overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

One should always remember that one passes the port to the left...

Written by Maz Towns. Uploaded 11 September 2005.

Bulgaria, Country 8, Diary entry 24-29th Aug 2005, Total distance in Bulgaria: 1128 KM

Having decided not to opt for the Kosovan meat dish as I was feeling quite sick and faint, I ordered spaghetti and tomato sauce. Having managed a few mouthfuls before deciding that I really couldn't face anymore, the boys managed to get our monies worth and at least make it look like I'd eaten something. After setting up camp on the side of a track, still feeling unwell, we said our goodnights and zipped up the tents for the night.

I'm sure a few of you have been unwell while camping and rushing to get out of a tent before being sick is a feat in itself, couple that with being 6 foot off the ground makes for interesting times! Having decided that I really should get myself out of the tent, Alex woke up and helped me quickly open the door, but unfortunately that's all I managed before seeing my dinner again. Alex was a sweetheart and while rubbing my back to try and soothe me, he whispered sweet nothings into my ear.."Honey, try not to be sick on the bonnet"!!

The next morning feeling slightly better, we headed to Sofia. With map in hand and destination known, we didn't think it would be too difficult to arrive in the capital on time. How hard could it be? Unfortunately we had naively expected that as our map was in the Roman alphabet, the road signs would be too.... That's how hard it could be! We ended up navigating by GPS and counting streets after passing significant landmarks by the roadside but found our destination on time, mid to late afternoon. Our destination; the British Residence in Sofia, the home of Ambassador Jeremy Hill and his lovely wife Katie. British residence

After writing to all the UK embassies in the countries we were travelling to informing them of our plans to drive through their country, Jeremy and Katie kindly invited us to dinner on our first night in Bulgaria. After having a drink on the terrace and meeting their son Chris, we had a quick dip in the pool before dressing for dinner. It can be tough travelling sometimes. We all managed to scrub up well before meeting their other dinner guests Julian & Tanya. After cooking on our little gas stove and eating off plastic plates, dining with 100 year old silver cutlery engraved with the monogram of King George V and gold edged crockery was more than extravagant! Dinner time!

The next day we relaxed and packaged up everything that had broken so far to be posted back to the UK to be fixed. This is when Katie warned us that the post office was the last remaining bastion of communism in Bulgaria and that you needed a local, half a day and lots of patience for packing and repacking then signing everything in triplicate before anything would leave the post office in Sofia, so we decided we would leave it for another city. Martin went out in the afternoon the explore Sofia a little before meeting his 2 friends Stephaniya and Svetla for dinner while Alex and I had another excellent meal with Jeremy, Katie and Chris. We were invited to stay another night and without hesitation accepted! We could get used to this :o)

Alex being interviewed The next day, Katie had arranged for Clive a reporter from the Sofia Echo, an ex-pat newspaper, to come and interview us to help raise awareness of the charity (pic of the week to be credited to the Sofia Echo). After telling our story and having our picture taken, we were informed that the Bulgarian 24 hour newspaper also wanted to come and interview us! So we met Kristina and retold our story before saying our farewells. I'm sure the Hills were getting worried that we were never going to leave!! We headed south to the Rila Monastery.

Balconies at Rila Snuggled away in the mountains, it took a while to crawl up the steep windy road, but it was well worth the journey. Originally built in 927 as a colony of hermits, 300 years later the monastery was moved 3km to its present location. Nowhere could I find the reason why! An irregular courtyard surrounded by 4 levels of colourful balconies hides a church built in the middle of the 18th century adorned inside and out with hundreds of frescoes depicting donors, Old Testament kings, apostles, angels, demons and martyrs. Alongside stands the clocktower which is the only original remains from the early period. Frescoes outside the church After sampling the local cuisine, we headed towards Trigrad and after a few near misses with the local traffic, horse and carts are extremely difficult to see in the dark, found a bushcamp by a stream.. back to reality!

After driving through Trigrad gorge which is quite spectacular we came to our next stop, Devils Throat cave with the underground waterfall. Katie had called ahead for us to let them know we were on our way and would arrive in 2 days time. When we arrived it soon became apparent we were guests of the Ambassador and had already arranged for an English speaker to take us on a tour of the cave.

