Danube Day 8: Belgrade to Bela Crkva
Total Distance: 101 km
See end of post for map, elevation profile, and GPX file.
Trip overview can be found here.
Leaving Belgrade we were pretty sure the day was going to suck. Our guidebook indicated high traffic and bad roads. While walking around the city on our off day we had seen lots of EV6 signage and we decided it would be easier to follow the signs than try to figure out how to meet up with the guidebook route.
We were starting to lose faith in this guidebook. We noticed several variations from the signs we had seen already and it seemed to be different just for the sake of being different. The biggest issue had come the day before when the book put us on a steep and extremely high truck traffic road out of Novi Sad.
The route details for Belgrade weren’t much better. What kind of touring guidebook makes the statement “the ride to Smederevo out of Belgrade is high traffic and low reward, you should consider taking the train instead.”
As we followed the signs it became clear that they were pointing us to Romania instead of another 3 days riding in Serbia as the guidebook had suggested. Again, why is the book different from the EV6 signage?
We passed through Belgrade’s main park and rode on minor roads to the outskirts of the city. We were relived to be on low traffic roads. We arrived at the bridge to take us over the Danube and were a little confused. There was a sidewalk that was wide enough for a cyclist or a pedestrian but not for both.
Instead we opted to ride with traffic. It was pretty early and we were able to take the lane, but that didn’t negate the pressure we felt to ride fast to get off the bridge. As we neared the end we saw another sign pointing us on a frontage road along the river.
This was a welcomed direction except that having taken the street we were now stuck hopping over the guardrail in the off-ramp to avoid getting on the highway. With cars whizzing by us we got everyone over pretty quick and tried to figure out where we were going.
We knew we needed to go down river so we headed that direction. The first road we found was a dirt road, very well packed and smooth but with two car-sized wheel ruts and not wide enough for the trailer.
It’s a chore dragging the trailer on this road, and really any road for that matter. It is at this point, as we are watching the trailer bound over the bumps, that we notice the axle shaft is slowly backing out. Turns out our new piece was a little less resilient than we had thought.
Yoshi had some rope so we brainstormed a way to tie it on. We figured it just needed to have enough pressure on it to prevent it from bouncing out. Back on the road we get to a crossroads and stopped for a snack.
As we’re hanging out we decide to ask for directions. With a Serbian/German/English conversation we gather that we do not want to continue on the dirt road and that we should get back on the highway. Luckily the highway is nicely paved and has a full bus lane that cars are not driving in. We never encountered a single bus but are soon off the main highway on minor roads.
We reach a crossroads where we need to decide if we are going to follow the guidebook or trust the signs and as we pull over to assess we notice this special tip in the book for the ride near Pozarevac:
“Tip: Here you enter a coal mining area with huge strip mines, conveyor systems, kilometers of pipes and railroad tracks. At times you must ride across parts of the open pits or beneath gigantic pipes and other industrial machinery.”
That coupled with this other bike touring gem, makes our decision easy:
“Tip: On the right side of the bridge there is a pedestrian walk. It is bumpy but allows you to safely cross the bridge without fear of encountering a train coming from the other direction.”
Open coal mines and head on collisions with trains paint a hilarious picture for our ride addled minds and we spend a few minutes laughing so hard we can barely see through the tears. The book gets thrown in the trailer and we get on our way.
While we’re on the topic of the book I have one last thing to add. When you enter the Carpathian Danube you can be on the Serbian or the Romanian side. The book shows both routes but doesn’t recommend either one as being more enjoyable.
In fact, the formatting of the book makes it seem like the Serbian side is the only route and you have to dig a little bit for the directions to the Romanian side or as we did follow the EV6 signs.
Under no circumstances would I recommend staying in Serbia here. Make the crossing into Romania and you will be rewarded with a virtually traffic free and flat ride with ample and legal camping right on the river.
The Serbian side looked to be steep and full of truck traffic high above the water with lots of tunnels. From what we could see this would not only be a horrible ride, but it would also be really hard to find a campsite and stealth camping is illegal in Serbia.
Ok, back to our ride.
We meet back up with the Eurovelo signs and follow them through a construction zone. We don’t worry too much since we’re on bikes and the traffic attendant doesn’t seem bothered by us. This turns into one of the best stretches of highway we have been on so far. It is closed to through traffic because they are repaving the entire section.
Holy crap this is nice. We see the occasional construction vehicle pass us, but that’s pretty much it. At one point we are stopped for a snack and a truck stops to offer us water. They ask if we like their new road. As we’re trying to communicate Andrew offers them cookies and we share an awesome moment with the construction workers.
They bid us bon voyage and we ride a little further to actually see the guys laying down the hot asphalt. Afraid this will melt our tires we walk along the shoulder for maybe 1 km when another group of workers gesture that it’s ok to ride so we hit the road.
It is only a little sticky and we can hear the asphalt under our tires. We take full advantage of brand new pavement with no traffic and ride side by side practicing our bike touring tricks. You know, like holding hands and riding under the booms of back-hoes. It is awesome.
When our private highway ends we are in good spirits. We decide it’s time to start looking for a place to camp. We see some campgrounds marked on our map next to some small lakes. We end up in Bela Cvrka and find a couple campgrounds.
The first campground locks their gates at sunset and doesn’t open them again until 9am. We agree that this is not for us and keep going. We find another place that says it has a campground but we don’t see anyone on duty. We ride around for awhile and finally ask some people we see hanging out near the water. They don’t speak English but understand what we want and show us where we can camp.
There is a nice spot near the river where we decide to hang out and cook dinner. It was amazing weather and Andrew and Yoshi decide to go for a swim. We start looking for showers and all we can find is a really gross bathroom with squatters.
We hope this is a cheap campground considering it doesn’t even have a shower. Andrew and Yoshi decide they are going to sleep right next to the water while the rest of us opt for the grassy spot they pointed us to. We settled in for the night enjoying our time in Serbia and wondering what Romania has in store for us.
You can download the GPS track here (right click – save as).
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