We’re Going Home

With great reluctance we have decided that it would be best to go home. Christine’s arm is improving slowly but we think it will be more than a week before she is able to handle a heavily laden bike with any confidence or safety. When this is added to the need for us to sort out the house letting it was not a difficult decision to make.

But it is not the end of our gallivanting around the world! Once the house is let and Christine’s arm is sorted we will be off again. We are not sure whether we will finish the Down the Danube thing or go somewhere else.

As a result today (Monday) has been spent sourcing bike boxes, booking flights for tomorrow and other admin type things.

Quick Update on the Invalid

She’s fine. Her arm is still extremely sore, with some spectacular bruising developing, movement is very restricted but it became more mobile as Saturday progressed. She is dosing herself up on ibuprofen and paracetamol and doing Dr Tamsin’s exercises regularly.

Appalling photo of the Invalid on Saturday morning.
Appalling photo of the Invalid on Saturday morning.

We are booked in the hotel for both Saturday and Sunday nights so we will see how she is on Monday before making a decision on whether to proceed or return home. There are flights from Belgrade to London as well as daily trains to Vienna so we have alternative “escape plans” if needed.

Sanja, Aleksandar and Nenad came to see us on Saturday afternoon to see how Christine was and to offer further help. How sweet and kind was that?  They are a lovely family and we are so grateful to them.

Bruise developing nicely!
Bruise developing nicely!

Oh Dear!

After a bad day for Christine yesterday things got worse today (Friday).

The last section of the route into Belgrade was described as especially busy in the guidebook and people we met yesterday confirmed it wasn’t nice. Christine had spotted what looked like an alternative route on the map so we decided to give it a try.  For the first 5 km or so it was looking like a brilliant choice.

Then it started to rain and the soil turned to glutinous mud almost instantly.  This stuck to the tyres and proceeded to jam up the small gap between the wheel and the mudguard. Christine’s front wheel jammed sold and she was deposited on the ground falling heavily on her left shoulder/upper arm. When Stephen came back to see what had happened he found her holding her arm as though she had suffered the classic cyclist’s injury of a broken collarbone. However, she was pretty sure that nothing was broken – just badly bruised.

As she was in no state to ride we made our way back 2 km to a made up road off to the side with Stephen pushing one bike for a 100 metres or so and then going back for the other one while Christine made her way slowly and gingerly clutching her damaged arm. Once on the road she was able to push her bike and so we made our way slowly into the town at the start of the busy stretch of road which was about 25 km from the centre of Belgrade.

As we made our way towards the station to catch a train into the city a family stopped their car as they reversed out of their drive to ask if they could help. Eventually it was decided that Sanja and Aleksandar would take Christine to the station in their car while their son (we didn’t catch his name) would ride her bike and lead Stephen there.

At the station Aleksandar helped Stephen load the bikes into the train – up 4 really steep steps – and they roped in a friend who happened to be catching the same train into helping us at the other end.

It really was so kind of them to help us and it restores one’s faith in the goodness of people. What a contrast to the car that had driven around her bike when it lay in  the middle of the track while she sat on the side and Stephen walked back towards her!

The train didn’t go into the main station so we were faced with the prospect of a further walk! But first Stephen had to carry the bikes down to street level.  We again benefited from the goodness of human nature as one of our fellow passengers offered to lend a hand by taking Christine’s bike.

We had reason to curse Serbian traffic engineers as the road we were walking beside had to cross the motorway.  This was achieved by an enormous roundabout at which there was no provision for pedestrians other than negotiating four sets of stairs. This was not fun!

On the other side of the roundabout there was a smart hotel for which we made a beeline. Thankfully the cost was not extortionate and, in view of the fact that we were both approaching the end of our tethers, we were more than happy to pay €70 for bed & breakfast plus (much to Stephen’s chagrin) €5 to park the bikes in the underground garage. The staff were extremely anxious to get the bikes moved from outside the main door to reception!

