This is why I love travelling by bicycle I tell her as we walk quickly out of the school door. I look back to see students peering at me through the half opened door. I have now met two English teachers and spoken to a class of high school students about New Zealand. Now we must got and get my bike which is being looked after at a bakery across the town so that I can have my photo taken with the graduating students from the high school. The reporter tells us to hurry as he has other things to do, this is a funny situation, the reporter who wants to interview me is tell me to hurry cause he has other things to do? I have to laugh at the sudden attention I am receiving. After asking a few superficial questions and taking a picture of me with the students and my bike, he is happy and leaves.
The graduation party is now in full swing, a hundred or so school leavers mostly dressed in white, sip at beer and wine in the middle of the school yard while their fellow students sign their t-shirts and other body parts with colourful markers. The DJ mixes the worst of modern pop music as girls dance on the benches. The few guys there are too cool for that and just sip their beers quietly in the shade. Just meters away from the blaring loudspeakers, a priest welcomes worshippers into his church to celebrate St. Nicola's day, seemingly oblivious to the ruckus in the background.
Finally it's time to leave the teenagers to it and head south, I have arranged to meet some of the people I met in Novi Sad near a lake for the night. I arrive late evening to find 5 or 6 of them there, soon after 10 or 25 more arrive and the party is in full swing. They are the Serbian Travellers Club who meet once in a while to share stories and experiences about what they love to do. I say my farewells and hit the road towards Bulgaria, I cross two mountain passes and finally arrive in Pirot, just 30 km from the Bulgarian border.
The main street is busy with pedestrians and noisy cars, I notice a bike shop where I stop in to ask about a place to stay, through broken teeth and with a a strong smell of alcohol on his breath, he tells me I can stay at his place if I buy him some beers. I move on telling him that I will come back if I don't find anything. A hill overlooks the city, a perfect place to stay it seems. Nearing the top I see an old man and stop to ask if he has somewhere for my tent, in German he agrees on a patch of dirt near the road, perfect! Half way through our first glass of rakeja, his son and grand son arrive home. In quite broken but fully understandable English he invites me to join him into town for a drink. We end up having the usual discussion about life in his town before I fall asleep. By this stage a bed has been made for me in their house, I tuck myself in and sleep instantly.
I'm greeted with fried eggs, sausage, cheese and bread with strong coffee for breakfast before heading for the main highway for Sofia. Traffic is light and I make quick progress towards the border. All of a sudden, my bike and me are lifted and thrown, landing half upright in the middle of the road, my glasses have flown off my head and now lie in the middle of the other lane. I act quickly, moving my bike off the road and getting my glasses. I then assess the damage, a scrape and cut on my right ankle and a bruise on my right hand. The pedal on the bike is badly damaged and does not turn freely anymore. In trying to keep as far right as possible, I have hit the curb with the pedal which has lifted the bike of the ground. I test riding, the pedal no longer runs straight but it is ok. I continue with some relief that no cars were coming. I arrive in Sofia without too much trouble as the rain sets in.