We hoped today’s ride would be easy, but we braced ourselves for the worst, since we had to cross the ridge between Macedonia and Bulgaria.
It was a cool morning and we eased into the ride nice and early. We had lunch at the midpoint in Delchevo, but it was a dud restaurant which took 45 minutes to make a pork chop and an omelette. We weren’t too keen on starting the climb at midday, but we didn’t have much choice. I managed to get two flat tyres and while we fixed them we could hear and see thunderstorms in the distance.
We started climbing afterwards and although it looks bad, it was quite pleasant, I was able to cycle the whole time too. It helped that my climbing stamina and confidence has increased and today’s hill had a 5% gradient compared to the 10% gradient yesterday.
I made it to the border crossing just before it rained and I found Leo under a shade cloth, chilling out. We sat and ate some snacks while the rain cleared and Leo helped me build me bicycle checklist for when I go home. Each day there has been a gentle trickle of cycling wisdom from his years of experience and it has changed the way I see my bike and its capability. Even though my bike is stock standard, I can customise it in so many ways and understand how different elements can change my experience.
The descent was incredible, the big sweeping turns were smooth and the view was completely unobstructed. My photo doesn’t capture it well, but it was the first time we could see Bulgaria, all the way into the horizon.
When we arrived in Blagoevgrad, we saw how different the big city was, compared to the little mountain towns we visited previously. There were giant shopping centres, several town squares, bicycles and plenty of places to eat. I thought the public art was cool and it was nice to just stroll around town in the evening. We were both quite exhausted, but we only had one more ride until our rest day, so we could relax a bit.