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London to Auckland – stage two.  The story of the recent adventures of one of our volunteers.

Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria…

The central and southern part of Eastern Europe was an absolute revelation to us with Romania and Bulgaria in particular turning out to be fantastic experiences. The central part of Romania with the mighty Carpathian Mountains and the rather bizarre city of Bucharest with its recent history, made this a fascinating part of our ride…

The Carpathian Mountains

We were warned off the coastal route of Bulgaria by another cyclist we had been in touch with as he said it was a busy road with aggressive drivers, so we stuck to a central route instead and were really glad that we did. This area is largely untrodden by tourists, despite the spectacular limestone scenery and the fascinating history of the area.

Throughout this period, Eastern Europe was going through its hottest summer on record and we would regularly cycle in 35C. We didn’t know this at the time, but this was acclimatising us to what we would experience later on in our trip. Luckily water was abundant and in many of these countries there are old-fashioned hand pumps at the side of the road that we regularly used. Food is also easy and cheap to come by and the nearest Lidl is never too far away!

We found Greece surprisingly expensive, despite the fact that it was very off-season (October) and many of the tourist places were closed for the winter, so we spent a lot of time wild camping i.e. just camping at the side of a road, in a field or anywhere we could find to pitch our tent. We had become more adventurous with wild camping throughout our time in Eastern Europe though we varied it with AirBnBs, agri-tourist accommodation (farm and homestays) and normal campsites. Wild camping comes in two forms: firstly, stealth camping which is basically hiding so that no one can see you OR asking people whether it’s okay to put your tent up somewhere. We never got moved on during our trip but when we left Greece we found out that it’s actually illegal to wild camp there!

Camping in Full Sight, a beach front in Halkidiki, Greece

Our cycling journey in Turkey was very brief, but it was possibly the most hectic and we reckon that cycling into Istanbul was the closest we came to death during the whole 2 years. The day and a half that it took us to get into the centre of the city were very uncomfortable, mainly because of the manic, very fast-moving traffic, but also because it was very cold (-2C) with torrential rain. We did, however, have two great nights with warmshowers hosts on our way, so it certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom.  But definitely not an experience we want to go through again!

Martina Doherty

Author Martina Doherty

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