The plan after the tour was to head for more caves just down the road. After seeing the vehicles, a local told us of a great shortcut for 4x4's over the top of the mountain. We headed off to find the right turn to the shortcut. After getting a little lost in a village we found the track we were looking for. The track was about 10kms and we had just over an hour before the caves closed, so we ploughed on (as fast as you can on a green lane) to get to the caves. The further we went, the worse the track got and at one point decided we must have taken a wrong turn, but Martin assured us that he had been told there was one bad bit so we carried on. We came to a fork in the road and unknowingly took the wrong track. We managed to get down the first section and told Martin to stay at the junction, we would venture a little further to see where it went. We came to a very narrow section where half the track had fallen away, we were left at a dead end. Martin carried on down the other path and came out just infront of us, joking that the other way was good. So we had to somehow reverse all the way back up the track. No easy feat I can tell you! With Alex directing me, we slowly got the car back to the very worst bit of track. Things became more difficult as there was over a 2 foot ditch in the road we were trying to straddle and a long fall down the side of the cliff if we ventured too far off the track. At this point, we decided that maybe we should have stuck to the main road, but what fun would that have been?

We were just about over the worst of the section, when the dirt ground gave way and the back wheel slipped into the rut. Alex and Martin jumped onto the side to counteract the vehicle so it didn't roll on its side. We were now in a predicament we didn't want to be in. With the boys trying to guide me while clinging like monkeys to the side of the vehicle, we crawled the vehicle to the top of the road again and took the route which Martin had used. Several days later we remembered the sand plates we'd bought which were strapped to the top of Martins car...hindsight is a great thing. Had we remembered these, we'd have been able to just drive over the section of the track which has crumbled away! Next time. off road view of Trigrad

By this time 2 hours had passed and there was no chance of seeing the caves. Navigating by GPS, it looked like we were close to a main road, on further inspection, we realised that we were 1km from the Greek border! We very nearly added another country to our list without realising. We came to a village and eventually found the main road out of it, only to find it took us back to the village we had left 2 and a half hours previously to begin this adventure! Maybe next time we'll think twice before taking locals advice on shortcuts. We like to look at it as a training exercise!

On the main road out of town, we came across a restaurant and opted for easy bush camp cooking, ordering it. We camped by the side of the road that night before heading to Nessebar on the black sea coast the next morning. This would be the first of many site seeing trips to ancient ruins. After a disappointing start, we managed to fight our way through the tourist trap to discover the Pantokrator Church which now houses an art gallery and the 10th century church of St. John the Baptist. Pantokrator Church

We then ventured into a nearby town and came across roasted chicken on an open fire - that sold it to us and we seated ourselves down ready for a feast. However, we were treated to a lot more. There was an entertainment singer in the bar who wandered round the tables and sung to people. We began to panic when he started walking in our direction but luckily he carried on to the table next to us. Martin flying highHe had chosen the right table. As soon as he sang to one of the girls she took to her feet and danced for over 20 minutes, as well as singing when she could. As the evening progressed and the music changed tempo, nearly the whole restaurant got to their feet, led by the girl who has already shown us her talents and did a kind of snake dance, with synchronised foot movements. True Bulgarian family entertainment. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night.

Voyager With our powerful magic still in force, the winds from the resident storm were still hot on our tail, and with white horses riding the waves, we decided it was too rough to dive, especially considering the nearest equivalent boat we could find to our regular UK dive boat Voyager didn't appear up for the job. We spent the morning expending our energies kite flying on the beech before heading east towards Istanbul.

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Comment from Bob
What happen to the 4th guy ? Can we have an update ?
12 Sep 2005 @ 18:49:33

Comment from Corinna Siegle
Hi Bob,

the trio has stopped at our place in Turkey already over a week ago .. so I think Maz, Alex and Martin need a extra day for diary writing!

Anyways - also I asked for the 4th guy and I learned, that he is currently selling his house and that it is hoped that afterwards he can ship his car and join them somewhere. Correct?

Charity divers! still our eyes are shimmering when we think about your trip and we tell many people about your project! We drink a Raki on you - hugs from Corinna and Cahit plus children ;)
14 Sep 2005 @ 20:08:26

Comment from Debbie Townsend
Hi guys - keep up the good work. Just love tunning into the diaries especially the photos and the pic of the week!! Thinking of you.

Debbie

xxxx
15 Sep 2005 @ 13:43:16