Thursday 6th October
Punta Sabbioni to La Salute di Livenza
Distance: 66.19 km
Average: 14.01 kmh
Top Speed: 30.88 kmh
Total Distance: 8557.26 km
We had quite a bit of rain last night but the tent was lovely and snug. We wanted to get the Venice blog and photos uploaded and the bikes cleaned so it was a bit of a late start. Nearly 12pm in fact. We needed to retrace our steps to Jesolo so nothing new to report there. Then we cycled along the beaches of Lido di Jesola.
10km with 60m of clean,flat yellow sand to our right and then beautiful calm seas. To our left one hotel after another. It must be hell here in the summer but today it was just superb. We happily cycle along a footpath where bikes are actually prohibited and pass the occasional sun worshipper. It’s 27 degrees today so we go down for a paddle. I’ve never paddled before in the Adriatic!
The water is warm and very clear – clear enough to spot some monster jellyfish! The beaches were clearly packed with umbrellas, seats, footpaths and other tourist paraphernalia but it’s all being cleared away for the winter months. The summer is finished, winter is coming.
After the Lido it’s back to a cyclepath and we follow the Revedoti canal into Caorle. The land here is incredibly flat, in fact reminiscent of the Dutch dykes. Caorle is a pretty fishing town with some interesting boats in the harbour.
We were hoping the tourist office here could give us some new cycle maps but they don’t have any. We need to be careful heading along this coast for Trieste because there are many river estuaries where the bridge is many kilometers from the sea! After Caorle we head to Sindacale. We have our provisions and water we just need a site to camp. Unfortunately we’re on a main road but we turn onto a quiet lane but there’s too many houses. But Daz spots a man in his garden and asks if we can camp on the edge of his field. Super! A great spot and no need to try and stay hidden. Bacon and egg butties again for tea, makes a change from pasta!!
Friday 7th October
La Salute di Livenza to Spilja
Distance: 77.81 km
Average: 14.96 kmh
Top Speed: 37.63 kmh
Total Distance: 8635.07 km
After a very comfortable night we wake up and discover our MSR is wet with condensation. Oh dear, lulled into a false sense of security by 2 dry nights.
Sadly our route to Trieste is along SS14 and it’s quite a busy road with a significant proportion of drivers not bothering to give us any room. It’s a shock after spending 2 weeks on bike paths or quiet lanes. The countryside continues to be flat with many waterways.
We stop by a river in a village square for our lunch and notice several tandems and other touring bikes. It turns out to be guided group of partially sighted and blind people on a 2 day bike excursion.
In the afternoon the only exciting event is our Lidl’s stop. We’ve just done our shop when we spot 2 touring cyclists and they come over for a chat. They’re bikepackers from Ankara, Turkey. We’re so intrigued by how little they’re carrying and how it’s fitted on the bike. They say they only cycle 4 hours a day and do 80+ in a day. That’s 10 hours for us!!! They’re funny because they say they’re up at 6am but might not get started until 12pm. Apparently it’s not just the packing that takes time, it’s the Turkish breakfast (must Google that). Then Michael a guy from Leicester rocks up.
He’s also a bikepacker, well a bikepacker in training. He’s done an extensive European tour but now he’s heading home! After a good chat we finally drag ourselves away.
The wind has picked up and so it’s a tough few hours before we find a site for the night.
Saturday 8th October
Spilja to Crnotice via Trieste
Distance: 47.49 km
Average: 9.04 kmh
Top Speed: 41.65 kmh
Total Distance: 8682.56 km
Last night it was really windy and this morning it’s really overcast and cold. We cycle along the coast road, climbing first then descending into Trieste. There are some fabulous views of the Gulf of Trieste and there’s Miramare Castle, surrounded by a flourishing park full of precious botanic species, and has a charming panoramic view, given its location on a cliff high above the sea. It stands on the peak of the rocky promontory of Grignano in the Gulf of Trieste.
As we near Trieste we watch a canoe club training and have a job keeping up with them.
In Trieste we visit McDonald’s – WiFi and power required! We have a look around the town and walk along the harbour.
Trieste – To discover the secret of a happy life head to Trieste, the Italian port tucked inside the Slovenian border. The Triestini embrace life with a passion that is palpable and infectious, if the chatter at evening aperitivo is anything to go by. And at the merest hint of sunshine, Triestini are off to the nearby seaside, Barcola, even in November, and even though it’s a concrete strip.
This unsquashable humour is no doubt born of being a frontier city, variously owned or occupied by the Romans, Habsburgs, Mussolini’s regime, Germans and Allied Forces, only finally returning to Italy in 1954. The consequence is a glorious jumble of architectural and ethnic influences. In the space of 15 minutes, I came across Serbian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Helvetic Evangelist churches, while the city’s synagogue is one of the largest in Europe.
There’s a big Regatta here tomorrow so all the racing yachts are preparing their kit or out on the water running through some drills.
