We really, I mean really, had a good rest day in Ruse. It’s always a bit slow starting off from an hotel, but today, Monday, we were out of the town by 11, including route planning to the Turkish border and posting the last batch of souvenirs home. With the hotel staff’s weather warning ringing in our ears. We’d agreed to go via the Ivanovov cave monastery, so, in advance, big miles weren’t on the agenda. Around 12 we ran into the first village and stopped to buy food for the day. Gid shopped, Clare read the village sign board. Which advertised this village’s own cave monastery, St Dimitriy Basarbovic, 1km left. Ok, let’s do that as well. It was small, we were two of a trickle of visitors; we saw three monks; there were about 4 caves, some richly decorated, some bare but scattered with coins and little notes, presumably prayers from the faithful. Lovely it was, and although I’m sure Ivanovov is more authentically ancient and has more splendour, probably visiting this small site was more solace for the soul. And safer for the bikes.
And, there was a sign: Tallying with our 400,000 map, this little limestone gorge was the downstream end of a nature reserve that took in two or three such. The road past carried on up, wiggling madly as the river did, and was marked as an ecotrail all the way 6km to the next village. The sky was thundery, so we didn’t fancy the main road, so decided to enjoy this slow scenic route.
The road passed a little of this n that, including a gated cave entrance big enough for trucks and probably used by same. The road also gradually got worse. The river was dammed in several places, filling most of the gorge floor with lovely lakes, inhabited by rafts with fisher-scarecrows. And cormorants.
At an abandoned, perhaps never finished house, the road ended, but an obvious 4×4 track carried on. Gid fell off on a rut, but the rain held off so it stayed dry. At a dam, the 4×4 ruts ended, but there were still vehicle tracks in the overgrown grassy track… With some concerns we carried on, for a bit. Clare fell off too, and it was still getting harder with, said Garmin, 4km to go. We turned about. The sky darkened more. Back at the monastery, we dived under the shelter outwith the walls, dug out lunch, and watched the heavens open. We sat it out for an hour, amused by lunch, eating all our snacks, playing I-spy, and a scrounging cat.
As the rain eased, we donned waterproofs and set off. It was 4pm and we’d done 20km.
We had some discussions about where next, and modified our route slightly to pass through the next town. About a 1km gradual climb took us up onto a kind of plateau. We could see for miles, and, clearly, this plateau was often deeply cut by little gorges: The rivers found it as easy to cut as did the monks. We ignored signs for two hotels in a unhelpful direction, and never did find those Ivanovov caves. Dvi Mogili did not look promising as we rolled through a rather bleak, big, farm straddling the road. Two guys were visible working on stuff, it was only 5:30 but dark as late evening. The rest of the village appeared bleak too, but we stopped at the shop to ask…. The shop was bright and absolutely chock with people. “Does anyone speak English?”, “sprechen ze deutsch?”, say I. “she does” says a chap about my age, then he says “parlez vous francais”, and so we proceed with my broken French. And there is indeed a place to stay. In fact he leads us there in his car. We’d cycled past it, and both thought it something, but not an hotel or pension. He pulls over, legs it in, and sets us up with the – surprised – couple running the place (including telling us the price, which, ahem, might be a special tourist rate. Well it’s pretty reasonable). At this point the heavens open again, we really are having some luck today. Bikes tucked away, we’re in the basic but fine room when the storm really hits overhead: KABOOM and the lights go off, Clare’s in the windowless shower. But headtorches fill the gap. Supper is provided, a bit scratch but then we didn’t prebook. By 8:20 the lights are back on, there’s WiFi, and the rain has stopped. 51km today Still glad not to be camping 🙂