One Week with Ann Wilson

scenery1Ann Wilson is a British cyclist on a mission to ride her bike around the world – an idea she came up with after reading A Bike Ride, the story written by Anne Mustoe about pedalling around the globe.

The book was just the inspiration Ann needed to start making plans to quit her job and pay the bills while she was away. In the summer of 2009 she set off on her big adventure, riding through Europe and towards the Middle East.

Tragically, Ann’s custom-built touring bike was stolen in Bulgaria (despite being kept in a locked room) so this weekly diary describes the first days on her replacement bike Sofi as she continues through Bulgaria and on to Turkey, as well as wonderful hospitality and riding in the rain. If you like this excerpt, you can follow Ann’s travels through her journal Through Europe and Beyond.

Day 1 – Potholes and local guides
The rush-hour traffic was heavy in the direction of Plovdiv but I sailed along with no problems. Around 8 miles out of Sofia the traffic thinned and I veered off, to join the quieter old road. The road at Vakerel was really bad – full of potholes with cars weaving around them, including a police car. New bike going extremely well but the chain came off a few times. Probably my fault, having got used to the twist-grip gears on the first bike.

Thought I’d reached Kostenets but it was a village before it. A nice, friendly woman directed me to a hotel which looked OK but expensive at 40 lev. I then realised I had no cash so I’d have to carry on to Kostenets anyway.

A few miles from Kostenets, I was corralled by 3 young boys on bikes who decided it would be great fun to race me. They spoke a few words of English but were basically bored and I was something new to distract them. They weren’t unpleasant but still a flaming nuisance as I had digs to find and they were slowing me down. We hit the town and they were intent on showing me where to go – I just could not shake them off. When they stopped to speak to one of their mothers, I was faintly reassured that they WOULD actually escort me to a hotel, so off we went in convoy – then another youngster tagged on and I began to wonder if I’d strayed off course somehow to Hamelin. But, true to their word, they took me first to an ATM and then to a smashing hotel, cheap and clean with wi-fi – 20 lev, less than a tenner. I sent my guides off with a big thank you (I had to send them off, otherwise they’d be with me now!).

Day 2 – Flat tires in the rain
Today was the first truly wet day I’ve had to cycle in, since leaving England – but I didn’t care. The new bike was going very well and if anything is a more comfortable ride than the old one. The gel seat is certainly more rear-friendly and the handlebars, although butterfly again, are a different and better shape.

puncture4 miles out of Kostenets, my enjoyment was shattered when I had my first puncture of the trip. The back tyre was completely flat. I wheeled over to a lay-by, removed the tyre and found a shard of glass poking through it. No worries, I had two spare tubes. Only trouble was, they both had valve bases that were wider than the one I’d taken out and I couldn’t seat the tyre rim properly. Not only that, in the course of my attempts, I bent the valve on the first spare. The only next option was to mend the puncture, but now I’m cursing myself because I’ve left myself with Fanta in my water bottles and the pan which could have been used as a vessel, is with the stove in Sofia. There’s no water within reach to look for the hole. Lots of spitting ensued and then I pumped the tyre up again and saw the hole blowing the dust on the ground. Brilliant! – sticky patch applied. I’d been there a good hour by then, when a car drew up and a man jumped out with his wife and daughter. The father not only managed to seat the first tyre with my spare tube, but he took the wheel off to a bike repair shop to get it pumped up because like me, he couldn’t get the hang of my fancy pump. Another big thank you to a kind Bulgarian family. I set off with two half-inflated tubes filling my bags.

Thankfully, the bike shop was easy to find. It was manned by three young lads and I and showed them the tube I’d patched with the idea of getting them to deflate it so I could pack it. Lots of confusion ensued when they wanted to pump air into it and I wanted them to take air out of it. In the end, one lad took the tube from me and filled it with air. By then I’m saying “Well, how am I going to carry that now?” when he shows me not one but two more holes that I’d missed. Five minutes later he came back with the tube patched and deflated it for folding. Next, I showed them the one with the bent valve – not a problem.

Off they went, straightened the valve and after checking it has no holes, folded that tube as well. I also asked them about the pump and they seemed to say that it should be good for both types of valve. Obviously user error. What’s more, they wouldn’t take any money from me. How’s that for service?

I carried on in the pouring rain and decided to stop at a café and put my waterproof jacket on and my contacts in, as I’ve been carrying an unused 40-day supply with me for 3 months, exactly for rainy days. It was a bit of a struggle in the facilities available but I got them in, although the left one didn’t feel quite right. No matter, I thought, it’ll settle. Arrived at Pazardzhik and toured the three hotels and then went back to the first – a slightly faded establishment which had obviously bathed in glory in its former years. Sneaking the bike upstairs wasn’t really an option but the lady on reception said I could park it behind the fabulous sweeping staircase. When I explained I was nervous because I’d had a bike stolen in Sofia, she recognised me from the TV news item and couldn’t do enough for me – helping me with my bags up to my room on the second floor, offering me an umbrella when I went out to the shop and providing me with old newspapers to stuff my wet shoes with. Once in my room I discovered that the left contact lens had folded into the side of my eye – no wonder I was having trouble!

A great day, when my adversity brought out the best in the Bulgarians.

Day 3 – Where am I again?
tentPlovdiv was easy to get into but a nightmare to get out. A scarcity of route signs and street names kept me retracing my tracks and bouncing around cobbled streets. It didn’t help when a bus driver came so close to me at a set of lights that he caught my elbow as I set off and threw me off balance. I managed to right myself but not without catching the back of my calf on a pedal which resulted in a nasty graze and a bruise the size of my palm. Anyway, there was some consolation when I found the right road pointing to Svilengrad, because there was an OMV garage on the corner. This chain has a Viva restaurant with pictures on the menu so I know what I’m getting, and they serve a very nice light meal. I’ve used them a few times.

My next stop, Parvomay had one hotel which was a little less than grand and I went to sleep with mosquitoes in the room and a dead flea which I’d squashed.

Day 4 – Mosquito attack
Today saw me cycling towards Harmanli for my last night in Bulgaria via a town called Haskovo which I detoured into and quickly sped out. Huge high rise blocks in bad repair covered the skyline and I felt sorry for the people who had to live there. No beauty to soothe their souls.

A few miles on and ‘Oh -no!’ ANOTHER puncture! I’m hoping this is just a coincidence and not a sign that my tyres are not up to the job. If it happens again, soon, I’ll have to think about replacing them. Fortunately I was close to some sort of engineering-come-farm buildings and a group of men came to my aid. The main thing was that they had a compressor, so I had no anxieties about using the pump (although I know I’m only putting off the inevitable). Again, they wouldn’t take any money for helping, so it was ‘goodbye and thank you, thank you’.

The terrain was fairly hilly approaching Harmanli but Sofi was going well and I didn’t get off once, AND I was rewarded for my efforts by a 2-mile downhill into the town.

As I checked into the hotel (a much nicer one this time) I felt a large bump on my face below my left eye, then another, and another. What on earth did I look like? When I went to my room and looked in the mirror, my face was covered in mosquito bites from the night before.

Day 5 – The lucky £10 note
My face looked worse if anything today and my eye had swollen. What a mess! Still, it didn’t affect my legs so off I went.

Another 20 miles or so and I was within sight of the Turkish border after a very pleasant ride along a well-surfaced road with hardly any traffic. Along the way, I heard a loud whistle and turned to see three smiling truck drivers, one of them with his arms held out towards me – that made my day.

Getting into Turkey would have been a tad more difficult if it hadn’t been for a stroke of luck.

I approached the border with 23lev in my purse and the hope that the visa (which I’d convinced myself was £30) officials would be able to take plastic. I didn’t want to draw out £30-worth of Bulgarian lev, in case that wasn’t acceptable and I’d have to change it again in Turkey, further devaluing the money with a second commission to pay. When I got to the point of paying up, the good news was that it was only £10, but that was it, – 10 British pounds OR 15 Euros – nothing else was acceptable. I’d factored in having to cycle back to the nearest bank if necessary, but then I had a brainwave! I left the UK with a £10 note and decided to hang on to it ‘just in case’. In case what? – I had no idea, but there it was, in the bottom of one of my panniers in a spare purse I carry. So I waved my tenner and sailed across the border under a clear blue Turkish sky.

The road to Edirne was not too busy and easy to follow. The climate has become noticeably warmer but I’ve ditched my (outer) shorts for now, in favour of my short-longs as I’m in a Muslim country and don’t need any more reasons to be stared at. Along the way, I saw a 3-foot snake slither across the road but it disappeared before I had time to photograph it.

Whilst in Sofia, I’d been rather alarmed at the number of stray dogs that roam the city and decided after all to invest in a Dog Dazer, the electronic gadget that emits a high-frequency sound which only dogs (and cats) can hear and find very unpleasant. I’ve been frightened by dogs a few times in the previous Balkan countries, where people seem to keep a guard dog on their property as a matter of course, so I tested it in the city on a number of strays and it worked every time. Of course, between Sofia and Turkey, I’d hardly seen sight of any dogs but here, on the way to Edirne, a veritable pack of hounds came bounding out at me ready for the chase. I have found that facing up to a dog does work most of the time and by the time I stopped to get the DD out, they’d backed off. I gave it a shot anyway, just to show them not to mess with me.

I arrived in Edirne and found the cheapest hotel I could. At least there were no mosquitoes and I didn’t SEE any fleas….

Day 6 – Getting off the beaten track
aquaductI set off to travel south to Gelibolu on the north coast of the Marmara Sea and from there to cross by ferry to Lapseki, make my way east along the south coast and then by ferry again to Istanbul.

Throughout this route, I followed a main road which is being upgraded to dual carriageway. The landscape was one of rolling hills and the road runs fairly straight along its length. Most of the time, it ran alongside the new half but occasionally there were stretches open in both directions. The hills weren’t too steep, but boy, did it go on and on and on, mainly because I could see it stretching out in front of me for miles.

Halfway to Ozunkopru I thought I’d divert to a small village to find something to eat but I caused such a stir that I retraced my tracks and carried on. This was a village that was definitely not on the tourist trail. Young children embarrassed themselves by saying “Hello” to me and were then shocked when I said “Hello” back. I asked someone if there was a restaurant and was directed to a butcher’s shop! Not much help.

Ozunkopru was a different story. A very busy town with a market on and lots of places to buy food. When I asked a couple of women where the Post Office was, one of them indicated that I follow her and then took me through the streets via her house where she dropped off her shopping and then zig-zagged to the Post Office. Such a warm lady, she led me by the hand when it was very crowded and we cheek-to-cheeked when she left me.

Day 7 – That’s Pansion, not Pension
I caught the ferry to Lepsaki this morning and was pounced upon by a perfume seller who wanted to practise his English. I got the full nine-yards about his personal life and an invitation to come and stay with him when I next visit Turkey

As I cycled along, I was getting many pips and waves from drivers of cars and trucks. Some of them were the road builders as they passed up and down, going about their work. On one long stretch, I’d stopped halfway up a hill for a couple of minutes rest, when one of the road trucks pulled up in front of me. I was wondering was going to happen next, when the co-driver got out waving his arms and talking to me, gesturing that I should grab hold of the back of the truck to hitch a lift. I was fairly sure that my puny arms wouldn’t take the strain of me and my loaded bike so I laughed and said “thanks but no thanks”.

A little later, I was putting my chain back on yet again when a friendly young Turkish couple on a motorbike stopped to ask me about my journey. We had a long chat and they gave me advice about ferry options to Istanbul.

Biga was a little like Serbia as far as finding a hotel was concerned. I couldn’t see any signs and ended up knocking on the door of a ‘Pansion’ which turned out to be a students residence. One of the students kindly escorted me to a hotel with a non-too obvious sign. As I’d arrived late I hadn’t quite weighed up the place when I entered so did a bit of bargaining over the phone with an english-speaking manager, getting the price reduced by 10 Turkish Lira.

Afterwards, I realised it was actually a rather nice hotel, even though it only had 2-stars. It was an old establishment in a row of houses with a courtyard in the middle of the property and a restaurant on the terrace. Just shows what a little bargaining can get you.

Read more about Ann’s adventures in her journal, Through Europe and Beyond. All pictures on this page are courtesy of Ann Wilson.

Comments

  1. paul rother
    3rd December 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    Hello Ann
    You may know my Niece Friedel and Andrew Grant, ‘TravellingTwo’,, they just finished their trip..
    I.just read about your adventures , esp the Flat tyres, and riding in the rain near Plovdiv.
    having followed my Nieces trip the last 3 yrs, I’ll try to follow yours as well.
    wishing you well,
    if you make it to the Eastern part of Canada- NS, call in , I’ll help if I can
    paul

  2. Ann Wilson
    6th December 2009 at 6:27 am #

    Hello Paul,
    I haven’t met Friedel or Andrew, but like many people say when they follow someone’s journey closely, I do feel as though I know them to a certain extent. They were part of my inspiration and a huge source of information for me. Perhaps one day we will meet up – I hope so.
    And thank you for your kind offer: if I’m in your part of the world I’ll certainly be in touch.
    Ann

  3. bridget boekweit
    24th June 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Hi ann just saw on the north west news about your amazing trip just to wish you all the best go for it i envey you if you go to winnipeg in canada my daughter lives there she would be more than happy to have you stay over
    good luck and safe journey
    regards bridget

  4. Holly Nydegger (Dan's daughter)
    10th July 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Hello Ann! You seem to have met up with my father, Dan, and a group of bicyclists on the Northern Tier pathway. Very impressive blog you have going on. Makes my little trip coming up seem like it’ll be a walk in the park. What an inspiration! Best wishes for you on your journey! Say Hi to my dad if you see him again!
    Thanks,
    Holly

