WE’VE DONE 1000MILES!!!
So we just need to repeat that 18 times now…
We had a good start from the hotel fueled by pizza and with peacocks watching us pack up.
It was essentially the same road all day and we initially enjoyed the quaint Romanian villages before the trafficbuilt up.
It was a bit busier with trucks than we would have liked but Stevie did an amazing job keeping is safe and we diverted as necessary. A steady climb for the first part of the day saw us moving from fields to hills to a more mountainous region. It was a hot hot day with the sun beating down and we made plenty of stops for cold drinks and a break from the road.
Finally reaching the high point we started to descend down the green valleys past haystacks and fields of corn. One last set of grinding switchbacks as a last kick and we followed the rivers down the valleys to the town of Orşova where we stopped at a garage. No sooner were we inside the heavens opened and thunder and lightning crashed around.
Sheltering from the storm we made a break for it once the rain eased, riding in along the now massive 1 to a hotel with a tremendous view in Dorbeta Turnu Severin.
We had a lovely waiter called Boby who had worked on chicken farm in England, which unfortunately hadn’t given him the best impression of the place but he still served a surprise dessert! We also met another cycle tourist who was nice to chat to but certainly taking things steadier than us.
An 18th of the time done!
A long day in the saddle making the most of the tailwinds. A fond farewell to Romania waving to children, old ladies and everybody in between on the roadside.
Before we knew if we were whizzing past the long queue of lorries at the border and into Bulgaria.
This being the seventh country in 10 days, making the cultural adjustment if getting tiring. We were on more minor roads which probably didn’t help but the first garage/ restaurant didn’t take card and we hadn’t got any Lev yet. We pushed on with only 1 bottle of water left to the next town and fuelled up there.
We decided to make the finally push over two small climbs to Kozloduy and we’re soon baking in the late afternoon heat. We had not expect the first few miles to be cobbles which definitely hindered our progress and then the road completely disintegrated into a mess of potholes, ruts and cracks. We still managed to gain some time of the descents and we’re treated to a cracking view of the Danube on the way down the hill.
Finding the main large hotel in Kozloduy it was a surprise to find it fully booked and we feared a repeat of Bratislava! Being decisive we booked the next hotel on booking.com before back tracking about 3miles. We checked in, made sure there was spaces for the bike, had our passports registered and then went to pay… to find it was cash only again!! So another 3 mile trip back to town on the unladen tandem to get cash and dinner (the restaurant was closed too) to return to the rather shaby hotel room to at least get clean and rested before doing it all again tomorrow!
At least the food was good and the view wasnt bad. A lovely young student got roped in (we suspect on her night off from waitressing) to help us decipher the menu. Google translates photo function was amazing where we could just hover the phone over the words and figure out what they ment!
We woke up in not the best hotel in Bulgaria and beat a hasty retreat. Stopping at a bakery we dinned on pizza and bread with hot dogs in for breakfast, washed down with peach juice.
Setting off we soon realised our mistake…no caffeine!! No tea, no coffee.
After struggling through the morning we made an emergency stop at a garage for coffee and iced tea. Feeling slightly more human we rolled into Pleven in time for a cafe for a late lunch.
We knew the hills were coming and two stiff climbs later we were flying down pretty countryside to Sevlievo where we had prebooked a much better hotel and did the evening ritual of shower, wash clothes, charge things before getting dinner at the nearest Taverna.
A steady start and an epic slice of pizza saw us on our way to the foothills of the Shipka Pass… 30 miles of uphill with 12 miles on the pass is not to be sniffed a full laden tandem as all we could do was take it slow and steady. Luckily it was mostly under the shade of lovely green forests and we reached the summit gone midday in the cool. A break to admire the view and and early lunch and then we were speeding down the mountainside through a series of switchbacks. We were super grateful for the disc brakes recommended by the Tandem shop!
