Phew….the most challenging day so far. Not because of the distance….as you can see, only 104kms…..but a few unanticipated circumstances.
My route was to take me to the Bulgarian border, but I’ve fallen short by 30kms, the first time on this journey that I haven’t completed a scheduled route. Why? Well, basically 2 reasons:
1. My map indicated that I was allowed to cycle up the gorge to Bella Palanka, but the reality was they had started building an autobahn. This meant I had to take a long detour into the Carpathian mountains, with several steep climbs up to 750 metres (2300ft), over paved roads that had turned to gravel, through several abandoned villages. In other words, I spent nearly three hours in almost total solitary confinement…..but I have to say the mountain panoramas were stunning…..
2…until, that is, I came across the first evidence of the major road building. Then I descended to the highway and found myself, along with hundreds of truck drivers
held up for an hour while they did some explosive destruction of the mountain side, to widen the passage for the new motorway.
Of course, when we were under starter’s orders, I was out at the front with the prospect of hundreds of trucks hurtling past me, making up for lost time as they sped towards the border.
During the hour’s wait, I sheltered from the cold wind in a mechanic’s workshop, and wondered why a swallow kept swooping towards me as I stood in the doorway. When I looked at the ceiling, there was the answer
…I was blocking its way to the nest. This pair of love birds were obviously experienced nest builders, and I decided they were taking it in turns to incubate the eggs.
So it was with a huge sigh of relief that I arrived in Pirot, where I easily found a nice little hotel, prepared to reduce their price from £20 to £12….simply because I asked. A mild look of shock can frequently work wonders….