By now it was mid June and the heat of the day was growing increasingly longer, for this reason we'd agreed to leave Vladimir's house at 7am, avoiding the high temperatures, and allowing us to cycle a fairly long day, 80km, to Novi Sad.
Part A went well, we woke early and had our bags packed by 7:30am, a great achievement for us morning haters! Part B went a little haywire. Vladimir joined us at 7:30 and insisted on buying us breakfast from the local shop. We waited in the kitchen until he returned fully loaded with a breakfast feast. It was 11:00 before we knew it, time flies when you're having fun. Vladimir cycled with us for the first 7km to the next village where we said goodbye and focused on Novi Sad. Thanks for the great breakfast :) we were set for the day! Vladimir has since reached fame in the municipality and is known for the time he spent with the cycling tourers!
So 11:00am, 80km to go, and the hottest day ever, knocking us a little off balance! The cycle was plain and took us through lots of agricultural fields which became a little repetitive after a while. We hit a fork in the road and decided to take the longer 'scenic' route which actually just turned out to be longer, with no addition to the scenery! Honestly it was sooo hot! It was necessary to sit in the shade for 3 hours and from this point until now it has been necessary to consider what times we cycle during the day. It's very frustrating because you don't always want to get up early and you don't always want to stop in the middle of the day, but it's the way of life for a cycle tourer during summer.
We took a long, straight, busy road for a few hours and it was our first experience of beeping, I mean beeps of encouragement for us! Even big meaty lorry drivers coming against us would beep then throw their hands up with some very erratic waving and huge smiles on their faces, it was so funny to see this from big tough lorry drivers!
The recent hot weather had brought some very threatening early afternoon storms but nothing had materialized until now. The clouds quickly assembled around us and it was now just a matter of time. Radka was ahead by 400metres when the storm broke out and only stopped when a massive fork hit the road in-front of her! Only then did she realise that it's not a good idea to be sitting on a steel-framed bike during a thunderstorm! I caught her up at which point she was crouched under a tree saying ''what's the best thing to do in a thunderstorm? I heard you're not supposed to hide under a tree''....”so what are you doing there then?” I thought! I told her to lie down but she wouldn't, and instead went back to her metal bike to get a banana. Being a responsible boyfriend is a hard job when Radka's involved.
The storm dissipated as quickly as it had arrived and a few arguments later (heat enticed) and we were stopped 25km away from Novi Sad with a puncture to my front wheel, the “wheel of death!!!!”. I call it this because every time I take it off I have to readjust the dynamo(which I totally hate, and is my worst enemy) and then readjust the brakes. Sometimes the bolts from the dynamo randomly work themselves loose and I have to readjust everything during the cycle, very frustrating indeed. I hate dynamos, my nemesis!! They're much worse than handlebar bags, which are also just an unnecessary hassle for me. But saying this Radka loves hers, personal preference I guess.
Further inspection revealed that the punctrure was caused by the spoke pushing inwards from the inside of the wheel. This could have easily been avoided if the 'moron' who had put the wheel together had bothered to tape the whole way around the wheel and not leave one spoke (the one which burst my innertube) un-taped! The reason this bothers me so much is because we'd been stung by this amateur mistake two days earlier on Radkas bike. At this point I should explain that we've been using a spoon and fork to remove our tyres since our plastic levers broke because the tyre rim is ridiculously tight.
So, I was standing in the 37 degree sunshine cursing his name explaining to Radka that ''the moron is sitting at home with his feet up drinking a beer watching tv whilst I’m here on the side of the road fixing a puncture with a spoon and fork in the sweltering heat because he couldn't bother his 'backside' taping the whole way around the wheel!!''. That's actually the censored version :p This rant prompted me to recall all other things that had annoyed me about the bikes over the last month, finally ending when the lens of my sunshades fell out and broke on the floor! It became more funny than frustrating, ending with us rolling around the roadside laughing at how wound up I was. You can see a picture below.