There are some lovely buildings and we can see the castle overlooking the town. We should really go up to the old town but time is pressing. Finally we decide to head off but struggle to find a way out of town. We have decided to cross over the Istria Peninsular rather than following the coast as it will save us about 4 days, but first we need to find a way. But once we do find our way we climb for about 20km. At one point we meet 2 horse riders – well when the horses spot us we’re still a good 50m away and have parked up. But the horses really aren’t keen and they refuse to walk on and then when pushed too hard they get really skittish and they turn away and try and bolt. They slip on the wet tarmac and at one point a horse slips so badly that he looks as if he’ll fall. It’s all very stressful, we’re worried either the horses or riders will get hurt! They really hate our trikes and I wish we’d stood up to show them who we were! The riders take them back up hill before a real disaster occurs. We head on until we hit the Slovenian border at Socerb.
We push on because we don’t have enough water for the night even though we’re both hurting from the steep climb and chilled in the cold wind. We stop in a village and get our water bottles and reservoir filled, the guy even offers Daz a beer. Excellent now we have enough to cook dinner, have a cup of tea and have our bucket wash which is proving less entertaining on these cold nights! It’s hard enough getting Daz to wash on warm nights let alone cold ones!!
Sunday 9th October
Crnotice to Rijelka
Distance: 65.87 km
Average: 9.9 kmh
Top Speed: 56.59 kmh
Total Distance: 8748.43 km
Last night it rained and was really windy but by the time we get up there are blue skies although it’s still windy. We head off and it’s more climbing.
We reach the Croatian border which is actually manned and we have to show our passports.
This whole area seems rather remote and unpopulated; we only see a few cars but no people and the hills are rough scrubland – no animals or crops! We pass through a couple of villages and there’s nothing to see; no cafes, shops, restaurants or people.
We keep hoping to find a shop at least! After 20km of cycling uphill we get our kettle out in a little hamlet called Vodnice, (752m above sea level from Trieste!!) we refill our water at an outside tap and have a cup of tea. Well we have two, the first tasted foul, we think fuel contamination, but the second was fine. Some more climbing; we’ve now been climbing for around 8 hours. We pass through some lovely deciduous woodland and then we’re just about to hammer down our first decent hill in hours when we spot some horses. A man is sat side-on the leading horse with 3 behind. They seem to be tacked up as pack horses.
When the lead horse spots us he refuses to move forward and the guy has to dismount and lead them passed us. Finally we get to Male Mona and the road starts to descend at last. We stop here and read a monument. During the second world war the small villages we can see dotted around the hills were destroyed in retaliation for attacks on the German forces after the Italian army capitulated.
We carry on, descending now towards the coast, long downhills all the way yippeee. Once we near the coast we spot a bakery that’s open. We haven’t seen any shops today, let alone one that’s open and as it’s Sunday and we think everything else will be closed so we have a buying frenzy. Our shopping was premature, there’s plenty of open supermarkets but we’ve spent our allowance now!! We stop to eat our food on a hillside overlooking a football stadium.
Down below there’s a match and we watch the two female teams for a while. Then we’re off on the final push to Rijelke, then it’ll be time to find a camping spot. However, I spot a large fire station and decide to see if they’ll find somewhere for us to pitch our tent. We’ve heard several stories of the fire brigade or police helping bike tourers! So we give it a go.
We ask if we can put our tent up… they say no. But how about an apartment in their training facility on the other side of town? Yes please!! What then follows is amazing, we get a blue light escort through the town, including on an urban motorway and a long tunnel which we’re pretty sure prohibits bikes!
At times it’s quite possibly one of the scariest, unpleasant riding experiences to date as we have cars trying to overtake on both sides, our blue light escort is causing a bottle neck. The tunnel is uber scary and seems never-ending and trying to keep up with a car is impossible but we (well me) almost die trying! It’s a really tough way to finish the day. But the effort is well worth it. We are so pleased when we arrive and they show us our lovely ensuite apartment with kitchen… more tea vicar!
Monday 10th October
Rijelka Fire station
Well it’s been a super comfortable night. We had our first shower in 4 days. Everything is charged, Daz got to watch Croatia v Finland on the telly. All is grand except the weather. It’s pouring with rain. We check the forecast and discover it could last all day. Daz goes to see the boss and they’re happy for us to stay until the afternoon and if it’s still raining they’ll check with the Chief if we can stay another night. In the afternoon the rain has stopped and we feel uncomfortable asking for another night so we pack up and prepare our bikes for the off. Neither of us are keen to leave, I’m full of cold and feeling generally pretty lousy. We hand the key over but chief of the watch comes to speak to us. Initially he starts asking who at the other station told us we could stay. He wants a description of who we spoke to. We both assume we shouldn’t have been allowed to stay and then he says, ‘yup, OK I’ll ring the chief but you can stay another night’. I could have cried with relief. He checks the forecast and the weather is due to improve. He then tells us about the Croatian coast and the bizarre wind patterns further south. After a nice chat we return to our room. We’re practically dancing with joy and high 5ing each other. Around 5pm we venture out for food and we’re almost blown over by the wind.
Thank God we’re neither cycling nor camping in these conditions – back to our cosy room and ‘George Clark’s amazing spaces’ with Croatian subtitles – this is sooo good!
