from. There was a nice pedestrian street with bars all over and I had a beer at one, followed by spag bol and chips which ticks all the boxes with regard to health and stodge. When I got back I asked the same girl and she vaguely remembered me and asked the man with the black t-shirt on.  He was a know-all and dictated the address of a place and said it was only about 5km away and a taxi wouldn't be too much. I got to the room and found a place myself on t'internet that was a lot closer. I think I went to bed then. It all seems so long ago.

All went to plan early on. Up at half seven (0530 in UK), went down for breakfast, which was fantastic but I couldn't do it justice with other preoccupations. I had a big-ish bowl of cornflakes-ish cereal, a jam pancake, two bits of what we call french toast, muddy coffee and fresh orange. I could have had more but just wanted to be out there. I got the bags almost ready and went down and asked a younger black t-shirt lad to open the door where my bike was to get the wheel off. This he did and I took the wheel to the place I had found myself. The lad there was a bit cocky and spoke no English so I was on my guard. I bought a decent pump and some tyre levers and three inner tubes. I asked him to put one on and he said it would be a bit extra. I can't remember the amount but it wasn't much. He did it in a twinkling but I thought I'd check with the pressure gauge on my new pump. He wasn't happy about this but it had to be right, right? It didn't hold, even at 20psi. He discarded the tube and tried again and he said some word that meant finished. The pressure was 30 psi when the writing on the side of the tyre says to be inflated to 90. He couldn't believe this but I pumped away and stood there seeing if it went down. It didn't and I left the shop a bit happier. Velozone it as called - not recommended if you ever find yourself in Burgas. 

I got back, finished the long drawn out process, and got going. As I left the room, the door banged and I thought nothing of it for a second, until it hit me - wind. There seemed to be a lot about but which way would it be? The route out of town went great and there were flurries of wind from different directions as I twisted and turned. The road surface was critical to progress and with this, the wind and the new tyres etc, my bottom was twitching in several different directions as I did the usual climb from sea level to anywhere inland. After the initial uphill bit it levelled out but with a general uphill trend. The road surface was variable but generally good  I really took my time on the bad bits - even if they were downhill, and wondered how long it would be until I stopped being neurotic about the tyres. The wind was certainly not against me so maybe it must have been behind, or had dropped since I left the Black Sea. I made good progress but was out of drinking water so decided to stop at the next available place. There is no logic to this but the next available place was a beautiful little bar/restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Some are shacks, some are palaces. I had a coffee and water but didn't fancy a meal so went for a papachinka, or something like that. I didn't know what it was but it sounded nice. It was a pancake and it did the trick. This place was in a foresty type area, quite high up and very picturesque as much of Bulgaria is. There were rumblings in the distance but no serious clouds around. I got going again and saw the dark clouds to my left and behind. The spitting started and stopped but the threat was there. I knew I could out run any storm if it started. I then saw two other cyclists up ahead, Paul and Ana from Romania. We had a chat and exchanged experiences and emails and I pushed on. The mental calculations, which get me through these phases, then started and I expected to be in Elhovo at about 6.00 which would have been a decent result. The clouds were getting heavier to my left but I was always in front and seeming to turn away to the right every time they got threatening.

I decided to get the cape and boots into a more accessible place just in case they might be needed but I felt a few spots so decided to get proper ready - just in case. I was about 20km from Elhovo at this time and expecting to remove the rain gear soon. The rain, though, got heavier and the wind started to kick in, mainly from behind but also from the side at times. The rain got heavier again and made pinging noises on my hat and a spot of rain actually hurt my hand until I realised it was hail. The road was very quickly transformed into a stream about 3 inches deep and the side wind was blowing me about. There were flashes of lightning every 30 seconds or so but there was no sense in sheltering. I was saturated 10 seconds after the proper rain started and there was nowhere to shelter anyway. Also, I knew that sitting on a bike was about the safest place you could be at such a time. The wind was strong and when it was from behind I was like a sailing boat with the cape on. I was actually on the brakes in order to keep my speed down. Also, there were twigs and branches all over the stream/road and I had a bit of dodging to do.

