It was particularly lovely being back with old friends in Siria. The seven year since we last met felt like seven days and although much has changed at Networks, some things haven’t changed a bit. They have grown from a small 10 person team to nearly 100 paid and voluntary staff working to alleviate the poverty here and build enterprises that can give poor villagers an income. I spent my last night there with one of the most beautiful men I know. Nigel, from Sheffield, laughed when he saw the state of my bike and despite a long day of working began to scrape the muck from my gears and clean the dirt from my chain. He managed to find an unclaimed toothbrush to finish the job and left me with a gleaming bike chain. He was covered in dirt from my bike whilst I was relatively clean. I had been hovering round Nigel as he worked trying to do something useful. He then invited me to his house for food and homemade tuica from vines in his yard. It was another act of generosity I was unable to repay.
If you want to find out what Networks does you can go to their website here. This might be a good time to remind you about the charity I am raising money for. BVLS work with people affected by leprosy in India. They do wonderful things and work towards sustainable social enterprise at Bethany village.
Leaving Siria I felt a strong sense of not wanting to be where I was, as if my spirit had wandered back to Sheffield and left this body aimlessly cycling the villages of Romania. It was hot and muggy leaving Siria and my inflamed insect bites were reminding me incessantly of their presence. Sitting in Timisoara later that evening, writing up the day, I felt my spirit float back to me. The cool evening air is soothing and I began to notice the people round me returning from work and heading out to enjoy their evening.
After a lovely evening in Timisoara with Carmen, my wonderful host for the night, I had renewed energy as I set out for Serbia. The extra air Nigel had put in my tires had me zooming along as though I was coasting downhill. I felt nothing could stop me. As I neared the Serbian border my google map on the ipad had led me to a road which wasn’t a road and after 50 meters of sliding across mud I gave up. Clean Serbian roads were less that two miles along this track but I couldn’t even walk the bike without the wheels locking up with mud. I looked up another route across the border which turned out to be another dead end. At this point I had to contact my host for the night and say I wouldn’t be able to make it to his house. I had to cycled 60 km along the Romanian border before I reached a crossing and managed to get to Serbia. I found a hotel and treated myself to the luxury of a shower and an early night in a bed. I realise that I’m exhausted with the cycling and socialising and have barely enough time to sleep let alone plan my onward journey. I’m about to set out for Belgrade well rested and stuffed from the buffet breakfast.