Saturday, 9 June 2018

Day 3 - Final full day in Serbia

This start of each blog post will probably be very similar, if not identical, over these 100 days. 

I had another terrible nights sleep. It was another warm one and there was a very violent thunderstorm directly overhead at 2am. Fortunately, all kit that I store outside over night was under an army poncho so it was bone dry when I got up at 0540. 

I filled my basket with food to snack on and I was on my way at 0605. The mornings have been tough so far. It was hard to stay awake for the first few miles. 

I saw Nickola from the night before with his girlfriend and fellow Partizan Belgrade supporting friend. He handed me a Partizan t-shirt (which was to come in useful later in the day). We had a few photos and I was on my way again. 

The temperature was a lot cooler than recent days for a few hours and I took advantage of that with 8 miles in the bag before my first rest. I sat on the step at the back of Chappie for 45 minutes. I was shattered. The next few miles to Zrenijanin were all on cycle path. It was a nice change to get away from the traffic. 

I was stopped a little further down the road to give an interview to “I Love ZR”. The two guys spoke very good English and asked some excellent questions. I soon headed east away from the city and spoke to Donna who recommended I take a cycle path on my left. That took me all the way to Klek where I stopped to eat a ration pack outside of a cemetery. 

I’d just finished eating it when three people pulled up in a car. I was greeted with an “Everything ok buddy?” by a Serbian man who I later found lives in Canada. His wife spoke good English and I told them, and their friend who had come to lay flowers for his late wife, all about my journey. 

They disappeared into the cemetery but almost immediately reappeared and invited me to a BBQ. The very kind offer was too good to turn down. Not because I hadn’t had a hot meal since Monday but these people seemed very genuine and kind. 

I arrived at the house where Bogdanka (the very kind lady at the cemetery) introduced me to family, friends and children. The children were confident enough to attempt to ask me questions in English. They drew some very nice pictures for me.  We were soon tucking into a barbecue the likes of which I haven’t seen since Australia. The starter was chicken soup. I’d had some last week in Novi Sad but this was much tastier.  Then there was chicken, pork, bacon (salty and delicious), various types of sausage. All delicious and very well seasoned. Then there were the salads too. I had a very good feed. It was insisted that I have desert which was a delicious cake with ice cream. I was pleased everyone got into the spirit when I recorded a Facebook Live video. Isn’t technology brilliant!

We spent some time talking about family and where people lived. I also learned about the 3 Olympians from Klek. That, despite the population of the town being only 3000.  

After a few photos with Chappie, Igor filled my water and gave me some extra. 3 days supply I think in total. I handed him a Run Geordie Run t-shirt as a small token of my appreciation of his and his father’s (it was his house) wonderful hospitality. The children waved me off out of Klek and I must admit after such a massive morale boosting high, I was very sad to be leaving. 

This barbecue had cost me 2 hours of running time but it was well worth it. Such lovely people who are only too happy to invite you to sit at their table and offer you everything they can. 

Serbia is a special country. Donna (Richard on the support team) and I knew that in 2016 when we finished stage four of the run Around The World. It’s the kindness and friendless of people that make places special. That’s a lesson that I’ve learned in Serbia.

A few miles further down the road saw my arrival in Zitiste. I was just about to take a quick picture of Chappie with the Rocky Balboa statue. Yes! You read that right. Imagine my utter surprise when I saw Igor with his father and the children again. They brought more water and Pepsi and wished me well for the final few miles of the day (you can see footage of this on my Facebook page). 

I ran until there was no light left. My final action of the day was to ask a lady if I could camp in her garden in the small town of Banatski Dvor. She went to get her daughter who spoke a little English. You couldn’t make up what happened next. Yes you guessed it. I was eating bread and meat and drinking apple juice. I really didn’t want to put them to any trouble but they insisted like only a kind Serbian can. 

I spoke to Donna towards the end of the day and we reflected on the last 2 days. We laughed and thought about the kind of conversation you would have with someone after a weekend...

"Well, I camped in a strangers back garden who then fed me cherry juice. I met a local who gave me some Mitro power beer. I gatecrashed a family BBQ. Oh, and I found one of the top 10 (according to Lonely Planet) most bizarre monuments on earth. And that was just Friday and Saturday."

So here I am. Camped up in somebody’s front garden and 20 miles from the border with Romania. 

What a perfect end to the day. I will be very sad to leave Serbia tomorrow.