Today was the last day in Greece. I had accommodated myself in an unremarkable yet-another-town of Serrus in Greece near the Greece – Bulgarian border. I was excited for Bulgaria since it is a country which was not a part of the Schengen Agreement but a part of Euro zone. Moreover it had that exotic and unknown feel to it, since I didn’t know even a single person who was from Bulgaria or had been to that country thus far.
So I started, doing the last miles in Greece towards Bulgaria. I was “checked out” with an immigration stamp on the Greece side and “checked-in” on the Bulgarian end. The Multistrada attracted attention and amused the border officials who were probably discussing something about the bike being Turkish in their own language. He Indian passport as attracted some amazement as they might not be used to seeing a lot of Indians cross over on motorcycles (or cars for that matter) to Bulgaria, they usually fly, if by any chance they have any business in Bulgaria at all.
My first Bulgarian petrol pump and the interaction with the first Bulgarian man in my life!
So after the immigration (now the standard immigration at airports will seem too dull for me!) I went through the customs which just let us go by taking a glance at the three boxes on the bike and he may have probably thought ‘what could possibly go inside those anyways, this biker is useless to me!’
As I entered Bulgaria the scenery and topography dramatically began to change. Roads started getting sinuous to the Nth degree, altitude higher, roads a little bad, temperature lower. The mountain sides were completely covered with greenery, roadsides with trees. I felt I was riding through Jurassic park. There were hardly any people in the first few kilometeres. These were the Rhodope Mountains. I had rarely experienced such wilderness on a main road riding on a motorcycle. The last I remember is when I was riding in Tasmania, Australia, but that was just a part of it.
This country was not as that developed and these were stunningly green and big mountains. I stopped the bike for a moment to hear what was going on, the MultiStrada’s big torque engine makes a lot of hullabaloo you know. After I stopped faint sounds and details started to register on my eardrums. It was an orchestra of nature, with all sort of sounds – crickets, birds, insects. But the air was very quiet.
As I moved along I went through a few villages, they seemed like Indian villages at many points, similar way of life, clothes, carts etc.
The road got really steep and sometimes very bad at quite a few times. And then something happened. Dogs! I was very (un)pleasantly surprised to see a big furry ferocious dog charge from the side of the road to the bike, clearly with manic intentions. As an instinctive reaction I twisted the throttle and sped away leaving the dog still trying to catch the bike in the wake!
From here through Bulgaria and throughout Romania I would discover that how dangerous, violent and menacing the stray dogs of these two countries were. They did add a lot of unnecessary spice and ‘fun’ to the trip.
A section and a little detour on the road to the town of Plodiv (which was to be might night halt for today), takes one to the Trigrad Gorge. It is a canyon of vertical marble rocks. The gorge’s west wall reaches 300 m in height, while the east one extends up to 300–350 m. In the beginning, the distance between the two walls is about 300 m, but reaches about 100 m (!!) in the north. The Trigrad Gorge is located 1.2 km from the village of Trigrad at 1,450 above sea level and has a total length of 7 km, of which the real part is 2–3 km.(From Wiki).
At points the road became super narrow and the sunlight was almost cut-out because of the high rocks situated very close to each other on either side.
The road leads to a place called the Devil’s Throat. I arrived there at around 5 PM.
The Devil’s Throat is a chasm cave in Bulgaria which is formed by the result of the collapse of the earth’s layers. The main part of the cave is a big hall in which houses the highest underground waterfall of the Balkan Peninsula. The sound which this waterfall makes is so loud that you cannot even hear yourself speak when inside.
If you throw something at one end of this cave it never comes out from the other end. Many experiments with dyes and other experiments were performed, and they do come out from the other end, but after HOURS. What takes them to take hours for a distance which seems like a few metres can only be explained by an existing network of super dense and long underground tunnels through which the water might be flowing. If anyone has seen the movie ‘The Descent’, he might get a lot of good ideas of what might be going down there!
Unfortunately I could not see the cave since one is only allowed in with a guide and one tour takes around 50 minutes. I had to wish to ride through the 100 kms odd remaining mountains through wilderness of Bulgaria in the late evening so I had to give this opportunity up. However, the Trigrad Gorge road and the ride was done!
Later I spotted these houses on water and lakes, I assume that these were fishermen living on boat houses!
I am using a GPS on the MultiStrada, a TomTom to be exact. The countries of Bulgaria and Romania are mapped around 50% and 15% respectively on it. Sometimes the GPS, or always, takes through the shortest path, in countries where no one can speak English, it is a boon. However today it took my through a very bad, narrow offroad cutting though swamps and marshes (yes SWAMPS!). In my course of tacking that road i saw exotic birds, big flamingoes and a snake come out of the water and cross the road just in front of me to the otherside! I was actually afraid, but not of all this, i was afraid what will i do if i encounter a pack of dogs on this road (read this), speeding away was out of the question, i will definitely fall. There have been also instances of bear attacks in many parts of Bulgaria. And there was no one around for miles. I could not even go above 30kmph because the road was so loose and narrow and punctuated with foliage and trees with overgrowing branches on the road! It was a nice unexpected adventure! However, I did make it through and took a sigh of relief when I saw an asphalted road with a horse and a human being on it! I was glad that the Mission Red Planet did not turn into Mission: Hunt Motographer for something as ‘trivial’ as this! But there was no doubting, Bulgaria was beautiful!
This was the road, only the photos of the ‘best patches’ were taken since i could not even stop at others:
Plovdiv is the second largest town in Bulgaria. However when I reached there it did not seem so. Streets were almost deserted, people very few. It somehow seemed to be as a soviet town, the one which I used to imagine by seeing some movies. It was almost 9 PM, thought still bright and I was searching for a hotel here. After some search and dodging a few dogs I made it to the best hotel in Plovdiv (by TripAdvisor) and it cost me only 40 Euros!
By doing some reading I found that Plovdiv was actually a very and important town of Bulgaria with lot of activities happening there throughout the year. But somehow that day the town seemed different. And I don’t think there was anything called a rush hour in the town, good for me! Tomorrow, it would be Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria…