Today we rode from Makarska, up the coast and around the outskirts of Split on our way to Trogir, a UNESCO city where we had heard there was an excellent (and open) campground.
It was a long day. Ninety kilometres in total. Phew. It gives us a new appreciation for the people who ride a century a day (that’s 100 miles to you). How on earth they do it I am not sure. I guess the drive to ride around the world faster than the last guy can put a lot of wind in your sails.
The Weather Report
Today was a great ride; Jane said it was her best yet. The weather forecast was for more rain, lightning and unpleasantness, but fortunately I think the Croatians have hired Italian meteorologists, for just like in Italy they were dead wrong.
By the 22 km mark the sun was out and we had stripped off our extra layers. The ride began with two small hills, and the rest of the ride to Split was all coastline road: some ups and downs, some twists and turns (or surpentina in Croatian), but overall a nice gradual descent towards the outskirts of Split which had us flying along in high gears most of the way.
We couldn’t believe how quickly the first 30 km, then 60 km, passed by. By 12:30 we were at the edge of Split, so we had a quick lunch break on the docks of Podstrana.
Afterwards, we plugged in the Bad Elf GPS and followed our planned route around the outer edge of town.
Life Is Life
The great thing about a route designed to avoid the centre of a city is that it takes you through the real town. We rode through parts of Split most tourists never see. This is one of things I love most about bicycle touring: we really see where we are. And where we are is just like anywhere. People are picking their children up from school, tending their gardens, coming and going from work, hanging the laundry, and living regular lives.
Outer Split was an incredible mix of houses, apartments, gardens that were being micro-farmed, olive groves, and greenhouses filled with flowers ready for market.
From the city dump (yes) to the east, all the way across the top of the town to the harbour on the west, we were on an empty road that took us through local neighbourhood housing, past olive groves, around the garbage truck parking lot, and underneath a Roman aqueduct (Diocletian, if you’re wondering). Two arches of the aqueduct made up two lanes of the road, through which the trucks rolling by barely fit.
I saw a man tending his garden, which was literally his entire front yard, right next to the supermarket. Most local markets only sell seasonal local produce – and much of it comes from small plot gardens like his. To find a tomato at this time of year you generally have to go to a supermarket.
I’ve been amazed by how much land is used for farming in Croatia. Every extra square metre of land seems to hold a small vegetable patch or a mini vineyard. Many people’s entire yard (front, back, and side) is taken up by their beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, asparagus, and mangold.
We have only once seen large-scale farms, and that was in a delta irrigated by local mountain streams via numerous canals that had been dug into the terrain – a far cry from the Californian Central Valley, where the farmers complain that the government isn’t shipping them enough water.
The Last 15 km Are Always the Worst
The other side of Split led us along the industrial side of the port. We rode past the oil and gas repositories, a cement factory or two, a giant Bauhaus store (Croatia’s Home Depot), and an abandoned site that was once AdriaChem, which seemed like the perfect hideout for a super-villan.
The promised rain finally appeared along this part of the ride, but only lasted for 20 minutes. It cleared as we got closer to Trogir and we were dry again by the time we got to town.
We rolled through town towards our campground around 3:30 pm, and it was packed with cruise shippers who were bussed in for the day from Split. We also experienced the worst driving we’ve seen since we left LA, with cars pulling around us then parking right in our way, turning as though we weren’t even there, and one that even tried to back up right into me.
After setting up our waterside camp, we cycled the few kilometres back into. After a look around the old city, we settled in for dinner.
The cruise-shippers had been shipped back to their ships and we were the only diners at the restaurant we picked, which was, we assume, packed for lunch mere hours earlier. It was nice to not be on a cruise ship event co-ordinator’s schedule as we ate a leisurely meal and pedalled back to camp.
Soundtrack: My new, forthcoming coffee themed playlist | Liam Finn, FOMO | Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot | William The Contractor, William The Contractor l Big Sugar, Hemi-Vision ♥