Predrag Jelenic has begun his journey. Here is his first text, straight from the road.
“Every day we make it, we’ll make it the best we can.”
This motto hangs above the bar in the Belgrade café 'Bartender'. That is where I started my odyssey. I simply can’t get that slogan out of my head. And I think that is the right attitude, not only for this journey, but for everything in life. :)
From there, from Dorcol, I set off.
I spent the night near Backa Palanka, in a resort on the bank of the Danube. Early the next morning, as early as 6 o’clock, I started packing and when I got down to my bike, another send-off took place. Those people were a little shy and didn’t want me to take a photo of them – the moment I would manage somehow to take an adequate position and include them all in the frame, they would start dispersing all over the field. But when I would put the camera away, everything was okay. :)
As for the bike, when I left Novi Sad, I noticed that my handlebar began to pound over the bumps. As if a bearing had not been tightened properly, the one in the triangle. Before I set off, I'd tried to fix it, but I couldn’t as I was missing a key. I'd checked the axles just in case, but they seemed fine. I crossed the border remarkably fast. A kind lady on the Croatian side of the border finished her job pretty expeditiously. We had a little talk about where I was going and what I was doing, about the photo report, what my route and plan were, and she wished me a safe journey. Half way to Vukovar, the rain started to fall and it followed me all the way to Osjek. At the gas station on the way out of Osjek the rain stopped and it cleared up right away. I took off my rain suit, had some water, ate a cereal sweet and carried on towards Virovitica, then Garesnica, and finally towards Podgaric.
I almost didn’t stop until Podgaric. The roads were amazing. I didn’t entirely obey the speed restrictions, I must admit. There are only few bends in northern Croatia, there are mostly straights. The roads begin to curve when you start from Virovitica towards Garesnica. Along that road, I ran into a house which didn’t have anything to do with partisans, but I would repent now if I hadn’t stopped and taken a photo of it.
I didn’t have any problems until Podgaric. The traffic signalization was superb, so you almost didn’t need the GPS. I stopped off at a resort, where a wedding was getting organized at that very moment. My question about where the monument was turned into a three-hour-long conversation, which I enjoyed. We talked about everything that crossed our minds, we laughed and enjoyed the weather and atmosphere. Steva, Pero, Bojan and Igor made my afternoon. I wanted to stay a little longer, but there was plenty to travel, so I had to get going.
Although I'd found the place Podgaric with great ease, I went through an agony until I found the way to the monument. There was no sign, and what was even worse, you could clearly see the monument from each side. I somehow managed to find the right way, which ascended steeply towards it, and I was happy that I'd stopped breaking into people’s backyards. I lost half an hour during all that fuss, perhaps even more.
The next stop is Jasenovac. The route that I'd chosen was Garesnica – Kutina – Novska – Jasenovac. At a crossroads in Garesnica, I bumped into two bikers. When the green light came on, the three of us headed for Kutina and we rode together all the way to Jasenovac. I led the way and they followed me.
It was a nice ride, and I had some company for a change. Within the reach of the monument park 'Kameni cvet' (Stone Flower),we stopped at a straight, got to know each other and had a little chat. The guys were from the Czech Republic and they were heading for Bosnia. We went together to the monument park, where we took a few photos and talked. Since I was a little tiresome for them as I was aiming at nice camera angles, they already packed their things. We said goodbye to each other and they continued their journey, while I stayed there for a little longer in order to take photos of a train, too.
I was thinking whether or not to go to Kozara as well, but I dismissed that idea. I went straight for Banjaluka. When I crossed the border, the road became quite bad and the handlebar started to pound really heavily. I tried to avoid bumps as much as possible. Near Gradiska, I entered the freeway. It seemed to me that it was brand new – I was driving at over 130km/h all the time, and if there hadn’t been for the wind, I would have thought that I was staying put. I got to Banjaluka shortly. I sat in a café and informed everybody that I was all right. Soon after arrived Daniel (Little Dragon) and I met him officially.
We talked about the tour, and, among other things, I mentioned to him my problem with the handlebar. He called a friend, we had some coffee, packed and went straight to his place to fix it. The problem was with the bearings of the handlebar, so we tightened them a bit and then everything worked properly. When we'd finished it, we parked the bike into his garage and went out to grab a beer, and after that went to catch some sleep. I must say that my day was truly dynamic, perhaps physically tiring, but at the same time beautiful and fulfilling, quite fulfilling. :)
The next stop will be Kozara, and then I move on to Bihac...