The Bumpy Road Less Travelled

By Stephen | April 15, 2013

We awoke to another perfect day of baby blue skies undisturbed by clouds, temperate temperature, and Croatian hospitality. Our plan was vague, but involved scouring ferry schedules, asking questions at the various ferry offices, getting off Korčula, and heading towards Dubrovnik – possibly via Mljet, Šipan or Orebić on the Peljesač peninsula that lies just across the water from Korčula town.

Korcula Town from the harbor.

Korcula Town from the harbor.

My bike has been making some disturbing sounds, which, considering it has taken me around 800 km since its last tune-up, isn’t that surprising. Cables stretch, derailleurs get knocked, bikes fall over… As I set about attempting to get it running smoothly again, Jane headed out to ask around at ferry offices and pick up a few things for breakfast.

We transferred to the cafe down from our guest house so I could continue tuning and Jane could continue investigating ferry info, as well as do some essential blog updates. We really would love to get them online every day but it just hasn’t been possible.

The bartender at the cafe, in true Croatian style, asked if we might need a hand with my bike, and recommended I go see his friend who tunes up all the rental bikes in town. After a few more minutes of tinkering, I decided to consult the pro. Within minutes he had deduced the problem, tightened my rear derailleur cable and the main issue with my bike resolved. I then made a few quick adjustments to Jane’s bike and got it ready to ride again. We really are learning how to tune our bikes up as we go, and it doesn’t always go smoothly.

Colette and David were heading back to Vela Luka and continuing on with their journey, so we bid them adieu, hoping we’ll see them again at some point on our journey.

This being pre-shoulder season, ferry options are limited, so we only had one choice: return to the mainland via the Peljesac peninsula. We had a couple of hours until the next departure, so did a bit of riding around town, bought groceries for lunch and dinner, and then made our way to the dock. We were joined on the ferry by high school students heading home after class – the ferry being their school bus.

From our port of call, Orebić, we planned to take the coast road, which our routing app was unhappy about. It kept turning us around halfway and sending us back to the main road, despite both Pocket Earth and our paper map showing the coast road as a through road. Despite this minor tic, we found the road easily. It was deserted, smooth, and offered us incredible views of the coastline, the islands and the Adriatic.

Question and Answer

Outside Podobuče we came to a fork in the road, with both roads indicating they were dead ends. This was in the exact location where our routing app had told us we’d have to turn around. Of course, we didn’t want to do that. Luckily, there was a man just coming out of his garage, so Jane asked him if either road went through to the towns we could see in the distance.

Again, this being Croatia, he was friendly and helpful. In very good broken English he explained that the lower road ended in a short distance, but the upper road was theoretically passable. He went on to explain that we’d have to lug our bikes up a short, 30m stone stairway, and then ride them 3km along a “dirty not black” road that was quite rough in places.

He assured us this would be possible, but difficult with our bikes. He knew all this because he had ridden it about a month ago. He even pulled his mountain bike out of the garage to show us. He emphasised that it would be tough but much better than the other option – going back up the long, steep hill we had just merrily come biking down.

We agreed. On our way to the stairs, we had to squeeze by a Lada that was parked in the middle of the road. The men driving it were getting ready to work in the adjoining vineyard. As we went slowly past their car, they asked with some concern “do you know where you go?”. “Sort of,” we replied.

We found the stairs, which were steep enough that we had to lug each bike up as a team. Someone had created mini ramps for each step that were clearly designed to aid rolling bikes up and down the hill.

The stairs. Not so bad.

The stairs. Not so bad.

Still, it was heavy going. When we got to the top, we were at a junction of a bike path and some walking trails, all clearly signed with destinations and distances.

Post-stairs lunch break.

Post-stairs lunch break.

The road beyond was made of broken, angular rocks that were often an inch or more in diameter, quite loose, and tough going. I was glad we had our 2.0″ Schwalbe Mondial tires and not the one inch road tires many cyclists take in a trip like this.

At times we had to get off and push our bikes up when the grade was too steep or the rocks were too big and loose for us to pedal on.

Having been warned about what was in store, we were mentally prepared for the task, but it was physically exhausting work. Remember that our bikes are steel and each loaded with 22 kg of gear.

Home for the Night

As the day wore on, we started looking for camping spots. The road seemed completely unused, so we felt confident we could free camp at a convenient place, and around 6:30pm we decided the time had come. We found a small clearing and set about making dinner, waiting until sunset to pitch our tent. We had planned for pasta, but realised we didn’t have enough water to cook it. So we created a ratatouille with the tomatoes, veggies, greens, and kidney beans we’d bought in the market earlier. We also have our little spice kit with us, so it was a pretty tasty meal.

As the sun set over the Adriatic and the moon and stars came out to light up the night sky, it made the trek all worth while.

We have been on this road for six hours now and not a single vehicle has passed, so we’re confident as we tuck in for the night that we won’t have any problems from people. We may get some inquisitive kunas or other Croatian wildlife coming around to see who has invaded their five acres for the night.  

9 comments

  1. Comment by Michael Moldofsky

    Michael Moldofsky Reply April 17, 2013 at 9:05 am

    you need to be handing out http://www.MyFiveAcres.com stickers to strangers. spread the word…

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen April 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

      We are handing out #myfiveacres moo cards (www.moo.com) to anyone who’ll take them…

  2. Comment by Tom

    Tom Reply April 17, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Well written, great adventure and quite demanding physically. Enjoying your blog from my living room chair with hot coffee at hand.
    Tom

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen April 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Thanks Tom. I too am often enjoying hot coffee but from a REI stool or my bike saddle. Blog post to come soon on the details of how that’s all going.

  3. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly Reply April 16, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Amazing in so many ways!!! Can’t wait to see what’s on the other side of the hill!

  4. Comment by Wendy

    Wendy Reply April 16, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    So fun to read your posts … when I grow up I want to be just like you!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen April 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

      You already are! (just like us that is. never grow up!)

  5. Comment by mauricio

    mauricio Reply April 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Sounds excellent!!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen April 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

      It was actually really fun, and why I like to take the road less travelled – and this one was certainly less travelled (for good reason, but hell this is why we have the 2″ tires!)

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