Lazy boy! At 07.50 I finally leave my increasingly smelly bed – one of the negative effects of cycling and not washing. While packing away my tent I see a shepherd return with his flock. He doesn't appear too angered by my being on his turf. The conversation is brief as I'm yet to learn any lingo, but we exchange pleasantries. I consider afterwards that he may have rather calmly said “If your still here when I come back...I'll shoot you”. But the thought leaves as quickly as it came. I'm determined to give Bulgaria, as any country, the chance it deserves.
I get into Lom and manage to waste 5km with a wrong turn. An instinct tells me to check the map, and I'm glad I do. A woman laughs at me as I pass her on the return leg of my de-tour. Seems they have a sense of humour alright. I on the other hand am not so amused, but tweak the corners of my mouth into a smile nonetheless. Once on the correct course I leave the town and cycle past endless fields. Not the small awkward shaped fields I foolishly expected. But large, square fields with very modern John Deer's and New Holland's, they certainly aren't all poor it seems. The cobbled climb out of the village of Micia caught me by surprise. My lowest gear has had little use over the last few weeks. The village seems very poor. People of all ages hang out in the dirt streets off the main road. I see a waddling toddler in rag tag clothes. He has a piece of blue string in his hand, at the other end of which is a puppy trotting by his side. I'm unable to lift my lens to the adorable scene. I try to imagine the thoughts of the child's parents as they watch me take a picture. I would feel very uncomfortable if I made them think the son is some kind of spectacle. An attitude that is bound to hinder a career in photography.
While heading for Oryahovo I consider my route and have a last minute change of heart. According to my map the riverside town has several pensions with the promise of a shower. But that would be wimping out. In silence I give myself a talking to and decide to “Man Up”. I scrap the shower idea and make the decision to cut south and pick up a more direct route to the coast. The urge to reach the Black Sea grows within me daily. It's always been a big milestone in my mind. Some rubbish like “If I can just make it to the Black Sea, then it will be a big trip, then I'll believe I can make it”.
I pass many friendly faces in the village of Selanovci. The Smile Game has now developed into waving, and more often than not, the gesture is returned. As the sun lowers in the sky the light softens and the crop fields develop a golden glow. The road is dead straight for as far as I can see. On the right side the verge is lined with hedges that would be perfect for concealing my tent. With two hours of remaining daylight I push my bike through a field that has recently been turned over. I sit and stare at my maps while snacking on bread and tuna.
Darkness begins to dominate the scene so I set up the tent. A tip I picked up second hand from Mihailo was the bottle shower. Pour on one to wet, soap up and one to rinse. I decide to do it in two halves to minimise my “naked time”. Concluding that if I get caught by the farmer in his field he may look upon my situation favourably. If I get caught naked in his field, my evening could take a very different turn. With my top half done I feel the familiar prickle of a mosquito on my shoulder. Within seconds my nude torso is bombarded by the little fuckers. Towel and arms flail for a few seconds but I soon realise this method of removal is not so effective and dive into my tent. Once settled I hear some rodents rustling in the bushes. Search around for my earplugs in the dark and then relax back with muted hearing. An unknown period of time later I hear the discomforting sound of the stray dogs howling like wolves. Even with my earplugs in they sound close. I hear foot falls in the field, it sounds like there are quite a few of them. Not for the first time on this trip I quiver in my sleepingbag. “Getting close to nature, hmph, stupid idea!” .With blind searching fingers I explore by my sides to see if I brought my penknife in with me. Now, while I can whittle a rather fine wooden penis. I don't feel equipped to dispatch a group of dogs with my trusty Victorinox, sharp though it may be. Fatigue and fear battle within me, thankfully the latter wins over.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzz, "Hooowwwwwwwllll How How Hooowwwlll" (Shudder) Zzzzzzz : Repeat