Day 38: Chasing the Yugo
Saturday August 3 - Day 38 - 43miles - Total 1496miles
So we woke up in Vinci...the town with the bike shop... but we didn't know that it was supposed to have a bike shop until we were in Golubac.... which was also supposed to have a bike shop but didn't... So we didn't know if it existed... or if it didn't exist at all... still not sure about that... any way we didn't get our tubes...
Anyway... we headed out of town, the Fearsome Foursome that we are! When we went to the little shop on the corner to resupply with the guy (whom we bought cheese from earlier) had heard of Thorn Bicycles before and was very curious... but in a good way. He jokes that Andy Murray deserved to win at least once, even if Djokovic (who is Serbian) had to lose because of it.
We were also looking for a post office and were successful. After asking a few people in Golubac where things were, we learned that the whole town is "near the Hotel" which is kind of true... even if there was no bike shop but we did get the post office so one out of two ain't bad.
As we cycled along the Danube we saw a very cool fortress which was now at and below river level because the river was damed in the 70s and had risen 50 feet since then. The road we were following actually traveled through some of the gates of the fortress which was awesome to see... and cycle through.
As we were cycling through the fortress, and taking pictures of each other, we noticed a video team working under one of the arches. We passed them quickly trying to get out of their shot. But then the video guy from the fortress drove by us with a video camera hanging out the passenger window... twice... This was a little weird since we didn't know that we were being video taped or for what reason. However, when Stefan took a pit stop down the way, the video guy appeared and introduced himself as Ovidiu, the Touristic videographer for the local area. He then asked our permission to be in his tourism video about touring cyclists on the Danube. He asked if one of us would wear a helmet cam to video from the perspective of the cyclist. Bruce being the tallest, on the biggest bike, and since he generally cycles last, offered to wear the helmet cam. This ended up not working because the cam would not fit/turn on. That plan aborted, we were filmed another time and were supposed to meet Ovidiu in about an hour at the Lempenski Vir Museum on the river about 25km along the way.
On our way to the Museum, we passed through the first of 21 tunnels on the this road along the Danube - none of which are lit.The first of which is about 300meters long. We turned on our rear lights and Bruce had the strongest headlight so he went first. It was a little unnerving at first being totally in the dark, but we survived!
We found the turn off to the museum and of course it was a massive downhill from the main road, so we all knew that this meant that there would be an equally massive uphill on the other side to re-join the main road. We were all hungry so we went to the restaurant and had very good catfish and other Serbian dishes, washed down with plenty of water. There were cats hanging out in the restaurant who would wait for dropped pieces of catfish and other treats. They were very cute and persistent.
Ovidiu joined us at the restaurant after lunch and told us that there was a festival going on in Donji Milanovac, which involved a Fish soup cook off, and thus the town was very busy this weekend, but because of his connections he could get us a room at the big hotel in town (the old Intourist hotel) for 20 euros per room. We chatted amongst ourselves and we decided to stick with going with private rooms accommodation since we had had good luck with it the night before.
After lunch we did have to climb back up to the main road. Stefan and Rebecca took the posted bike route, which followed the old road, while Bruce and Andrea re-joined the main road again. We didn't fancy having to do the switchbacks that the old road performed at this point!
However we didn't get away totally, as through the next tunnel the main road started to rise rather dramatically. It was a pretty big climb up. There was a family of cyclists that passed us as we took a break in the shade about half way up the hill. We cheered them on as they ground there way up the hill. We finally reached the summit and waited for Rebecca & Stefan as they had to climb the same hill after they had finished with the switchbacks.....
We reached Donji Milanovac about 8 miles later and rested under the trees next to the river in the shade to cool down. Stefan went off to try and find the bike shop in town (there was meant to be one according to his map). Rebecca went to find us accommodation for the night. Andrea went to get supplies, while Bruce watched all the bikes.
Rebecca had no luck - she did find another fixer who acted as a point person for private rooms, but all the rooms were full! Except for one room for 4 people, 3km outside of the city... but there was a fish soup festival that we just could not miss and it was still 10euros per person. Then Stefan came back. He did find the auto mechanic who also does bike repair but he didn't have any of the correct tubes. He had a bit of a hard time finding the place until somebody showed him the exact house that the repair shop was in!
Since we could not find accommodation on our own, we tried to call Ovidiu to help us get a room. He gave us the numbers of 2 other tourist people Vladimir and Vesna (fixers 3 and 4) and we were supposed to call them. Problem was, that we called on Stefan's phone which does not have a roaming plan, so the 2 minute call ended up costing about 7 Euro! And Bruce and Andrea's phone does not have service in Serbia!
Not wanting to use the phone again, Bruce and Andrea went to get an internet connection at one of the local cafes and try and find accommodation that way. We made a reservation at the hotel in town, but we got a message in Serbian (which the waiter translated for us) saying "Your reservation is successful" No more information like cost or anything else. The only thing dissuading us from the hotel was that it was up a massive 12% hill for about 500m - none of us really wanted to do that after the day had already finished. But we needed/wanted a place to stay... so up we went!
But after catching our breath and walking into reception, they hadn't heard of our reservation and reservations were not 20Euro (or the equivalent in dinar)... a room at the hotel is 6500 dinar or about 55 euros! This didn't work for any of our budgets... so Andrea asked the reception desk to discuss with her manager, since we were part of the tourism video crew... and the crew got a good rate so... so should we as part of the cast! It turns out that this plan worked to a point (she called her manager and was willing to lower the price a bit) but it did not get us a room at 20Euros...
At this point, we were all planning on wild camping in the hotel's back yard until the soccer team went in and the Karate team came out in all their belt color glory! We were not going to get away with sneaking up our tent near the playing fields if the kids were practicing there.
So we discussed our options and then used the hotel wifi to Skype with Ovidiu to find a room or two. He said he would text Stefan's phone in 20 min, which he did, saying "I need more time and free Continental room" and then he showed up at the hotel with ideas.
In the end, he got us accommodation at a local guest house for less than 10 Euro each which is beautiful and the lady was incredibly nice! We met Vladimir (one of the tourism people who we had tried to call earlier) and he introduced us to our host for the night. Only a tiny issue was that her place was 1km out of town (the way we came in). So had to follow her beat up red Yugo from the center of town! Follow the YUGO!!!
Bruce had given Andrea a Cappuccino at the cafe earlier so "follow the Yugo" went to her head and when the Yugo went 15mph uphill Andrea sped after it and lost all of her travel buddies... sorry... she turned around at the end, when they reached the guest house, and noticed no one was there! She had to go back up the hill to find them.
Once in our rooms, our bikes unpacked, we all had showers... got dressed and went back to the fish festival in the dark on unloaded bikes! We met an American Team who got a place to make fish soup along side the other local Serbian teams. Shane, Joe, and Clemen from Brooklyn sailed up on a boat on the Danube and heard there was a fish stew cook off and decided to compete!
The fires burned under big stew pots held up on a tripod stands. The stews were ready for judging at about 9:30 and we got to try some of the many varieties of local catfish stew. We listened to music, drank beer, had a great time and then rode back to our rooms in the even darker night. We had one more beer as a toast to our last night as the Fearsome Foursome!
This blog has been written with the input of all involved in today's shenanigans ...
Note: had to translate "shenanigans" on Stefan's e-translator.
Second note: Bruce is going to miss his map buddy...
The World is Ours!