The first day since our last blog passed without commotion. No pet cats, no running for forgotten wallets, just more fine sunny weather and temperatures that built from a freezing morning to a summery afternoon.
Just as during the days before, the small villages we thought we might stop at were set back from the water and inaccessible. By lunch time we had found Svistov where we thought we might take a break. Though on the hillside it looked pretty, the waterfront was purely industrial and fairly busy. Thus the only stop for the day was me clambering up a bank to peer through cranes and lorries and attracting a curious border policeman who, by the time he had wandered over, had to pretend he wasn't so curious as I urinated against the bank below him.
That night, by a good campfire, we had made 70kms and were just shy of Ruse where a guy from couchsurfing.org was set to host us for an evening. The next morning we had two and a half easy hours to the town where we locked the canoe to a metal railing and walked to the town centre: 'freedom' square. We bought postcards, found a cafe and Nathan went for a run.
After lunch back by the canoe, we found another cafe and wrote postcards in the baking sun. After that, we found a third cafe where we did much the same thing in much the same weather.
By 5o'clock we had made contact with Krassi, our new friend in Ruse, and he met us for the walk to his flat, talking us through the buildings and the town's history along the way. By this stage, having sat in the main square and small streets in baking sunlight, I was already very impressed with Ruse, a picturesque town with Viennese architecture and a multitude of water fountains.
Nursing our shoulders from the 20 minute walk with our heavy rucksacks, we had soup then headed back into town to meet Krassi's friends. Keen on his traditional music, we bobbed our heads in the main square to a tambourine-drum, whistle and didgeridoo, as Krassi and his three man band improvised some folky tunes.
But since we'd made it to Ruse in good time, the weather remained bright and Constanta felt within reach; we decided not to stay in Ruse for a full rest day. Instead, this morning we hopped on a bus, bought a ton of food supplies and were back on the river by 10:15, paddling against a stiff breeze under the the double tiered 'Friendship Bride' at the end of the town. As we got back into our rhythm, so too did the day: it became yet another sunny session of open water paddling and constant progress. The main event was having cereal for lunch, since we had toast for breakfast (crazy, I know), and other than that it was just another day in Bulgaria.
Certainly one growing trend is our new need for navigation. We are forced to check the map far more regularly these days as the river bends and parts around countless islands each one several kilometers long. We peer into the distance for buoys and watch tankers to see where the main channel goes. Ultimately, however, we find our way and continue downstream, bound, this week, for Constantinople.