The trees were still dripping after the nights thunderstorms as we started out along the Manastirska Rampa at 07h01. We were supposed to start at 07h00 but Norman delayed us foostering with the straps on his panniers. Our best local intelligence directed us that the ferry from Stara Palanka to Ram would leave at 10h00 and although Stara Palanka was only 34km away the going along the levee was expected to be slow after the rain. It was. Although the water had cooled things down to about 18 degrees we were very soon sweating as we pushed along through the gluey mud.
We had another excellent breakfast at Dunavski Plicak ensconced between last nights casualties sprawled on the
benchs. Apparently the merrymaking had continued rather late into the night. The bodies raised themselves to give us a stirring send off into the silence of the morning. The silence was partly due to the earlieness of the hour but also the isolation of the levee. We saw no person or vehicle until we made it back to the road about 15km later. There was a fierce serenity with the weather as well:
The storm had come from the south and the waves coming directly towards the north bank were over a meter high. Dejan, one of the neighbours, went out fishing in a boat in the middle of the storm. Crazy guy. I have not heard of him since which probably means that nothing happened to him.
The riverward side of the levee is clad in concrete slabs. These in turn are are smirched with waste plastic like the dirt line of a coal miners bath on a Saturday. The line extends all along the bank. Following the storm the Koviner’s could claim that it was waste plastic coming from the Smederjevans on the south bank but its source is likely from both banks up the river and its tributaries. My subjective impression is that this plastic problem has drastically increased since my first time along there in 2014.
At Stara Palanka at 09h54 we learned that the ferry only left the other side at 10h00 and from our side at 10h30 so we had time to meet to fellow cyclists who had stayed in the guesthouse there. A young Dutch man and a young German man who had met for the first time the previous night. The Dutch man was cycling all the way to China and the German guy was going in the same direction as far as he felt like it. It was the first time we had met anyone going further than us which was somewhat humbling. They had a lot more gear on board than we did and their pace was thus somewhat slower than ours on the way out of Ram and we did not wait around for them after the viewing point above Ram:
Soon we were pulling up at the Srebrno Jezero (Silver Lake) resort for lunch. The lake is of the oxbow variety and cut off from the plastic riddled Danube. The water in the lake is extraordinarily clean, clear and when bathing in it, it is easy to observe the sticklebacks sticklebacking around over the gravelly bottom. There are about a dozen restaurants and 5 or 6 hotels in the village which I believe is a very popular escape from the city in the summer.
On we went around the broad curve of the river which soon opened into a giant lake just before we entered the next touristy town of Golubac which has a famous fortress just before the river enters what is known as the “Iron Gates” gorge. Twice before I have attempted to cycle down past Golubac but I ran out of time on both occasions so I was rather excited with the prospect of finally seeing it.
We took coffee outside the hotel in Golubac which I explained to Norman was the scene of the air conditioning accident two years ago. With a group of friends I arrived late into Golubac back then. Simon, desperate for a good nights sleep after two nights in the heat with no air conditioning had commandeered the single bed in a room leaving Mick and I to share a double bed. Simon retired long before either Mick or I and also pointed the mobile A/C unit in his direction before falling asleep. On ascending to the room Mick and I promptly redirected the A/C our way. Later Simon reversed the move as did we later again. So on and so forth until I gave up at around 05h45 and got up with Simon following me out into the dawn. At which point we realised that the A/C had an exhaust outlet which in our posturing during the night no longer exhausted through the designated hole in the wall but back into the room. On top of this, Simon had some how succeeded in turning on both radiators before he retired. The temperature in the room was 41 degrees celcius, in the hallway it was 19 degrees and in Simon’s head it was heading towards 99 degrees…. The cycle back the next day was long but somewhat short tempered.
After the fortress at Golubac the road went through a series of tunnels as it rose squeezed between the mountain and the river.
The first few were less than 100 metres but we soon had to turn on lights. This did not spare us one terrifying moment when a heavy truck came unexpectedly from behind. The sound inside the tunnel was cacophonous and although there was very little traffic on the road we took extra care to time our passage through each tunnel such that we were alone.
Our local intelligence had suggested that the Serbian side was less hilly than the Romanian side. Something I still believe but which Norman has not stopped ribbing me about to this day. He always makes the claim that his plan was perfect and he had stuck to it up until the previous day in Kovin but since then the wheels had come off it. In my defence I maintain that our alternative route on the southern branch of the Euro Velo 6 there still had him in Constanta on the day he had foreseen. Furthermore there was much less traffic than what we could observe hurtling along on the Romanian side. Soon we were quite high up indeed:
We made it as far as Donji Milonovac just as the weather looked to be turning bad again. We pulled in at the Restoran Lepenac and very soon had two rooms with en suite bathrooms overlooking the Danube with breakfast included. All for the equivalent of 10 euros. The restaurant was also excellent with really friendly service.