Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Day 5 The escape from Belgrade and a night in Bulgaria

We awoke next morning to find that the hostel had in fact turned into an oven and we were on the top shelf, (literally I woke up on the 3rd tear of beds and very nearly fell out in confusion to the surroundings). There was one shower and a large queue of people to get in so I decided to go get the car so we could get moving as soon as. Blake who had already fetched the AX gave me a lift up the road, it wasn't far but to get back to the hostel you had to follow the loop round the block as there was a one way street in between. He dropped me off and headed back round, I went to get some change and then to the car to have a bit of a sort out. I then drove up and out of the car park and onto the streets of Belgrade. I turned out heading in the wrong direction to the hostel as I knew I had to do, then it was a case of doubling back round the block and arriving back at the hostel. It didn't go to plan, with a mixture of no left turn junctions, no entry streets and blocked roads I got disorientated fast and very lost. I tried to retrace my steps back to the car park but it was impossible in the busy early morning traffic. I knew I cant have been that far from either the car park or the hostel and decided to keep circling the area in the hope of spotting something familiar. We had arrived in the dark and there was nothing familiar! I came to a junction and decided to take a left turn in the hope it might lead me in the right direction, I moved out into the centre of the road to wait for a chance to cross the traffic, there were a few beebs from cars behind be but there was room to get past. As I turned in a gap in the oncoming traffic I heard a whistle and a Policemen stepped out in front of me signalling for me to stop. He didn't look particularly pleased, neither was I. He asked for my licence and told me I had commited a traffic offence, apparently it was no left turn despite there being no signs to indicate. I tried to use the ignorant English approach which failed miserably. It was a 2000 Dinar for a traffic offence (about £17), I had about 1200 max, I tried to make excuses which didnt work and told him I couldn't pay, showing him the little money I had. In the confusion I had taken off my seat belt to reach down for my drivers licence. He spotted it and said "No seat belt, 1000." I couldn't quite believe what was going on, I couldn't give him 2000 so why was he raising it to 3000.

Then he said, "Ok, you pay 2000 for traffic offence or 1000 for seat belt. No seat belt, yes?"

I agreed "Yes" and he wrote me a ticket, I paid and drove off.
I can't decide if he was giving me a break or whether he just couldn't be bothered with a big fuss.

I drove on and still had no clue of where I was. I even ended up going pass the same Policemen again giving him a wave as I did.

I managed to get in contact with John and we decided the best idea was to meet on the road heading out of town, this was still not easy to find but eventually I got there and much to my relief John, Blake and Dan were waiting for me.

We continued on course heading south. Our opinions of Serbia were pretty low, mixture of rather baron landscape and horrible cities was doing them no favours. But on the drive out of the country we passed through some pretty impressive sceneray, slightly mountainous with winding roads and lots of tall fir trees.

We reached the Bulgarian border by late afternoon, they were relatively quick with all the paper work. While waiting to get through the last gantry into the country a border guard spotted us and recognised the Mongol rally stickers, he beckoned us into an empty lane and waved our passports away while opening the barrier for us, it was then that the engine which had been over heating cut out, and we couldn't get it to start again. The border guard didn't look too impressed and I was worried he might change his mind to his initial welcome to the country, I jumped out and tried to get the starter motor going with a few smacks of the adjustable spanner. It jumped into life and John drove straight through making sure we didn't stall again in No Man's land. I followed in its wake passing over the border in bare feet waving passport in one hand and adjustable spanner in the other. To say the border guards were amused would be an understatement!!

John pulled up or more to the point the car cut out a few hundred yards from the border. It was turning over but wouldn't catch, I suspected the points in the distributor had moved and there was no gap for the spark to jump. John and Blake jumped in the Citroen and decided to drive down the road in the hope of finding a mechanic. Dan and I stayed with the car and tried to isolate the problem. We weren't there long when another team turned up, two guys jumped out and immediately got involved, testing each and every possible fault that could have occured to cause the problem. He soon found out that it was the points as I had suspected. With no proper spacing tools available he improvised with a piece of paper. Within an hour the car was running and he also gave us some tips to sorting out our over heating problem by flushing our radiator.

We owed them both alot and the promise of a decent meal for them when we got to Ulaan Baatar was agreed upon as payment.

We drove into the night again, arriving at the camp site with a blue polo with an Aussy couple in and a Bedford Rascal Camper van with 5 Canadians in. The camp site was next door to an 'Aquatech', an outside pool and bar which had a DJ on, we decided it would be rude not to go and headed in for a few drinks and a late night swim.

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