Across Continents

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One hundred days

Back at the house, I’d had a good rummage under the sink. Knew that’s where I’d find a small stock of spirits. For medicinal purposes of course. Yep. No more than forty percent proof. I’d suspected as much. So, at over fifty percent, that’d make the local home made tipple, Rakia, more akin to rocket fuel. As if to reinforce this, a little had been poured into a metal dish and lit. Burnt for quite a while. Clean blue flame.

Earlier, before things became a trifle misty, I’d been invited into the home of Donka and George, a Bulgarian couple who lived across the village from where I was staying. Ushered into their living room, along one wall a bed that doubled as a sofa, a dining table, a television, sideboard and display cabinet. Off to one side, a small kitchen. Immaculate. Cosy. But that’s the whole idea. A single space to heat.

Together with Julie, my English guide and mentor in the village, we’d popped in for coffee. Then George had produced his home made Rakia and red wine. I was very curious about the Rakia, supposedly a cure-all for a variety of ailments. Bee stings, chesty cough, anything really. Tasted a bit like whisky. Despite my best efforts to indicate just a drop would suffice, I’d been given a very generous shot. But I’d drunk it all, which seemed to have pleased George. Seems not everyone did. And then I’d washed it down with a glass of his home made wine, a mere twelve percent.

My curiosity about the relative strength of Rakia satisfied, I’d retreated back upstairs and the soothing warmth of the woodstove. Laid out on the sofa, still aglow from George’s tipple, a chance to contemplate the first hundred days of the expedition. I’d spent the first night with friends in a pub on Dartmoor, cosy and warm after a tough, wet, windswept initiation. Today, very different surroundings, but also in the company of some very hospitable people.

But had I achieved what I’d set out to? I thought so. The aim was always to cross Europe by the end of the year, ready to tackle Asia in 2010. Three thousand miles ridden, a week or so to Istanbul. Quietly confident I’d have it in the bag.

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