There”s nothing like the sea air to blow away the cobwebs, not that we had any cobwebs with us, but if we had, we could have been sure they’d be blown away. So, with this thought very much at the forefront of our minds we headed out from Postojna in Slovenia down towards Opatija on the Croatian coast. The Dutch, Germans, Italians, French and Slovenians thought they’d come along too. So, off we all went in convoy to the seaside.
The last time I visited Croatia it was called Yugoslavia and they turned me away from the border because they said I didn’t have enough money. Funny how the old memories come back, so I was relieved when this time they let me in. Once in Croatia we rolled down an almighty hill right to the water’s edge and stopped to soak in the atmosphere of the coast. Opatija is definitely not Brighton, though it does have a bit of Eastbourne about it. But, the sun was shining and the campsite was round the corner. Great pitch right next to the water’s edge and the view back over the town, the mountains and islands was the best yet.
3am and we woke up to thunder, lightening and torrential rain. Both porches of the tent had 2 inches of water in them. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. We came south for the sun, not more rain. By morning, the ground had soaked up most of the rain and we packed up the tent to explore the coastline.
We set off south down the coastroad, but as it turned out, we made three mistakes; mistake number 1 was heading south along the coastroad.. Mistake number 2 was heading south along the coastroad on a bicycle. And mistake number 3 was not realising that 1 and 2 had been mistakes. Before we knew it, we were circling Bakar bay freewheeling in the rain down a 1 in 8 hill with a sheer drop to our right and trucks, buses and every European who owned a campervan blasting past to our left. What I’ve now realised with tandems is that the brakes don’t stop you as fast they would on a normal bike on a descent and I was squeezing on the levers so hard and consistently that my fingers were numb. Thankfully we reached the water’s edge still intact, but still had to climb up the other side. We pedalled up that hill at over 11mph, which isn’t bad going on a fully loaded tandem. Adrenalin was the fuel and terror filled in when the adrenalin ran low. Then, just as I thought we were safe, a truck driven by one of the more enlightened of the Croatian community came up behind us blasting his horn. When I say behind us, what I mean is he was sitting right on the back wheel of the bike. From our perspective, there was nowhere to go. After what seemed like far too long, there was a gap in the oncoming traffic and the truck pulled round us, but pulled in immediately once his front end had passed which meant his back end was going to hit the bike. I braked and the back end passed just to our left, no more than inches from where we stood.
We were both pretty shaken up by the chap’s little joke, so decided that the coastroad had been a mistake and headed off to Krk, one of the islands, instead.
Krk turned out to be a busy island, not that much quieter than the coastroad. We took refuge in a campsite and settled in for another night of rain which carried on until the afternoon of the following day. We’d had time to absorb the situation and decided that Croatia probably wasn’t the best place for us to be cycling, so it would probably be better if we left. With this in mind, we headed for the ferry over to Cres, another of the islands, which in turn would take us to a ferry to the mainland.
Cres is a very beautiful island. More importantly for us, it’s a beautiful island with very little traffic. We climbed up from the coast into the hills on 10% gradients, granny gear cruising all the way. Sheep came into the road to eat the grass on the verges and trees climbed up the hills to our right. Down in the water we looked out at the other islands and tiny white boats in the distance The sky here seems huge, layers of cloud in every shade of grey, hang down on the mountain peaks. We climbed and climbed and stopped to stare at the evening. Then we dropped and dropped into the village of Cres and the campsite where we spent 2 nights. The first drops of rain started as we put up the tent and before long it poured. I can’t remember if it rained all night, but probably. The next day was no different, so we watched the football, surfed the web and ate dinner in a restaurant, just like normal holidaymakers do.
We climbed out of Cres and pedalled off towards the ferry port. Another huge climb and then we stopped and looked down into a small aquamarine coloured bay where Janyis thought she saw dolphins. This time we had a blue sky, but the clouds still hung down on the peaks. Cres was everything I didn’t know I’d hoped for on this tour. We did too few miles there before we left again.
Back on the mainland, we decided to head north back to Opatija. The road was quiet as we climbed out of our third port back into the hills. Tiny villages veered off from the main road, hidden in the hills or in bays as the road ran along the side of the hills. We arrived back at our original campsite in Opatija and I looked at the map, wondering what the islands south of Cres are like to cycle. Croatia is the only country I’ve visited on this tour that I was sad to leave. A bit more research beforehand might have opened up this country to us and allowed us to see it in a far safer way.
Thanks for dropping by.