  5. kardinal
    28th December 2022 at 3:53 pm #

    ทางเราจำหน่าย kardinal stick , ks quik , ks kurve
    ต้องขอบอกได้เลยว่า kschill.com เป็นตัวแทนหลักอย่างเป็นทางการในไทย ที่ใหญ่ที่สุด และเป็นเจ้าเดียวกับ RELX THAILAND สินค้าทุกแบรนด์ ทุกรุ่น เราได้ทำการคัดสรร บุหรี่ไฟฟ้า ที่เป็นหนึ่งในนวัตกรรม ช่วยเลิกบุหรี่ ที่มีประสิทธิดีเยี่ยม และช่วยได้จริง มาให้ลูกค้าได้เลือกใช้ โดยสินค้าทุกชิ้นของเรา สั่งตรงจากโรงงาน

  6. dbt therapy columbia sc
    3rd May 2023 at 8:43 am #

    I appreciate you sharing this post.

  7. Pascoe Poole
    14th May 2023 at 10:44 am #

    bimatoprost punctal plug amazon careprost eye drop careprost lash serum

  8. money
    15th May 2023 at 6:54 pm #

    In 2009 to 2015, younger people today accounted for most of those who participated in group sportssuch as basketball, football, and soccer.

  9. Streaming devices
    16th May 2023 at 1:45 am #

    Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually understand what you are talking

  10. mercedes ha noi
    18th May 2023 at 11:20 am #

    asked for any Credit Card informations, tik tok followers generator no survey

  11. Agb99
    26th May 2023 at 9:05 am #

    What are the laws as to using company logos in blog posts?

  12. rear view cameras
    29th May 2023 at 9:27 am #

    pour on ivermectin for cats ivermectin merck

  13. arqit ARQQ
    7th June 2023 at 12:26 pm #

    Rattling wonderful info can be found on blog . “I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred.” by Tom Robbins.

  14. Julia Walters
    21st June 2023 at 4:17 am #

    Sliscm – college essays about identity Qitdti drxdyf

  15. Pascoe Lindsay
    21st June 2023 at 7:58 pm #

    The Cars Greatest Hits M83 Hurry Up Were Dreaming Lightnin Hopkins Lightnin Hopkins

  16. fajas colombianas
    23rd June 2023 at 8:58 pm #

    Thẳng Soccer Thời Điểm Hôm Nay, Links Xem đá Bóng Trực Tuyến 24h keo nhà caiĐội tuyển chọn Việt Nam chỉ cần thiết một kết quả hòa có bàn thắng để lần loại hai góp mặt trên World Cup futsal. Nhưng, để thực hiện được điều này

  17. auto door system
    27th June 2023 at 12:36 pm #

    plaquenil for sle hydroxychloroquine and covid

  18. dang ky chu ky so Viettel
    27th June 2023 at 10:12 pm #

    The COC account under is valid and it has not been employed,so you don’t have to have to worry In case your account can’t be utilized today.Free Account – New Free Accounts And Passwordsfree accounts

  19. trade show display ideas
    4th July 2023 at 8:19 am #

    How to recover blog in blogger When it counted as spam in blogger?

  20. Earlene Higgins
    7th July 2023 at 1:56 pm #

    chloroquine usa aralen for sale – chloroquine

  21. Jenny Summers
    8th July 2023 at 5:23 am #

    hydroxychloroquine brand plaquenil nz – hydroxychloroquine sulfate tabs

  22. Patricia Fuller
    9th July 2023 at 8:24 am #

    chlorowuine nice bnf chloroquine phosphate side effects

  23. ghe giam doc cao cap
    23rd July 2023 at 5:17 pm #

    I am not very wonderful with English but I come up this rattling easy to interpret.

  24. jump rope
    27th August 2023 at 10:33 pm #

    Great article. Much obliged.

  25. supreme sweatshirt
    29th October 2023 at 11:09 pm #

    Would you be occupied with exchanging hyperlinks?

  26. anatomical model
    8th November 2023 at 6:41 pm #

    Thanks a lot for the blog post. Really Cool.

  27. off white hoodie outlet
    13th November 2023 at 6:07 pm #

    I wanted to post you this very small note to finally say thanks yet again for all the awesome opinions you have shown in this case. It is certainly unbelievably generous with people like you giving unhampered all numerous people might have offered for an e-book to end up making some cash on their own, chiefly since you might have done it if you ever wanted. These tips as well acted as a easy way to realize that other people have the identical keenness really like mine to see lots more when considering this condition. I am certain there are many more pleasant situations up front for individuals who discover your blog.