Tuesday 11th October
Rijelka to Senj
Distance: 65.99 km
Average: 11.35 kmh
Top Speed: 50.41 kmh
Total Distance: 8814.42 km
Today we wake up to blue skies and complete calm. We can’t believe the weather can be so different. We thank our wonderful firemen hosts and head off.
We follow the coast road and it’s very scenic looking out onto the Adriatic. We stop in a layby for a quick chat with 2 Swedish motor cycle tourers.
Then we continue until Klenovica where we stop for food. After lunch and coffees we head off. We’ve been making good progress, many car drivers are waving and tooting their horns and all is well in the world. And then we hit the weather system the fireman told us about. It’s gusting from all directions but predominantly it’s a head wind that’s practically bringing us to a standstill. Our heads ache from the constant wind and we’re starting to get cold. We struggle on like this for about an hour and then everything changes and it’s a tailwind.
The wind then fluctuates for the next 15km into Senj, one second we’re hammering along with an incredible tail wind that even pushes us uphill, and the next we grind to almost a standstill. It’s exhilarating and unpleasant at the same time, with the wind even pushing us into the road. Thank God we’re not on the tandem. In Senj we spot loads of camper vans down by the sea. We assume they’re wild camping since all the campsites we’ve seen along the coast have been closed. We cycle down to investigate and get accosted twice by people offering us accommodation. At the campsite we discover it’s open – there goes our plan to camp here for free. We have the usual dilemma – pay for camping or persevere and find a wild campsite. It’s always tough; we’re constantly struggling to keep to a budget but a campsite with showers is hard (actually impossible as it turns out) to ignore.
Wednesday 12th October
Senj to a spot 7km south of Karlobag
Distance: 74.52 km
Average: 10.64 kmh
Top Speed: 56.30 kmh
Total Distance: 8888.94 km
It’s a beautiful morning and the early morning sunshine over the sea and Islands is a delightful view for breakfast.
After a quick shop we cycle through the pretty town of Senj which has a castle overlooking the small fishing harbour.
Bizarrely about 5km outside Senj the weird winds cease and we have relative calm as we enter the National Park Paklinica We stop in the next fishing village, Sv Juraj, by the harbour for tea and biscuits. I manage to get free boiling water from a cafe so no need to break out the cooking stove – result. We’re also adopted by the village dog, I think he wants to join Daz on his bike.
Earlier as we were leaving Senj we stopped to speak to 2 German hitchhikers and they have just been dropped off in this village. They plan to head inland and the hills for a 9 day hike – carrying all their food, very adventurous! From here we head off, chased by our adopted dog and climb for about 30km. We stop at a beautiful viewpoint to have our lunch.
The afternoon consists of more climbing and a layby photography session with 2 lovely Austrian ladies. The whole day is one of blue skies and glorious views of the Adriatic and the nearby islands but I’m sure my trusted cameraman has captured the incredible views. We did spot a couple of praying mantis too but the one we photographed was a beige colour not the vivid green. I saw a vivid green one but too late to stop and actually I probably ran it over.
After a really tough day we make Karlobag. The descent into this town is 8km of exhilarating downhill racing – Daz again is the winner; pipping me by 1kmph!
Karlobag was our target for the day. We get water and milk but there’re no campsites here. We’re accosted in the same manner as yesterday with offers of a room but at 25€ we decline.
Instead we head out of town in search of a wildcamping site and discover it’s a sheer rockwall on our left and a sheer drop to the sea on our right. After 10km, with the light fading fast, we find a spot on a gravel road near a bend in the road. Sadly there’s nothing to hide behind so it’s not the least discrete spot we’ve ever chosen but once it is dark (soon!) nobody should see us. We have our gear sorted in our usual efficient manner and by the time our dinner is ready (7pm), it’s dark except for a near full moon in a cloudless sky. Doing this is not something I ever imagined but it’s an amazing experience – now the stars are just coming out too! Amazing, we sit on our comfy bikes, sipping tea and trying to name some of the constellations in the dark.
Thursday 13th October
A spot 7km south of Karlobag to Islam Latinski
Distance: 69.80 km
Average: 11.51 kmh
Top Speed: 42.94 kmh
Total Distance: 8958.74 km
Fortunately despite our conspicuous camping site we’re left undisturbed.
The weather is overcast but the terrain today is less arduous. The sea is incredibly clear and turquoise blue in some bays. It looks so inviting. We stop in a little village for our tea break and in Starigrad for lunch. Today we’re passed by a convoy of classic cars whilst yesterday we were overtaken by 2 porche convoys. Just before Rovanjska we see zones of buoys in the water and we’re busy trying to decide their function, then we see a sign and realise that the buoys are connected to mussel lines.
After a long climb out of Rovanjska we cross an impressive bridge over an inlet to Novigrad lake from the Adriatic. The drop is humongous and there are bungee jumping signs and a jumping platform.
Sadly it’s closed (thank God!). We were going to push on for Zadar but instead we stop at a truckers’ cafe, have some chips and fill our 10L reservoir with hot water. 3km later we find a field to camp in and once the tent is up we have a hot bucket wash – luxury indeed!
Friday 14th October
Islam Latinski to Biograd na Moru
Distance: 52.56 km
Average: 11.20 kmh
Top Speed: 45.96 kmh
Total Distance: 9011.30 km
After an undisturbed night (apart from some rain) we pack up and head into Zadar. Apparently Zadar is Europe’s best destination 2016 according to the TripAdvisor posters liberally pasted everywhere. We cycle around the harbour and see some fabulously expensive launches. We cycle past the seagate, one of 2 entrances within the city walls, the other being the landgate. We also visited the sea organ, the Monument to the Sun, the Forum, cathedral, and the Captain’s tower.
Walking around Zadar’s historic centre. If there is a breeze, start at the sea organ, an art installation consisting of a series of pipes cut into the promenade. Soft, meditative chords become a slightly alarming cacophony of groans when the waves are choppy. The same artist also created the Monument to the Sun, a large disc of solar-powered cells that becomes a multicoloured disco ball as the sun sets.
More classical sights include the Roman forum, of which only a few columns and an altar remain. Stones from here were used to build the neighbouring rotunda of 9th-century St Donat’s Church and are clearly visible.
Zadar’s 12th-century cathedral has three beautiful portals that would not look out of place in Tuscany, and a bell-tower to climb. Close to an impressive city gate, the church of St Simeon contains a beautifully crafted silver reliquary. More can be seen in the excellent Gold and Silver of Zadar exhibition at St Mary’s church.
For a memorable experience, take a short trip with the gnarled boatmen who have been rowing residents across the harbour for more than 800 years. The women at the town market look like they may have been selling their salty, speciality Pag cheese for almost as long.
After a nice walk around the town and chatting to several British couples ( a cruiseship sailing from Southampton moored here this morning so there are loads of English voices!) we take shelter in a cafe whilst we wait for the drizzle to blow over. We then head out of town. A couple of shopping chores are required; replen breakfast cereal, shower gel, bread, biscuits (my favourite cranberry cookies!) and fuel for our Trangia. Two frustrating hours later we’ve tried numerous shops, hardware and DIY stores, and petrol stations but no fuel. We decide we’ll just have to hope our current supply will last until Split. But then we try in a pharmacy, as they sometimes sell rubbing alcohol, well, Daz comes dancing out with a big grin and 3 bottles! A bit more expensive than normal but at least we know where to get it next time. We return to the D8, heading south. We’d heard horror stories about this road, the Adriatic highway, but for us it’s been totally fine and the traffic relatively light (after all the tourist season is over), that is until the road in to Zadar this morning and leaving Zadar this afternoon. If there’s no oncoming traffic, passing vehicles will give us room. But if there’s oncoming traffic they all like to see how a 3 way squeeze feels. Well for them I’m sure it feels fine but for us it’s really unpleasant – coaches and buses are definitely the worst offenders. In addition to the traffic there’s an unpleasant headwind. We stop at Sv Filip i Jakov to watch some kitesurfers. The strong wind is letting them get some jumps and tricks in.
We arrive in Biograd, and decide to find a campsite to stay in as tomorrow’s forecast is thunderstorms.
Having passed a few open ones further back on the road our luck is out. They are all closed here. But as we cycle along the forest beach front we decide to set up our tent in a large camping site. The site is actually closed but the pitches, electricity boxes, toilets and showers are not fenced off. As we have just set up a man comes over, we think he may work here. He asks if we are sleeping here in a mix of Croatian and German. We manage to have a stilted conversation but the upshot is he will speak to the ‘chief’ and wanders off. We don’t see him again! We both use the showers, but no hot water arghhhhh. After a belated lunch/dinner of brie and crisp rolls and a mug of tea it’s dark. We take a walk along the beach looking out across to the lights of Pasman, one of the many islands down the Croatian coast.
Saturday 15th October
Biograd na Moru
Last night when we went to bed it was sooo hot in the tent that I left the door open. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that at midnight I discover i’m covered in mossie bites. I try to find the insect repellant but Daz has moved it. We discover our tent is home to about 20 mossies and spend the next 30 minutes trying to kill them. We’re awake at 8am. There’re some intermittent light showers but nothing like the forecast.
We doze and read and finally surface about 11.30am. We have breakfast and see the guy who spoke to us last night about camping here – it seems that he’s OK about us being here. We head into town and see several windsurfers and a kitesurfer out on the water; it looks like there’s plenty of wind for them. There’s also a venue preparing for a wedding reception. We find a launderette – laundry on. Daz tries to get a haircut but they’re too busy with hair styling for the wedding. There’s torrential rain in the afternoon with the promised thunderstorm.
Luckily we comfortably ensconced in a restaurant; real food! Tuna steak, kale and potatoes for me, a rump steak and chips for Daz!
OMG it tastes sooo good. The tent is OK when we get back, a couple of wet spots inside from splashback on the outer floor, but considering the flooding that went through the campsite we are very happy. Later we play backgammon on the beach in the dark!!
Sunday 16th October
Biograd na Moru to Rogoznicka
Distance: 84.35 km
Average: 14.35 kmh
Top Speed: 51.56 kmh
Total Distance: 9095.65 km
We’ve both slept badly last night (the wedding was very loud and went on into the early hours) so neither of us is keen to start the day and now Daz is full of cold ( passed on by me!). But on the plus side we have blue skies, a tail wind and a temperature of 27 degrees. So a lovely day!
