We packed up and waited for the apartment owner to arrive – he ended up sending his father, who came half an hour late and didn’t speak English, but managed to be incredibly friendly towards us. I’d already bought bus tickets for later that day, so we left our bags at the train station (no left luggage facility at the bus station) and killed time for a few hours by going back to the fortress. On the way Vana took us to a statue in honour of “the father of Greek independence” who had been tortured and executed in Belgrade in the 18th century. We finished with lunch at the same self-service pizza/pasta place that we’d eaten in three times already on this trip. It’s OK but nothing special, I guess the speed of service is an advantage though.
We said our tearful farewells to Vana and Anthony and headed for the bus station. Everything went astonishingly easily; the only issue was that we were left with a few hundred dinars (about €5) after the bus driver said we didn’t have to pay to take our bags on board (we’d budgeted those dinar for that purpose).
Bus ride was fine: after clearing New Belgrade’s wide avenues and giant housing blocks we crossed the plains for a few hours, gradual darkness illuminated by fierce lightning strikes. We stopped at a few cities, and stopped for a half hour break after 90 minutes for some unknown reason. This did let me jump on the restaurant’s WiFi and see that Man Utd were winning so that’s something. We reached the border about 715 and got through it in 15 minutes without leaving the bus. We’d pull up at the border and a Serbian guard came on board, walked down the bus taking everyone’s ID (the locals seemed to be using driver’s licenses or identity cards maybe, not passports). A few minutes later the driver walked down and returned everyone’s ID. We drove through into the border area, which looked mysterious thanks to the darkness and mist but in daylight would seem mundane, and repeated the process with a Bosnian guard instead of a Serbian one. No questions, just a passport taken away and returned a few minutes later with a new stamp.
Almost immediately after the border the terrain changed – we were now driving through hills, on winding, narrow roads. New Zealanders would feel instantly at home – Americans might wonder what had happened to the rest of the road, as it was single-lane both ways. The countryside looked as though it might be interesting, as we passed a wide river and many hill towns, but I couldn’t see anything in the dark. Aside from us, the road was nearly empty. The turning road made it hard to read, so we watched the un-subtitled Serbian comedy that was showing on the bus.
We arrived in Sarajevo early and had some confusing moments at the bus station, as we had arranged a taxi to meet us. We had to shake off other drivers while trying to contact our hostel to get this guy to turn up. Luckily he did – unfortunately he didn’t speak English and even though the hostel said they’d told him where to go, he didn’t know the address. Some back and forth with the hostel solved it eventually, and we collapsed into bed.