Notes from the road – edition 36: The Serbian road trip
What a week.
After a good stretch in Budapest catching up on work and getting my bearings again, I set out to Serbia to meet my friend from back home, Rachel. Having not seen any of my friends for months, apart from a brief stint in Rotterdam and one night in Budapest with Rachel and Lauren, having a whole week with a familiar face in a completely new destination has been an absolute delight.
The week was absolutely packed. We picked up our car from the airport after a day exploring Belgrade and away we went.
Our road trip took us all over Serbia. Down south to the Tara National Park and Uvac Canyon. Across the country via the Devils Town to Stara Planina National park, and back up to Belgrade, stopping at Krupaj Springs along the way.
A few highlights from the trip.
Sunrise at Uvac Canyon.
A deep canyon with a river running through it, the main viewpoint looks over a section of the canyon that snakes its way back and forth like a squiggly line. We rose before the sun and were greeted with a wall of white fog. Still hopeful, we drove to the lookout along dirt roads, luckily ending up above the clouds that had settled over the valley. The view that greeted us was utterly surreal. An ocean of white cloud nestled atop the canyon, the wind whipping it in waves as the sun turned the sky pastels before showing its light to the day. While we didn’t get to see the canyon as we were ‘supposed to’, it was a sunrise that I won’t soon forget.
We’d just left Tara national park and spent the better part of the day in the car, when all of a sudden, we come across a roadblock about 20 minutes out from the town where we were meant to be staying the night.
Nobody spoke English, we don’t speak Serbian, but a lovely couple in front of us managed to get across that it would be about a two-hour wait. Shortly after, a car came down a dirt road right next to where we were waiting, the couple in front spoke to them briefly and then motioned for us to follow. We were going off-road it seemed. Now going off-road is a bit of a lie. It was a road, but a dodgy dirt one and our tiny little Fiat 500 was definitely not designed for this sort of terrain. Nevertheless, we made do. That is of course until we got a flat tyre. The front left tire was completely flat. Dead. Gone.
We found ourselves in a location that Google Maps couldn’t pinpoint. Neither of us had internet and upon searching the boot of the car, discovered that the spare tyre and car jack had been removed in a classic rental car move.
To say we were concerned would be to put it very mildly. But all was not lost. The lovely couple who we had been following had stopped ahead to wait for us and noticed we didn’t catch up. So, they turned around and came back for us!
They and a truck driver who was passing helped us jack up the car, put THEIR spare tyre on OUR car, and then led us to a mechanic who fixed our tyre and had us on our way.
It was, needless to say, an incredibly stressful situation. But, thanks to the amazing kindness of complete strangers who we couldn’t even communicate with, we made it out, all okay.
It’s one of those experiences that will be cemented in our minds for the pure absurdity and luck of it all. Completely in the middle of nowhere, two total strangers went out of their way to help us and make sure we were safe. It really makes me grateful for the random encounters you have in your life that show the good of people in general.
Wild apples and river canyons
On one of our last days, Rachel found a small hike to do in Stara Planina National Park. We set out, and along the way found some wild apple trees. I’ve never seen wild apple trees, so this was really a treat. Shaking the branches and harvesting the freshly fallen apples that explode with tartness in your mouth. Amazing. If we’d had an oven that night, we’d have made an apple pie with them. Pockets full, we continued on through fields and forests turning the wonderful burnt yellows, browns, and reds of Autumn until suddenly we were at the destination. A natural canyon that appears out of nowhere with a small river running through it. We swam in the extremely cold water, explored the canyon, and generally had a great time.
There are so many photos from the week that I haven’t had time to edit properly, so here is a random collection of completely out of order shots that I’ve done some quick and dirty edits on.
Now, I’m back in Budapest at Mark and Mim’s apartment, but this time they’re actually here! It’ll be a few days of catching up with friends, getting some work done, and getting ready to head to the UK.
Until next week, happy voyaging!