We stop in Vodice, at the harbour, to have our lunch. There’s a war memorial there to the 2nd WW, the Croatian resistance.
Leaving Vodice we stop and chat to 4 Canadian bike tourers. They started in Venice and are also heading to Athens.
We see them several more times but only because they stop for coffee and to look at viewpoints whilst we just keep on pedalling. Finally after an excellent mileage day we stop in a garage and get water and a couple of kms later we find a camping spot.
Today we see many Praying Mantis on the edge of the road; out to sun themselves I think although they could have found a safer spot, the crunch under my tyres sounds awful! We’ve also seen a large colourful lizard (sadly deceased).
We also pass a motorcycle that’s completely trashed. The police are there and there’s obviously been a terrible accident. We think the ambulance passed us; with blue lights going to the accident but without when returning! Tonight the moon is full; it looks incredible!
Monday 17th October
Rogoznicko to Omis via Trogir and Split
Distance: 81.73 km
Average: 13.45 kmh
Top Speed: 50.99 kmh
Total Distance: 9177.38 km
Today we have a lovely day; we visit Trogir and Split. In Trogir we cycle into the centre, down narrow cobbled alleys and streets and there’s a beautiful cathedral and a bell tower. We go up so we can enjoy the panoramic views of the Adriatic. We also walk along the walls to a castle.
Trogir’s best sight is the Cathedral of St Lawrence (Katedrala sv. Lovrijenac) on which building work started in 1213 on a site where a previous cathedral once stood; the main part of the cathedral was completed in 1250. The cathedral’s bell tower was built between the 14th and 16th centuries, and can be climbed to see fantastic views from the top. A must see within the cathedral is the Chapel of St John, built in 1468, and which is considered the best Renaissance sight in Dalmatia.
Part of the city walls, built between the 13th and 14th centuries, are visible today on the southern side of the city. In the middle of the city wall is the city gate, which was built in 1593.
A city loggia stands near the cathedral, constructed in the 14th or 15th centuries. Over the years, it has had a number of uses, including that of a court. Within the loggia is a relief by Ivan Mestrovic, depicting Petar Berislavic of Trogir who was a Croatian Ban (viceroy) and Bishop of Zagreb and who died in 1520 in a battle against the Turks. The Cipiko Palaces, opposite the cathedral, were home to Trogir’s noble family in the 15th century.
Then it was on to Croatia’s second-largest city, Split (Spalato in Italian) which is a great place to see Dalmatian life as it’s really lived. Always buzzing, this exuberant city has just the right balance of tradition and modernity. Step inside Diocletian’s Palace (a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments) and you’ll see dozens of bars, restaurants and shops thriving amid the atmospheric old walls where Split life has been humming along for thousands of years.
To top it off, Split has a unique setting. Its dramatic coastal mountains act as the perfect backdrop to the turquoise waters of the Adriatic and help divert attention from the dozens of shabby high-rise apartment blocks that fill its suburbs. It’s this thoroughly lived-in aspect of Split that means it will never be a fantasy land like Dubrovnik, but you could argue that it’s all the better for that.
It’s very beautiful and has also been used in filming of GoT . Daz came through here in 1994 and 1997, but both times wearing a flak jacket. He only saw the airport before being transported cross country to Bosnia whilst serving with the Household Cavalry. Once we’ve had a look around Split, dried our tent and done some bike maintenance we head out and bump into the Canadians again. We’d been watching for them all day. They’ve just arrived and plan some island hopping but we’ll probably see them again further down the coast. We leave Split and it’s so built up we doubt we’re going to find somewhere to camp. We try all the campsites too but they’re all closed. Finally just before Omis we camp at a campsite ; there’s no-one here but maybe later someone will come and ask for money.
Tuesday 18th October
Omis to Drasnice
Distance: 55.63 km
Average: 10.61 kmh
Top Speed: 52.14 kmh
Total Distance: 9233.01 km
Before we went to bed last night the owners of the camp site came home and said hello and made sure we had everything we needed. We slept well but in the morning we were woken early by traffic on the nearby main road. We pack up and take a walk along the beach, it’s cloudy today after the last 2 days of sunshine.
As we are leaving we stop to pay, but the old lady waves us off and says it’s free (in Croatian). We are overwhelmed by her generosity and wish her well. We carry on cycling along the coast road, a little hillier than yesterday. We descend to the sea again at Omis and marvel at the surrounding hills that make up the Cetina gorge and then cross the river of the same name.
We speak to a young man and ask him the weather forecast, it looks like rain all this afternoon!! We stop early on in the morning for a coffee treat and end up having 2 and taking nearly 2 hours whilst catching up on the Internet!!
Later we lunch in a bus shelter, although there is a smell of something dead nearby which makes it a quick one! Luckily the rain is holding off. As we climb another hill we see two touring cyclists coming up behind us, we think maybe it’s the two French girls the Canadians told us about. We pull into a layby and they stop beside us, their bikes are totally loaded.
It is the French girls, and they haven’t been cycling too long, but are planning to be away for a year. They are also heading for Greece and a “Helpex” job (the same idea as workaway which we use) and then will decide where to go after.
