10th of June, 2018. Quick ride through Sofia, then towards the Greek border to reach Thessaloniki.
I really enjoyed my time at MotoCamp Bulgaria, accommodation for motorcyclists, located conveniently in the geographic heart of Bulgaria. Insanely affordable cabins and grassed camping areas cater to the traveller who require a home base to unpack their luggage and explore the enchanting sceneries nearby such as the Buzludzha peak and fantastic roads like the Shipka Pass. A direct midpoint between the Romanian and Bulgarian capital cities, Bucharest and Sofia, there’s no need for obscure detours to reach this place.
Being a rider-centric lodge, you will be in the company of other motorcyclists, many from different nationalities although you do get the odd local Bulgarian, which presents an opportunity to learn from riders who have first-hand experiences of places and routes that you would consider or are already planning to visit. The host, Doug, himself is an avid overland rider who has covered Europe, Asia and the Americas on a range of Harley Davidson bikes in the past decade. The wealth of available knowledge can be a massive benefit when you are riding to places that you’ve never been before. Every extra bit of information can help, and this is how I had discovered particular camp sites throughout my trip across Europe as a first-time visitor of the continent.
There is no need to leave the vicinity of the MotoCamp lodge if you wish. Everything that you need is available. Food is available at an extra but small cost, Wi-Fi is available at no cost, and every other homely amenity is available. If you need some maintenance work done on your bike, where else would you want to go with an equipped workshop on site, and a bar with a selection of local brews just a few steps away after you’re done. It’s a no-brainer: when in Bulgaria, visit MotoCamp!
Waving goodbye to Doug and his missus, I made a quick visit to Sofia. Unfortunately, I was too fixed on the objective of reaching Greece by the day’s end, so I barely spent more than a quick moment on the streets of Sofia before heading back on to the main route. This was a mistake, however, as I ended up stopping frequently due to the drowsiness that the Balkan summer heat was exerting, at the intensity of over 30°C. If you are familiar with my Africa Twin blog series, you would know that I don’t cope well with temperatures above that, and it is compounded by my insistence to ride for extended periods of time.
The road approaching the Bulgarian-Greek border is made up of jagged terrain, roads carved into valleys alongside rushing rivers. The sunset ride through this region was pleasant, a cool breeze cooling me down from the radiance of the heat in urban Sofia. There were plenty of potential camp sites beside the river that looked really appealing. Hopefully next time I visit Bulgaria (and really, I genuinely hope I do some time in the near future; it’s a beautiful country!), I take some time to explore more of its wilderness as well as the coastal regions that border the Black Sea.
My night consisted of power naps on the asphalt. Wild camping is not allowed in Greece and is reportedly strictly enforced. Power naps aren’t a crime though, right? My escape route was clear if I were to be interrogated by authorities. I’m just an innocent biker, looking for a place to belong! Anyway, my night wasn’t over, as I crossed over to the Greek border. In contrast to the single lane national roads of Bulgaria, the dual lane carriageways were a welcome feature in the dead of night. Those Greek highways come at a cost though. Sneeze, and you’ll approach a toll gate after another!
Unfortunately, I almost buggered up the first toll payment as I thought that card payments were also accepted. I was wrong. Only cash was acceptable, but I had spent all my Euro coins many days ago as I hated carrying cash on me. The only Euro currency I had in hand was a €500 note. You know, cos I’m all minimalistic like that.
I pulled the note out of the wallet and presented it to the toll gate attendant as payment, as you would for any service that requires payment. Legit, the chick in the booth throws her hands up and exclaims “are you serious??” as though I had offered dog droppings.
Turns out that €500 notes are a dying breed, and many shops have started to decline it as tender since 2014 when printing for the highest Euro note had stopped for good. I was required to provide ID and go through paperwork before being allowed to proceed with the payment..