Today was bookended by a tough start and a tough end, with lots of glorious cycling in the middle.
Stephen had worked on our bikes yesterday to get them fighting fit for a long haul up the Croatian coast. We went out for a test ride, and everything seemed in working order.
Dubrovnik Doesn’t Want Us To Leave
Of course, this morning, while we’re trying to navigate Dubrovnik’s hilly bus and truck-filled streets, I couldn’t shift into low gear. After fiddling around with things on various narrow sidewalks with no luck, we finally found a quieter parking lot where we took care of the problem.
Then we tried to follow the route out of town that our mapping tool had suggested. We should have abandoned that plan right after it tried to route us up a set of stairs. But, since we tend to see our mistakes through to the end, so we also followed it up a short 25% grade, along a back street where we got to see how the real people of Dubrovnik live, and then back down a huge hill.
This is where we abandoned map knowledge and instead used our Spidey senses, combined with the road signs pointing to Split, to get us out of town.
The route out took across this fantastic bridge.
Pretty glad there was no wind today. As soon as we left town, and navigated a traffic jam caused by road work (it seems like the whole country is under construction), we were on the best road we’ve been on the entire trip.
Slow, Gentle Morning
The hills were gentle, and it felt like they were mostly going downwards. The Saturday traffic was slight, so we had the road almost to ourselves. The views were marvellous, of course, and the weather couldn’t be more perfect.
We stopped at the Trsteno Arboretum to take a look at a collection of trees that was started by the Gozze family around 1492. If you have ever visited the Getty Villa, think of this as something like that, but all the different architectural styles you see are actually from those periods, not copied, or ‘purchased’ and shipped across the world. The place has been running ever since, though it was attacked in the war and badly damaged by forest fires a few years ago.
They had all our favourites from LA: palms, agave, yucca, citrus, and pomegranate – plus some more exotic varieties.
The highlight was the aqueduct that was built to irrigate the arboretum in 1492 and is still in use today.
Inside the villa, restoration work had begun, and the walls were stripped in places to the various layers of paint and plaster. Fascinating to see what went before, and also imagine the painstaking work it takes to separate the layers.
Return of the Clunk
We did a quick 15km and then stopped on the waterfront in Slano for a picnic lunch. After lunch, we made a few more adjustments to the bikes.
We should have just left well enough alone. Mine was great, but the clunk Stephen had cured in Dubrovnik came back, and no amount of adjusting would make it go away again.
This was the end of Stephen’s good mood for the day, and I don’t blame him. It is tough to ignore a problem that makes itself heard on every single pedal stroke. And going uphill, you just feel like all your energy is going into making the clunk, instead do getting you up the hill.
Despite this setback, we made it to the border of Bosnia in good time. Yep, it turns out that if you want to ride the coast of Croatia, you also ride the coast of Bosnia, short though it is.
We just stopped long enough in the Bosnian coastal town of Neum for me to have a coughing fit in a crowded parking lot while Stephen bought a few more groceries for dinner.
A Place to Sleep
We’d planned to stop near Neum for the night, but it wasn’t the most attractive place, so we decided to look for a free camp. Sadly, the coast in this area is populous, hilly, rocky, and overgrown. All these things make it hard to find a flat, hidden place for a tent.
Stephen asked one olive farmer if we could put up our tent on his land, but he said no and brusquely said there was camping 2km down the road. Of course, there wasn’t.
We rode an extra 20km or so, vaguely chasing the idea of a campground a little further on which we both knew would be closed or nonexistent when we got there.
Finally, at the top of a 3km climb, we’d had enough. We spotted a little clearing a short way off of a side road and decided to stay. It’s not the most salubrious of sites.
For a start, there are a lot of mosquitos, so the first thing we had to do was coat ourselves in stinky bug spray and light the mosquito coils. There are also signs that other people have stopped here, camped here, and god knows what else here.
Both feeling a little uncomfortable, but out of options, we set about cooking and making camp. As the light dimmed, I started to set up the tent while Stephen cooked. All was going well until I realised I’d dragged the tent through the mosquito coils and burned three small holes in the bottom. I’m going to feel angry at myself for that one for days. But Stephen was totally right when he said “better you than me.”
Now we’re in the tent with birds and frogs chirping on one side, traffic going by on the other, and Stephen snoring next to me. I hope I’ll get a little sleep too, and that there won’t be any more to this camping story to tell you tomorrow. ♥