We swop blog details and hope to see each other on the road later. They cycle off up the hill and we follow, but we soon catch up with them again as it starts to rain and they have to stop and pack their towels away that were out drying and put on rain gear. It’s downhill now and our speed advantage means we don’t see them again. At the bottom of the descent the light rain has stopped and we turn off for the center of Makarska, a large town and marina.
We cycle along the promenade and enjoy the views and some lovely statues. Whilst sat on our bikes taking a moment a chap on a moped comes up and asks us if we want a room, we politely decline but enquire as to the price; 30 euros or 50 for two nights. About 10 minutes later as we are about to leave he comes back with a lower offer of 25 euros, but as much as we would like a room it would break our budget so we cycle on. It starts to get gloomier and soon the rain starts, not too heavy but we stop and put our rain jackets on (poncho in Daz’s case) and continue climbing. It’s nearly 5pm and we still need to get water when I realise I’ve got a flat front tyre, maybe that will explain the slow speed for the last 2 km’s! There’s nowhere to pull in as it’s a cliff on our right and a hill on our left.
Daz has his back against the guard rail as he fixes it, cars occasional hooting as they fly past. By the time we set off it’s getting to the point we need to find a camping spot ASAP, but first, at the top of a rise Daz pulls into a house to ask for water. The lovely lady is more than happy to fill up our water. Daz, remembering what the French girls told us earlier of their night camped in a lady’s garden, asks her if there is somewhere nearby to put a tent up. She immediately offer us her garden! We are so happy, and we quickly get the tent set up in the dying light and light drizzle. After cooking dinner in the shelter of her large BBQ structure, she pops down to make sure we are OK. We chat and she mentions that we are not the first cyclists to avail themselves of her garden. She wishes us goodnight. Just as I am showering with the garden hose in the dark the rain starts to come down more heavily so I hurriedly finish and jump into the tent. Daz takes one look outside and declines the shower… minger!!
In 13 nights we haven’t paid for our accommodation, with either wildcamping, free campsites, the fire station and now someone’s garden (except one night in a Senj campsite for 12€). Croatia has been very kind to us indeed.
Wednesday 19th October
Drasnice to Reba
Distance: 62.46 km
Average: 10.79 kmh
Top Speed: 45.38 kmh
Total Distance: 9295.47 km
The heavy rain fell for sometime last night but we were lovely and snug and the tent is almost dry this morning. We have breakfast and pack up and just as we’re finishing up our host comes out of the house. It turns out we’ve been hosted by an international artist, Desa Marijeta, who has had exhibitions world wide; London, Paris and New York, before retiring to this beautiful spot on the coast. She is absolutely delightful!
We plan to return one day and buy one of her paintings. We head off. It’s another day of blue skies and sunshine. The views are stunning. Along the roadside there are many olive trees and it’s harvest time but the Croatians pick the olives by hand, no nets and no telescopic agitators, what a hellish job that must be!
In a layby toilet spot we are are met by a madly mewling black kitten. He seems healthy and tick and flea free but he wolfs down the last of our anchovy fillets so he’s clearly starving. And he’s a big purrer! I hate to leave him in the layby, we assume he’s been dumped here recently. Poor thing.
Finally we find a supermarket and stuff ourselves silly, we were so hungry. Then we continue, it’s a bit tough today, long uphills and then only short descents. We pass Bacina Lakes which are a frequent tourist destination. They abound with freshwater fish but there are also grey mullets, which made the Lakes their natural habitat after the tunnel drilling. The area is a true promised land for nature-lovers and anglers. We realise my tire is going flat again, a failed puncture repair perhaps.
Finally we’re into Ploce. After that we follow the river Neretva for some time, which is nice easy riding. Along the roadside there are fruit stalls selling local produce. We’ve already tried local pomegranate for lunch that Daz stole from a roadside orchard. We stop at one stall to take a closer look, the produce looks amazing.
We’re tempted but buy nothing but after another half a dozen stalls we stop to investigate the jarred produce. There’s fig marmalade and slivovitch. The stall owner is happy for us to taste everything but Daz tells him we don’t need a sample (I do!!). We have a little barter and walk away with pear slivovitch and fig marmalade. After the river valley we have to climb up and up to Raba.
We have fabulous views over the Neretva Delta. Close to the place where the Neretva merges with the Neretvan channel of the Adriatic sea, the river Neretva forms many armlets and creates a delta of a great area with particularly fertile lands, where a lot of fruit and vegetables are grown.
The river Neretva is one of the longest and beautiful rivers of Croatia. It is particularly pleasant to visit the valley of the Neretva during summer months, when the heat of the shore retreats here, and the guests can relax in the cool of the valley of the Neretva river.
Those who come to the valley of the Neretva are amazed by the very clear drinking water of the river and the amazing natural landscapes along its green banks. The Neretva is a favoured spot for relaxing in natural surroundings, water activities — rowing, swimming — and for walking and cycling.
