Our rest days usually involve no cycling, but a jam-packed day of city sightseeing (not particularly relaxing). In need of a proper rest, we decided we needed to find somewhere where there was no temptation for exploring. Our next destination was Montana – three hotels and a supermarket – perfect! We identified a lake close by so decided we’d try it out as a place to wild camp for a couple of nights.
Arriving at the lake at dusk we could see a few caravans. We spotted a friendly looking couple and decided to ask if we could camp close to them. A few hand gestures later we got an enthusiastic nod, so took that as an OK to pitch our tent.
Later whilst cooking dinner a small group came down to greet us. They’d been waiting for the one lady in the area who spoke English to talk to us. She said they wanted to welcome us and explained that they live here for around 9 months of the year, and head back to the city in the middle of winter when it snows.
That evening as we were preparing for bed, strong winds picked up. One lady came running down and used her phone to translate her insistence that we slept in her caravan as our tent would blow away. We knew this wasn’t the case so politely declined several times. In the end we came to a compromise that we could sleep in our tent, but we must join her and her friends inside for a while.
Bedtime on hold, space was quickly cleared at the table for us, and before we had time to introduce ourselves we were sat down with a large glass of Fanta and even larger glass of home brewed rakia (fruit brandy). But of course you can’t drink rakia without food. We were stuffed from our dinner, but out came the salad… nuts…chicken….chocolates. We insisted that we really didn’t need food – we’d already brushed our teeth!….then the sausages went into the pan. We couldn’t speak the same language, but there was relaxed contentment in sitting and watching football together on the tiny screen.
The next day whilst everyone was at work we relaxed by the lake with our new furry friends and did nothing except read our books, write our diaries, and watch the fishermen.
In the evening when the couples returned we were ushered back into the tent to join them for dinner. This time we were prepared and and went with empty tummies. We were treated to a feast of fried lake fish, meat, bread, and best of all a tiramisu (including preserved plums and thick yogurt rather than cream) that they whipped up at the table half way through dinner. A plastic bottle of homemade rakia was proudly handed over, a little heavy for our bikes, but it’ll keep us warm at night for many weeks to come. Such a wonderful evening exchanging conversation over google translate…and of course, more football – this time it was an England Euro qualifier in our honour.
We planned an early morning set-off as we had a high mountain pass to summit, however we weren’t allowed to leave without breakfast. 20 slices of eggy bread and a mound of local honey just for us!
The hospitality of our new friends was beyond what we could have imagined. We didn’t ask for anything, but were welcomed into their home with open arms despite not speaking the same language. Thank you so much for your kindness, hopefully we meet again one day.