Saturday, 2 June 2018

Welcome to Belgrade

Hello from Belgrade where support man Carlton and I arrived on Friday after a few minor flight delays caused by fog in Amsterdam. Once we arrived in Belgrade, we were greeted by Vlad who is acting as a "fixer" for me here in Serbia. Thanks to Vlad for getting us safely to the hotel from the airport. He has also been able to source some items such as cooking gas which I wasn't able to transport in Chappie. 

Vlad, pictured below, previously spent some time living and working in Newcastle. That, together with some excellent local knowledge means that he is well placed to have my back covered and has proved to be a valuable asset so far.  

My plan of spending Saturday prepping Chappie for the journey ahead has unfortunately gone out of the window. The latest situation is that Chappie is still stuck in customs despite best efforts yesterday afternoon to find a solution. Thanks again to Vlad for acting as an interpreter with the "ferry agent" acting on behalf of the freight company here in Serbia. 

Unfortunately, it’s currently the weekend and the expert that I need to speak to isn’t available until Monday. All other key people in this transaction are fully aware of the requirement so hopefully we can make quick and positive progress on Monday. 

I will need a few hours to prep Chappie before setting off so, at this stage, it looks like Tuesday could well be the start of stage five of the run around the world here in Belgrade. That's probably the best case scenario right now.

A Tuesday start will put me under pressure straight away. The first major milestone of reaching Kiev on June 30th would mean spreading Monday’s lost 31 miles over the following 25 days. It’s not too bad when you think about it in those terms but it makes an already tough task so much tougher. Throw into the mix that I have a rest day scheduled in Satu Mare, Romania and that complicates things. One option is to lose that first rest day. It’s an option that I’m seriously considering. 

A Tuesday or Wednesday start wouldn’t be a disaster but I’d have to perform at the kind of level that saw me finish the run across the USA on time and within 100 days! 

I need to be in Kiev on June 30th. That’s 777 miles from the start line in Belgrade. My current schedule to get those miles done is in 26 days with 1 rest day on day 10. If I had 25 or 24 days then I’d have to go “all in” to get to Kiev on time where I have 3 rest days. Those 3 rest days could be even more important than I’d originally thought. It would be enough time to recover and get back to the normal schedule of 31 miles per day for the remaining 71 days. Anyway, nothing can be done to progress the situation with Chappie until Monday. 

There are options. There are permutations. I love a battle. I thrive in pressure situations. I have amazing support online and here in Belgrade (Vlad, Carlton and my old ally Dusan at the British Embassy). A load of money has been raised so far and is still coming in to St Benedict’s Hospice every day. There are lots of positives and I feel in a very good place mentally at this early stage to deal with anything that comes my way.

Back to today and Carlton and I completed our reccy of the route away from the the start point of stage 5 which is the Victor statue and then through Kalemegdan. This landmark was, of course, where stage 4 finished back in 2016 (with me being 6 stone lighter then!). The route into and out of Kalemegdan looks good and very passible for Chappie. Images from our reccy are below.

Tomorrow morning’s plan is to run the first few miles of my intended route out of Belgrade from Kalemegdan. I’ll be looking for any potential obstacles and hazards for Chappie. When I do eventually get to start this run, it’s important that I navigate out of the city as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible.

Laku noć from Belgrade. Remember that you can follow the journey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The links are in the header of this blog.