Trip dist: 118 kms. Trip time: 7 hrs, 58 mins. Tot dist: 6,976 kms.
Started out the cloudy day climbing the deceptively flat ride to Shumen. It was very deceptive because you're actually climbing up and down some mesas: you climb, then it flattens out for several kilometers, then it descends, and you climb again to some flat sections, and on and on and on for the whole ride, so while it looks kind of flat, and you're thinking: "Cool! Fast ride today!", in reality, it takes forever (as evidenced above).
Anyway, a nice thing happened shortly after I left Russe. I was up climbing one of the slopes, when here comes some Caucasian guy pedalling faster, and passing me with a silent, broad smile. The first thing I looked at was his bicycle: he was carrying the panniers indicative of long-distance cycling. Now, no one cycles in Bulgaria unless they're headed for Istanbul, so I immediately called: "Where are you going?"
"Turkey!" he replied.
"Where?" said I.
At this point he stopped (success!!). I caught up, and we started chatting. He's biking through Turkey, to Iran, and as far East as he can manage in his month or so of vacation. But today, he's headed to Shumen (exactly where I'm headed!). Jesper is Swedish, a psychiatry nurse, and we're pretty close in age. Cool, huh?
So we rode together (or more or less together, he was faster on the uphills, so he pressed ahead and then he waited for me at the top) all the way to Shumen, through some very strange weather with a deep mist and dry landscapes, straight out of the "Twilight Zone."
Still, it was good to finally find some "same-way-headed" company, after all these months of solitude.