Bulgaria... Oh dear.
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The motel was very good, extremely warm and friendly. Small dogs wandered around playing and everyone smiles honestly back at you. Once on the road we found one of the small dogs protecting a small section of it with what used to be his spine. There was considerable more of that to follow.
The road broke from the drudgery of a motorway into a main road, a dual carriageway for the most part and the scenery grew better as we trundled along
Finally we stopped for fuel. My range was improving. We stopped around 145 miles and I had several litres left. We grabbed some breakfast in a motorway service centre and it turned out to be excellent and cheap as well. We didn't have enough money after he refused our card but ever that wasn’t a problem and he took what we had with a smile.
After the petrol station around Nis we headed out to follow the road and there was an instant dramatic shift as we entered the mountains. We were in a truly foreign land. Craggy peaks of rock oversaw us as we winded our way through narrow paths claimed back from the awesome natural beauty of this region. The roads were amazing, clean, clear and trustworthy and they wound through some truly amazing views. We were lucky enough to even have good weather with temperatures around 17 which were comfortable even with the winds.
Even after we passed the initial outcropping of rock the barren, rugged landscape kept us entertained for miles to come until eventually we found the Bulgarian border. We had to climb to reach it and the clouds darkened the sky. The views closed in until eventually an ugly scar of human nature blighted our view with a border crossing
The entrance was pretty straight forward too. They checked our stuff and we were in Bulgaria. Suddenly the trappings of wartorn poverty were swept aside. The roads were clear and smooth and the edges were tidy and clear. We made good time towards Sofia, a large city along the way we wanted to see. From the last 10 miles we were able to see the outskirts so we knew this was going to be a big and impressive place to visit.
I could write a diatribe on my initial impressions as we crossed the border and entered the town but Marcin said it in words that surpassed anything I could imagine and eloquently summed up our thoughts and impressions. We stopped at a set of lights and he looked around at the town sprawled out before him and then he turned to me and said, "Oh dear."
On the right was a shanty town full of an ethnic minority that had been thrown to the wolves. Tiny ramshackle huts were fully along the length of a small river as far as we could see. People, darker than the average and different looking were laying on the pavement smoking and drinking things that had no business in the human body while the passers-by locked their windows. Someone approached Marcin and made a strange gesture with his fingers over his mouth that looked as though he wanted to offer oral sex
We left in a hurry. With the traffic, the grey and unpleasant buildings and even greyer and more unpleasant people the entire city was the visual equivalent of a punch to the throat. The roads in the city are polished so they look strangely like they’re wet. At one point Marcin braked and carried on for 4-5 metres after his ABS though he was lying about wanting to stop. Outside of town the roads were a mixture of ok for a few yards and like riding on an overturned truckload of spilled dildos. The bike vibed all over the place but you get used it after a while, I guess.
We motored on towards the next biggest town and Marcin insisted he wanted to do another 50 miles so as it was still light I agreed.
I had seen even better fuel economy than last time so I’m assuming now that my bike had suffered from a bout of crappy petrol. I put in some higher than usual octane gas and hoped she would be ok. There was a strange rattling noise coming from the front of my bike. I assumed it was my screen which is only held on by stupidity but it turned out to be coming from the back of the bike in front.
Like earlier as soon as we left the station the scenery changed only this time the main road became a back-street and the warnings about the Eastern part of Europe not being accurate on GPS took a pointedly apparent turn for the worst.
Long story short, we spent 3 hours riding around lost. Night crept in and darkness made navigation as much fun as sitting on a 650 single at maximum revs for hour after hour. Motels seemed more interested in ripping us off than offering any kind of service. Eventually we found a town through more luck than judgement and ended up with a half decent hotel to crash at.
The end of a long and interesting day.