'Cameron' was his name, from Australia, and he'd set off, I think, 6 months ago from Kazakhstan, and had cycled roughly the route we'd done (in the opposite direction) to Budapest, to work in David Hasslehostel - where we'd stayed the previous week. We spoke with him for about 10 minutes and then said our goodbyes. It wasn't very long, but that short conversation really made us happy - happy to see we aren't the only stupid ones cycling through Europe at this time of year and that there are others out there.
The next evening, when setting up camp, we hit a spot of bother. An important piece of my fuel stove was missing - I must have dropped it when putting it away in the dark the previous night. The stove was useless without it. Not to worry, it just meant we'd have to make a fire to cook on, which we've done a few times already to save on fuel.
That method worked well until this night however... There was a long deep trench that separated two of the fields that we were camping next to - perfect to cook our meals in we thought as it was out of the strong winds and had lots of the easy to light kindle all around it. It was about 12ft down, so our fire would be well out of sight of the road too. We collected a few big clumps of the necessary twigs and bushes, and got a load of it up and burning. We instantly held our pans over the flame - we had mastered this type of fire now, but it meant we had limited time before our stock pile would run out, so no time to lose.
Suddenly though it was apparent the floor of the trench was covered in this stuff, and the fire began spreading. it quickly worked its way up the side of the trench towards the top. It got high enough to where the wind was blowing and before we knew it we were on the verge of setting the whole trench alight. We both panicked, and in the heat of the moment I came to a strange decision as what to do - Much like the time when I was five years old eating an ice lolly, when a wasp landed on it and began making its way down the lolly towards my hand, I panicked, didn't want to drop my lolly so thrust it in my mouth and ate the wasp. This time was similar, I was only worried about my beans not quite being hot enough yet, so I yelled "quick put the pan over the flames". I had too many flames to choose from, but proceeded to chase the fire up the bank holding my pan as close to the flame as possible. "I think we should try and put it out" shouted Jodie. By this time both walls of the trench were up in flames and I resigned to the fact the beans would have to wait. Pans on the floor and we began stamping at the flames and pouring our precious water over it. Luckily it was nearly as easy to put out the stuff as it was to light it, so we soon got it under control.
I had no idea of what to expect of Romania before entering it, but our time there was amazing - easily the most interesting and best place so far on the trip. The Romanians were so friendly, and people of all ages would be constantly waving at us or greeting us. Kids would line up to high five us as we cycled past, really old men and women would give us the biggest smiles and waves, we felt like celebrities for a bit. People were always helping us, whether it was just giving us directions or even paying for some of my food when I didn't have the correct amount at the supermarket. We loved the Romanians - especially these bunch of cheeky homeless kids I found play-fighting with Jodie as I came out of the supermarket...
The plan was supposed to be we would find a hotel/hostel for the night in Ruse, the city on the Bulgarian side of the border, as it had been a week since our last one - so we were in need of a shower and recharge of all phones, laptops and ipads. Once into Ruse I still hadn't found Jodie and the city was fairly large. Another problem - Jodie was carrying all the chargers in one bag, so I couldn't even charge my phone or laptop. I waited around for an hour or so, and headed to a near-by Lidl, thinking he may be there, but no joy. Eventually I decided my only option was to just cycle towards Varna, the city on the coast of the Black Sea, which is where we had a room booked for Christmas. There was no point in trying to find a hotel for the night as I couldn't charge anything, and I'm on a very tight budget.
Turns out he'd also got lost back in the border town and was in the exact same predicament as me the whole time. The only difference was he had all the chargers so had made his way to a hotel to charge up and try and contact me. He wasn't as lucky as me at the border however - as when I approached it, out of nowhere a pack of about ten dogs quickly surrounded me, barking and going crazy, I stayed calm and luckily they backed off when I slowed down to stop at the border crossing. Jodie however, faced the same pack except they didn't back down and in fact went on the attack - luckily they took their anger out on his bicycle panniers and started biting and yanking them as he cycled past.
The weather was still around the minus 5 degrees mark that day and visibility was really poor. However it gradually began to clear as the day went on. The next morning the weather did a u-turn and we had clear blue skies and actually felt warm in our little camping spot. After packing up camp and getting to the road, it still felt warm. How the weather can go from what we had the previous day to what we now consider warm, I don't know. I knew we wouldn't get this opportunity often in the next few months, so I quickly took my top off and to my surprise it wasn't that bad. After a few minutes of riding Jodie then did the same. It really wasn't "warm" though, just the warmest we'd encountered for about a month - I would guess at around 7 degrees celsius. We passed only one local guy cycling that day, he was in a big jacket, gloves, scarf and hat - you could hardly see him. We rode the whole day topless along an amazing road with constant slow rolling hills, that were easy to cycle up and awesome to cycle down. As I missed out on the hotel in Ruse it meant I hadn't showered for over 10 days now, so it felt great to be "airing" myself with the cold crisp air as we whizzed by. We had so many cars beeping and waving at us and people pointing and laughing. One guy was literally in fits of laughter as we cycled past shirtless in the cold.
One of the descents that day lasted for about 5km, and it was the best 5km of the trip - sun out, shirt off, high speed. Jodie was a little ahead of me and unable to hear my laughter and whooping with happiness - when I reached the bottom and caught up with him, it turned out he'd been doing exactly the same and was loving it as much as me.
I jumped in the shower instantly and got to work scrubbing the dirt off me. Then we headed to the supermarket close by and stocked up on all sorts of treats, along with a load of chicken and veggies - now we had an oven and hob, it meant a proper Christmas dinner was on the cards. We spent the first two nights watching movies, eating lots of chocolate and ice-cream and just relaxing. Which brings me to today - Christmas! Its 2.30am here now, iv'e had three days but i still have lots to do which ive left to the last minute as usual. We've both had a very different Christmas Day than usual - for both of us it's our first Christmas away from home, but its been a good one. The roast, cooked mainly by Jodie was surprisingly really tasty, considering what little equipment was available - including a lack of forks, and along with me losing my camping one last week, it meant I was down to this...