.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.
We left from our little spot under the bridge about nine the next morning. We rode for a short time along farmland and then started to climb uphill in a gorge. The road seemed to cling to the rock face while the river flowed by at pace beside us.
At the top we passed a whole bunch of cyclists out for a morning ride that had turned into a morning coffee. We gave them a wave and then started the decent down the other side. At the bottom we were once again in open plains fringed by hills. Stopping for some photos allowed the cyclists we had seen at the top to zip by us and pedal off into the distance.
I don’t know if it was the tailwind, or terrain or if we’ve just gotten fitter or something but we made it to what was meant to be our lunch spot by 11:30. Pleasantly surprised and quite pleased with ourselves we decided to have a long lunch.
Back on the road after lunch we started to notice how the terrain had changed from Alpine plains to Mediterranean brush. Then road ran up rocky hills and through small hamlets until we were descending all the way down into the town of Illirska Bastrica.
From Illirska Bastrica it was supposed to be a short ride down to a lake where had planned to camp. As it turned out, the road we were going to take to get to the lake was closed. We wound up cycling around a bit a aimlessly for a while, trying to find an alternative route. At one point we were cycling across a dirt track though farms and orchards. This was not the way we were meant to go.
But, following our nose paid off in the end and after less than an hour of wandering we found a sign by the side of the road pointing to a destination where you could fish. Surely this was the lake!
It was, or at least it was the body of water we had been searching for, it turned out it was a reservoir. Still, we had reached the end of our day and found a spot by the lake to set up. There were a few other groups, mostly old and young guys fishing at the shore.
We sauntered (if you can saunter on a bike) out of the campsite at about 11. We had planned the rest of our route through Slovenia the night before, and to give ourselves a bit more time in the country, rather than just race through it, had decided to do a series of shorter distances. So we had a bit of time.
Leaving Bled and getting on the right road out of town without getting on the motorway ended up being quite difficult. It took about half an hour before we were confident that we were going the right way. It was a little frustrating, especially in the heat of the day.
Once we got going though the ride was great. Down along the river and then up through small old Slovenian towns. As the day wore on and the weather got a bit cooler, and we turned away from Ljubljana so the roads became quieter the ride was more and more enjoyable.
We followed a river as it cut through hills covered with trees and the occasional farm or ski run. In the early evening we arrived at Žiri, our destination. It was nice to get away from the built up Bled into more rural Slovenia, a side of the country neither of us had seen really. Turns out, it’s really pretty.
We filled up our water in town and then left to find somewhere to camp. We found a spot a bit outside town, under the bridge by the water, a good spot at the end of a nice day.
This was the last day in Austria, we would be entering Slovenia but one more pass stood in the way. Despite not spending that much time in the country, we both agreed that Austria had held some of the best days of riding we had done so far. The scenery was always amazing and the climbs, even though they were tough, we really rewarding. That said, it was going to be nice to get down out of the mountains for a bit and have some days without big climbs.
The lake that morning was covered in a thin layer of mist as we left, a bit earlier than usual. We rode out along quiet Alpine back roads at first, up in the hills, before descending down into a valley an joining up with a main road.
Every descent we had to make was a bit disheartening, we knew there was one more pass to cross before we got into Slovenia. We passed through our last Austrian city of Klagenfurt, stopping for some breakfast out of an Aldi and then started out towards the pass and the border with Slovenia.
One long, curving descent into a wide river valley later and we were at the foot of the Lobl Pass which would climb, according to our map, up to 700 m, then descend, then kick up again to 1300m. There also seemed to be a tunnel near the peak, hopefully we could use it.
This final pass ended up being the hardest of the Alsp. It was very hot and the route was steep. It started with a steep initial climb, as most passes we had crossed had, but then kept going steep as it started up to 700m. We then descended for a bit before climbing again and then more steep climbing and 2 hours after we started we reached the tunnel.
With some relief we saw we could ride through it on the footpath and the cool, dark downhill of the tunnel was so refreshing. We crossed the border in the tunnel, it had taken some work but we crossed into Slovenia.
From the border to Bled wasn’t far, maybe about 40km. We descended and then rode along a small road that skirted the mountain, rising and falling, and then one last downhill all the way (almost) into Bled. The changes from Slovenia into Austria wasn’t that noticeable at first.
Having both been to Lake Bled before we weren’t blown away by the place. It is very nice of course but it was a bit strange for both up of us to be somewhere familiar after over everything be new and exciting almost every day.
We went into the Bled campsite. It was packed, every camper van and caravan spot was full but they could still squeeze in backpackers and cyclists. We found a nice enough spot and lay all our stuff down, and then lay down ourselves for a well deserved day off.