Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Category — Croatia

Day 20 (Croatia): Drage - Split

today’s distance: 130km
total distance: 1912km
riding time: 7-8h

(imagine a stoic and robotic voice, sort of like Marvin from the Hitchhiker’s Guide …) I am German - need to complain. I am German - need to find something to complain about. Cannot be German, cannot find anything to complain about. Alright, Markus has gone over the top, he’s gone nuts and the bike trip wasn’t a good idea to begin with I hear you say.

Seriously though, the day was glorious. Waking up amidst all the olive trees I saw some water drops on my tent - when I turned in it rained pretty hard and must have continued for part of the night. Didn’t notice it much though. Coming out of the tent, the sun was out, no cloud to be seen, the sea in the bay underneath me calm and quiet. What a good day it would be I thought. Then the wind forecast - I had biked quite a bit to cover as much mileage as possible towards Split because the wind was predicted to come straight from the southeast. Wrong. Dead wrong. It came straight from the northwest. It was heaven. Not strong at first, it picked up quite a bit during the day. So I coasted along trying to figure out whether to go all the way to Slpit when I realized a biker coming up behind me. Turned out to be Marko who was thinking: “Maybe it’s that crazy guy I have read about in the paper.” Turned out it was that guy. Marko, a dentist from Rijeka read the article that appeared in the local newspaper and lo and behold, there I was. We had a fun ride together for the the next 10km before he had to turn around and get back for Sunday family lunch. If you ever need to get your teeth fixed, Marko is the man. He also rents out apartments, sounds like a great deal. We rode together until Sibenik, chatting about this and that. When we reached the bridge, it was the first time that the topic of the war came up during my time here - seems like it was the only important bridge that wasn’t destroyed.

 The town is great … many people who want to be seen are taking their Sunday stroll along the water promenade where I was doing an early lunch. After doing my round through town, it happened. I heard a big clonk behind me and the sandals that I had put the bungee cord through to let them dry out (mud), was gone and were stuck between the wheel and the rear rack. Bungee cord was torn in two.

Not sure how that happened. Too much tension I guess. What to do … need some kind of cord or rope. There is a ship. The Beauty of the Adriatic - hailed someone cleaning and explained what happened and asked whether they had any rope. “Sure we have rope on a ship” said the Asian crewhand and came back with a perfect piece of rope for my purposes. Thanks a bunch!!!

The remaining ride was pure joy, the scenery stunning. The turquoise waters that I had been missing out on over the last couple of days were out in full force. I visited a number of towns along the route, stopped and munched on bulk cranberries, dried banana chips and pistacchios. Life was good. Sooner than I thought I arrived in Trogir after receving an amazed but inspiring look from an old man who just raised his arms and smiled at me, a small picturesque little town surrounded by water and walls.

 Finally got a hold of an internet connection and found out that none of the couchsurfing people in Split could host me. Too bad. Cycled on, trying to find a good spot or campsite, but soon enought I was in urban territoriy. Not a good place to camp out. Two choices - go past Split and find a place. Not a real option since it was getting dark. Took option two - whipped out the Lonely Planet and found a hostel.

Am still not sure I’m German … couldn’t find anything to complain about. Have been ranting for too long. 

April 13, 2008   No Comments

Day 19 (Croatia): somewhere on Pag - Drage

today’s distance: 106km
total distance: 1782km
riding time: 6-7h

Didn’t sleep too well despite a good spot and woke up exhausted. Usually a sign to rest up. When I was about to get out of my tent, the rain came down in droves. Back in my sleeping bag with my bike shorts on and out about an hour later. Rain and more rain until the town of Pag and more rain after that. Eventually it stopped and I headed to Zadar. Only 50km - not much really, but I was tired. And I felt it. The road crosses a number of ridges, it had become sunny by now, gorgeous views on the right, various shades of grey, mostly of the dark kind, on the left. Which was my general direction. The road takes the ridges in a perpendicular fashion - shortest way across, also the steepest.

It was all good until I reached Zadar when the rain hit again. I got out from a grocery store and waited … and waited … and waited. After about two hours, the sun came back so I set out south. The idea was to cover a bit of distance from Zadar. It turned out to be glorious. Big puddles of water on the street made even the otherwise rather aggressive Croatian drivers a bit more defensive when they saw me … thanks for not spraying me. But because of all the moisture in the air, the colors were especially intense.


 So I pedaled along the coastal road, stopping here and there to take in the views. The islands before the coast were an amazing backdrop. Continuing along the same road, I eventually found a nice place to camp near an olive grove and turned in.

April 12, 2008   No Comments

Day 18 (Croatia): Crikvenice - somewhere on Pag

today’s distance: 107km
total distance: 1676km
riding time: 6-7h

As a German I am supposed to like to complain. Maybe I will, noty sure yet. I had a late start into the day … I was tired from the late and long ride the day before and didn’t ultimately leave the hotel until just before 10am. The ride was undulating and the weather was OK - it didn’t rain and the wind wasn’t a factor.

