The last rest day. Local haircut, fortune telling and a hot bus ride through the cold mountain landscape. Tomorrow back on the bike towards Dubrovnik.

Muški frizer

Muški frizer

It has been raining now since we left Mostar. Ideal indoor weather, and ideal for getting a haircut. While I was waiting for James to have his hair cut, I did as the locals, and browsed through the available reading material.

Browsing the reading material at the barber

Browsing the reading material at the barber

We then had our coffee residues read to deduce our fortunes. I have a mountainous road ahead with obstacles that I will overcome. James has something to do with sheep.

Fortune telling

Fortune telling

It has been good having a break from cycling, but, I feel ready to jump back on the bike and cycle up some hills. The weather is clearing, and I think we will be cycling in the sun tomorrow. Yay!!

Day 41. 0km. Banja Luka

Posted: October 24, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , ,

Alcohol, food, markets, alcohol, food, Banja Lukan hospitality, alcohol and food. A great mix to spend a rest day and to catch up with a friend. Banja Luka.

image

Our day revolved around food and drink. We experienced wonderful Banja Lukan hospitality and cuisine at Aleksandra’s parent’s place. Nibbles followed by beautiful home-made Djuveč. Other culinary items during the day out on the town were various cakes and savoury items, pies, and alcohol. We considered at times sitting in the non-smoking cubicle, but, decided to sacrifice our clothes, hair, and an early death for the more pleasant surroundings. At the end of the day I couldn’t eat anything else, and feel I need to cycle over lots of mountain passes to repent my sins.

image

image

Wash day has always been exciting. What will I wear? With a masterly stroke of genius, I only packed one pair of pants when I left. Up until now, I have worn cycling shorts, borrowed shorts with a belt to stop them falling down my legs, sports pants and various other items during the washing process. Unfortunately being naked is not an option, and it is too cold for that anyway. Today pants were on the shopping list. Some options were investigated, but, in the end, the purchases were restricted to food items.

image

image

image


Today – the start of our rest days – the weather changed. Our cycling plans may have to as well. Looking out of the window of the bus on the way to Banja Luka, I see snow. Visiting my good friend Aleksandra in Banja Luka.

Snow in the Bosnian mountains

Snow in the Bosnian mountains

Drahtesel is parked in the garage in Mostar. A rest day or three mean I turn into a sloth. Sleep, internet, coffee with the hotel manager. The stories he tells of the war, how friends became enemies overnight, how everything was destroyed, it is so sad. As the rain pours down outside, we hear of the continuing ills of a nation trying to find it’s way forward. People rebuilding their lives while frustration and aggression, remembering the past, fester in the background.

Rain in Mostar

Rain in Mostar

The weather is grey, and the rain turns to snow as the bus winds it’s way round and round and up and up into the mountains in Bosnia. It is a beautiful landscape with deep valleys, beautiful gorges and little villages. We pass houses with ‘Warning, land mines’ signs just metres from the front door. A map of the mined areas (http://www.bosna.unas.cz/images/mapamin.jpg), sent by Aron, sends a shiver down my spine. It happened here, not long ago, and the legacy remains.

Snow in the Bosnian mountains

Snow in the Bosnian mountains

It’s great to see Aleksandra again – a friend and colleague from Philips, and to visit her home town. We will have a better chance to see Banja Luka in the day time tomorrow.

Me, James and Aleksandra

Me, James and Aleksandra

Day 39. 78km. Ploče – Mostar

Posted: October 21, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Isabella, persimmons and the search for the Snoopy snack bar. My first impressions of Bosnia – the country of happy, laid back people.

Buying persimmons in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Buying persimmons in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia always sounded adventurous – outside of the known, and into an unknown turbulent country on my doorstep. Leaving the Croatian coast – just 20km inland, and the feel of the place changed. This was no longer the main tourist drag, and it felt authentic and alive.

Bosnia is near

Bosnia is near

The border

The border

A stop on the side of the road to buy some persimmons introduced us to some lovely lovely people. A young girl, Isabella, was so very excited that we had stopped to buy some persimmons from her grandfather’s garden. She took some photos with us and sent them immediately to her friends. And, when we complimented her on her good english, she danced around in joy.

Me, Isabella and her grandfather

Me, Isabella and her grandfather

She loves her town, her country, and we had to taste the best kebabs in all of Bosnia Herzogevina in the next village – in the Snoopy Snack bar. Well, we had to try that. We left the (only vaguely) beaten track to find the snack bar – the source of nourishment of all the school kids from miles around.

The Snoopy Snack Bar

The Snoopy Snack Bar

Our points of contact with lovely, warm hearted people, Isabella and her grandparents, the guy serving us at Snoopy, and our hotel owner in Mostar, were separated by sprints along a busy main road plied by cars and trucks – all travelling fast, coughing out fumes, and creating a lot of noise pollution.

