We ate bread, mustard, cucumber, cheese, and cured meat as we watched the rusty an old white Mercedes pull up next to the basketball court where we were sitting. We continued sipping our white wine as we watched a man get out and disappear in the bushes. We heard livestock bells ringing. Within a few minutes, the man returned out of the woods following his two cows. He got into his car and continued to herd them down the street, back into town, applying liberal use of the car horn. The man had glanced at us when he first pulled up but I thought nothing of it. We planned to sleep right here, next to the basketball court and soccer field outside of a small town.
About 30 minutes later the car returned, this time with a passenger, and the car drove out onto the basketball court and parked next to us. The passenger got out and started talking to us in a langue we did not understand. Nic got up and tried to communicate back with some English and some Ukrainian. We couldn’t tell when he was saying. He wasn’t over aggressive and seemed to just be trying to communicate his point. He confirmed that we spoke english before getting back in the car as they departing.
I gathered two things from the encounter. The first was that there was a problem, that word sounds familiar enough. whether or not he thought we had a problem that needed fixing, or we were the problem was unclear. The second thing I understood was “police”, something to do with the police. So there we were, still snacking and drinking wine, confused as to what had just happened. We finished eating and pushed our bikes to set up the tents in the soft grass behind the court.
Just as we slipped into the tents I hear Nic say, “There is a flashing blue light over there.” Sure enough, as I look out my tent door I can see a flashing light coming down the street. I turn off my music and watch as it pulls into the basketball court and drive away slowly. We are obscured from view behind some bushes and a limestone wall. We are not hiding, this is just a nice place to sleep. Ten minutes later another car slow-rolls the road. Not much to do but try and sleep. I read some and eventually fall asleep.
I am awakened by a bright light shinning through my open tent door and someone saying “police”. They walk to Nic and give him a similar treatment. Nic talks to them as I pull on my shorts and a jacket. The two men Mercedes-men have returned with an older police officer and a local 18 year old kid. Ante is his name and he is here to translate. He almost immediately tells Nic that we are not in trouble, but this is not normal and so someone called the police. Safe to say we know who that was.
Over the next 30 minutes the police officer takes down mine and Nic’s information including our occupations, and parents first names. The original Mercedes cow-wrangler stays off in the shadows the whole time, odd enough. Perhaps he is embarrassed for calling the cops on two dirty dude on mountain bikes. We talk and joke with the other three.
It becomes clear that they are worried for us. It is too cold to sleep here (mid 50s), and there were once wolves that came out of the mountains to town, and there is no light where you are camped, and theres a perfectly nice church over there you can go sleep by… We tell them, no it’s alright, we like to sleep outside, and this is plenty warm. We shake hands as our Bosnian greeting party departs.
Nic and I return to the tents laughing at what has just taken place and drink our last two beers that we were saving for the next day. And so ended our first night in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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Since my last post we continued to dodge rain and thunder. We made our way south through Croatia, eventually reaching the end of the Adriatic Crest Route in Split.
We slowed down around Split, spending a couple days in the city to recharge and get some laundry done. Then we headed towards Mostar on a route we had concocted with the help of Komoot. Komoot is a piece of German software that helps to create travel routes using a large database of roads, trails, highways, etc. We tell it we are mountain biking and want to go from A to B. Check out the route, move a couple points, follow the magenta line on the GPS.
So far Komoot has been doing us pretty good. Since entering Bosnia, there have been a couple of overgrown sections that we went around, but the routing in general has been very enjoyable, keeping us off of pavement and big roads where possible.
We are holed up for an afternoon in Mostar. We decided to grab a room as we were gearing up for a 5,000 foot climb out of the city and noted that the weather was calling for 38mm of rain in the afternoon. That’s a lot of rain to be climbing a big mountain. Checking out Mostar is a nice byproduct of that decision.
If you want some more eye candy and insightful writing head over to Nic’s site at https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/.
