Unbeknown to us we picked up a hitchhiker at the border crossing, a Vlad mosquito who drove us bonkers all night. By morning the bed sheets revealed the extent of the feed frenzy with more blood splats than we care to remember. On top of a bad night, we woke early to the sound of clattering bins, scurrying cats and yapping dogs. The grumpy bin men chucked the rubbish in the cart and out popped the rats and mice along screaming cats. It confirmed our thoughts, this place is definitely not a place worth visiting.
Craig nipped to the end of the street and disappeared in to what looked like a metal factory. He’d actually found the local bakers and returned with two freshly baked croissants to accompany our morning coffee. As we slowly came to our senses we watched Dimovo’s town wake up. I love to watch a town wake up, its simply mesmerising. Across the way, the local cafe shutters opened and two ladies commenced breakfast takeout for passing trade. One by one the belly scratching men queued for their scram as we nibbled on our croissants.
With an early rise we aimed for an early start, so we could make the most of the day and head towards Belogradchik. The scenic landscape is full of extraordinary geological formations, rock towns, weird sandstone columns and impressive fortress. The countryside is stunning but sadly, the hillside town of Belogradchik is not. It is dirty dump and far from pretty. We searched high and low for a good parking spot but the town offers nothing in the way of parking for large vehicles. Just a handful of street parking with patrolling and unsavoury characters making us feel rather uneasy. We drove around for over an hour as we so wanted to visit the rocks and the fortress. In the end we gave up, such a shame because this town could clearly be a good tourist spot with a bit more thought (click to enlarge).
As we headed out of town we managed to stop at a lay by and grab a few photo’s.
Our Bumble Verdict: The rock formations looks excellent but not motorhome friendly place.
We took the back road just to see the country but not by choice, by Tom Tom demand. For whatever reason our GPS map data is all mixed up and no matter what we do it refuses to take the main roads. Unfortunately, the roads in Bulgaria aren’t great and sometimes it is hard to determine a main road from a minor road, so your gut instinct goes out the window. That combined with impossible to read Cyrillic road signs meant we had lots of arguments and stern looks at our GPS.
For the next several hours we bumbled through beautiful countryside but it was frustrating because there were no places to pull over. Just single track roads with no stopping points. With hilly bits then flat bits full of burnt fields and wild pigs. Every once in a while we came across a farm or some dead little village where the liveliest thing was a bird twitching on top of an old communist statue. Abandoned army trucks by the roadside, disused shelters and derelict buildings. The whole Northern section felt totally abandoned with just the odd old timer clinging on to the remains of a ghost village.There is no question this area is stunning beautiful but for what ever reason, it feels abandoned and trapped in era when communism offered fairer rewards.
Eventually, we spotted a reasonable looking parking space and pulled over for a coffee break. It turned out to be a garden centre with full on security. A small gated entrance with several guard dogs surrounding the perimeter. Everything and anything seems protected here. As I shuffling through leaves and litter to take Mac n Tosh for a piddle, the guard dogs went ballistic. We were no where near them but clearly our presence was enough to drive them nuts. A quick cock of the leg and we were out of here.
By now we were starting to feel fed up. We’d covered 300 kilometres through a wonderful countryside and not had the chance to stop or feel comfortable enough to stop. After 3 years of travelling and wild camping we felt like beginners. All our skills of finding a place, gone. We stopped and gave ourselves a real hard time. Is this for us? Why cant we stop and feel safe? Has our bottle gone? Our heads were screwed. We looked out the window the sun was sinking in the sky. To the left hills rose up, flecked with trees that were just beginning to show a blush of autumn colour. To the right the land was as flat as a table-top. Flat like us, we felt shattered and burnt out.
By night fall we made it to Sofia. Another uninviting place full of shady characters. We headed straight for the only camping ground we know of. In the middle of a dirty industrial zone we found our camping spot. Its basically, a chaps backyard that backs on to a working commercial garage. It was not pretty or inviting but the owner was lovely. He welcomed us to his yard full of junk, tools and scrap. Under normal circumstances we would not stay here but we felt we had no choice but it was safe and somewhere to put our head down, and in all fairness, the owner was super polite.
Dark clouds loomed above and within minutes of arrival it started to rain. We took shelter from the thunder, lightening and heavy down pour before we got soaked. The storm was in for the night and the dogs took comfort from our laps.
Paid Camping GPS position Sofia N042.743137, E023.285587
The following day.…The storm lasted until lunch time the following day and by the time it passed we really didn’t fancy cycling 7km through muddy puddles to visit a city that we weren’t too bothered about. So we paid our €10 packed up and headed to Greece.On the way we filled up with more Lidl goodies and brimmed Vin with diesel. Passing endless used car dealers selling what looked like foreign cars. You here all sorts of stories about cars and motorhomes being stolen and driven here, makes you wonder.
We had so many plans for Bulgaria with a few key places to visit but the non-stop travel, long days, bumpy roads have taken their toll. We are shattered and longing for the last of 2016 sunshine. I am sure we will come back to Bulgaria and look at it in a very different light. We can see how beautiful the countryside looks but our heads are not in the right place to appreciate it.
By sunset, we were parked on a beach, somewhere in Greece enjoying the most wonderful sunset. Craig with his ouzo and lemonade and me with glass of merlot. Fine job and now time to chill and enjoy the autumn sunshine.
Wild Camping GPS position Greece N040.775702, E023.805293
Route: Bulgaria to Greece