I am not clad in lycra cycling garb on this trip, I never have worn it despite all my years of cycling and only now do I own a pair of Craft padded hotpants to wear under my combats. This lycra veto is simply due to
1 personal preference,
2 the fact that most of my outdoor gear is for mountains and does the same job
3 avoiding lycra helps me blend in..
Wrong! It is impossible to blend in. However hard I try to be invisible the fact I have a bike loaded with 6 bags means that heads will turn wherever you are. And of course they did in the town of Nova Zagora, Bulgaria where 3 delightful ladies smiled at me while I was stuffing a rather stale pastry into my mouth with one hand and trying to manoeuvre my bike with the other. I smiled broadly then remembered my manners and swallowed the pastry before smiling again. They were intrigued by my trip, 'you're doing this alone, as a woman, alone?' and I gave my usual reply that my belief is the world is essentially a rather nice place and people are out to help not harm and that it is incredible that in the 21st century it is still considered strange for a woman to be travelling independently..
A phonecall was made and I was asked to accompany them to the Town Hall where I believe I met the mayor, was fed chocolates and icy cola, given souvenirs of Nova Zagora, photographed and treated with humbling respect. Lovely lovely people and I left Nova Zagora feeling I knew a little more about the town and its people
Later that day I was camped in what can only be described as horsefly hell. I was too weary to go further and went to bed with no water nor food having not replenished my 'lost' food bag and having run out of money. So it was a thirsty start the next day with an uphill of 5km but a thrilling 28km of downhill to the town of Lyubimets where I reached a cashpoint and splurged on 2 coffees and 2 pastries before moving on to a petrol station cafe where I ordered a salad and the owner fed me free pizza.
Before I knew it I was saying farewell to the beautiful country of Bulgaria and entering Greece.