Croats may seem a little surly at first, we don’t immediately get a smile or a hello back but once you connect and see a smile, it’s a floured smile. An intense smile in the eyes and from ear to ear.
Croatia demands a lot from us. It’s though. The wind can be strong here and we generally have headwinds. The roads are often unpaved with gravel and large boulders. We have our first rainy days. Once we got stuck in the mud and luckily we were able to find a garden hose somewhere to spray all the mud from our bikes. We had trouble finding the right place to sleep. It is often too steep, so densely wooded that you can’t even take a step and there are many signs with no camping with 112 underneath.
But the kindness of the Croats makes up for so much. They make us feel more comfortable here. Except when they’re in the car 😉 because they drive like crazy here and don’t keep their distance.
On an evening when we expected a heavy rainy night, we chose the first place we found to set up the tent as quickly as possible while it was still dry. Q had already made up the tent and beds and I had already prepared a pan of food that was cooking when two men stopped in their car on the lawn in front of us. We can’t sleep there because they’re going to hunt here tonight. But they call their neighbors for us to pick us up. They have a home stay with space for our tent under a shelter, a hot shower and a lot of animals on their land. We took a rest day here to fix some problems with our bikes and enjoy the tranquility.
We have met so many lovely people. We slept in a winery in the cellar where we enjoyed a delicious dinner and breakfast with the best wine.. yes, we also drank wine at breakfast! All the food was from friends in the area. The olive oil, the pickled paprika, the pickled smoked boar bacon. We got a delicious potato that was cooked under the ashes in the wood stove. They wouldn’t let us sleep outside because a storm was about to blow over. And oh how glad we were to be inside.
We slept in a hostel in between because we really didn’t know where to sleep. It was late and we were cycling on a busy road with cliffs on both sides. We were glad we found something that was open.
It’s sunny again and we’re going up. The climbing is sometimes tough and the wind is icy cold. The nights are getting colder but the views are beautiful and we cycle on quiet, well-maintained roads. We are enjoying the scenery and the people who seem to be more open inland. Inland we meet a new problem… stray guard dogs without a fence or chain. We are increasingly being chased by aggressively barking and growling dogs. Every now and then they are suddenly next to you. We haven’t found the best way to deal with this yet. Cycle away quickly, cycle slowly, stop… Pretend they are not there. They don’t stop and our heartbeat is in our throats.
We have a tough day behind us with a lot of climbing and descending on a busy road with a lot of heavy traffic. We do shopping late in the day. Fortunately we found a store because we are almost out of food. After the shopping we continue cycling through populated areas. We see two people on a piece of land talking to each other and decide to ask if we can set up our tent there. The woman speaks English and it turns out to be her land. Of course we can set up our tent here! That evening we are completely pampered with delicious freshly cooked food, coffee and fruit. She gives us fruit and self-smoked boar game for the road, how kind!
The next day we cycle late in the day. We feel recharged and enjoy the environment. We cycle along beautiful water sources where we can fill our bottles with delicious water. We pass through a beautiful wooded area. The day flies by and we arrive at a river with the mountains with white peaks in the background. We turn into a small road and come across a hiker’s hut. The first one we come across here in Croatia. There is a group of men having a barbecue and drinking beer. They invite us. We drink a beer and get something to eat. We chat and more friends come. It’s super fun! They leave before the sun goes down. They leave a fire which we enjoy for a while and sleep on the first floor of the hut.
This morning we enjoyed a coffee and our breakfast with beautiful views and the birds chirping around us. Did we get some water from the river to wash our clothes. And we were able to start early again without having to put up our tent.
We take a long break to let the clothes dry in the sun and then continue cycling. We cycle through areas that are deserted. Many houses and buildings that are about to collapse, signs with ‘watch out, mine fields’ and the occasional occupied house.
We ask an man who is working in his garden if we can tap water here. He is interested in what we are doing and where we are coming from. We try to communicate with hands and feet because he only speaks Croatian. The moment we want to cycle away with filled water bottles, he tells us to wait. He runs away and comes back with two cold beers. This is the start of another very beautiful evening. We are invited to stay the night. This time we would like to give something back. We offer to cook tonight. There is still an errand to make and we make a well-filled vegetable soup, make a salad (which he thinks is a bit crazy, he is not used to our way of making salad) bake his homemade sausages from wild boar and deer bread. Alcohol is drunk all night long.
After a bad night because of the alcohol we wake up in a bed with a roof over our heads and we can take a shower. We eat eggs, homemade yogurt and homemade plum marmalade for breakfast and say goodbye.
Today we cycle more towards the coast. We have to cross the mountain range for that. A steep climb followed by a terrifying descent with strong gusts of wind. The kilometers fly by. We really have a moment of happiness on top of the mountain.
Now another night camping in the wild. Finally time to write a blog again! We are nice and warm in our sleeping bag and we are exhausted from this big day. good night!