Rant over and we arrived in Novi Sad. We stopped a guy asking his advice on where to find a hostel and he jumped on his bike and cycled us around the city centre for half an hour showing us all of the cheap accommodation he knew. We ended up at the tourist information centre and eventually found a really awesome hostel for only 20euros a night, cool! :)
We stayed for 4 nights and spent our time mostly relaxing in the hostel speaking with the few guests that were there. It was nice and quiet and we actually had a 6 dorm room all to ourselves, exactly what we needed, some time to relax. We enjoyed speaking with a Finish girl 'Anni' who was studying in Novi Sad and actually living in the hostel free of charge by helping out every so often. We met a few passers through, consisting of a French cycling couple and two guys touring a tandem from England to Kenya rocking up 180km per day, go guys!!
What made the hostel so great was the owner, Dujo. He was a Serb but had a strange Italian twist to him. Completely bonkers and always laughing at his own amusement! He hung around the hostel (topless) making cynical jokes about how hot he was and how he couldn't be bothered with paperwork etc. He's such a funny guy, we could have stayed with him for weeks!
Novi Sad film festival was on during our stay and had a great line-up, so we went along to three movies. The first one was sold out, damn it, the second was in German with no subtitles (not even Serbian) so everyone left after 5minutes shouting the few German words that they knew. The third was originally in English. So we caught just one film but still enjoyed it :) 70 percent of the movies are free of charge so this makes it an even better festival!
I'd recommend going to Novi Sad if you're looking for a cool student town where you can relax or party as much as you like. They also have the 'Exit' festival in July so that's a pretty good reason to go, in fact whenever anyone (anywhere in Serbia) found out that I was English they would say ''oooh, you're here for the exit festival'.
My brother, Nick, has a good friend, Zoran, who lives just 60km from Novi Sad so after a relaxing 5 days we left in his direction with great excitement. 10Km out of town and we hit a motorway, ''damn!'', ending up stood on the hard shoulder deciding if we should go or not, not knowing if the motorway would continue for the whole 60km. We cycled the 10km back to Novi Sad and called Zoran on a pay phone. ''Ahhh come on Jonny, trust me, the road's fine, you must come to our village, it would be wonderful''...''Ok Zoran, we're on our way''. What Zoran forgot to mention was that the route contained the 'Fruska Gora', an 8km, 500m mountain climb with no hard shoulder and massive lorries. After this we arrived at Zorans with beetroot faces... 'oh yeah, sorry Jonny, I forgot to mention that'... Thanks Zoran! :p
This was actually the first real climbing we'd done during the trip so far and for me (Jonny) it was very exciting! Sweat dripping out of every pore and huge lorries passing every few seconds... but for Radka it was her worst nightmare! She'd bought a mirror for her bike whilst in Budapest and could see every lorry approaching! They must have looked like huge whales of the road coming to swallow her up! Luckily for me there was an awesome restaurant at the top which quickly took Radkas mind away from the torment of the climb., ''Sopska salad anyone???''.
Descending was even more exciting!!!! We blasted our way down whilst overtaking lorries and dodging potholes with fantastic views of the Serbian plains! We hit the plains with 30kms to go and smashed through the best cycling we'd done so far. Slipstreaming whilst averaging 28kms per hr, we reached Zorans in no time. I had visions of an elastic band building up potential energy whilst climbing the hill and then firing us with all of it's kinetic might to Zorans front door.
This was the first day that I could really feel the muscles in my legs, I love this feeling. If you rest for too long then the muscles dwindle and you lose the power you've built up and they take about three solid days of riding to tighten again. It's for this reason that I don't like to rest for too long. The mountain had tightened my muscles and gave a great feeling of power, I wanted to fast-forward to the next one!
Five minutes on Zorans couch and i'd forgotten about the next mountain and wanted to stay for a few a days, which is exactly what we did :)