96km, 3 countries and a sunburn later….

This morning we woke up around 7.30 and set off at 9. We are definitely getting better at packing our things away. We cycled back down the sandy banking we had camped on and continued down the road towards vidin, a town in Serbia on the other side of the Danube that we were on. We decided to take the road that goes across an island back into Serbia instead of trying the get a ferry from Calafat, the town on the opposite side of the Danube from Vidin. Upon exiting Romania, the border police took our passports while a customs guy stayed and talked to us. He said it might take a little while because they didn’t see many Austrian citizens coming from Romania so they werent sure about the procedure of checking my passport. He joked I might be the first Austrian even in their country.

We had cycled about 40 km by the time we got into town where we decided to have lunch, check train times to go from Vidin to Sofia and check the remaining distance to the Bulgarian border and to Vidin.

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Cafe culture in Negotin

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Negotin main square

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Wild tortoise number 2

The cycle path sign near the border said it was another 18 or so km to the border but the ever so friendly Serbian locals told us if we stayed on the main road it was more like ten. the headwind was strong but luckily a farm so truck was going our way and the farmers thought it was amusing to carry us along in their slipstream. The lady at the Bulgarian border told us Vidin was only another 30 km away – by that time we had already done about 60 but it was only half past 2 pm and the train from Vidin went at 6 pm so we had plenty of time. Or so we thought.

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Wild pig on the an island between Romania and Serbia

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Through Serbia the cycle path has been incredibly well sign posted but our favourite bit is that each sign has a quote at the bottom, some are wise and some even funny but it’s a pleasure to stop and read each one. Mike’s favourite is ‘do not worry if you run out of money in Serbia, everybody does!’

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Bulgarian border

On a cycle trip like this one you do surprise yourself at how far you can go but you also find out a lot about your personal limits. My breaking point was at 80km, where I had to stop because I couldn’t go any further, I was crying and annoyed at myself for doing so and thought I would never ever be able to make another 20 km in an hour and a half. 80 km does not seem that far, at least not to experienced cyclists, but bear in mind that it was our fourth day of cycling all day in a row without a day’s rest, and that I was not just carrying my own weight plus the bike’s but more like 85kg.
Anyhow, after a little break, some water and some sugar, Mike and I continued on and Mike offered to sing me a song, so I asked him to sing “the one with the dog” (the title song to the UK kid’s tv show “The Littlest Hobo”). Three times. If that wouldn’t cheer you up, I don’t know what will.

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Onwards to Sofia

We made it to Vidin at 20 minutes to 6, according to our GPS, just in time to comfortably catch the train to Sofia. The clock in the train station was displaying 20 minutes to 7 which was clearly wrong, we had done everything to get there on time for the last train of the day. Except that we did not know that Bulgaria runs an hour ahead of Serbia. We hadn’t considered the time difference.

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A very tired looking kathi

We found a hotel online we wanted to stay at that night and tried to find it three times, adding an extra 8 km to our trip.
So there you have it. We cycled 108 km in one day. After cycling 75km, then 50km, then 85km for three consecutive days, respectively. You may think getting the trains cheating. You do it, then we’ll talk. 🙂

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Through the Djerdap

Not sure quite where to start with this one, the last days have been so amazing. After leaving Golubac we cycled through the fortress guarding the entrance to western Europe through the Carpathian mountains and on into the national park. The gorge carved out by the Donau is the biggest in Europe (not the highest, that’s in Montenegro) and in the narrowest points the river reaches 80m deep. I guess I expected the Donau to be much more powerful and just get bigger and bigger but it seems so much water is lost in the great plains of Hungary that the river seems smaller than in Vienna.

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That night we were struggling to find an accessible place to put the tent (being in a gorge) so Kathi opted to ask a local couple we cycled past if we could camp on their land. What a stroke of luck that was! I’m not sure we have could have met more hospitable strangers. They were a Serbian couple and their friend who lived across the road in a big house, who was there to do some fishing – they spoke a small amount of German. They fed us rakija, cake, biscuits, coffee and fruit juice plus talked us through the family photos and told us about the area. In the morning we were offered a shower, given more of the strongest Turkish coffee I have ever seen which would’ve sent me crazy if they hadn’t given us even more rakija to wash it down with.

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We were off by 9:30am and had a really slow morning taking pictures and cycling some big climbs. I realised the next time someone ask me how far we cycle in a day my answer will be ‘as little as possible’ for if the road is not boring then why even try to gain distance.

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Later on, exiting the gorge it seems the main thing protecting the gorge from the Ottomans was just a scary face carved into the rock wall. No wonder they made it to Vienna. 😉 Shortly after we had a long downhill (65kmph on a 65kg bike with a trailer is a scary thing to do) and exited into Romania. We can’t wait to get back into Serbia already.

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We stopped in a typical Romanian town with no discernable town center, had lunch and moved on.

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The evening wild camping was amazing. We heard wolves not so far away (no problem for pepper spray) and even saw a wild tortoise which also didn’t like the pepper spray… 😉

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Mike got a tick on his back but luckily Kathi’s mother is a doctor and we had a tick removal tool so just screwed it out and disinfected it, not even a mark left today hopefully there is no infection. Cycle touring, and especially wild camping makes your relationship with all animals much more profound. Ear plugs are a necessity due to all birds, cuckoo’s and cockerals especially and the grasshoppers can be almost deafening too. You always have to be aware of mosquitos and dubious of wild dogs.

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We cycled 85k yesterday and today will aim for 100 to get us into Bulgaria before 12pm.

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