As we all know, at the end of a storm there's a go-olde-en sky, and there was in this case as I got to about 10km from Elhovo. What I didn't expect was that after the golden sky came another storm, or maybe the same one hitting me from a different direction. This time the hail caused me actual pain as it battered the right hand side of my body but I knew the town and a nice cheap, warm, dry, comfortable hotel was up ahead, getting ever closer. As I meandered past a parked car the driver flagged me down and said he was going to Turkey and he could pack my stuff into his car, a Peugeot 206, and take me further up the road if I wanted. I carefully considered his suggestion for about 0.2 seconds and decided to take him up on the offer. Kalin was going deep sea diving in Northern Turkey and was meeting Turkish friends at the border town of Svilengrad and suggested he could drop me there. He was a very pleasant, knowledgeable and interesting chap. He worked at the moment on yachts in the South of France but had done a lot of other things as well. There will be more to come on this part of the journey but I am here, blogging in the reception of the Royal Hotel in the Bulgarian border town of Svilengrad, having enjoyed the company of Kalin and his friends for an hour or so this evening.

Great to be back on the road. Delighted that the bike, my real true mate, is feeling better and happy to be that one bit closer to the promised land.

Today's track. The storm occurred before Elhovo where Kalin picked me up and took me to Svilengrad. It made the next day a bit shorter.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

10 May Stage 28 Shumen - Burgas

Dep 1030     Arr 7.30     Dist  29.1 km (bike)     Total  2970.4 km

All went to plan in the morning. I woke early, got partly organised and then went for breakfast which was another self service with two ladies helping me and two businessmen to use the coffee machine. So many staff and so few guests. I had two tiny bowls of cereal and a boiled egg and then toast. or warm bread, with various toppings, cheese, ham and jam. Very nice too. I got a taxi to the bike shop. The taxi drivers are all comedians in this town. The bike was done and ready for the off. I thanked Stanislav and his son Deyan, paid them, rode back to the hotel, got loaded and set off.

I got out of the town ok and made good progress on a poor road surface which was mainly downhill but I couldn't go too fast because of the pot holes and humps and bumps. Occasionally the road surface was good but there were parts where bits of the road had been scarified in patches, ie the top had been taken off, leaving two to three inch differences in level here and there. After about an hour and a half the inevitable happened and I got a rear puncture. I wasn't too bothered because I had made decent time up to now. I took my time and replaced the tube with one I had repaired the other day (and left fully inflated all night to make sure it was sound). I did it all by the book and got going again. I obviously hadn't done it properly and it went again. I was on my last inner tube by this time, another I had repaired. That went as well. I could only locate the problem on one of the damaged tubes and did a meticulous roadside puncture repair. It didn't work and I was very frustrated by this time as you can imagine. I decided to ask for help so stood at the roadside with my thumb out. The road wasn't very busy and I was pumping up one of the tubes, checking for leak locations, when a nice young man, Valentin, in a van, stopped and I explained what had happened. He didn't speak English but we got by. He took me up the road into the really poor little town of Smyodova. The people were all dressed ok but the buildings, roads and general surroundings were horrible. We tried a motor mechanics which wasn't much use but we were directed to a shop that sold everything, even inner tubes, but none the right size. Valentin apologised and told me he had to go so I politely asked him to take me back to the road. I decided to have another go at repairing a tube between waiting for the next car but then realised I had no pump. I must have left it in Valentin's van, or was it by the roadside where he had picked me up? I walked back 400m or so and it wasn't there.

I now had no alternative but to get the thumb out again. After an hour or so a family stopped and I explained I needed a bike shop. Dad said the next big town was Karnobat which was actually my destination for the day, but he wasn't going that far. The car was full of kids and I couldn't have got the bike in anyway. I thanked them and off they went, shrugging. There were dark clouds and rumblings over the hills up ahead but I wasn't far from a roadside truck stop type of place so I knew I wouldn't get too wet if it started to rain. More than an hour later a van stopped with two men in. Again I explained in sign language but they couldn't help. I should asked "how much for you to take me to Karnobat?" Maybe half an hour went by and two lads stopped in an estate car. I said I needed to get to Karnobat and the driver shook his head. "I am only going to the next village" He said, but then added "We have some business there but if you are still here we will see if we can get you to Karnobat somehow" I felt a bit more positive about this chap but didn't see them again because, soon after that, Yuri, the mad Latvian/Russian came along in his big white transit van. This was about 5 o'clock. "Where you going?" he shouted. "I need to get to Karnobat". He jumped out of the van and apologised for the state of the back compartment. We got the bike in and he said he was in a hurry and he would have to drive fast. He was going to Burgas, which was further East than Karnobat but only a little out of the way for me. I decided not to take him out of his way by dropping me in Karnobat, but asked him to take me to Burgas instead, which was a bigger place and would have more hotels and bike shops. Yuri had lived in Dublin for a few years and spoke with a very strong Russian accent with occasional Irish bits. He had been a fisherman off the coast of Africa for a bit at some stage and there were various other bits he described but I couldn't understand him very well and just did the nodding sort of easy way out. The heavens opened and it lashed it down for half an hour in the remotest part of the journey, probably just about where I would have been if the puncture hadn't happened.