As Nic and I started into Poland, the weather started to get rainy and cold. A quick look at the forecast told us that the foreseeable future looked wet. Rather than head into the mountains to be damp and cold, we jumped a train down to the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. It was a full day of travel and a quick stay in a hostel, but as soon as we started riding through the city in the morning we knew we had made the correct decision. Figs, plums, apples, grapes, and pears hanging from trees and vines all across the countryside. The sunny weather had us in pretty good spirits.
The first day in Croatia we rode out of the city and into the nearby hills, linking together dirt and pavement, making our way generally towards the coast. The day was ended with a character building downhill hike a bike. We were both glad when we finally got out of the small canyon we had worked our was into. We hammered down a gravel limestone road until we found a bar. After several beers we crept off into an abandoned building to find some sleep.
The next day was a big day of pounding pavement, that found us within throwing distance of the route we were aiming for.
We had a loose plan in mind that we would try to link up with the Adriatic Crest route. It took us just over 2 days to intersect the route. Thus far, the route has been phenomenal . Mixed dirt and pavement through mountains and broad valleys. We have climbed up to 5,200 feet and are currently sitting at 40 feet on a tidally influenced river channel.
Over the last several days we have encountered some wet conditions, but it has been warm and thus, not too bad. I had forgotten what warm rain feels like. It is not all bad. We will continue along this route until we reach the end of the route in Split. From there the plan is less clear, though it is coming together. We will spend some time in Bosnia and Montenegro on our way towards Albania. I hope we can find some figs on today’s ride.
Malcolm and I left Anchorage on the afternoon of the 20th and arrived the evening of the 21st in Prague. We unpacked the bikes in the airport and headed into the heart of the city, following a GPX track that Nic had emailed to us. We eventually waded our way through the crowded streets to Lubamir’s house (a friend of a friend of a friend), where Nic had arranged for us to stay. Lubamir took us out for our first Czech beer before we crashed after a long day of traveling.
The next day we boarded a train headed to Leberic to meet up with Nic. Nic was waiting with pastries in hand. We dropped into town to grab some food and then headed into the mountains.
For the next 3 days, I got my ass handed to me trying to keep up with these guys.
I have been pretty stagnant for the last couple months. Biking maybe 20 miles a week and occasionally getting out on a hike, but generally a lot of time wasting with little physical activity. Starting out of Leberic, we were in the mountains almost immediately. Pedaling a 60 to 75 pound rig up and down the mountains was a rude awakening for my body. Those first 2 nights on the trail I rolled into camp completely destroyed. Since those first few days, I have felt my legs get stronger and even enjoyed a couple of the longer climbs.
Malcolm headed back to Alaska several days ago to go back to work and keep time open for future adventures. He was generous to take some extra gear I had brought along and did not need. Carrying extra, unusable weight just makes life harder. I had a bit of a hard time trying to figure out what to pack for a trip of unknown length to a place I have never been, so naturally i brought too much stuff. The trip has so far been a bit of an apprenticeship in bikepacking. I am learning where to pack gear on the bike, how to fit more food and beer on the bike, and how to keep grinding uphill when your legs are screaming.
Two nights night ago, we dropped out of the mountains and camped on the edge of a reservoir. It was nice to get in a quick swim before eating some sausages on the edge of the water.
Yesterday we pedaled mostly pavement through farm country to Opava. We decided to take a bit of a rest here and grabbed a $40 hotel room.
It is nice to get in a shower and wash my clothes with some hot water. Our hotel is attached to the local soccer stadium, you can walk out of our room, across the hall, and straight into the stadium. If only there was a game tonight.
Everyday so far has felt like two or three. We travel through such varied trails and terrain that it is hard to remember where we have gone. We are eating huge meals when we can and drinking plenty of beer to power our legs onward.
From Opava we will head generally east into the through Poland heading towards the corner of Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia.
If you want some more eye candy and insightful writing head over to Nic’s site at https://gypsybytrade.wordpress.com/