Finally I found a proper GPX track that I could use for mountain biking. Not that I can’t create a route myself, but when using an existing GPX, my hope is that they guide me to smaller single-trackish tracks. If you know what I mean.
Well, this time it was a GPX of the Trans Rhodopi, almost 300km winding through the Rhodopi mountains in Bulgaria, close to the Greek border. It is a very nice area covered with forest and sprinkled with small villages and their surrounding fields. I used the first section of the route to create a loop. It is a very nice area to ride through, but the mountains are not high enough to escape the forests in terms of tree line altitude.
Starting point was a very secluded and quiet spot, where we were hoping to see a glimpse of the wild bear, still roaming these forests. Until now we did not see one. First I went back to Trigrad, a small town that can be considered a tourist centre of this area. I crossed the mountains to the Buinovo valley, along another secluded meadow with a creek running though it.
When I reached the Buinovo valley, I followed the river upstream along two other small villages.
by this time I was so far south that I came close to the Greek border. In this area I found some rusted old fences, abundantly decorated with barb wire.
These are remnants of the former communist border. From here I turned north again to the settlement of Vodni Pad, and then back home.
Despite my hope there were no single tracks included. I could have known, because I already observed that most walking routes follow the secondary roads and off-road tracks or forest roads, unless the route is going straight up the mountain, then it is more like a goat trail and even on foot difficult to navigate.
Despite the above mentioned, the area is very nice for mountain biking. It has a network of forest roads making it easy to create routes. Sign posts are not abundant, so you’ll need a good (digital) map and GPS. Our experience so far is that you cannot hope to collect much info at a tourist info point. There’s little knowledge of the area and walking maps are not available. (We tried four times at different places).
Technically, riding here is not too hard but I found here that the surface quite often contains the sort of sand you would find at a beach. A rare combination with the pine tree covered mountain sides. The sand appears to be crushed or eroded sand rock. When dry, it can be very soft. It might also be wet and soft, Then it literally sucks and makes it hard to go forward. And lastly it can be dried out in any imaginable shape, hard as concrete: very tricky at speed when it has narrow tracks and ledges in it.
Let’s see if I will ride some more sections of the Trans Rhodopi.