Since we last posted a blog we have cycled through Hungary, visiting the capital Budapest, had a fleeting visit in Croatia and are now in Serbia. The cycle africa team seems to have evolved over the last week or so with us now reaching respectable distances of 70 odd miles and a few wild camps under our belts, as well as team bath time in the Danube river. There have been a few more bike falls, Gareth into a hedge following an afternoon beer, me when my front wheel got stuck down a tram line, and the most funniest yet, Craig into a fountain which was on!!!
We crossed the border into Serbia yesterday and our welcome was incredible. We were met by the Novi Sad Bike Klub 10kms out of town who then rode with us into Novi Sad. Jodi and I chose that time to collide with each other whilst trying to escape a barking dog running towards us leaving us both falling off our bikes in front of the bike club – very embarrassing, especially as one of them was the Baltic champion but no one thankfully batted an eyelid – guess they’re too used to the scrapes!!
We arrived at the city beach in Novi Sad to the sounds of YMCA blaring out of the loud speakers and lots of press taking our photos and interviewing us about our trip and the cause we are cycling for. We were also filmed doing a mini laughter yoga session and Gareth even got asked to go on stage and show the audience some of his dance moves to copy – you’ll be pleased to hear that he rose to the occasion and the funky chicken was included!! Today we are featured in three of Serbia’s newspapers – front page in one and middle page double centre fold in another. Craig was even interviewed on live breakfast tv this morning!
This welcome was incredible and embarrassing to say much much greater than we have received elsewhere, even in our home country! All of this was down to one person called Olivera Radovanovic, who read about our journey back in July while searching the internet. Olivera works for an organisation called Smeh Yoga with Tania, a Psychologist, and one other person. They provide free laughter yoga sessions to people suffering from illnesses like cancer, people with disabilities and street children. The principle behind laughter yoga is that the brain cannot distinguish real laughter from fake laughter and so releases the same happy hormones As a Psychologist I am aware of lots of research looking into people’s recovery from illness showing that a positive mood can indeed speed recovery and boost the immune system so this makes perfect sense!
We were lucky enough to be able to participate in one of these laughter yoga sessions today at a centre for children who live on the streets. Having had a brief introduction to laughter yoga at our reception yesterday we were unsure what to expect, especially since we were slightly embarrassed doing it and the children initially seemed quite streetwise and older than their years. However, appearances are always deceptive and they absolutely loved it and even the most hardy looking ones got completely involved, appearing childlike and young again. We even then had a dance off with them to hip hop and Romany music and the macarena!!
Craig is planning to write more about the children’s centre as he interviewed Nikola, the coordinator and also a Psychologist, but I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of Smeh Yoga Klub – www.smehklub.rs – for such a wonderful experience and for all the incredible work they do, to the Novi Sad Bike Klub – www.novisadbike.com – for their escort into Novi Sad and the guided tour of the city this morning, to the children and staff at Svratiste Za Decu Ulice who allowed us to visit and share their laughter and most of all to Olivera who is a person with a huge heart and motivation for helping people and who without all this would not have been possible – a thousand thank yous!