Once in the room and connected to WiFi, Christine consulted our physiotherapist daughter in law, Tamsin, who, as far as she could tell over facetime, agreed that it didn’t sound like anythtimg was broken. Christine is now religiously doing exercises every half hour and we will see how things are in the morning.

Christine Didn’t Enjoy Today!

The morning involved a busy road with a long hill and  the rain came in the afternoon. These are all things that Christine hates!

But let’s cover the last two days in order. We left you on Tuesday evening hanging on to your hat in the strong winds waiting for the rain to come! Well the rain largely stayed away with only a few spots every now and then throughout the night, and gradually the wind died down so that Wednesday dawned bright and clear. This meant that the mosquitoes came out to play having been tucked up in their beds the previous evening because of the weather! We packed up camp as quickly as we could and dived into the adjacent cafe for breakfast.  For the princely sum of £4.40 we had a cheese omelette, a “hamendecks” (say it!), an orange juice and two coffees.

The road out of Backa Palanka was busy, straight and narrow meaning that traffic sped past far too close. To make matters worse the clouds came in and there were more spots of rain. After about 10 km we were grateful to turn off and head towards the river and dyke.

Although the path was not made up to start off with it was fine and we made good progress towards Novi Sad,  the second largest city in Serbia and the only one, other than Belgrade,  that either of us had heard of. As we neared the city the route initially became paved and then joined quiet side roads.

The plan was to go straight through and find a hotel or pension in one of the small towns and villages on the other side of the river so that Belgrade was reachable the next day. However, the rain became much heavier just as we hit the centre of Novi Sad and there was a convenient cafe! An hour later the rain eased up a little but all our motivation had followed the rainwater down the drain and so we headed for the nearest hotel.

Novi Sad was much better than our ill informed prejudices had led us to expect.  There was a very nice square surrounded by typical Austro-Hungarian buildings, a couple of nice churches (one Orthodox with the usual absence of pews or other seating) and a fortress overlooking the river.  We later read (in Wikipedia so it must be true!) that all three bridges over the Danube were destroyed by NATO bombing in 1999 as part of the efforts to end the civil war.

We viewed Thursday morning’s cycling with some trepidation as the guidebook indicated a long stretch on a busy road with some stiff climbing.  It did show an alternative route that avoided the 5 km climb just before the turn off on to quieter roads but when we started to follow this we met a Basque cyclist coming the other way who had given up and said there was no way through.

Reluctantly we headed back to the main road and started on the 8% climb. Christine did not enjoy her walk up the hill with fast traffic zooming past and was decidedly grumpy when she got to the top. However she was a little mollified by a lovely peach from a roadside stall and then a very pleasant chat with three young English lads, Toby, Jack and Rowen who were on their last day cycling from Linz to Belgrade.

We had lunch at a rest area set up for Eurovelo 6 riders by a small village that had wholeheartedly embraced the concept.  A sign showed 1580 km to the Black Sea and over 2500 km to the Atlantic back the other way.

Setting off again we met another English cyclist, Harry, going the other way.  He had been looking out for us having been told about “an English couple” by the two Belgians on the tandem who we had spoken to about a week earlier. Harry was heading towards Passau having started in Crete.

It was definitely a day for stopping to natter with our fellow travellers as a little further on we met a French couple heading home having “done” South East Asia, China and Kyrgyzstan before flying to Belgrade.

The rain had started while we were talking to Harry but by the time we had finished speaking to the French couple it was much heavier. After half an hour of this, and with no sign of a let up, Christine decided that she had had enough for one day and proposed that we stop in the next village where there were two or three places to stay.  Stephen had been expecting this and did not take much persuading!

The village was a little off the route down a 10% hill by the Danube – only the second time we had seen it since Novi Sad. We look forward to the climb first thing in the morning!

Not!!

Dinner was taken in a restaurant with a lovely view of the river and was only spoiled by the smell of cigarette smoke from most of the other customers. Christine ordered trout and was surprised to be presented with two fish on the plate. Despite her protestations she must have been hungry as she left only about 1/4 of one of them!