This was the last ride for stage 4, before our rest day in Smolyan, a town near the Rhodope Mountains. We were amped up and ready rumble, each with our own snacks, frozen water bottles and two designated stop points along the way.
Zlatograd was a very pretty town, with plenty of locals out and about and a lovely town square to sit in.
I couldn’t resist a cup of buttered sweet corn while Leo had a soft serve ice cream. We only had a brief break and bought some supplies before continuing our ride.
Eventually we had to tackle the big hill, I really struggled to pedal the whole time, so I’d cycle for some of it, then walk until I caught my breath enough to cycle more. It was annoying because it felt like l wasn’t cycle touring, instead I was just pushing 25kg of gear up a giant hill. At least it was over after an hour or so, although the heat made it seem like an eternity.
Luckily there were taps with icy cold water for us to cool off in. It was like heaven and I was tempted to just stay there all day.
The peak of the hill was just around the corner, and before we knew it we were hurtling downwards at 50km/hr. I cringed because I didn’t want to lose the 500m of elevation I worked so hard for and have to climb all over again. There wasn’t much we could do about it, so we stopped in Madan for a rest stop. At this point I was really craving some flavoured milk, since it’s my usual treat, but there was none to be found. In Bulgaria the drink of choice (aside from fizzy drink) is ayran (a runny and sour yoghurt drink), and the brown milk I tried earlier which was just flour and water. I settled for chocolate ice cream and just drank the melted part at the bottom.
We departed again and I was feeling quite happy to be on the home stretch. The last climb felt like nothing compared to the earlier hill and it was nice to roll into Smolyan. We were staying in a restored Rhodopian style home with views of the mountains in every direction. The cooler weather and fresh air was such a relief and we were keen to finally rest.