The monastery's magic dissipated as the valley opened to a wide plain north of the Danube. The day's end was found in Drobeta-Severin, where 'Aslita' gets a 5* treatment at my warmshower host Ionut's 'Bike Hotel and Spa': massage, hydrotherapy and blow dry for her, whilst I refill on strawberry wine and get to know the duo of Ionut's my host and bike mechanic and another lean mechanic turned prison guard of the same name. The latter's hobby-cum-life of air-soft war tournaments with the rest fo his prison guard, makes for a marginally too militaristic mealtime topic.

My time in Serbia was meant to be an afternoon jolly and an extra country ticked on the list. But after the seat-post problem 'lowered' it's ugly head once more, I was forced into a night in Negotin. The wisdom of the sage-like bike-tourer, rocker, and grease monkey - Mikel - the town's sole bike mechanic are the main memory here.

The next two days formed a long range finale with much climbing, a last grind of the gears before parking the bike in Sofia and flying to love and family in Turkey. The great rock formations of Belogradchik were nature's highlight of the trip so far, vast boulders glowing red in the day's 'golden hour' bulging from the peaks of the hills. The visual effect is similar to those free-form sand castles that are formed by squeezing wet sand through one's hands. A European partner to the great rocks, less the temples, at Hampi in India.

The Montana pass was a 35km and 1,450 vertical meters of pure climbing to be had before these familial delights and accompanying fodder could be enjoyed. I suspect this will look like a minor bump in the road by Japan, but it was anyting but at the time. Besides my bike's host, the less said about Sofia the better.