So here I am in Burgas, fed and watered. I have the address of a bike shop where I will go in the morning to buy some new tubes and a pump. If all goes well I will be on my way to Elhovo tomorrow, still on schedule. If not, I will have a day off and get this bike sorted once and for all, like I thought I had done yesterday. All in all, a very frustrating day but with a good ending.

Today's track. I broke down at Smyadovo (note the back track) so the remainder of the ride to Burgas was in Yuri's van

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

9 May Stage 27 Razgrad - Shumen

Dep 10.30     Arr 3.30      Dist   56.3 km      Total  2941.3 km

I awoke to the sound of heavy rain battering the window and turned over. When I came round again the rain had stopped but I could hear the cars outside slushing through the water. I didn't fancy starting in the rain so took my time getting ready. I went down for breakfast and all of a sudden Benny Hill couldn't understand my German. He could see my disappointment so pointed to the coffee machine. I asked for change and he pushed a coin towards me and refused my note. I suppose it was only 50 lev (2.4 to the pound) so I wasn't too bothered. I finished getting ready and spent 10 mins fiddling with th e bike before setting off. The road I had planned to take out of town was one way - the other way - and there wasn't an obvious one parallel so I just pushed the bike through the town and hit the open road. It was cloudy but the threat of rain wasn't there. Again, it wasn't too hot and no wind, just right.

Shumen was only 50km away from Razgrad and the next planned stop, Karnobot, was 110km from Shumen with some biiig climbs. I had to decide whether to stop at Shumen and try to get the bike sorted or to push on 30km or so to make the next day easier. This debate occupied my thoughts for a while until I came upon a little roadside shack or cafe in the middle of nowhere with beautiful countryside all around. I went in and tapped on the counter. A lady appeared with a phone to her ear. I gestured for her to carry on and went outside. She appeared soon enough and I made an eating mime. She said something like kebab and my eyes lit up. I said something like cartofi which I thought was potatoes and she nodded. I also asked for coffee and water, big. She came out with my muddy coffee and a bottle of delicious water, never thought I'd ever say that, and then with a plate of sausage and chips which was very tasty. I sat there getting all philosphical thinking, we are all trying to get somewhere but, at times, we should just enjoy where we are, like I was doing. I decided to ring Robin on the hotline to Newburgh and run through my ideas with him. He reckoned the cheap stuff I got in Giurgiu wouldn't last and could leave me stranded again. So, the decision was made to stop at Shumen, which looks like a pretty big place, and find a little bike shop. A friendly, English-speaking receptionist (FESP) would be crucial to my plans.

I knew there was a big hill right in the middle of today's ride butI hadn't expected it to be quite as hard. On the Saddleworth scale it measured at about 8 out of 10. The down bit was fun again though and I got to the Shumen at about three. There were posters for hotels all over the place as I rode into the town. I came across one named Rimini which was over-posh inside and wasn't my type of place (or price). I suspected there were other types of goings on there, nod nod, wink wink. I had written down some phone numbers from the internet and rang a couple for prices and to check on the good nature of the receptionist, who would become a key person in the day's proceedings. The Madara it is then. On the way there I passed the Shumen Hotel which looked very nice. I decided to ask the price and a really friendly English-speaking receptionist informed me I could have a budget room for 50 lev with breakfast and 10% off dinner. That's what I paid that lowlife last night. I accepted and explained my requirements with regard to the bike. She said she would try to help. I put my stuff in the rooom and put things on charge and got changed. I came down and she drew me a map. I rode to the place on the map but all I could see was a door with a few prams and kids bikes outside. There was a sign with a picture of a bike over the door and I thought this must be it. The sop was a corridor with a counter at the other end. I went in and said "mechanic?" which confused a lady sitting there behind a counter. An older man, OK about my age, came and I took hime outside to try to explain what had happened and what I wanted. A younger man, who turned out be Stanislav, then appeared and we made some progress. He went off and came back and handed me his phone. It was his son, Dejan, who spoke English very well. My bike was brought through into a large rear yard which had lots of bikes in various stages of repair. The three of us discussed options and the outcome is that I will go back there at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning and my bike will have decent bits on it and will be serviced and cleaned. Stanislav is a Shimano-trained mechanic and has built and rebuilt bikes for 20 years or so.

I walked around for a bit and got a chicken donner. There was an event going on in a square with speeches and a sort of brass band and then a group of about 40 soldiers ventured forth with fantastic tenor voices - tremendous. I then changed some money and got a taxi to the hotel. I had to have a beer by the fountain in reception, see twitter, and then went up for a bath, yes a bath again. I may have a sauna before dinner. I am confident the bike will be much better as a result of my decision to stop here and Robin must take the credit for that decision.

I need an early night though. Hard day tomorrow.

Today's track

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

8 May Stage 26 Giurgiu - Razgrad

Dep 11.10     Arr 1845     Dist  76.5km    Total  2885km

As expected I didn't sleep well, overtired maybe or a combination of a ridiculously uncomfortable rock hard bed and stuff on my mind. I should really have been grateful I had a bed at all. I had no Rumanian currency left because I had spent it all, not expecting to be here you see, so I had to go into the town at the crack of dawn to get some more to pay for the room and also to pay for any bike bits etc. It was a scruffy and unloved sort of a town, or to be fair, maybe a scruffy part of a nice town. I came back and had a crap (note no comma here) breakfast which consisted of muddy coffee and dry bread with cheese and ham. I was so thirsty I asked for water and he brought me a tiny bottle which evaporated before I swallowed it.

I had to be reaady for the "halb neun" which could have been half eight or half nine, so I went and packed my bags, ready for any eventuality. A small square man turned up just after half eight and spoke no English. There was a new receptionist by this time and she was infinitely more helpful, translating between us. I told hime I needed a new wheel and he said "market" and beckoned me to follow, checking I had money as an afterthought. We wandered through the streets. He'd say something I didn't understand and I'd reply with something he didn't understand, but we got on ok, which made me chuckle a bit. The market was like a bazaar with a two foot wide aisle and stuff hanging from the ceilings all over the place. We walked past two bike shops and found nothing appropriate. Too wide or too small. My mate was starting to mumble. The next place got him excited. There it was. We did the deal and away we went with a wheel, a seven gear cassette and a new tyre for a total of £16. I really wanted him to transfer the cassette from the damaged wheel onto the new one but it couldn't be done for some reason. I insisted but he was adamant. We did the job in the hotel reception which was about all it was good for. I saw him straight and went up to the room to change into cycling gear only to find the room had been cleaned. I made do with what I had on. I just wanted to get going again.

It was a long round about way out of town to the bridge over the Danube to Ruse in Bulgaria and it was a sad way to see the last of this country and my old mate the river. Scruffy buildings, dirty streets, junkyards with snarling dogs, people standing around or shuffling about. I did though see enough good parts of the country over the last week or so to have overall very good lasting memories of Rumania.

Bulgaria started badly although the road was the old E70 again. It was a long uphill drag out of Ruse and into the countryside. I wasn't happy about the bike for some reason. I know they were cheap parts and maybe shouldn't expect too much but I decided there and then to find a proper bike shop down the line and get it sorted. I probably hadn't realised at the time that I had been climbing since I crossed the river. The bike did seem to be performing better later on but I'm still not sure. The road went through no towns or villages for an hour or so just wide open countryside which became undulating with the associated ups and downs. Unfortunately, the ups were long and the downs were short. Remember me complaining about the boring, flat countryside of Hungary. I take it back. I was short of food and water and decided to stop at the next eating place. I plodded on and on until I came to a small and pretty little town named Tsar Kaloyan. I did stop at the first cafe I saw and ordered spaghetti bolognese with an extra portion of chips. I sat with my kindle and learned a few Bulgarian phrases which I tried out on the waitresses, much to their amusement. The food was great and I felt well rested but as usual the last part of the ride dragged. There was a bit of spitting rain but I could see with my now vast experience of Central and Eastern European weather that it wouldn't develop and then I came to a big downhill and didn't pedal for 5km. The town came soon after that and I cruised around until I found a small nice family hotel with a Benny Hill impersonator explaining everything to me in German. I got all the batteries on charge and had a great shower then wandered over the road for a beer. I came back to the digs and realised they had a restaurant and asked for a menu. It was a bit surreal but it was Chinese. I ordered chicken and potatoes, delicious. Back in the room now watching Liverpool do what they should have done the other day.

