All at sea

After the last few days I don't know whether I'm coming or going.

The morning of our rest day was spent deciding whether Dora's time was up: we'd dragged her for near 40km and we both feel that the weather will eventually prevent her reaching Istanbul this side of Christmas. After much umming and arring, a trip to see Kavarna harbour being battered by 6ft breakers, an interview on very local Bulgarian tv and a favorable 5 day weather forecast... We decided that we'd persevere. If we couldn't canoe when the weather reached the relative calm forecasted, then Dora would have reached the end of the road.

Unfortunately, the first day was not forecast to be calm. So the first day of this week we woke up knowing that an arduous trek was afoot. We were on the road at half 6 and providing a sight for the morning busses. We walked along a dual carriage way, we walked down a road leading to the sea; then we spent a good three hours walking up and down a cliff hugging road. Walking for 100 paces, swapping the burden of the canoe, walking for 100 paces and then taking off the rucksacks... And repeat for 20km.

To our surprise we reached our two-day target town of Balčik early in the afternoon. We soon found the location of our favorite friends the border police and, having outlasted the patience of the security guard, we walked down the harbour wall to get permission to canoe in Bulgarian sea waters. At this point the waves were crashing against the harbour wall and we were looking disheveled. The border policeman spoke good English and thought our request was pretty funny. Looking at the waves, we didn't consider canoeing to Istanbul to be an imminent scenario and were therefore equally relaxed. In this frame of mind, the policeman happily stamped our papers - the odds of the stamp meaning anything to anyone apart from me and Jimmy were pretty low at the time. We walked back out of the fairly busy port and camped in some woodland. That night I calculated that two more days of hauling the canoe would make Istanbul a mathematical impossibility for Dora working from average distances. Although some friendly fisherman stumbled across us in the dark, it was otherwise just another night listening to the waves pound the shore.

The next morning we updated our forecast. And it had improved. This was Dora's moment: if she couldn't canoe on this, then her journey would be ending in Balčik. But she did. In fact, we spent a windy and at times wavey day going further at sea than we had predicted in our wildest dreams. By mid-afternoon we were into the city of Varna and wishing that we'd had the foresight to arrange some accommodation.

Fortunately, we had been in touch with a young 'couchsurfer' named Kalina and she was happy to provide two warm and comfortable beds for us at very short notice. She then made day 129 a bit of a winner by giving us a tour of Varna, introducing us to her two Italian pals and, most importantly, taking us to a unique little bar for a beer.

Having enjoyed a breakfast that we had asked to be ready at a pretty antisocial early morning hour, we once again thanked Kalina and set off for the sea. Today, we were optimistic. Why can't we at least canoe to the Turkish border I was thinking? (The weather, the mountains and the lack of a sea border checkpoint being the answers that currently spring to mind.)

The morning was brilliant. Knowing that we might not be at sea for too much longer, the fishermen silhouetted on the rocks, the scuba divers, the hundreds of jelly fish and the miles of beaches all seemed that much more memorable in the bright sun. We made really good distance on water that was flatter than many of the rivers we've paddled and by lunch the only danger seemed to be overshooting our camp into a populated area.

Then at about twoish the waves picked up. The wind had changed direction and our weather forecast also said it was a couple of knots stronger. Dora took on a bit of water and we decided to finish the day hauling her on the sand. We walked for a kilometer or so and, having discussed the conditions, made a brief foray out on the waves to bring the canoe up to our chosen camping spot. It wasn't easy and it wasn't fun, but it was fairly safe and, if there hadn't of been a lot of rocks around we could have probably made a bit more ground. With that in mind, we're once more optimistic about tomorrow.

Ultimately we ended the three days a whole lot further down the Bulgarian coast line. We'll just have to see what the next couple of days hold and enjoy being at sea while we still can.