Safely at the bottom thanks to Stevie’s competency as captian we still had a long way to go and a bit more descent (and coffee) sped us on our way. Bulgaria has changed a lot as we’ve moved through from the traditional North with basic but friendly shops and garages and lots of horse down carts still being used to the more modern interior with some of the poshest garages we’ve seen and lots more people speaking English to a more traditional but different feeling (more Asian?!) South of the country. The landscape was more arod and crickets chirped loud as we seemed to be climbing again. It was getting hot again and a long empty stretch had us diving into a local shop for ice creaks and cold drinks. With 22 miles still to go it felt like an age after such a long day. We’ve climbed higher passes in the tandem; but not normally as part of a 120mile+ ride!
Finally getting close to the Turkish border we stopped in a basic traditional hotel but with a lovely friendly lady who helped look after the bike and find a restaurant.
We made an early start and grabbed a garage breakfast to get to the border.
A fantastically smooth crossing and we were rapidly heading to Asia!
A rollercoaster of road made for a solid ride but we were enjoying the rolling hillsides of Turkey with sheephearders and friendly people. We were launched into Turkish culture in Edrine with the hustle and bustle of a town. Stopping at local cafe for brunch/lunch we were served soup, bottomless bread and of course chai tea.
We pushed on and it was a tough ride and only got tougher with the relentless ups and downs. The traffic got busier and we hit Çorlu around rush hour which was a bit frantic. We had a really long day to finally finish at a warmshowers within sight of Istanbul to cross the city tomorrow!
Wow! What a day!!
A bit of a rocky start had us diving into a local bakery for boreks and baklava for breakfast, the crispy pastry instantly making us feel better as we rolled through the lat few hills before launching ourselves into the chaos that is Istanbul. We thought it was busy to begin with but it only got busier and busier with people, cars and mopeds everywhere. We managed to find a coastal cycle route and the was beautifully peaceful in contrast with families out picnicking and people swimming in the turquoise Marmara sea. Sadly not time for a dip we pushed on and on to reach the ferry across the Bosphorus.
A scramble to get ticket and before we knew it we were heading to Asia!!
Continent no. 2
We met a lovely teacher on the ferry who pointed out to us all the mosques, places and monuments we were missing, so at least we got a glimpse of the old town nestled amongst the towering tower blocks.
It was no quieter the other side of the river. We pushed through and managed to get close to the coast again but were feeling overwhelmed by passing through the whole city in a day with the sights and sounds and hustle and bustle. One final iced tea stop and we headed up the hill and into the suburbs. Feeling worn out we stopped at the first hotel we saw and it turned out to have a tremendous view of the city and sea. A couple of what we suspect are some sort of bean based kofte wrap for tea and the call to prayer from the minarets are echoing around as we are about to finally rest.
Not a high mileage day but completely exhausting!
Not quite to plan…
After waking up to a beautiful view over the town of Gebze we had a solid breakfast and we’re ready to hit the road… only to find out that the slight softness to the rear tyre we’d be tactful ignoring was definitely a miniscule puncture and we decide to ignore it no further!
Stevie had the back wheel out in a flash and a new tube went in. A later start than planned but at least problem solved…
So we went rolling along to the tip of the Marmara sea after a cracking descent out of Gebze and then started to pick up the pace on the flat. Just as we were really getting going.. pssstt!! And emergency stop on the descent the front tyre was completely flat.
The culprit was quickly identified as a sharp shard of metal and another new tube went in… thankful Schwalbe supporting us with lots of spares.
So we set off again determined to keep the speed up and make it up the big climb to Bolu.
And then “twang”!!
A spoke had broken. Weirdly near the nipple and inconveniently in the back wheel in a place which needed cassette, brake rota, tyre, tube and rim tape to all come off. We were very grateful for the the Bird Hypercracker that allowed us to tackle this on the roadside instead of risking the wheel or finding a shop but our ambitions of pushing further in were shot and we settled for a stay in Düzce.
The race to get to the Caspian sea ferry is now on so we hope we can make up mileage tomorrow!!
2 punctures, 1 broken spoke (all same day)
6 large slices