I'm reluctant to remove myself from bed at 08.20. Blurry eyed I head across the road to the market for pastries and yoghurt drink. Once the bags are packed I wrestle my bike into the lift. Sitting downstairs in the lobby I perch on a step and wait for the rain to stop – I really am becoming more Serbian. I decide to give it 15 minutes otherwise I'll head out into the volley of water. Staring through the window at the grey I fantasise about being back in bed. But that would be the lifestyle of the jobless bum and not the cycle traveller. Inevitably the minutes pass and I leave under light drizzle. I meet Miljan, give him the flat key, and say the last of my Belgrade goodbyes.
The way out of Belgrade is not the most scenic of rides, industrious sprawl escorts me to the Danube. As I cross the long bridge to the opposing bank my left arm is caressed by several passing trucks. The Eurovelo route becomes muddy. At first it's fun, but after some time I tire of the slipping and sliding. My mood is tottering on a fairly narrow ledge of various emotions. After ten days I'd started to get comfortable in my surroundings. Becoming softened somewhat by my comparatively luxurious environment. And although I was very glad to be back on the road, this comfort made leaving all the more difficult.
The mud turns to stony ground and the riding gets a little easier. To qualify for a EuroVelo route a certain percentage of the path must be sealed road – I guess I've now found the section that makes up the remainder. In the distance I see two dark slow moving figures. As the distance closes I make them out to be hooded people in black clothing. Great! I've found the Serbian druids and they appear to be making in my direction. But as the meters between us diminish I realise they are actually just shepherds with a heard of goats. They mumble greetings to me but my pidgin Serbian is unable to decipher the words. The lady at the rear of the herd walks with a serious limp. Their clothes are beyond ragged and the lines in their faces deep. These people live hard lives and I find it impossible to surmise their age. My immediate uncontrollable reaction as we make eye contact is pity. As I bump and rattle along I consider their situation, angered by my thoughts. Perhaps they pity me. Infected by boredom and unappreciative of the love of my family and friends I attempt to rack up kilometres to find solace. I'll spare you my turbulent thoughts on this subject, but suffice to say I turned such ideas over in my mind for the next few hours.
As I ride along the path I can't see the actual river which is somewhere off to my right. Swamps and lakes have formed along it's edge making homes for many species of wildlife. I see more herons than ever before in my life. Thier long elegant form unmistakable on logs and reedbeds littering the lake. A swift flies in circles around my bike for several minutes allowing me a great view of one of my favourite birds. Paraqueets cherp a happy song. It's far too pretty a place to be glum, and so I'm not.
I fight with a headwind for a while and the town of Kovin takes some reaching. I observe that I don't feel so good on the bike today, and my legs are protesting a little more than usual. I wander if ten days is actually too much of a rest. After two days any muscle soreness or blisters have disappeared and I can catch up on any missed sleep. Is it possible to get too much rest? With the possiblility of a roof and bed I push my weary body onwards, determined to make Posarevac.
By 20.00 I'm entering the outskirts of town. I get the the centre and put the call in to Sasa, my host for the night. He comes to meet me on his bicycle. We ride through the town for a few kilometres until we arrive at his home. I take a quick shower, meet his mother Milica, and then we head into town. It's festival season. The central square has been filled with a stage and quite a crowd have gathered. Coincidentally the band playing are the winners of the Guca festival I was at the week before. I meet some of Sasa's friends as we watch the dancing and listen to the music. Next we head to a blues bar, just my kind of place. Here I try my first dark Serbian beer, and very pleasant it is too. We chat about this and that while Stevie Ray Vaughan wails in the background. Sasa is excellent company, I learn more about the war, his work, and his philosopy on life, which I find most agreeable. He has hosted many people at his house over the past few years. The idea being that he can build a friendship with people from all over the world. Perhaps at some future point they can return the favour and host him. And to have houses and friends all over the planet is a wealth we both strive for. I am happy to be his first house in England. At the end of the night we find a very good local band playing an impromptu acoustic set. All in all an excellent night. I am pooped and sleep like a log.