I spoke to the FIG representative, Terry, today and have finalised the arrival date at 25th May which is a Friday.

Today's track

Monday, 7 May 2012

7 May Stage 25 Rosiori de Vede - Giurgiu

Dep 11.00   Arr 8.30    Dist 86.6 km (bike)    Total 2808.5 km

How can I describe today? I think it's best if I do just that, ie describe in order what happened and include my thoughts at the time for what it's worth.

Great kip for a start. I woke up and my phone was on charge in the bathroom so I played that game. No, not that one, the one where you lie there and guess what time it is from the sounds around etc. I plumped for 7.30 and was disappointed, when I eventually had to use the bathroom, to find I was 3 minutes out. I went and had another lie down and planned the day. Breakfast was another help-yourself but with a few negatives. There was cereal, honey nut loops, but the bowls were tiny and there was no milk. I mentioned this to the lady and she brought me a cup of warm milk. Cereal just isn't their thing, I suppose. I managed three bowls. The rest was great. Loads of coffee and the usual bread with delicious ham, cheese and jam.

I went back up and was amazed that I actually managed to repair the three punctured inner tubes within half an hour. Little did I know that this would have an effect on future progress. I then got myself organised, got the bags sorted and made my way out. This 'getting the bags organised' by the way is a tortuous process. Things have to be done methodically and in strict order depending on the priorities of the day. An hour usually sorts it. An important part of the procedure is checking the route for the day. I had no printed maps so wrote down the towns I would be passing through and the road numbers. It wasn't a complicated route but seemed a bit round about. I made my way out of the town of Rosiori de Vede and joined my old mate the E70 which was not as smart as in other parts of the country but still good for cycling. There were the usual roadworks here and there and a little hill or two. I passed through a couple of typical villages and then came across the amzing sight of Buzescu which I have found out since is a village or group of houses built by rich gypsies, all trying to outdo each other for lack of taste. After Buzescu I got to the city of Alexandria in decent time. There was no rush. I noticed the rear brakes were rubbing on the tyre rim again and loosened the brakes a bit more. They still worked ok so I didn't pay too much attention to it, knowing that this is a problem that would get worse and would need attention sooner or later. I actually rang Robin the West Lancs cycling guru and after a brief chat he warned me no to attempt fixing the buckled wheel myself. I do like a challenge but also respect good advice from people who know what they are talking about so didn't interfere.

Just past Alexandria I saw a sign saying 504 Giurgiu 40km. Now this was a lot less than I expected so I decided this would be the route for me. I rode on looking for the turn until the original chosen turn off was only a couple of km ahead so I checked my location on my phone. I had missed the 504 turn off. So, should I stick to the chosen route or go back and find this 504? As I pondered a chap appeared from nowhere and smiled and asked for water. I offered him my blue bottle which had had milk in yesterday. He had a swig and pulled a bit of a face. It wouldn't have bothered me. I nodded and smiled but felt a bit uncomfortable with him sizing up my stuff so I eventually turned the bike round and made my way back. I found the 504 and could easily see why I had missed it. It was a dirt track with cornfields either side as far as the eye could see. The surface wasn't too bad and it would be shorter than I had expected so I went for it. After a km it got a bit worse and then after another it got a lot worse. It looked like it had only ever been used by tractors and only in wet weather. I checked on my phone and it looked like the town of Cernetu was about 10km away. I just got my head down and got on with it. I had to really concentrate about the line I was taking and that was making me sweat more than the effort. An hour later I rode past a graveyard which meant some sort of civilisation and then what looked like a tip but it was just a random field full of rubbish. There was an old lady with some goats stood by a stagnant pond with some sad ducks on it and I mentioned the name of a town which was on the way to Giurgiu. She nodded and pointed ahead and I heard the word asphalt in there. I checked with a younger lady up the road and she pointed straight ahead again. I turned a corner and there it was - the black stuff. What a relief.

