It's 2:25am and we're in a Budapest campsite. It's at precisely this point that I remember the plan forged the week before. Since it is now very dark by half six, our previously standard stopping time, we had decided to start the day half an hour earlier. So at 2:25am I tell Jimmy today he'll be getting up at 6:30. In my defense, I thought it was 6:25. Nevertheless at 2:25am the week had officially begun.
I'd scouted out a good place to launch the canoe on a morning run that had also fallen foul of the new early-doors regime. With bleary eyes we then gave the residents of south Buda a unique visual experience. First, you had the race between the man dragging the canoe and the man carrying the 60l food barrel. Next you had the 'how fast can we run back in sandals ten minutes after cereal' test. And for the finale, we took our paddles, massive rucksacks and remaining barrels on the tram back to the waterfront. Obstacles to be overcome included a six lane crossroads and a couple of railway tracks. Quite a few weird looks later, the performance was complete and we were paddling away from Budapest.
From then onwards, day 90 was a quiet one. With grey skies and constant forest, the time was ripe to articulate any and every thought that crossed my mind. Eventually after Jimmy had weathered a conversational storm comprised of inheritance tax, best ever Christmas presents and name-game tactics amongst other topics; the day ended hidden amongst trees on a muddy bank... Half an hour earlier than usual.
The next day we didn't have an audience as we loaded the canoe. We did however have rain. As such, the ever-present breakfast mugs of cereal were had in the tent. To the relief of any local fisherman, the rain also muted any more tales of Jimmy's exploits from school. By mid-afternoon it was still raining and we were still quiet as we embarked in search of the holy grail: some Hungarian stamps.
We walked into the small town of Paks. We deposited the litter from the previous night in a bin. We found a post office. We communicated that we wanted to send 9 postcards and a parcel to England. We had lunch without getting wet thanks to a bus shelter. We bought two coffees to warm us up. We restocked on water in the cafe toilet. And then a 10 year old burst out laughing at the sight of Jimmy. As far as I can see, that is just about a perfect couple of hours.
And the clouds also seemed pleased by our performance because it didn't rain for the rest of the afternoon. We again camped in some trees, this time a bit further back from the water and a whole lot more spooky.
Dispute the darkness of the previous night I awoke at the new allotted time and I was still alive. With my fears thus calmed, I proceeded to make the best possible use of the confined area between thick forest and the water by doing some funny-looking running drills. Feeling slightly warmer, we then paddled away for a standard morning of grey clouds, drinks breaks, wee breaks and kilometer markers.
Kilometer markers were actually quite important today. With the Serbian border approaching, the plan was to make sure we camped in Hungary so we could have a full day to take on the Serbian border authorities tomorrow. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when our discussion of the problem of personal tutors was interrupted by a Hubgarian police boat.
Having concluded that Warwick's tutor system is unsatisfactory, we followed the river instructions to the Hungarian river border checkpoint. There a young friendly policeman explained to us that we needed to fill out some paperwork because we were leaving the Schengen zone. This all went swimmingly, despite my trouble in conveying Dora's name. D O R A; "No, it's D, as in D for Dave," doesn't seem to work in Hungarian. Nonetheless, about an hour later we were wished good luck while the policeman googled Nantes.
With the Serbian border still imminent we decided to make the most of our last Hungarian coins in the next town. Once again, it was a highly successful outing. We bought some food supplies, filled up the water bottles and I even managed to bargain a half price cake to use up our last bit of change - the perm and mustache look clearly works on older women.
My good looks however, only provide one possible explanation for what happened next. As we walked back to the boat with a slight dusting of river mud, shopping in hand and sacks on backs, a woman approached us. She said something in Hungarian. We intimated "English" and smiled affably. She happily affirmed 'England'. We were delighted and agreed. She then opened up her purse and tried to give us the equivalent of about three pounds. Because we're proud Englishmen and because we can't use Hungarian forint In Serbia, we refused her money. She knowingly patted me on my shower, smiled and walked away. Is this a cultural thing that Hubgarian women do for good-looking young men? Was she pitying Jimmy's bright blue parachute pants and snood combination in the same way that the ten year old had laughed out loud at him? Does she think the English economy is struggling at the moment? Or do we just look like we're in need of some money?
Who knows? Anyway, she was yet another person whose grey day had been brightened up by our exploits - now available from 6:30 in the morning.