The winds of change

Since the bitter cold of last week the wind has changed direction blowing warm weather in from the South. The sun has come out, the temperature has risen and Nathan's paddled with his shirt off once more (let's hope the gun laws in Serbia aren't too stringent). But if it's not freezing there must still be something to complain about. You see the thing is, this wind coming from the South is no summer breeze, it's a strong whistler of a wind and its blowing straight in our faces. In fact, this wind's becoming quite a nuisance.

So on Tuesday we got two buses out of Belgrade and walked to where Dora was moored on a jetty. We headed out into the Danube and, rounding the city's island, we were straight into the thick of it. We crossed the river in heavy waves and found our speed wasn't exactly up to the previous weeks' standards. This didn't change as the day went on, fairly uneventfully, but also fairly slowly. At lunchtime we unloaded and rolled the canoe since a significant amount of water had been taken on board from nosediving through waves.

By the end of the day we'd covered 43kms, which was good given the conditions but still a small amount compared to previous weeks. After two hours reliving lunchtime locations so far, the bad state of the weather was suddenly rammed home by a tree which fell down and crashed into the water not far behind us. Despite having seen the falling tree we somehow pitched our tent for the night in some dense woodland. Hidden on our island we slept through the night, the wind rattling through the branches.

While day 100 was momentous for us, the swirling winds took little notice. As such it was only after an hour and a half's paddling that we reached Smederevo, the town we had planned to reach the day before. Having arrived, we made straight for the town square with the sole intention of commemorating the centenary. Tongue-in-cheek photo taken, we had a hot chocolate and orange juice respectively, topped up on groceries and headed back for more wind and waves.

From therein it was a day of hectic stressful sections broken up by smoother periods of slow and steady progress. It was during one of these slower periods that a man standing on the bows of an anchored tanker confirmed to us that we're not just being over-dramatic. He signaled that big waves were ahead with his hand. We then paddled through those big waves.

It was not long after this that we made camp for the night. Not wanting to get stuck in a windy channel in the dark, we camped 15 minutes earlier than usual on the tip of a low island. Although I later spent much of the night fretting about being flooded, it was a decent spot with space for a calming campfire.

After Nathan's training session, tailored specifically to our small island (20 minutes jogging on the spot), we set off on calm waters. The sky was clear, the sun was out and we took photos of fishermen on the glassy water. Yet you should know from the way this blog is going that it was nothing but deceptive. As the island ended we found it had been acting a one giant windbreak and, leaving its tip, we found we were a good kilometer from either river bank.

A solid 45 minutes later we'd made it to the south bank having crossed the exposed and choppy water. We hugged the riverside as the waves continued to batter us and went wide around a large meander since it would have been dangerous to cut straight across.

Before lunchtime we found sanctuary in a long sheltered section where we could take in our surroundings. At some point in our battling we had joined the Serbian/Romanian border and looked across at the new country basking in the midday sun. With brown slopes dotted with trees that reflected in the glistening water, we had lunch in Serbia looking across at our eighth country of the expedition.

The afternoon was broken briefly by a chat with border police to confirm where exactly we had to 'check out' of Serbia and then we went back onto the windy waters. These difficult waters lasted up until our current spot where we camp at the foot of a village on the edge of a footpath. Today was our third in a row of well below average distances and physically demanding conditions.

The wind, then, has both brought back the temperate weather as well as rustling the river into a wavey frenzee. Here we camp, looking across at Romania, listening to it shaking the tent and stir the water.