Les Trois Escargots

A growing family of snails.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Croatia - Part 2

We rode 51 km from Krk Town to Rijeka drinking 6 litres of water along the way. It was baking hot and the huge cone of (fake) Snickers ice cream in Rijeka tasted fantastic. We were now at the very top of Croatia with Dubrovnik at the very bottom and the ferry to Italy, which we would need to take to get to our flight from Rome, somewhere in the middle. We did some planning and took an overnight ferry from Rijeka down to Split.

With a few hours to kill in Split, we bought cherries and bananas at a sprawling local market and left at half nine for the relatively unspoilt island of Vis. There was no camping on the island and we found a room with a 70 year old couple, Anka and Stipe, who spoke no English. In the afternoon Albane slept and I did a 28 km circuit of the island passing small harbours, stunning coves and vineyards. Sardines for dinner.

After a great night's sleep, we left to ride around the island. A long 10 km climb was followed by a swooping, hair-pinned descent to the picture postcard village of Komiza where we ate lunch and swam off the dock. In the late qfternoon, we walked down to a tiny cove on the south coast and swam into the shade of tall cliffs, the cool water calming and refreshing. As we rode back through Vis Town, I found an ice cream shop selling the best yoghurt ice cream that I have ever tasted.

After a very leisurely start to the day and lunch in the shade of Stipe's vines, we rode over to the crescent of Zaglov. Soft white sand and clear shallow water. We swam half a dozen times before rushing back for yoghurt icecream and pork kebabs grilled over hot coals.

We leftVis at 5.30 am and took the ferry to Split where we caught another ferry to the island of Korcula and then another ferry to the deserted island of Lastovo. We rode off the ferry through pine woodland and climbed the length of the island to the town of Lastovo which faced inland, out of sight of pirates. We swam from a tiny quay before riding a hard 6 km over the spine of the island to the only campsite. In the evening, we ate a lobsetr each with tomato spaghetti.

For the next two days, we swam at a variety of bays around the tiny island. There were two restaurants and we ate in both. It was really hot and I lay in the tent sweating all night. The mosquitos meant that we couldn't open the tent door.

We rode the 20 km to the ferry port and swam while we waited for it to arrive. The water was so clear that you could see the numerous sea urchins on the rocks. The water looked too shallow to dive into, but the visibility made depth perception deceptive and it was invariably deep enough. The ferry droped us at Vela Luka on the west end of Korcula island. At four, we rode out of town through olive groves and scrubland to eventually reach the town of Blato where I struggled to push the heavy bike up the steep alleys. A big attack of the shakes was only broken by a bag of salty peanuts. We enjoyed a long downhill to the south coast and pitched the tent in an empty campsite. It was overrun with cats. I hate cats, I think.

After fixing two punctures, we rode along a lovely road just above the sea and swam before it turned inland. Somewhere in the middle of the island, a third spoke snapped on my back wheel and I had to undertake some emergency repairs, taking two spokes from the front wheel to put in the back wheel. Without proper tools (or skill), the trueing of the wheels was always going to be basic. We limped along a fire road before rolling down in Korcula Town, the back wheel thumping rhythmically. In the evening we wandered the pretty walled town with narrow streets and restaurants. Seen from above, the streets looked like the skeleton of a fish.

A lazy day of swimming near Korcula Town before catching the ferry in the evening to Mljet island. We arrived at eight, two of only six people to get off. The rest were going on to Dubrovnik. We rode up a long steep hill for an hour before finding an uneven campsite. It was another very hot night.

We left early and enjoyed beautiful scenery before it got too hot. Woodland clinging to ridges and steep valleys. We reached Polace by ten and found a room overlooking the sea. After lunch, we rode into the national park and swam in two inland saltwater lakes. In the late qfternoon, I shifted my back wheel onto Albane's bike (since she has less weight) together with the back brakes and front shifters. With only a 'cool tool' and no spares, it was a long and difficult job.

Another ride to the lakes and, after lunch, a two hour ride along the island to Sobra where we found a room right on the water's edge. A bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and terrace for £20. We swam off the rocks and then ate succulent tomatos and cream cheese sandwiches for supper.

We took the early ferry to Dubrovnik and, after carrying our bikes up 400 steps to reach the hostal, we settled in the shade of the terrace until the temperature had dropped in later afternoon. We caught the bus into the old town and walked the walls which were stunning before letting ourselves get lost in the streets. We ate grilled squid and then watched a group of dancers and singers from Zagreb performing traditional songs and dances.

Our final stop was Hvar island where we spent one day lounging by the sea and another riding 60 km to visit Hvar Town, trendy capital of Croatia. It was hard, but lovely riding through lavender fields. A huge elctrical storm on the last night bade farewell to Croatia. After a ferry to Italy and a few trains to get from Pescara on the west coast to Rome airport, we would be back in Galicia.


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