Out of the frying pan and into the Fire-ing Range

As with much of the past two weeks, the evening of the last blog left it in the balance as to whether we would wake up and canoe or struggle out of our sleeping bags and walk. Happily, we were canoeing.

The first section of the morning was longer than the usual hour. We agreed to poke our noses out around Pomorie point and, if all looked good, circumnavigate the rocky point jutting out into the sea. This actually means, 'let's see what happens because from here it doesn't look too bad'. And we did. We paddled out around the point, moaned at the lack of accolades we were receiving from fishermen, were gratefully wished good luck, and smoothly made it an hour and a half at sea by cutting across to the next bay.

Having started the morning so successfully, there seemed little reason to change tack. So we paddled for another 90 around a smaller point and into another bay. The sea breeze was gentle and the waves, although at times making us nauseous, weren't life threatening. By this point we were way ahead of schedule. The night before it had been an optimistic possibility of making the city of Burgas and we had hastily arranged to stay with a hospitable couch surfer in this event. As we stood on a small beach at 11, Burgas was in sight and maybe an hour's paddling would see us into the harbour.

We agreed that it made sense to make the most of the good weather and forego the warm beds we'd been offered. We paddled out around Burgas harbour and along the sea wall. Waves, that had been growing bigger as we moved further from the shore, were however here pretty perturbing. So in we went. We clambered up a wall that was sheltered within the harbour and here had lunch as inconspicuously as possible. Sandwiches munched, we made a speedy exit from the harbour, minutes before a security jeep came thundering along to ask what our Nutella sandwiches had been doing in the middle of a port.

From there we did something that made the day. We went straight along the inside of the sea wall and straight across the bay; cutting 5km off the shore by taking a 500m risk. With the waves slowly growing in height and number we swapped positions in the canoe on a beach soon after, agreeing that our harbour short cut would not be being repeated for a while.

Going around the next point we once again agreed to poke our noses out and have a look. I fully expected us to plough around unless we were seeing a tsunami. But half way around we went over a wave the size of lorry and Jimmy, using the language of a sailor, communicated to me that this was bad. We did a hasty 180' turn and went back into the nearest harbour. As we sat on the wall looking at our map, any doubts that I may have had about the decision were washed away as a whole flotilla of fishing boats followed us in. We put our canoe on its wheels, they put their boats on their cars, and we all headed onto dryer land. We walked for an hour or so towards the main road and camped in some woods. Notwithstanding our early exit, it had been one of our best ever days at sea.

That morning the walk was inevitable. However we were up and on the road before half 6 and still held some hope for a few kilometers at sea later in the day. After an hour the main road veered back towards the sea and we decided to give the waves a go: if all was good we would have a shorter day to the week's arranged end in Sozopol, if they were bad we would land and Sozopol would still be walkable.

We paddled out beyond a small naval harbour. 'Reveille' played and we stared up at a crowded warship full of uniformed sailors. We got out of the bay and around the point, but here the waves lived up to our fears. In fact they were quite a bit worse. We couldn't turn back to where we'd embarked and our only choice was a tiny rocky bay half way around the point. We landed. Shook ourselves down from sea water and drizzle and sullenly agreed there would be no more canoeing today.

Getting off of the beach was a bit of a challenge. We climbed over rocks and basically levered the canoe up a small cliff. From there we were presented with scrubland. So we began walking in the direction of some houses and hopefully a road.

Then I noticed a group of what could only be soldiers streaming out a building to stand in a line. Then Jimmy noticed that there were targets with bullet holes on the floor. Then we stopped talking. We carried the bags out of the field. We got the canoe out of the field. We got everything under some loose barbed wire and onto a beach. We walked along the beach, finally breathed again and considered ourselves pretty lucky.

After about half an hour along a track we got back to the main road. Jimmy went to put some trainers on and I went towards the bananas. Then a black security van turned up. I told the polite young man in a naval uniform that we were very sorry and had been forced in by the wind. He understood completely but had to follow procedure. After we demonstrated that Dora was neither going to fit in the back of their van nor be towed along behind, they allowed us to carry her back to what turned out to be a naval base.

After 6 hours in custody we were allowed to leave. We've been asked not to blog about our interviews at the base, and I hope they've enjoyed this blog. We were treated with kindness and understanding throughout and we've made sure that we won't be causing any future military alerts.

Do you remember Nayden from Emona? Turns out he is a life saver. He picked us up from the town we walked to and whose beach we've now left Dora on, and is letting us stay at the Bulgarian Marine Archaeology base where he is living. With the weather worsening, he's offered us all the help we could possibly need over the next few days.

Quite a blog that one I've got to admit. All safe and sound now, with one more story to add to the collection.