Our little camping spot last night turned out to be pretty perfect in terms of solitude. Not a single car went along the rocky track we’d peddled that day, and despite some pretty heavy winds in the night, we spent the night snug in our sleeping bags.
I guess the complete deserted-ness of the road should have been a clue.
There and Back Again
We set off early, with confidence, continuing up the steep hill on which we’d slept. One switchback later, the road turned and headed in completely the wrong direction. If you tilted your head one way, it looked as though it might switch back into the right direction, if you tilted your head the other way, not so much.
We had clearly seen a road in the distance going the correct way last night, so we turned back, searching for a missed corner. We found one and took it, alternating between pushing our bikes and riding over the large loose stones. About 500m on, we discovered this road was just a dead end.
We returned to the “main” road and tried another fork going off in the general desired direction. This one looked a little more kempt and much more promising. Stephen examined Google Earth, Pocket Earth, and the surrounding hillsides and was convinced that this was the right way.
I still suspected the original road was the right one, and that it would switch back when we climbed it.
We followed Stephen’s track for a bad kilometre. It’s hard to describe the pain and discomfort caused by pushing a full loaded bike over loose, sharp stones at the edge of a treacherous hillside. My arms and legs were screaming, the shoulder that has been bugging me was sending sharp pains up my neck, and my bike kept slipping out sideways while my feet skidded on the ground.
Of course, Stephen seemed to be perfectly happy with these circumstances, as if it was no more effort than rolling across a lovely paved road.
Finally, we came to a fork. We left our bikes while Stephen went up and I went down. We both returned with bad news. Dead ends.
Once again we consulted with several high tech devices, all of which were just plain useless. After much discussion, we chose the route that would take us past the men we could see in the distance, working in a vineyard. When Google fails, people are generally reliable. The only bad news about this route is that it was down the several huge switchbacks we’d climbed the night before. Sigh.
We rode / walked / rattled our way along the track to the men in the fields who confirmed that we’d finally found the right road!
Now water was our only concern. Thankfully, after a few kilometres more of hard work in the sun, we came to a tunnel which was on our map, and signified a town on the other side.
Civilization Never Looked So Good
A small, welcoming wine and olive oil shop awaited us. We were served snacks of dried orange peel covered in sugar, sweet almonds, and bread dipped in local olive oil as we tasted a couple of the wines made there. The vineyard is run by a woman (who looked a little younger than us) and her husband. They do everything themselves, from the farming, to the wine-making, to the selling. They are also raising three small kids and managing a summer house that they rent to tourists. Talk about hard work.
The wine is Boris Violić – Matuško if you’re ever in the area.
The proprietress showed us the kegs where they store the wine and the basket press where they process the grapes.
We also saw on the map the plot of land that they own. We’d just ridden through their area, so were more than happy to buy a bottle of their “expensive” wine, which cost about $15. We only wish we’d been able to carry a few bottles of their local brandy and olive oil as well.
The woman suggested we come back with our car to get more and we laughed, giving her our card and explaining about our trip.
After that, we stuck to the highway, having had enough adventure for one day. Still, the hills felt steeper and higher after the start we’d had. We arrived at the Mljet Island ferry, still not decided as to whether we should go across, but since the timing worked out, we are now en route, with no idea as to what will be open (if anything) or where we’ll sleep tonight.
Our hope is that we can continue on from Mljet to Sipan or Dubrovnik tomorrow, but I suspect we’ll be coming back on the same ferry and making our way through pedal power. ♥