We started the day by riding out of the flat basin we’d camped in uphill to the border crossing into Bosnia and Herzegovina. This took most of the morning, we got up to the top of the ridge of hills where the border was a bit after 11.
The border was dead compared to the crossing into Croatia which had cars backed up on both sides. Here, only maybe three or four cars passed through the border while we were there.
On the other side we stopped for some food and revised where we would finish for the day. We found out that there was a big mountain lake a reasonable distance from where we were so we figured might as well head for it. We descended a short way down from the border and then arrived at the shore of another lake.
Following this lake around brought us to a ridge where the flat land around the lake rose up into hills. After climbing over the ridge we rolled down onto another open plain of almost perfectly flat land. Here we stopped for a little while at the town of Tomislavgrad to get out some local currency. We followed a road out of town along the flat. This we rode along for about 20km before starting to climb up into the mountains.
Lake Blidnje was situated up at 1100m so we had a bit of climbing to do to reach it. It was all very gradual though, so not too difficult, just get down to the granny gear and spin it out. The road was pretty good most of the time, but once we started to descended it went from sealed tarmac to loose gravel. It made the riding a bit more challenging, but it was a good sign for us, it meant we were getting out to a remote area.
Just before we arrived at the lake we passed a Shepard herding his flock up the road. He gave as a wave a and a toothless smile as we passed by and then down out to the lake, and what a sight! It wasn’t huge but it stretched out across a flat plateau that almost completely barren and two huge peaks rose up behind it.
There was a sandy shore not far from the road where we set up for the night. Across the road there was a stand of pine trees. We had a bit of time to kill as we had finished up a bit earlier than normal so we gathered some wood and lit out first campfire of the trip later that evening.
The early ferry got us into Split at 9. Finn went off to find a mechanic to fix his bike and got back, good as new, just before noon. We then went out to the post office to see if anything had arrived and, unfortunately, nothing had.
Leaving the post office a bit dejected we rode to nearby Lidl to pick up some food and started out of Split not long after that. Split rose up into mountains almost as soon as we left the coast, so for the first hour of the ride we were climbing back up to about 400 meters above sea level.
Almost as soon as we emerged on the other side of the mountains very thing suddenly became a lot quieter, more dispersed, more rural. We rode along a road that followed the motorway for a bit. This road then turned into a rocky, unsealed surface for almost 5km for a while, which made for some interesting riding.
We turned back onto a bigger road shortly after this though, crossed a big gorge and then followed the river all the way down into the sleepy town of Trilj. Here the land was flat for miles around, ringed by some small hills with a river snaking through the plains. We followed a dirt track out along the river for a while until we found a small grassy bank where we could camp. It was a good nights sleep, the grass made a welcome return after all the rocks we had been laying down on for the night the week before.
Our stay in Split was brief and restorative. We went out the night we arrived (and, of course, met a bunch of other Irish people). The next day we made full use of the room and in the evening went out to the old town – right outside our front door, and to go pick up some stuff from Poste Restante.
We needed some things sent to us, and not having a fixed address for the trip we used the Poste Restante in Split. It worked pretty well, most of the stuff arrived (including replacement tent poles) but one of Finns packages was still on the way.
We had planned to leave Split tomorrow and head out to Havar to cycle on along the length of Crotia, but we decided to pop out to Vis for a day or two and give the last package a chance to arrive.
Next day we took the afternoon ferry to Vis, about a thirty minute journey. We took our bikes and planned to spend the next day cycling around the island. Vis had a very pretty old town right by the shore where visiting boats could tie right up into. It felt sort of old world Mediterranean.
We had a few setbacks on Vis but despite them we really enjoyed our time there. I came down with a cold the night we arrived and spent the next day laying down in the shade. Finn went off on his bike in the afternoon to potter around the Island but blew a tyre out. There was a big rip in the tyre and the key used to unlock the secure skewer was mislaid so there was no way to get the tyre off.
As I said though, despite these small inconveniences our time on Vis was really enjoyable. We left on Saturday morning to get back into Split where we could repair Finns bike and see if the package had arrived.
Back in Split though, it turned out none of the bike shops were open past two (our boat got in at three) and they would be closed all day tomorrow, a Sunday.
So we turned around and marched right back to the port and got a ticket to another island that had been recommended to us: Korčtula.
The ride to Korčula took a bit longer, three hours. It left Split at 6 and got us in at 9. It was dark by the time we arrived so we had a quick poke about the town of Vela Luka where the ferry left us( nice, like a bigger, busier Vis) and then wheeled our bikes off to find somewhere to camp.
The next day we left our bikes locked up in town and went for a hike out along the coast of the bay. There was a narrow walking trail that went out from the town of Vela Luka all the way to the headland and the end of the bay, about a two hour walk.
We spent the afternoon at the headland and then went back into town for dinner. That evening we rolled our bikes out to our same camp spot, an empty construction yard by a football pitch and went to sleep. Next morning we were going to be leaving early, getting the boat at six back to Split
We woke to find that we had pulled off a lot closer to the road than we thought, and the bush that had seemed so big that we sheltered behind was half the size in the light of day. We got dressed quickly as cars whizzed passed us under a thankfully clear sky.
In the morning we followed the road along a beautiful stretch of coast, all rocky bays and inlets. The road wound around the creases in the coast and the clear turquoise Adriatic looked extremely inviting. This continued for fifty-odd kilometres until we cut inland for a short while.
After our brief overland excursion we arrived at the back of another inlet. The last few kilometres to getting back to shore had been a bit difficult as the inlet and the mountains functioned as a funnel for the wind which blew in off the sea and was concentrated on the road we were travelling.
