Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Bulgaria - Dolna Banya to Belmeken Dam

Tuesday 04th July 2017

A cloudy and grey start to the day was a reminder of the last two stormy days we had spent in hiding! It was good to be out on the bikes again and we planned a short day from Dolna Banya to the Belmeken Dam and then to return by the same route.
The trail led us through farmland and meadows to the old town of Kostenets. We weaved around the roads, with me trying to find a short cut and ended up at a small market, which had lots of fresh produce but we had no Bulgarian currency on us. So it was onwards through more flat pasture land and past the usual guard dogs, which are similar to those in Romania but the dogs here seem taller and less well fed. We stopped to let a couple pass in their horse and cart laden with hay – a typical sight in the rural areas. The woman looked a bit alarmed but we realised this was because of the skittish foal that came hurtling along after her mother giving us a very wide berth. 

We started to head up through forest on a good gravel road but after a few kilometres this turned to sand and mud. Due to all the rain we have been having it was fairly sticky in places. Okay for us on our enduro tyres but it would have been more difficult for say TKC’s on a road bike. The road was softer probably due to logging which again reminded me Romania as we saw a big logging truck go by. 

We passed plenty of resting places and water sources and a bench painted in Bulgarian flag colours. Higher up on the trail we passed a beautiful house and some locals out gathering wood in a more traditional way. Although they were using chainsaws to cut the logs to more manageable pieces they were still using horse power. I was blown away as we stopped to watch the horse pull two long pieces of timber along the track.

Eventually we arrived at the start of the tarmac road and the first small dam which funnily has a STOP barrier. We were waved around the side of it and continued on our long climb up towards the Belmeken Dam. As we neared the top we headed into the mist – an unusual sight for us having had days on end of sunny weather. Not too far from the dam we decided to call it a day and return from the other direction tomorrow with better weather forecast and hopefully some good views.

We free wheeled most of the way back to the dirt road and then struck across the fields again back to the van. 

Before moving on we decided to go into Dolna Banya to change some money so we could buy some fruit and veg off the many stalls on the roadsides. The bank was a funny affair. First of all I couldn’t change money at the first bank – I had to go to the square to the Western Union bank, where they told me to come back in 5 minutes as it was still lunchbreak. I went back 5 minutes later and by then there was a queue. After 20 minutes I saw the cashier who was friendly enough but quite official and took my passport details and then asked me to go to the other counter to see the man who looked like a security guard but had a friendly smile to give me my £40 in local currency. It was a funny, long drawn out expereince with everything documented on paper.

We headed off down the road with cash in hand to buy some fresh raspberries, only to find the lady who had got there just before me buying all of the 10 remaining punnets – we only wanted one! Never mind Fortunately in the lovely town of Yolanda we managed to buy a full plastic bag full – about 14 peaches for the equivalent of about 70p!