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  • Yugoslavia.

    The train had a habit of slowing to walking pace and I enjoyed walking along side. Trying to get a feel of the land. All I could see, smell and feel was peace. It could almost be a hot summer’s day in a very quiet area of England or Northern France. Belgrade for me was 10 hours away. And I couldn't believe this was a country at war.

    As I walked alongside our very slow train, stretching my legs and smelling the air, an old peasant guy working by the side of the track offered me an apple. I stopped for a moment and showed him a little thanks by offering a swig from my leather flacon. The sun was still warm and and as he drank, his eyes lit up. He expected water but got cool red wine. He handed it back to me with a nod of thanks and a red toothless smile.

    There was a jolt from the crawling carriages as they slowly picked up speed and I shook the old mans hand, thanked him for the apple and set off back towards the train. I walked and then broke into a jog but the last carriage was not getting any closer. I started getting a little worried and my jog turned to a run. As the last carriage disappeared out of site I shouted at it for help. The train was well out of earshot.

    I must have ran in it’s dust for another five minutes, almost twisting my ankles on the tracks before stopping dead. The sweat poured down my face which I now held in my hands as I sat on the lonely track.

    I couldn’t believe what I had done. Here I was sat in the middle of nowhere, on a warm steel rail dissecting a country at war. Almost everything I owned was sat in a bag, on a rack, in a cabin, on a train, that I was meant to be on. Speeding it’s way towards who knows where. I got back on my feet and started walking in an attempt to get positive and ultimately, survive this unbelievable predicament I'd put myself in.

    I walked and walked, mulling over just about every possible outcome. I took comfort in the fact that at least I had my passport, money and ticket safely hidden away on my person. A precaution I now took comfort in.

    If Belgrade was about ten hours by train, I figured it would take two and a half days walking. As far as my food and drink supplies went, I was looking at an apple and a flask of wine. If the travellers sharing my cabin notice i’m gone, if they see my pack sitting there and put two and two together, the best I could hope for is that they leave my bag in Belgrade station’s left luggage. As they continue on.

    There was, as always, hope.

    My speed picked up as I found that a steady pace meant I could tread on every other sleeper and not stumble in-between. As far as I knew I was chasing the last train North. Still, I'd constantly throw a glance behind, just in case there was another train. I figured that lost alone and possession-less in a war torn country was definitely an adventure. Lost alone, possession-less, and dead, was not.

    The track would curve left and right but my surroundings pretty much stayed the same. Occasionally a dusty road would cross the rails and a puzzled peasant would stop to let me pass. Sometimes I would give a bright “Good morning!” and feel very surprised at my acceptance of the situation. After all, what else could I do but jog and hope?

    Around one particular corner I noticed a horse and cart on the rocks beside the tracks. To my amazement, sat reigns in hand was the old guy who gave me the apple. As I approached he motioned me to climb up beside him. I made the noise of a train and he nodded. Beaming, sweating, I climbed aboard the empty cart and with the slap of the workhorse’s behind, we were off. Down a hill and away from the tracks.

    He was surprisingly fast, even if a little unstable and bouncy. The railway line was now completely out of sight and the brown and white beast pounded up and down small hills. For a moment I felt even more lost but as we topped another hill, there it was. Not only the railway line, but sat stationary like a huge sleeping caterpillar was a train. My train.

    I gave out a whoop! and slapped the old man on the back. He didn’t seemed to mind my excitement and I got to see another one of his teeth. Descending the hill in a cloud of dust, we must have looked a crazy sight. An almost toothless grinning peasant, a whooping laughing traveller and an old work horse going hell for leather.

    We slowed beside the train just as it once again started to pull off. I placed my wine bag in the old mans hand saying, ”Thank you! Spasiba! Thank you!” Jumping down I pulled the apple out of my pocket and held it out for the horse. One ‘munch’ and it was gone.

    Holding on to the open door I waved goodbye to my friends as they got smaller and smaller. The old man waved back, took a mouthful of wine and held up the bag in salute.

    I found my traveling companions and my rucksack, exactly where they were three hours ago. I slid open the door to their cabin, hot, dusty and tired. The guys looked me over and closed their books.

    “What happened to you?”

    I spent half an hour explaining.
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