All things must come to an end. And so does this trip. Although in this case it is more of a short interruption rather than an actual end. This first stage of our Eastafette Project may be growing to a close, our plans for coming stages are still very much alive.
We only have a few days left before our flight back to Belgium. The bikes will be staying in the capable hands of Polly and Ivo at Motocamp Bulgaria until we return. But we’re still in Serbia, so have a few more days of riding ahead of us. Tonight, we hope to find a nice place to set up our tent near Vlasinsko Lake. When we get there though, the place is filled with signs prohibiting camping and the camp site indicated on our map turns out to be non-existent. Plenty of hotels and rooms for rent, but that’s not exactly what we are looking for. It’s a bit of a disappointment as the lake shore looked pretty appealing.
In an annoyed mood we continue our ride towards the Bulgarian border, keeping a eye open for other opportunities to pitch our tent. The geography and the more densely populated nature of the region aren’t helpful and before we know it we’re already at the border. It’s a small and relaxed crossing. The Serbian border guard wants to know where we learned to speak Serbian. I guess we fake it well. But we have to admit that in fact we know a little bit of Russian and that gets us by in many places in the Balkans.
At the other side of the border camping opportunities are just as sparse, so we decide to aim for the first bigger town on our map, Dupnica. We have better luck there, as there’s a spa resort village nearby with plenty of hotels, rooms and a camp site. By the time we get there though, dusk is already setting in. So we pitch our tent in a rush and cook a meal in the communal kitchen.
In he morning we are really slow in getting started. On top of that we’ve crossed another time zone, so it is actually an hour later than our internal clocks are telling us. The GPS clock is indicating 12 o’clock by the time we set off. I have plotted a zig-zag route towards Motocamp. A mix of smaller roads and mountain passes which looked interesting on the map. Because we had a late breakfast and left so late as well, lunch time is well outside what normal folk would consider an appropriate time. We’re so extravagant!
Shortly before 4PM we sit down on the cosy terrace of a traditional restaurant in Koprivshtitsa. The village is very traditional and uncommonly clean, but rather busy with tourists as well. We enjoy our salads while observing the people passing by, before starting up a conversation with the couple next to us. Theyr’e a French-Mexican mix holidaying in the area on a brand-spanking-new Multistrada Enduro. Our little Husqy’s look pretty cheap next to it. But that’s probably because they are.
One more mountain pass separates us from Motocamp, and it’s not the least. Troyan pass offers amazing views on the Central Balkans Mountain range and even more riding fun! It’s fast, swooping, twisting and turning. We’re lucky that traffic is calm as well, so we get to enjoy it to the fullest.
We manage to reach Motocamp just in time to join a BBQ with some of the expats from the village. 15 minutes after us the latest immigrants arrive as well. Roger and Suzanne have bought a house in the village after returning from a big trip on the BMW cousins of our own Husqvarnas. Confirming how small the world really is, they ran into our friends Rosto and Brucie during different stages of their trip. An evening of good food, cold beers and many stories ensues.
The next day is completely focused on preparing for our return home. Sofie does our laundry and starts the triage of stuff we’ll leave at Motocamp until next year and the things that are coming home with us. It’s not an easy exercise as we do want to avoid any additional charges from the notorious Ryanair low-cost-tickets-but-we’ll-charge-you-through-the-nose-for-anything-extra pricing strategy.
Meanwhile, I dig into the motorcycle. For the past few days my bike has been running hotter than usual and consistently hotter than Sofie’s. After last year’s debacle with the busted crank shaft I immediately start imagining all kinds of horror. Luckily quite unnecessarily so. After all the plastic is removed a rather obvious kink in the radiator fluid return hose becomes apparent. Easily remedied by rerouting the hose. Running the engine until the fan kicks in confirms the problem is solved.
Besides the technical checks the bikes and the Magadan luggage also deserve a clean before we leave them behind. In the nearby town of Sevlievo the boys at the car wash are happy to give everything a thorough clean. We can sit on our lazy asses, use the shop wifi and have a cold coke while they do all the work. It really makes me file like a true adventurer.
The day is concluded with a Skype conference to discuss the final practical preparations for the Discover Overland Meeting together with Leonie, Peter, Azure and Roel. The event is in 2 weeks and we’re all getting really excited and want to make this first edition a big success.
With all the practicalities sorted yesterday we can fully enjoy our final day and evening in Bulgaria. It just so happens there’s a big party for the 60th birthday of Martin, another of the British expats in the village. How’s that for excellent timing? Its’ a proper party too, with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of food and drinks, a genuine dance floor and all kinds of silliness going on. even the local Babas are joining in on the fun. Unfortunately we have to get up in the middle of the night for the 2,5 hour trip to Sofia, so we say goodbye to everyone and retire before the party is over.
Coming home does feel a bit strange. We’re not used to arriving in a plane and having to leave our bikes behind was a little bit painful. We won’t be able to ride them again until we return next year. But n the other hand when we do, we’ll immediately be in our favourite part of Europe and in the perfect starting position for the next leg of our Eastafette Project.