The valley of the river Neretva, surrounded by mountains, is a unique natural phenomenon, the swampy area of the valley is rich in rare species of flora and fauna, and is an ornithological park with over 400 species of birds. The valley of the Neretva has been declared a national park and is protected by the state. Getting to know the natural riches of the valley of the river Neretva is best done while sailing along the banks in boats or trupicas — local boats made of a single tree trunk. The waters of the Neretva river are rich in fish, and are famous to and loved by connoisseurs — the Neretvan eel, local restaurants offer various fish dishes — “brudet”, “popara”, and other delicacies made of very fresh fish and frogs. (bleugh!!) The valley of the Neretva is called the “valley of tangerines”, the soil of the valley is remarkably fertile and has a unique microclimate. A variety of fruit and vegetable grows here — potatoes, tomatoes, mustard, watermelons, tangerines, pomegranates and oranges. Every year, about 60,000 tonnes of tangerines are harvested in the valley of the Neretva.
Finally (I say finally because Daz filled up the 10L reservoir at the bottom of this long, hard climb and loaded it onto my trike) we see some rough ground off to our left. There’s a fruit stall right next to the road but we find a spot about 80m away to set up camp. Daz is inflating our mattresses when I warn him a man is walking over. I’m expecting the worst but it’s the fruit stall owner with a bag of for us. More Croatian generosity! After dinner Daz repairs my punctured tyre again, he repaired the punctured inner tubes he’s been carrying at lunchtime.
Thursday 20th October
Reba to Neum
Distance: 14.75 km
Average: 10.07 kmh
Top Speed: 41.94 kmh
Total Distance: 9310.22 km
We wake up to rainshowers. What follows is a day of dithering. We know that the forecast was rain today and tomorrow. I suggest staying put but we don’t have much water or food. Finally we head off and after 10km we cross into Bosnia and Herzegovina.
So far it’s only been occasional light rain and we’ve managed to shelter from the really heavy down pours.
Once we’ve crossed the border we’re in the town of Neum. Once again we can’t decide what to do. We stop for coffee and check the forecast again and decide to stay put because the weather looks grim until Saturday. We find a campsite open and we settle in, we’ll probably be here 2 nights. We end up sitting in reception trying to converse with one guy in German and the other in French. It’s tough going so then we plan to shower and head into town. I head off to shower and Daz reckons one of the guys took my parting as an opportunity to snort his coke that had been hidden under a newspaper when we barged in. In the shower we end up kneeling in the shower cubicle in the hope of coaxing out sufficient water pressure. It’s not a huge success. It’s fair to say the facilities here are basic indeed. Thank God we’re the only ones here. In town we find a cafe to sit and read before heading home for bed. During the night the rains are heavy, and for some reason, at 8pm and 6am the local church plays recorded bells at an amazingly loud volume!!
Friday 21st October
We’re going to stay put today; it’s as much about the weather as the hoped for Son dynamo delivery in Dubrovnik; we think it won’t arrive before Monday and we think it’s cheaper to stay here than spend extra days in Dubrovnik.
We have a lie-in, reading and dozing then head into the town to have a look round. Then we sit in a cafe and read, spend time on the internet and generally have a very lazy day. It’s early afternoon when I realise one of the French girls has just walked past. We chat to Marine and Anaïs and plan to meet them in Dubrovnik.
We spend most of the day in the cafe and only return to the campsite in the early evening. The rain forecast for yesterday and today falls during the night!
Saturday 22nd October
Neum to Dubrovnik
Average: 11.62 kmh
Top Speed: 52.42 kmh
Total Distance: 9384.87 km
Today is our anniversary – a year since we left Marlborough on our tandem. We’ve had an amazing year and hopefully the next will be just as good. We head off out of Neum and we haven’t even done 3kms when I call for a coffee break. We’re in a popular viewpoint and there are about 4 coaches parked up. We chat to various people: a couple from Holland, a guy from Wales and one from South Korea who thinks we should definitely cycle through Korea.
We head off and we set a decent pace, a combination of decent winds (on Thursday when we called it a day the head wind was bringing our speed down to about 6kmh) and being rested. We cross the border back into Croatia (Bosnia and Herzegovina is only about 10km wide along the Adriatic coast).
We stop in a layby for lunch and lay everything out to dry. We’re just planning to pack-up when we spot a touring cyclist. He’s from Germany, called Ben and is also heading to Greece. We suggest he meets up with us and the French girls in Dubrovnik.
We stop in Trsteno to admire an incredible plane-tree (Platanus orientalis) in the small square in the center of the village, which is over 500 years old and is a unique specimen of this kind of tree in continental Europe. The trunk is over 5 m wide with a height of 50-60m. This village is also home to Arboretum Trsteno, the oldest renaissance garden in Dalmatia. The exact date of its establishment is not known but it even existed in 1492 when an irrigation aqueduct was constructed
The arboretum Trsteno lies 18km Northwest to Dubrovnik. It developed out of a park surrounding the summer residence of the Gučetić-Gozze family. Family Gozze requested of ship captains to bring back all kind of seeds and plants from their travels. It is the oldest planned Renaissance park in Croatia (according to an inscription from 1502.) In 1948 it was declared a natural rarity and in 1962 registered as a protected natural monument that covers 255 000 square metres. Arboretum Trsteno is also known as a major filming location of the 3rd and 4th season of Game of Thrones. Walk along the garden paths where Olena Tyrell and Varys plotted against Peter Baelish or sit in the lookout next to Olena and Margaery Tyrell to hear Sansa Stark’s story.