After lunch at the inlet we started on the last leg to Split. It had gotten quite warm in the afternoon and instead of waiting it out like we normally would we pushed on through. There was a big climb out of the inlet that tuckered us out, but from there it was a long descent and then flat almost into Split.
The last few kilometres before Split was on a busy three lane road that oftentimes narrowed to one as road workers were frequent but dispersed. This made the riding, especially in this dusty heat, pretty unenjoyable.
When we finally arrived at the centre of Split, the magnificent ancient site of Diocletian’s Palace we were wrecked. Tired, dusty and sweaty we wheeled our bikes though the narrow streets crowded with tourists trying to find the accommodation Caroline (Finns mum) had booked us.
Well, Caroline had done a great job (Thanks Caroline!) the place was right in the centre of the palace ruins. We got the room key and were greeted with the refreshing blast of an air conditioner and – what a treat – two comfy beds and a shower. After getting clean for the first time in a week we collapsed on the beds for a long nap.
We had most of the day to kill, what with our ferry not leaving until 4.30. We just sort of bummed around, did some admin putting up blog posts, sorting through photos etc.
We knew that we were going to have to cycle into the night once we got off the boat so taking it easy in the morning seemed like a good idea. The ferry ride was going to be long, about 7 hours as it stopped at a lot of smaller islands along the way and wouldn’t get into Zadar until 11.
We boarded the ferry and found somewhere we could lay down for a nap. Maybe halfway through the trip a Croatian guy, another passenger on the ferry came around and asked if we wanted to pass the time playing board games with him and some other passengers he had rounded up. The rest of the trip did, indeed go by much quicker sat around one of the small tables on board playing games with this motley crew of international passenger: Germany, Canada, Ireland and Croatia.
We got into port a bit before 11. I don’t really remember much of the ride, there wasn’t that much that stood out in the dark. We then rode through the night sixty kilometres until 1.30 and then pulled over into a field by the road and fell asleep. It rained for the majority of the ride and through the night as well. It was enjoyable though, riding in the cool of the night. We didn’t get to see much of the view, but I suppose that’s the trade off. We were happy to go for it anyway, knowing that tomorrow night there would be a bed waiting.
Down into Osor in the morning where we got food from a bakery in the small town. It was a nice little place, it was Sunday morning when we rolled in and the square was busy with people milling about after church.
Our plan today was to ride to Mali Lošinj, a town on the island right next to Cres and we get a ferry from there. It was a short ride from Osor along the coast and up over the low land of the island.
We got into Mali Lošinj and got tickets for the ferry, it was leaving at 4:30 so we had a bit of time to look around. Now, we had planned to go hang out by the shore for a bit, have a swim then head out to Lidl to get food for lunch and dinner. A big storm blew in at 2 though – all the restaurants and cafes by the shore rushed to get their stuff indoors.
The storm continued for hours, and in the excitement of it all – or at least in trying to take shelter from it – we sort of lost track of the time. An ill advised last minute rush to the shop to get food for the 7 hour ferry trip after the storm cleared resulted in the boat leaving without us.
Normally this wouldn’t be to bad, just take the boat tomorrow. This time though, we actually had somewhere to be, a timetable to keep. Finn’s mum had booked some nice accommodation in Split and we were supposed to be arriving the day after tomorrow. With the only sailing to the mainland at 4.30 (arriving at 11) the next day we realised the only solution was going to be a night ride tomorrow evening.
We went back into town for the rest of the night, it had gotten busy now the storm had passed over. When it was time to sleep we rode our bikes over to the other, uninhabited side of the coast only 10 minutes from town and camped by the shore.
We started the day rolling down hill into the bay that the ferry would depart from. It was about 5km winding down to the coast and at 2km from the the shore the line of cars for the ferry started. It was bumper to bumper the whole way down but we just rolled past them all, down to the kiosk to pick up our tickets and then onto the ferry.
It was a short journey, the island of Cres is really close the the shore and we were off the boat after 25 min. We waited for all the cars to pass us and then started up the climb on traffic free roads to the top of the island.
It wasn’t until 4:30 that it was cool enough to start up again. We left Cres and started the ride out to Osor, the last town at the southern end of Cres. We rode along through the middle of the island, past rocky fields with sheep and olive tree farms.
The plan was to keep riding until a bit before Osor and camp, however around dinner time we passed a small restaurant on the side of the road cooking pig on a spit. It looked so good we had to stop. It was delicious, and cheap too now that we had left the tourist hotspot of the island behind.
We left the restaurant with full bellies and rode on until just before dark. We pulled off on an access track to a cell tower and the continued a bit behind it and camped in a rocky field overlooking Osor.
.Today we were finally going to get out to the sea after spending the last month crossing over land. The road from our campsite to the Croatia border was hilly but unremarkable, we seemed to be riding up and down the same hill over and over again.
Before to long though we had some excitement: arriving at the Croatian border and our first border crossing with passports and a police officer, not the easy breezy border crossing of Northern Europe where you could enter and exit a country without realising it.
After a mostly downhill ride we turned the last corner and there it was, the Adriatic out below. A bit hard to see through the haze that accompanied the heat, but we were here at the seaside.
We took refuge from the mid afternoon heat in some shade by the shore and, after an hour or so moved on to the next town where we found somewhere less crowded but still…crowded to have a swim.
In the early evening, around four thirty, after it had cooled off for a bit we followed the coast road south. Tomorrow morning we were going to get the ferry over to the island of Cres. The ferry left from Brestova which wasn’t to far away. With our destination a comfortable ride away we cycled as the evening cooled to pleasant temperature and the found a small clearing off the road blocked by bushes to rest for the night.