  28. golden goose leopard
    26th November 2023 at 9:50 pm #

    I want to express my gratitude for your kindness in support of persons that actually need help on this important study. Your very own dedication to getting the solution all through came to be rather insightful and has always empowered women like me to achieve their pursuits. This helpful publication entails much to me and much more to my peers. Regards; from everyone of us.

  29. I appreciate you sharing this post. Will read on…

  30. klx 300 crash bars
    2nd December 2023 at 1:06 pm #

    Wow, great blog. Really Cool.

  31. golden goose stardan
    3rd December 2023 at 4:22 am #

    I have to point out my admiration for your generosity supporting people that absolutely need help on this important topic. Your personal commitment to passing the solution along had become especially effective and have specifically allowed associates much like me to achieve their targets. Your entire insightful hints and tips denotes a lot to me and much more to my office workers. Thank you; from all of us.

  32. supreme hoodie
    4th December 2023 at 3:29 am #

    My wife and i got excited that Louis could complete his analysis with the precious recommendations he got from your very own web pages. It’s not at all simplistic just to continually be handing out tips and tricks which some people might have been trying to sell. And we all see we’ve got you to be grateful to for this. The explanations you made, the easy web site navigation, the relationships you can make it possible to instill – it’s many sensational, and it is letting our son and us imagine that this concept is fun, and that’s extremely serious. Thanks for everything!

  33. bape outlet
    5th December 2023 at 12:00 am #

    I am also writing to make you know what a exceptional encounter my daughter found checking the blog. She picked up such a lot of details, which included how it is like to have an amazing helping mindset to get most people without hassle learn certain tricky things. You undoubtedly surpassed our expectations. Many thanks for delivering the essential, safe, edifying as well as fun tips about the topic to Emily.

  34. goyard handbag
    18th December 2023 at 10:13 pm #

    I precisely had to thank you very much once again. I do not know the things I might have taken care of without the ways shown by you relating to this area. Certainly was a daunting circumstance for me, nevertheless understanding a new specialized avenue you dealt with that forced me to jump over fulfillment. Now i am grateful for this information and in addition believe you are aware of a powerful job you are doing educating many people by way of a blog. More than likely you have never come across any of us.

  35. golden goose sliders
    25th December 2023 at 6:19 am #

    I needed to create you a bit of note so as to give many thanks over again regarding the lovely advice you’ve discussed in this case. It’s really unbelievably open-handed with you to give unhampered what exactly numerous people could have sold as an electronic book to help make some profit on their own, mostly seeing that you could have tried it if you considered necessary. Those things as well acted to provide a easy way to know that other people have the same eagerness just as my own to know the truth more on the subject of this problem. I am sure there are lots of more enjoyable sessions in the future for individuals that read carefully your website.

  36. 123b nhà cái
    25th December 2023 at 7:46 pm #

    Really appreciate you sharing this blog.Much thanks again. Cool.

  37. jordans
    29th December 2023 at 12:04 am #

    I am glad for writing to let you know what a perfect encounter my cousin’s daughter developed viewing yuor web blog. She noticed numerous pieces, which include what it is like to have a marvelous giving nature to make the mediocre ones just know a variety of complex topics. You really did more than people’s expected results. I appreciate you for showing the helpful, safe, explanatory and as well as unique thoughts on that topic to Mary.

  38. paul george shoes
    2nd January 2024 at 12:35 pm #

    I wish to get across my passion for your kind-heartedness giving support to individuals that really want help on in this subject matter. Your very own dedication to getting the message across came to be extremely beneficial and has continually permitted some individuals much like me to reach their ambitions. Your own interesting advice signifies a lot to me and far more to my office colleagues. Thanks a lot; from everyone of us.

  39. Pvc interlocking floor tiles india
    15th February 2024 at 8:17 pm #

    Enjoyed every bit of your blog.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

  40. ai waifu chat
    3rd March 2024 at 6:00 am #

    Thanks so much for the blog.

  41. home front name plate design
    3rd April 2024 at 5:05 pm #

    Thank you ever so for you blog post.

  42. spicy chat
    14th April 2024 at 8:35 am #

    Really enjoyed this blog. Awesome.

  43. สมัครเน็ต ais
    15th April 2024 at 1:34 am #

    388899 774306Greatest fighter toasts ought to entertain and supply prize on your couples. Initially audio system next to obnoxious crowd would be wise to comprehend 1 particular gold colored strategy as to public speaking, which is private interests self. very best man jokes 249818

Leave a comment