Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | October 24, 2011

I just ate three cookies

… and I don’t care. … I rode about 55 kilometers today, and as I’m sure you’re tired of hearing — to get out of Blagoevgrad, you always have to go UP.

So it was up the hill and down to the town of Padesh. We encountered five dogs on the little two-lane highway before we got to Padesh. Bill was busy trying to kick at them while riding down the hill toward town — and I was trailing behind him. I thought Bill would wipe out as he tried to free his feet from his pedals to kick at the dogs. Since I had heard the dogs barking well before we got to them, I stopped and picked up a rock — just in case.

These are mangy looking dogs, by the way. I know I should bring food along to toss at them, but they seem pretty angry and so a rock seems a better tool. Anyway, just as Bill cleared the two who were chasing him down the road, I passed one but the second took an angry angle at me as I pedaled furiously toward him — and at the last moment, I raised my arm with the rock in it, yelled like a madman and the dog flinched, just enough to let me get past him as I sped down the hill. Once I was past him, I tossed the rock aside. It had made me feel better to be armed.

I really don’t know what I’ll do if I end up running over one of these hounds going at 40-50 kilometers per hour. But it’s bound to happen at some point.

Aaaaanywayyyyyy … I’m missing pictures again. I’m holding out for the go!pro video camera because taking pictures when you’re either fending off dogs or careening down a sand, gravel and mud-caked mountain path just isn’t all that practical. So sorry about that. We headed out of Padesh and on toward the Macedonian border. Before we got there, we turned off the road and cruised up a paved path that soon became unpaved. It was pretty well packed and so the going wasn’t horrendous, except for the upward climb. Again we went from 300 meters to over 1,000 meters up. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but it was challenging — to say the least.

At the top of the hill, we skirted a small settlement with a few houses — some occupied, others not. One older gent with a big dog (they’re everywhere) asked us where we were from. Bill figured maybe he was an “unofficial” border guard. We were pretty close to Macedonia at that point.

The views up top were spectacular. I’ll leave it at that. We passed a few apple trees, took a few to keep our energy up and kept pedaling.

We raced down a paved road out of a small town at the top of the mountain and ended up back in Padesh. To brace for potential battle with the dogs at the top of the hill heading out of town, we stopped for some sustenance. The small pub at which we stopped featured some sort of African mask over the doorway (significance unknown), a few picnic-type tables inside and a window from which to order food. We opted for a little bread and some Bulgarian sausage patties. They were awesome.

As we waited, a group of about six or seven guys were sitting across from us, talking. They ranged in age from 40s to 60s. There was music playing, “Chalga” music (look it up). We didn’t pay much attention to it until a couple of the fellows decided to get up and do their best “dancing with the stars” right next to our table. Old guys, dirty fingernails, stained fingers from cigarettes, broken and missing teeth and they were up there, shaking their hips and waving their arms and yelling “CHALGA” occasionally. That was all I understood.

Later, one of the guys stopped over to talk to Bill and explained that the music is the type they loved “in their day,” apparently the 1980s (think Bulgarian Dirty Dancing). I guess I haven’t thought of myself as old, but if that’s their groove, maybe I need to sort out what kind of music will move me to such inspired contortions.

Anyway, we got back on our bikes after this small delay, headed out of town and back to Blagoevgrad. We didn’t see any more dogs (well, at least none that charged us). And we arrived safely back after about five hours in the saddle. Tired and happy and with a few more stories to tell.

And late tonight, after a few beers and dinner, I had those three cookies and a cup of tea. That’s how an old guy celebrates.



  1. So, if you cross into Madedonia, do you need a passport?

  2. those poor dogs! i like the idea of you flinging meat at them.

  3. Yes, Kyle, you need a passport (or at the very least, your Bulgarian ID card). I had neither. And Laurie, think of the dogs as wild animals. These are not like your lovable creatures. Not sure to whom they belong, but they always seems angry.

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