Belgrade at dawn is something quite extraordinary; out of parks and wooded areas of green with stunningly blue skies, stand distinctly vertical flat blocks courtesy of the Soviet Union, and not just 2 or 3… dozens, if not a hundred all identical. What has surprised us all about Serbia and Belgrade, regardless of its history through being a Soviet Eastern Block. Early 90’s struggles and rebellions, separatist movements and so on, the people regardless of language barriers were some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. Our hosts from the AirBnB flat arrived to see us and off and to make sure the house was in good order. In light of their help in providing a garage we left them a small box of chocolates in thanks. We left Belgrade with shopping bags of local produce for the long journey ahead – an 11hour stint to Bucharest, Romania. This was to maintain our target of making Constanta in good time to join the beach party.
Getting slightly lost on the border with Bulgaria, we found our way back on the highway via slight (read: 50km) detour to Nis, onto a picturesque road bordering mountains and valleys. Bulgaria’s border was the first one to ask up for passports and car documentation along with a brief bag search. The drugs dog was on his afternoon siesta when we arrived, so the space food in suspiciously looking white bags was passed by, with only a subtle eye brow raise from the border guard. Bulgaria’s brief entrance and exit provided us with a look into the countryside and outer edge villages and towns. Town and village wells seem were the new thing on the roadside, along with the regular flock of goats and turkeys.
The Romanian border approached through a bridge spanning a pretty vast river, with the toll paid and the border cleared (accidentally handing over all our vehicle document copies), we entered Romania via Calafat, and continued heading East to reach Bucharest. Our luck with accommodation was the one thing that pulled us down – 6 declines from AirBnB left us scrabbling to find a roof over our heads. Rhys decided upon a call to our university lecturer – Bogdan Ghita, a local to Bucharest, to see if he had any recommendations. Sure enough he gave us a call back and out of the phone speaker poured gold dust on recommended restaurants and hostels. We settled upon a central villa with 24 hour open doors and gave them a call. Oli’s sound introduction for foreign travel, “Hello, I’m sorry my *language* is poor, do you speak English?” returned a welcome voice. Meanwhile, a team member of Back to Yak, Raj – a Mongol Rally veteran had pushed up a request or a pickup at Bucharest Airport. We took the challenge and Rhys headed over to make the collection once we had settled in for the night. Raj was very welcome company the moment we met him, so with our 4th temporary team member in place, we called it a night (morning).