We Stopped for a Tortoise Wandering Down the Path…
So 48 hours it seems is more than ample for your average capital city and we are back on the road again. Ok. So that isn’t strictly accurate as to make up for the lost days due to the storms we have decided to Train across the flatlands to the Iron Gate, a hydro electric dam across the Danube that allows passage into Serbia, the third country of our tour and the more mountainous region of the Balkans.
The flatlands of Romania
The train ride did allow us to see the flatlands in all their glory, which indeed they were, though having already ridden through similar for several days we didn’t feel as though we were missing too much. As we neared Drobeta (the name is much longer than that but let’s face it you probably don’t really care that much) the hills appeared and the excitement grew, as did the worry. Why did we want to give up the easy flatlands for hills?
As we crossed the Iron Gate (no photos allowed!) we were stopped by Serbian border control. But beaming he just wanted to tell us we had gone the wrong way and needed to be the other side of the building. And in truth he do date has represented the wonderful Serbian people. So friendly and welcoming. But also very proud. What lovely people. That is to say nothing against the Romanians but their reserved nature became more exposed with the contrast. I wonder if all those years of brutal suppression have yet to yield their influence on the next generation?
And so to two days of cycling the gorges. Limestone cliffs and crags plunging to the waters below. We’re in snowmelt (in the Alps upstream that is) so the waters are somewhat turbulent and the odd major tree floats gently past,which the fishermen in their tiny boats do their best to avoid. We meet Joy and his family – Chinese but living in Dubai – who share their food with us so graciously. We move on and camp amounts this glorious nature, which overnight included yea more rain which stopped as we awoke from our slumbers.
The magnificent Gorges Splitting Serbia from Romania. Last photo is our wild camp site
As the lands became flatter so we approached our second ferry crossing. And this one was magnificence itself. The best ferry I have ever had the privilege to ride. Basically it was a barge with a tiny toy tug boat lashed to the side. The ends were open and you could fall off almost anywhere as you walked the wobbly planks of its deck. The crew finished siphoning a can of diesel and hand winched the drawbridge an inch or two before we departed, turned and chugged to the far bank. upon arrival at the other side there was no ferry terminal, just a earth shore. To overcome this apparently small problem they simply rammed the front of the barge into the river bank, before getting off, shovelling the loose dirt they had piled up into any pot holes they may have created and asked the cars to disembark. Sublime.
Is that really the ferry?
Within minutes we were in the very different world of mozzie alley. Which actually isn’t an alley or it’s real name. But for the next day and a half we feared for our very lives as we ran their gauntlet through a very stunning nature reserve. These things literally chased us on the bikes. I saw them follow James in gangs before landing on his back as he cycled to rip the shirt off his very back. OK, they didn’t actually rip the shirt of his back but there were many piercings. We had no alternative but to continue and pretty much all the way to Belgrade we barely stopped and where we now barely dare to go out so defaced are we.
Meltwaters from the Alps plus significant rains to the north cause flooding 1000 miles downstream. Dam waters are released in advance to try to mitigate the impacts
Mozzie 150km Alley
We are informed that it is the unusual rains and damp threat have made them so prevalent this year. I just hope there’s been a drought as we head further north! The amazing habitat they have within their control has been created by a huge flood defence that must run some 150km (so far) up the east bank. Think Live and Let Die and the Louisiana swamps and you are well on track to this little nature reserve. Stunning – the wild life is immense – but bring the right clothes.
And it was as we cycled through this stretch that I spotted something on the track in front of me. Heading in my direction is looked like a moving stone. I slammed on the breaks (and James ran full pelt into the back of me) as we stopped literally within inches of… a tortoise. The real deal. Pretty cool in my book. He got fed up almost immediately however and retracted into his shell and before we could think to take photos the pestilence attacked from all quarters and we were forced to move on. (I think they could strip you to the bone quicker than piranhas). I remain pretty stoked at meeting a tortoise while out for a cycle though!
Eventually we recrossed the river, this time by bridge, and into the capital of Serbia, Belgrade. We visit a laundry who for 5 pounds will wash and dry our stuff (I wouldn’t touch it myself and I hope she has a bad sense of smell) and head for our room
First Belgradian architecture
We head for our hostel where our room quickly resembles a clothes rack as we seek to finally dry out our things!
Our room in the hostel resembling a clothes line (in our defence the room is seriously grim but it was only £8 a night each so we aren’t complaining – too much). My favourite bit about the room was they advised the sink as the “en suite”.
(I can only apologise for my brother)
Who below gets his own back with a few snaps of Ted!!!
Definitely not in Mozzie Alley!,!
Ted suffers a small refreshment