Mostar is a beautiful and eery place. Just opposite our hotel, the building is pocked with bullet holes from the war, just a decade ago. It is sad that such hatred and anger can ruin the lives and everything for the people here. Walking down the street in the old town, lit by yellow lights in the dark of the evening, we heard a mosque call for prayer, and saw 3 or 4 mosques lit up. On the top of the hill, high up, was a solitary cross, standing there silence in the distance. On the bridge was written ‘Do not forget, 1993′.

Mostar

Mostar

Mostar

Mostar

Aleksandra, my friend that we are visiting tomorrow in Banja Luka, advised that we should eat meat – ‘that is what they eat here’. Well, we did. It was massive. The cat (one of the many) was also interested.

Me and the cat

Me and the cat

Then back to our chaotic abode. Nourished and content.

Chaos

Chaos

Day 38. 76km. Jelsa – Ploče

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Peanut butter and salami on dark German bread, watching our tents dry on the traffic barriers while waiting for the ferry. We were quite the attraction for the Taiwanese tourists that descended from their coach.
AND, I used my universal sink plug. Yay!

image

The sunrise this morning was orgasmic. We had a panoramic view over the water with the mountains of neighbouring islands silhouetted on the horizon. I just stood there in silence, listening to the water lap on the rocks, and watching the birds traverse overhead.

image

image

We (Julia, James and I) traversed Hvar island – a long finger pointing back towards the mainland. A spectacular island and an amazing coastline towards Ploče.

image

image

image

It started getting dark and Julia pushed on to catch the ferry to Korčula Island. James and me now find ourselves camping in front of a lovely lake in someone’s private back yard with 2 French cyclists. James is the master Chef. Together we made a new concoction from things that we had. It involved pasta, packet mux (he’s from New Zealand), apples, ginger, salami, together with a tossed salad.

Tomorrow on to Mostar.


As I rolled down the hill I saw him waving. This meeting has been weeks in coming. I stopped the bike, took off my safari hat (which looks like a cycling helmet), and exclaimed: “James Lambie, I presume!”

James is a bit of a slacker. This hill wasn't even 7%.

James is a bit of a slacker. This hill wasn’t even 7%.

From solo cycling to 3 cyclists and a dog, cycling on a spectacular island in the beautiful sun. Well, cycling was done a little bit. Fixing a flat tyre, lounging in a cafe in Hvar and chatting to some Taiwanese people. Some late selection of our wild camping spot resulted in another spectacular location. Me happy!

Sunset from our wild camping spot

Sunset from our wild camping spot

James’ story is a bit like mine. Been living in Europe (for him the UK) for years, and has decided to return home (for him NZ) by bike. Julia, from Albania, is cycling from Italy where she lives, to Greece, with her dog Chappi. Drahtesel is a featherweight compared to her beast. Julia lugs her fully loaded bike with a dog trailer up the hills, zig-zagging up to the top. We are the group of 3.

The group of 3. Matthew, James and Julia.

The group of 3. Matthew, James and Julia.

Rather than heading to the ferry at the end of the island, we cycled to Hvar town up a spectacular mountain road and back along another spectacular road. It is so nice to share these amazing places with kindred spirits. Passing around a bend, and hearing a gasp before I can gasp. Everyone stopping for photos in the same place. Sharing the impressions over dinner. And witty humour in a beautiful New Zealand accent. :-) Didn’t see any sheep today.

image

image

image

image

image


Someone switched on the colour switch – like when Dorothy clicked her red shoes in the Wizard of Oz. The water is turquoise and warm, the villages are beautiful nestled in little coves, and lonely islands dot the coastline. Cycling the coast road to Split is like heaven on earth.

My 2999km from Eindhoven swim.

My 2999km from Eindhoven swim.

The coastal road from Šibenik quickly lost its traffic. It was sunny, the road was flat, following the coast, and the light was beautiful. Every bend revealed a new bay or village. I laughed with joy over and over. I am really doing this! Yes!!!

The Dalmation Coast

The Dalmation Coast

The Dalmation Coast

The Dalmation Coast

I found an ideal little place for a swim at the 2999km mark from Eindhoven. The water was so clear, and the flying fish were active.

My little swim

My little swim

3000km from Eindhoven

3000km from Eindhoven

I am sitting in a cute little square in Split, in the middle of the beautiful old town. Another labyrinth of tiny alley ways and squares. Later this evening I’m taking the ferry to Hvar island, where I will be meeting up with James Lambie. We will cycle this beautiful (and hilly) island together, with an Albanian cyclist who is with him. Looking forward to it!

Split

Split

Split

Split

Sunset in Split

Sunset in Split