Three hundred and sixty five days of travel. Nine countries and fifteen thousand kilometers covered by bicycle, foot, ferry, train, mobylette and camel. More than four hundred journal entries. Fast approaching one hundred free-camps. I wanted adventure when we started this trip, and boy have we gotten it. Good lord. What a year it has been!
Today began like any other day, with one exception: we decided to forgo the alarm for our "trip birthday". We groggily awoke around 8am, not too much later than it normally goes off. So much for sleeping in! Upon opening the tent door, Tara called the morning to a halt so she could spend some time photographing the dewdrops in our vestibule.
As I lay in our sleeping bag, half-awake, I realized that it was loud outside! While Tara was busy snapping photos, I fished out our field recorder and captured the fervently chirping chorus of birds around us.
While I blithely snapped photos of my canine friends, Tara was holding my bike. As she waited, a police car pulled up. Then the cops got out and told her something in Serbian! She said, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Serbian!" and the officer said "Passports!" And so, she handed over our newly stamped passports and asked, "Is there a problem?" The cop responded with a "heh!" and went to his car.
When I walked up, he asked to see our camera. I felt simultaneously smug and a little sheepish knowing it was chock full of puppy photos and not deep dark Serbian military secrets. After I showed the officer how to look at the pictures, he laughed and handed the camera back to me.
When I returned to our bikes, the officers remained in their car with our passports, repeatedly flipping through them for at least ten minutes. Then, they exited the car, handed the passports back, and said a quick "Sorry" before leaving. We're not sure what foreign spies they were after, but we were obviously not them.
In Vranje, we stopped at the first ATM we saw and withdrew what we thought was a good amount of Serbian dinar. The first hotel we stopped at (which was a brick building that looked like a college dorm built in the 80s) wanted 50€ a night, or 5000 dinar! We passed, and wheeled our bikes to where Tara had seen a sign that said "hostel."
Sure enough, the small family-run hotel we arrived at was great. Only 20€ per night, a place for our bikes, and a wonderfully clean, modern room with a double bed and a hot shower. Even a good wi-fi connection included. Perfect! Many thanks must be given to Tara's grandma and grandpa for the generous donation they specifically sent for us to use for our one-year anniversary of being on the road. Thank you!
One year down, one year to go!