On 7 June, we boarded the Djurba, a ferry that crosses the Black Sea from Bulgaria to Georgia. As well as being economical and practical for our bikes, the route was also symbolic. We were leaving from where we had left off, and we had some wonderful travel stories in mind... Taking to the sea ...


Orianne Pieragnolo

7/2/20246 min read

To get to Georgia with our bikes, we decided to take the ferry across the Black Sea from Bulgaria. This decision, as well as being practical with our travel equipment, also meant that we could pick up where we left off on the first stage a year ago. This three-night crossing, behind closed doors, gave our minds time to wander off into imaginary worlds, and in particular to delve into the myth of Jason and the Argonauts*, who took almost the same sea route to reach Colchis...

A bus, then Budapest, a bus, then Bucharest, we pedalled for 80 km, then the Bulgarian border, a train, then a bus and another train. It was then, exhausted, that we found ourselves back on the shores of the Black Sea, the very shores that had marked the limit of the first itinerary, when that barrier of water made us realise, with tears in our eyes, that one stage was well and truly over. That was a year ago. We sat facing the blue expanse, looking for what was to come. For us, this sea was as much an end as a beginning. The lines of the horizon led us to dream of Central Asia, distant lands that revived familiar legends. Memories of Greek myths and travel tales dating back thousands of years came back to us, stories of journeys that have left their mark on mankind, such as those of Hercules, the Amazons or Jason and the Golden Fleece. It was the latter story that inspired our decision to take the ferry from Bulgaria to Georgia. The practical decision to take the Black Sea route unconsciously led us to retrace Jason and the Argonauts¹ expedition to Colchis, in present-day Georgia. So we had fun imagining ourselves and an army of strong, young warriors setting sail on the Argo² for faraway, almost unknown lands.

But today, 7 June 2024, it's 3pm in Burgas, a modern Bulgarian city, and we're about to discover what the azure curtain facing us has been hiding. If we take the Argonauts' route, we are 348 km north of the Bosphorus Strait, which enabled the troops of heroes to reach the waters of the Black Sea. When we arrive at the port, on our metal steeds, we discover a scene of cranes and steel. Ships with sculpted prows of the imagination give way to rusting boats and lorries. Around a pile of heavy goods vehicles, we thread our way between their monstrous wheels, which tower over our bikes twice as high. In this world of giants, we had to find the boat that would take us to the land of Medea³. It's an old all-metal ferry, painted blue with its name written across the top: Djurba. This will be our enclosure for two and a half days. It's a first for us. Time will no longer be marked by the sound of the derailleur gears, but by the swirl of the waves. In front of us, the open slipway shows a gaping mouth that unrolls onto the asphalt of the quay. Herds of lorries are being loaded and their masters, arms folded, awaiting their papers, stand at the entrance with the customs officers.

Our new army of adventurers and explorers is here! A horde of modern Argonauts made up of long-distance truckers, giant builds, thunderous laughter, tattooed muscles and the spirit of tarmac travellers!

¹ The Argonauts: Name given to Jason and his companions who set out to conquer the Golden Fleece in Colchis aboard the Argo.

² The Argo: Name of the ship that enabled the Argonauts to reach Colchis.

As we enter the hull of the boat, we look very puny next to these colossuses. We store our little bikes in a rusty corner of the hold and leave with a few of our bags. We leave our bikes behind to take up residence in our new flats. On the first deck, a metal opening with rounded corners leads us into a long corridor. The first door leads to the lobby. A room where cigarette smoke has yellowed the walls and lined the air with the smell of cold tobacco. There's a TV and Russian DVDs, a few tables and sofas with aged fabrics. On the shelves are sets of dominoes and an abacus. Past this room, we find the dining room, the centre of life, furnished with around twenty tables and red leatherette seats. The walls, which have no view of the outside, are decorated with porthole stickers overlooking beaches with parasols and resort buildings. The rooms are served by a corridor around this room. They are small cabins, with two or four beds. Ours has four. As we toured the cabin, we also got to know our room-mates. Two other cyclists, Jan, a sporty Swiss, and Renan, a Frenchman, a dreamy traveller, who has set himself the challenge of reaching Uzbekistan.

To get some fresh air, we have the lower deck at our disposal, a small shared space for the thirty or so passengers. It's a good thing that not all of the ferry's eighty seats are occupied. The moorings were cast off during the night. We were lying in our cabins. The propeller began to vibrate, producing a sound that would punctuate the entire crossing. It wasn't until morning that we got to know the place better and began to get to know our colleagues and the sea, a flat expanse as far as the eye could see. Just like our arrival through the lorries, we found ourselves quite insignificant alongside the lorry drivers. In fact, it wasn't until the last evening that we were able to form a bond with them. Intimidated, no doubt, we had to break the codes. The guys had been drinking for the first two nights. Fighting, jeering and shouting, the army of Argonauts had begun to fall into the meanderings of a cloistered life. Even we were losing our way. We realised this when we picked up a box of dominoes and a bottle of vodka, with the cyclists playing hard to get.

We also thought of vodka as a way of forging links with Georgian truck drivers. Closer to Medea, the witch with the potions, we managed to tame each other around songs and beliefs. Alcohol was not a bargaining chip. On the last evening, we had to remain dignified as we returned to the asphalt roads and police checkpoints. But we parted after a dance and smiles. They took to the road again, speeding towards their families, making their way back before the next departure. We set off into the unknown, our feet finally touching the ground of the long-awaited stage, where we hope to find some form of fleece, but this time it will certainly be made of stone...

Medea: A magician born and living in Colchis, daughter of Hecate (goddess of the moon, magic and limits) and the king of Colchis (modern-day Georgia) Eetes. She played a major role in Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece, thanks to her potions and magic. She fell in love with him and left his lands with him when he returned from the quest.

Discover the other articles ...

La Route de la Pierre newspaper

Discover the other articles ...

La Route de la Pierre newspaper

Do you like our articles?