We’re only a couple of kilometres from Dubrovnik when we pass a wedding convoy. This is about the 3rd we’ve seen today. Everyone leaves a building (registry office?) and they get into their cars and they wait on the roadside until all the wedding guests are in their cars and in the convoy and then they drive off, sounding horns, waving flags and generally making a lot of noise.
Finally we cycle into Dubrovnik, with its sublime location, overlooking the calm blue waters of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most magnificent walled cities. Now a Unesco world heritage site and Croatia’s most up-market destination, it was once the capital of the wealthy sea-faring Republic of Ragusa (1358-1808).
During its Golden Age in the 16th century, it had one of the largest merchant naval fleets in the world, with consulates in more than 50 foreign ports. Brave sailors, hard-bargaining merchants and shrewd diplomats, the people of Dubrovnik became extremely rich, leading sophisticated lifestyles and valuing refinement and the arts.
We think that the campsite is the cheapest option after checking the internet and cycle up a huge hill only to be told it’s not 17€ for us both as the website led us to believe but 36€. He does offer to reduce it to 30€. We’re appalled, this is the most expensive campsite we’ve ever visited. The receptionist lets us use the WiFi and we find a nearby apartment which is cheaper and doesn’t involve cycling up a huge hill. Fabulous, a real bed and moving pictures (TV). Happy cycling anniversary!
Sunday 23rd October
After a thoroughly fabulous night in a real bed with ensuite bathroom we head into the Old Town of Dubrovnik.
The spectacular Stradun is a place where locals and visitors alike gather day and night to watch the world drift by. Undoubtedly one of Europe’s most picturesque pedestrian thoroughfares, the Stradun boasts many cafés and restaurants and is a good spot to rest weary feet after a day touring Dubrovnik. Measuring 300 meters in length and famous for its white limestone paving, the street dates back to 1468, although many of the surrounding buildings were built in the 17th century after the devastating earthquake of 1667, when most of Dubrovnik was heavily damaged. The Stradun’s unique homes are designed to enable residential living upstairs and business activities on the main level, and are notable for having their main doors and windows under the same arch.
We’re walking this street and realise there’s a food festival event here. There are tables laden with food. We buy one ticket (£5) and proceed to walk up and down stuffing ourselves with various tasty (and not so tasty) morsels.
At 12pm we meet our new cycling friends Marine, Anaïs and Ben (they’re all staying at the same hostel). We walk around town and then eventually head to the city centre for food. It’s great to hear their experiences and their plans for the coming months. At around 3pm we go our separate ways, we may see them again on the road at some point.
We decide we’ve had enough sightseeing and wander back to our apartment.
Monday 24th October
Today we must leave this lovely apartment. At 6am our Son dynamo was in Split. Perhaps it’ll reach Dubrovnik today, otherwise we’ll need another bed for tonight. Our Son dynamo stopped working about 2 days after we took possession of our trikes (1st September) . After various attempts to get it fixed at bike shops, electronics shops and other random places we finally sent it back to Busch and Müller. They found an electrical fault in the EWerk and the cache battery, replaced them at no cost and then posted them to Dubrovnik (they only charged us postage). Busch and Müller have been incredibly helpful. By comparison Vango, even after escalating our complaint, showed no interest in the poor performance of their tent. Their repeated mantra – ‘it’s outside of our warranty period’. I knew about the warranty but wanted their opinion on such a high price tag for a product that failed to perform for only 47 nights. To be fair it had started to fail (broken poles, broken arches, holes is fabric) before this, but at 47 nights I wrote my first complaint. They did offer us a set of replacement poles at 50% retail price. Their customer service matches their product performance – shit! Fortunately our MSR is performing incredibly well although we are still plagued by condensation on occasional nights (not every night – thank goodness). Excellent news our parcel has arrived, sadly it’s in Split, 300km away. Unfortunately B&M mistakenly used the Split address instead of the amended Dubrovnik address. Fxxk Fxxk Fxxk. We toy with a few options, getting a coach or hire car back to Split but B&M agree to recall it and send it to Crete. Result, panic over but just a little bit annoying that we’ve deliberately been wasting time due to this parcel and could actually have been another 100 or so kilometres south of Dubrovnik – it’s time we can’t really afford to waste!!! Then an attempt to pick up our bank cards also fails. This is proving to be a very BAD day!
The old city walls of Dubrovnik are one its best-known features. Built in the 10th century and modified in the 13th and 14th centuries, these formidable walls – as high as six meters and up to six meters thick-provided a solid defense against invaders. Totaling nearly two kilometers in length, Dubrovnik’s city walls make a great spot for a casual stroll and offer numerous excellent views over the Adriatic and inwards over the old city center. Other highlights include its two towers, the Minceta Tower and the Bokar Tower, along with two forts, the Lovrjenac Fort and the Revelin Fort. Access to the walls is through the main entrance on the left of Pile Gate (admission is charged and since we’re not feeling the love we decide to save this pleasure for another day!)