I belted along up hill and down dale and round this corner and that for half an hour or so until I realised that the road on the map I had seen this morning was dead straight with no bends at all. I checked again on my phone and found I had missed a turning again. To be fair to both ladies they didn't have the chance to explain maybe that they were pointing the way for the asphalt route. Now, I could stay on this road and meet up with the original route (which may be tarmac but then again may not) - we don't want to do that do we? Noooo. We went back and there, after retracing my tracks, was the sign 504 pointing to Giurgiu. It was another dirt track, better than the first. It didn't deteriorate but still wasn't that good. My brakes were rubbing again which severely reduce the efficiency of the bike. I adjusted them further and found that the rear wheel rim had a split where a spoke joined. It was becoming cooler by this time but it was nearly 5.30. I checked relative distance on my phone and reckoned an hour would get me to the next village. An hour later I was still in this really remote landscape with endless cornfields both sides. I heard a "ping" as I rode and checked the back wheel again. Another split. This was only going to get worse and fast. There were telegraph poles alongside this track for as far as they eye could see and not a town or building in sight. Another hour went by and the wheel had become so distorted that the tyre just came off. I was then reduced to walking along with the bike. I was knackered and could have stopped and rested and maybe kipped in the cornfield but there were no vehicles using this road and I would only have to get to a village tomorrow if I didn't make it tonight so I had to go on. Then, a building in the distance, a farmhouse maybe?

As I got closer it became obvious it was an electricity station with nobody about. Then I heard a vehicle coming from miles behind me, a farmer perhaps on his way home? What happened next is just the best ever result anyone in my position could ever have expected. As the car slowed down I stood there looking as pathetic as possible, no acting necessary. "Are you OK?" the young man asked, in English. I explained my position. A lot of welcome conversation took place after we had packed the bike and me into the car, such as. "Would you like a cold beer?" George and Sorin were from Alexandria and were going fishing. They had a chat between them and decided that George would drop Sorin off at the lake and then take me to Giurgiu to a hotel. I just can not possibly do justice to this interlude at the moment so will finish for now by saying here I am in a hotel in Giurgiu, fed and watered and so happy to have met these two fantastic lads who made a very unlucky day, compounded by a few bits of bad judgement on my part, into one very happy one. I will tell the full tale about these exceptional people some other time.

I didn't make it to Bulgaria today but I am so happy to be here in this town of Giurgiu.

(written next day)

Just a bit more on the circumstances of my amazing “ rescue” last night. The vehicle was a Hyundai 4x4 type with a big space at the back. Unfortunately it was full of fishing stuff just thrown in, including an inflatable dinghy, fully inflated. We manipulated stuff and got the bike and bags in the back and thought that was job done until we then noticed there was a dinghy on the roof! A bit more fiddling got me and the dinghy in but I was squeezed on the backseat perched so high that my head was touching the roof. Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. When Sorin handed me a beer from the cool box I was so high up I couldn’t get the angle of elevation on the can to have a decent swig, which is just as well because it would have gone down in one.

It turns out Sorin is a professional photographer and George, the driver has an amazing occupation of organising hunting expeditions in various parts of Rumania for people all over Europe including many English clients. I was amazed to find they have bears here in the hills and wild boar, chamois and a number of types of deer. So if there’s anyone out there fancies a bit of that sort of stuff, George is your man. I have to give the man a plug. His website is The fishing area was beautiful in the evening as the sun was going down. I felt really guilty depriving George of a bit of this special time but by the time he got back Sorin had probably done all the hard work setting things up. Anyway, friends for life, or what?

The Vlasca Hotel in Giurgiu was a very poor excuse for a hotel, a sad old place. The woman on the desk said she didn’t speak English but she understood what she wanted to. I had a lukewarm bath and did a bit of blogging and then realised it was 10 o’clock, end of restaurant time. I rushed down and a gentleman watching the telly assured me in German that all was OK and shouted a lad to sort me out. This he did nicely thank you. I asked this boss man in German if he knew of a bike shop or a mechanic who could help me. I knew I needed a new wheel but where to get one? He told me someone would come tomorrow at “Halb neun”. In German that means half past eight. Don’t ask me why. I finished with a bottle of Rumanian beer - Skol.

I went back up to the miserable room with the uncomfortable bed and followed the football scores. What a result for Wigan Athletic. Europe next year?

Today's track - note the backtrack near Cernetu. I was picked up near the dotted line by Izvoru. The track is vehicular after this point. The lake is Gogosari. My phone battery went before Giurgiu.

Today's route