Sarajevo to Belgrade 20 – 24 May

1 Jun

Axelle and I took seperate routes to Belgrade; Axelle took a train to the flatland in the north, I headed up into the mountains. We planned to meet 5 days later in Serbia’s capital.

I was glad to stretch my legs and head up into the hills. The heavy rains we had sheltered from in Sarajevo looked to have passed. I started off up through the valleys and tunnels, a common route for buses and trucks heading directly for Belgrade. Adi, Traveller’s Home Hostel owner, was right when he recommended this route, there is ‘amazing nature’. And the climb is long and steep.

Late in the afternoon it looked like I had reached the top. I started looking for restaurants and thinking about where to camp. I asked a woman farming on her land if I could camp there, she brought her husband and son over and as soon as they all realised I was serious about camping on their farm they invited me to stay in their spare room and brought out the rakija.

I was grateful. Still sick and with rainclouds gathering, sleeping inside would be more than a bonus. At the nearby restaurant they had finished serving food by 6pm, so I had tea and the restauranteur gave me a loaf of bread. After ‘dinner’ I rode back to the farm and sat with the family, who brought out rakija and local coffee (like very strong filter coffee without the filtering). Broken conversations, with Vladin, the son, translating what he could, were all we could manage. The more difficult it was to keep up a conversation, the more I could see they were doing me a great favour.

All night I sweated and shivered and didn’t sleep. But I knew the worst of this persistent cold was over. At 8am (2 hours after Vladin had left for school) I woke and they made me a coffee and I bid them farewell.
The second day’s ride was easier than anticipated. I had reached a table top plateau of farmland early, and even with a 2 hour period of sheltering from heavy rainfall I made 2 day’s riding distance. The final 50km was all downhill and took just 2 hours or so. Great riding and very beautiful scenery.

I had made it to Zvornik, the border town between Bosnia and Serbia. Reknowned for the ‘Zvornik massacre’, during which Serbs massacred thousands of Bosnians between 92 and 95, and during which ‘ethnic cleansing’ of over 40,000 took place. I couldn’t afford the €30 hotel price and found what I thought to be a great wild camping spot, on top of an old fortress that straddles the main road on the edge of town. Of course, this was a hangout for kids to come and smoke or whatever, and twice I was woken by groups coming up to the ramparts and shining light on my tent. The second time I decided to get out and meet the group, but as I started unzipping my tent  my hamstring cramped up, and I sprung violently through the velcro frontage which made the group scream in fright. I sat with them chatted a bit while I stretched my hamstrings.

I was woken in the morning by heavy rains. I lay in the tent kicking pools of water drooping down over me for a couple of hours. An inch thick layer of mud and grass over the stone floor of the fortress meant that pegging my tent down was an issue, which resulted in a weak erection.

When the rain had stopped I packed the tent and headed for Serbia. Flatland. Easy riding but monotonous. The kilometers flew by and I found a decent looking restaurant with a spit roasting a lamb outside and got permission to camp nearby on their land. Had some roast meat, drank some beers. Simple life. In the morning the rains returned but I sat in the restaurant and had poached eggs. My mobile phone went missing from my tent around about this point but I didn’t know it yet. I checked my emails and a contact from warmshowers.org had replied to my request to stay at his place. He was just 8km up the road in Sabac. He said I should come to his bike shop and say hi.

I got there around 11am and Sasha met me warmly. Before I knew it I agreed to stay at his that evening and spend the day in Sabac with him, his friends and his family. I found Sasha to be a greatly generous man, thriving in his roles as the bicycle shop owner and new father, with a Ricky Gervais laugh and a happy wife and son. We spent some time cruising around on his recumbent bikes, drinking, eating huge and delicious meals, one of chicken liver and mash, the other of creamy local feta cheese, tuna and pickles, both with beer (just me), and entertaining Sasha’s 1 and a 1/2 yer old son, who is a great kid.

The next morning Sasha decided to join my ride to Belgrade with his friend Mika (previously known as ‘Fat Mika’ before he lost 40kg in 3 years, now a fit and lean 78kg at the approximate age of 65). Great news for me, because they could show me a route to Belgrade through the swampy national forest and villages and mud tracks, rather than the busy and dangerously thin main road.

We cycled a good 60km together, ate a really great lunch at a restaurant on a river – amazing fish soup. Sasha paid for mine, just as he paid for everything else, and he noticed that my bike was ‘dancing’ earlier. We looked carefully and the rear tyre had split.

As I said goodbye to Mika and Sasha, Sasha goes into a shop and buys me a beer, previously he had told me that ‘beer is my problem’. I stored the can safely on the bike in my bottle carrier. 40km to Belgrade for me and it was fairly tough going. Dark rainclouds chasing me, I stopped every 10km to pump the tyre back up, and arrived in Belgrade 20 minutes too late for a proper soaking.

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5 Responses to “Sarajevo to Belgrade 20 – 24 May”

  1. Daz June 1, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    A weak erection, you need more iron our kid.

  2. kaleb June 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Hi mate, looks like a nice trip. Where are you now? I’m on my own ride at the moment, just about to enter Serbia from Croatia and next week I’ll be heading Belgrade to Sarajevo… any chance you could help me out with a few route pointers? Be nice to avoid those main roads out of Belgrade etc… Cheers. Go safe, Kaleb.

  3. kaleb June 14, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    hi mate,

    I’ll be cycling Belgrade to Sarajevo next week, any tips on routes? Be great to avoid the main roads out of Belgrade….

    Kaleb

    • Jack Morris June 24, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Hi – Did you already arrive in Sarajevo? There is a great road over the mountains I can recommend, you first go down to Zvornik.. let me know where you are and I’ll see if I can help out
      Jack

      • kaleb July 1, 2012 at 11:08 am #

        Hi Jack,

        Thanks, I actually took that route via Zvornik. Spectacular after I’d passed the pass… downhill all the way to Sarajevo! I”m in Montenegro now, about to cross to Albania.

        Cheers,
        Kalebn.

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