Bulgaria: Wild camping on the Black Sea Coast

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 Sunset arrival in Varna on the Black Sea Coast. Really not negotiating the Cyrillic alphabet via our way into town, we somehow found our campsite, set up a tent for the night and explained our plans to hitch-hike down the coast. We were headed in search of the few remaining beaches that had escaped tourist development, 'wild' beaches where we'd heard people travel from around Bulgaria to camp for the summer, protesting against potential hotel concrete. We shared tattered maps marked with biro dots and a few scribbled names along remote sections of the coastline, deciding that our first stop would be Karadere, 2 hours South.

    In the morning, we waited for 45 minutes at a petrol station on the Southern outskirts of Varna for someone to pick us up. Getting hot and wondering if we were in the best place, eventually a car with blackout windows stopped, 3 men inside + beer, we hesitated, got in the car anyway, they flirted, the guy sitting with us in the back got a bit too close to Grace, it crossed my mind that actually my pen knife was in the boot.. but they wrote our sign in fat marker pen Cyrillic for us, taught us a few Bulgarian words and delivered us to a perfect place to catch a lift for the last part of the journey.

    We reckoned we were nearing our destination. Our Google maps printout showed the beach somewhere a few miles north of Byala, separated by faint dust tracks and sunflower fields. Our second driver lived in Byala, so no problem, we thought. But he hadn't heard of Keradere beach, and looked at our map like he was looking at the East coast of England. His determination grew with inverse proportion to the condition of the road, unphased as he resuscitated his little car from death-by-pothole. After 45 minutes, the 'track' dissolved into sunflower field. We found ourselves at one end of 5km of white sandy beach, surrounded by Pine forest.

    Tumbled out of the car, thanking our kind driver, and we set off down the sand, equipped with a jar of honey, 3 loaves of vacuum packed bread and a couple of cucumbers. Scrambling up a bank into shade and tents and trees, on a thick bed of Pine-needles. Ice-cold, fresh-water springs seeped from the cliffs and out through a make-shift pipe, no toilets, no shops, no showers, and a wooden bamboo shack serving fresh fish, salads and cold beer. Naked people in the hot sand, under their magnificently constructed reed and bed-sheet shades. We joined them, but typically unable to resist the occasional sausage joke, muttered between Grace and I. Surveying the view one afternoon Grace leant her head closer "... he's got a right pork enchilada..."
Maybe she meant chipolata.

    The mysterious mud, I told Grace I was going to investigate, I'd be back in 20. I was approached by two tall, lean naked men, who said they knew the way, pointing to the hazy cliffs at the far end of the beach... A long expedition in the sun but with freshwater springs on the way for cold drinks.
   Dodging waves, skirting 3 pale grey precipices, a man, crouched in the rocks, a mane of white hair orbiting the wisened furrows of his naked honeycomb skin. He lives in the cliffs and offers mud massages in thick black juice that smelt like a volcano, free-of-charge. We painted each others bodies head to toe in hot mud, camouflaged into the rock as it baked us in a crisp casing. 
       2 hours longer than 20 minutes, Grace was probably definitely freaking out, we began our walk back, stopping at camps along the way to share beers and food and "nostrave!!" (cheers!!).
     Grace looked up from her book, scowling into the distance at 3 naked, tribal-mud-covered people walking through the shallow waves. As they neared, they left the sea line, heading straight towards her in an all-fours gallop..

    Another day we walked a little further around the cliffs, scuffing our fingertips as we floated in the shallow turquoise water and prised mussels into a net bag, dinner. At night, one-pot feasts were cooked on the fire, with no plates or cutlery the pot was passed in a circle with whoever had joined. Home-brewed apricot rakia and exhilarating midnight swims.

    One naked week extended into 3, living in sand under Pine trees, surrounded by people inherently putting everybody else before themselves. There was no sense of competition or 'mine', not a towel-guarded sun bed in sight. We were the only English on a beach of Bulgarians- families, young students from Sofia, dogs, cats- and found ourselves surrounded by kindness. Each evening a family invited us to eat with them, we returned to our tent to find bags of cheese, onions, tomatoes hanging in the tree we were camped under. And a whopping great watermelon by the door. On the final morning I clambered down to the sand to watch the sunrise and eat some watermelon. I looked up and there, finally, swimming across the calm bay, the 2 dolphins that we had spent the weeks waiting to see. On the final evening of our trip we sat above the beach as the sun set, wondering what we could scrape together to eat with the little food we had left. We got a tap on our shoulders and turned to see someone we'd not met before, handing us a plate of two vegetable kebabs.

Shells hanging from every hang-on-able part of our body, the triangles of second-degree burns on the previously-never-seen-the-sun sections of our bum cheeks almost healed, we picked at sweet grapes as we left through vineyards, reluctantly adorning more items of clothing as we neared the main road, to return to civilisation.



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