I sit miles inland after three days without our canoe, a sad but accepted state.
Our rest day was overshadowed by decisions to be made, though really we had few choices. Three large factors worked against our future in the canoe. Firstly the winter weather that had rolled in with a strong easterly wind that smashed uncanoeable waves against the coastline. Second, the border checkpoint that only existed high in the mountains and far inland meaning that to canoe into turkey we would have to spend many days there illegally until we met the first port. And third, the cliffy terrain that covered the start of the Turkish coast making it difficult to land the canoe if we got in any trouble.
So on Friday morning, after a sizeable Bulgarian breakfast with our kind host Nayden, we returned to our canoe and strapped it carefully to the roof of his car. We jettisoned some unnecessary walking weight and waved Dora a sad goodbye, we set off on foot.
So here I sit, in the middle of the Strandzha mountain range with a paddle that hasn't touched water in three days. Dora is chained safely to a fence a long way away and our feet bare the pains our hands once knew.
Our first day was walked along the blustery coastline. The waves crashed, the rain fell sideways and the wind pushed us across the road. By the second day the rain had stopped and we began to turn inland bidding the sea goodbye. We climbed into the hills and through autumnal forest on a quiet, winding road. By evening we walked through a passport checkpoint and then found a hidden section of woodland where we could camp unnoticed by any border patrol vehicles. It had been a long day that saw a near marathon distance of 41 kilometers and set us in a good position to reach a town today.
So with that very aim we awoke this morning and set off with a head torch illuminating our early moments on the road. As the sun rose the frost began to melt and we could finally warm up a little. We trekked further into the hills and were met regularly by our friends, the police, who stopped and checked our passports three times in the first three hours (they didn't seem to communicate amongst themselves so each new car would meet us with the same questions and take the same details).
Eventually, after a mountainous 32kms, we reached Malko Tarnovo where we topped up our food and found somewhere to stay. We've been advised, more than enough, not to camp this close to the border because of tight policing, so a hotel is our home for tonight. We returned again to the same shop to buy food for dinner and were greeted by a kind old French woman and a charitable local man who handed us a bag of shopping he had just bought and insisted we take it. An uplifting way to end the day.
All in all it has been an inevitably sad departure from the canoe, the vehicle in which we intended to complete our journey. We successfully canoed across the continent via the most comprehensive ever route and one that has not been done before. We always saw the Black Sea as the final chapter to that journey. If the Black Sea was meant to be the final chapter then now we begin to write the epilogue as we continue, by foot, through the mountains to Istanbul.