I reached Senj, where everyone had told me I would find a bike store in the vain hope that I would able to replace the bike computer. No such luck. It was here where the first rain hit me. Nothing bad really. I moved on towards the ferry to the island of Pag. There was a long climb in the way - about 10km from the markers at the side of the road. It was iffy, but doable. Until the wind started its frontal assault. It was as if a bad joke started to play out. Uphill and into a pretty demanding wind. Not much fun given the open terrain. The brief breaks before left hand turns were far too few of course. Am in the complaining phase now, if you haven’t noticed. The downhill was … well, no fun either. The wind came in with such force that my downhill speed barely reached 20km/h when I pushed hard. A bit on the frustrating side. I finally arrived at what I thought was the turnoff to the ferry, only to discover that the lady in the post office was wron.g  Another 12km into the wind and by now driving rain. Oh what fun it was. Then the wind started to do strange things (reminds me of this Iceland who told me in 1999 that their volcanoes do strange things - in this cas e, erupt, melt glacial ice and flood the valley I had been riding through a couple of hours before). The top winds came from the north, bringing better weather, the ground winds still predominantly from the south and in my face. Sometimes the Bura (wind from the north) seemed to carry the day, but in the end Yugo (wind from the south) carried the day. I eventually arrived, pretty worn out … only to barely make the ferry. They lifted the gates right behind me.

The downhill to the ferry terminal was great - but there was another hill waiting on the island. Barren and desolate on the eastern side, I climbed up for the first 5km.

Then I met Zoran, a sheep farmer. I had seen this fantastic area, turned around to take s ome pics and he approached me and with his limted German we struck up a conversation. He filled me in on the winds in the area, told me distances and gave me a rangfe of other good advice.

 The wather had turned nice by now, the wind still coming into my face. But somehow it didn’t matter after meeting Zoran. Moving on, I found a nice spot to pitch the tent, cooked up some pasta and will happily fall asleep soon.

So, here is my two cents on wind and rain.

1. Wind in your face: not a fun thing to duke it out with, but you somehow manage, become stoic, think of nice things in life and somehow arrive - and you curse a bit.
Note also that wind from the front is always demanding, harsh, tough, strong, ferocious, crazy, forbidding, howling, in your face, exhausting or atrocious and that tailwinds are usually gentle, kind or nudging you along.
2. Rain: not as bad as 1. Unless it is coming down in sheets and completely soaks you, see last post.
3. 1+2 combined = no fun at all. Sort of like your worst nightmare. Pinpricks hitting your face, wetness taking a hold of everything that you wear, demoralizing you.

But it’s still a great feeling at the end of the day when you sit in your tent with a pot of pasta and cake from Marko’s mother and having had a good conversation with someone like Zoiran. Wouldn’t trade this day!!!

April 11, 2008   No Comments

Day 17 (Slovenia/Croatia): Sezana - Crikvenice

today’s distance: 126km
total distance: 1569km
riding time: 6-7h

The day started well enough - Marko’s father was kind enough to fix breakfast and we had a great time again. My bags were also stuffed with delicious cakes and cookies and pastries which Marko’s mother had made. Absolutely gorgeous stuff … the good kind of calories. 

Then it was time to head out and just as I was about to pedal out, the rain started coming down. Whatever I thought and an hour and a few hills later, I was wet. Or so I thought, as it was going to get a lot worse. Marko had given me a nice quiet route, which I deviated slightly from and had my first go at offroad biking with the full load. All went well - the liquid sun doing ist magic as well. I arrived at the border thinking that this would be close to the top of the climb. Marko had called ahead (he works as a borderguard) and the guard went: “You want a stamp in your passport!” I was a bit puzzled, said yes and then he mentioned Marko calling. Funnily enough, he did not know what lay ahead. Said he’d never been there. This is what the external EU border looked like. No man’s land. Serious no man’s land. I happened upon the container in which the Croatian border guards were busy drinking coffee and shaking their heads about the biker coming through in the pouring rain. Next stamp in the passport. Thought I was at the top, but it was infuriating. Whenever it flattened out and looked like it would god down, it went up again and again. The rain which had been alright before was coming down in sheets now. This was on the uphill. On the downhill pinpricks started hitting my face. The only good thing was the temperature - which was a mild 11C. Not bad. Eventually my shoes gave in - despite booties the right one went first followed by the second one. I felt a bit desolate. It was raining, the first two places had only been ghost towns (small wonder as this is border land now, didn’t use to be that way).

Hardly a car passed. It was only when I hit the main road to Rijeka that things became a bit more lively. I had finally managed to drop some altitude - the high point was about 800m. Riding down into Rijeka was a welcome relief, the weather cleared up a bit and at least the rain stopped. Met Tim, a Californian who had biked with a broken rear rack from Athens to Rijeka. Nice guy and good fun to talk to.

Then I visited the Rijeka computer museum. First I dumped the water from my shoes though - it was sort of a glass full in each. Yikes!!! My real mission had been to find a computer to check some stuff out on the web, but this was amazing. Computers from the last 30 years and with Sveto as a great and enthusiastic guide, Peek and Poke was definitely worth a visit. Check them out when you get a chance. It just so happend that there was a reporter there when I lounged around drinking tea and from the souns of it, I will be appearing in a Croatian newspaper tomorrow. Wooohooo …

Heading out of Rijeka, I wanted to cover some more mileage getting further down the coast. Suffered  my first failure as my bike computer gave up. Seems like some of the wiring has come undone and for the time being I will have to guess distances and speeds. It was lots of ups and downs over the next 40km to Crikvenice and it seemed like an eternity. Not sure whether I could make it I had looked for good places to camp, but the road is hanging on the cliffs and there wasn’t much space to go for. It was seriously getting dark when I arrived and it started pouring again. I opted for a hotel instead, one or two being open right now. Finished the day off with a big plate of Cevapcici and fries. Can’t beat this after a long day of work and not much to eat.

April 10, 2008   4 Comments