This cycling lark, its not all good. We’re not sure if its because of the incessant evening mosquito brawls (usually the mosquitoes win), the sticky-strength sapping heat or just from travelling onwards for almost five months, but we’ve had a fair share of ‘chucking your bike off a cliff and walking away from it’ moments of late.
I’m writing this from our Samsung netbook which is in good shape except for the top left hand corner where the screen has developed a black oval, after an unceremonious fall between the slats of a park bench from the top of Justin’s rear panniers. As our life-line to friends and family, primary research tool, Justin’s development platform and the home of our music collection, we were relieved to discover it still works, though we have to be a bit creative to access the File and Edit menus.
Unfortunately that’s not the only thing to show travel fatigue. After almost five months on bicycles across Europe we managed 48 hours of pretty much everything to do with navigation melting down while we did a loop around the Danube river basin waiting for some late deliveries from London.
First Justin had an unexplained crash. We were cycling on the north side of the Danube river on some arrow straight agricultural roads. I was cycling in front and turned back to see where he was only to find him on the other side of the road, standing over his upright bike but with look of shock on his face. I pulled my bicycle off the road next to some watermelon sellers and ran back as fast as I could. Justin is unable to recall what caused the crash, just that his bike hit the ground on one side, then on the other before he managed to get the bike off the road. He doesn’t think he was hit by anything, the bike seems to be in reasonable shape, and his only injury is a graze on the back of his leg. I get overly concerned as I don’t know if he’s too tired or if there are more serious problems with him or the bike and with a backdrop of worry we find something stupid to argue about.
Nearing the end of the day we’ve found a public bench to cook dinner on – our strategy to avoid cooking in a field of mosquitoes at dusk. Tired from a long, hot, flat day, I turn on the GPS in the dim hope there might be a campsite nearby. The GPS is really Justin’s gadget, but I’ve turned it on hundreds of times before to look for POIs. This time it doesn’t start up, just freezing on the Garmin logo. We remove the batteries and try again but it still fails to load. We’ve hardly used it for navigation since Italy, so its not critical to our movement, but we’ve turned it on every day to mark our campsite, to check elevation and decipher inner city directions.
We’re in Kovacica the next morning, when our Ortlieb map case rips. Having been exposed to the sun for months on this trip, it was bound to disintegrate. Justin is trying to grab the map while he’s on the phone so he can take it away from a busy main road and instead of the domes giving in the plastic rips. I can’t help but laugh as its so low tech it couldn’t possibly break, but my good humour doesn’t help the situation. Justin declares that nothing ever goes right, so I set off to wander around the town’s naive art gallery while he guards bikes outside. We wait out a thunderstorm before cycling on, protecting our much less waterproof map case in a pannier.
Its the laptop breakage that happens next, but that accident was overshadowed by the the worse luck of our warm showers host Aleksander. He had cycled 30 km out from Belgrade to meet us with our overdue packages, relating that he had collided with a think piece of metal while going at 40 kph on his way. He showed us photos he took of the rod curled around his spokes which brought him to a sudden stop. Luckily him, and bike are okay though it looked like a few spokes would have to be repaired on his bicycle. We buy him a coffee and wish him better luck. The laptop falls in front of all three of us as we’re showing another group of cyclists Euro Velo 6 maps.
That evening a roadside sign indicates a campsite but unknown to us, its an eight kilometre detour away and we are stalled by a local cyclist who quizzes us on distances travelled and writes down detailed notes about our trip. After a lengthy chat, we ask him if the campsite is in the direction we’re headed, half hoping he’ll invite us to camp somewhere closer, but he just agrees that we follow the road to the end and leaves us as the sun is setting to continue cycling on our way. We’d usually be happy to talk to anyone along the way, but after the days we’ve had we wish we were a little more invisible.
As for our breakages, we will have to wait till our winter plans are firmed up before anything is fixed. After extensive discussions with Garmin, we’ve been told the GPS problem is terminal and it will have to be replaced. We should be able to find a Samsumg service centre in Istanbul where we can get a new screen sent and Justin will glue up the map holder with silicon sealer.
Some pretty cool ‘good’ things happened over these days as well, but we’ll take this string of problems as a sign that we need to take more breaks from touring.