Total distance: 2613km Daily totals: 99km, 1060m of climbing, total exhaustion but a great day.
Our quiet secluded camping place at the far end of the campsite proved tranquil and we both had a good night. Up at 6.30 and away by 7.50 – the once known and ingrained routine started to become familiar again. The coast road was remarkably busy at 8am, which I suppose is not surprising as people were on their way to work. Not everyone was on holiday (and many of those who were working were working in the tourist industry). Tourists are, after all, very demanding! We passed back through Lovran (home to the grumpiest person ever in the tourist information – would have deserved an audition for Fawlty Towers) and then to the idyllic town of Opatija. This is a place where the Austro-Hungarian empire has never died – a sort of Vienna by the seaside. Magnificent Hapsburg villas, some of which were glorious ruins but most were hotels. Lots of ancient Germans and Austrians with posh hotels, even posher shops, well made up ladies of a certain age and a high “tiny dog on a lead” factor. Best passed through at speed but not to be missed entirely. We were going North at this point around the coast, but hit the corner and then swung South East. This will be our direction for the next few thousand miles, give or take a few turns. Rijeka is Croatia’s third city, its largest port and also had a strong Viennese influence. It was busy, bustling and felt like a port – a full working port with cranes, railway lines and the accompanying feeling of depravity. There is something similar about ports the world over (like airports but more interesting and less uniform). Ports take up vast parts of the sea front, have derricks that dominate the skyline and generally define the feel of a city – and Rijeka was not that different. It was easy to get in but a 1.3km tunnel seemed the only way out – Which was pretty scary. But the road re-emerged and then climbed and dipped and climbed some more (just in case the previous climbing was not enough). Coastal roads are, of course, only very occasionally flat. They normally go up and down at regular intervals, and are as steep as any mountain pass. The difference is that the hills top out at about 150m , the road goes down and then the climbing begins again. We saw some great scenery but just south of Kratjevica the motorway stopped and so all the traffic joined the single track road. Add to that a temperature of 39 degrees and we were well ready for a break at the pleasant coastal town of Crikvenica. I got my hair cut shorter than it has been for years and we vegetated until the worst of the heat of the day eased off. We tried to Skpe the children but the internet was rubbish (and this evening they have “a few technical problems” and so there is no internet here either). Then we pm were back on the bikes at 3.45and noted that the worst of the day’s heat was easing off. It was still 38 oC but felt much better than 1am! The road was also quieter and we ambled up and down the hills of the coast road. Scenery was stunning; more arid than 50km further north and much less populated. There were stunning little coves that always seemed to have a few people swimming and lazing about. All of the population lives within a few yards of the sea because inland is scrubby hills which cannot support any agriculture. We pressed on and got to our destination, Senj about 5.30pm, but the single campsite was crowded and had a sole spare pitch – cheek by jowl with large camper vans and stony ground. It was not too inviting. We saw another campsite a few km further on so we shopped for food and then got back on the bikes. Finally, having hit 1000m of climbing for the first time on this part of the trip we arrived in paradise. Problem was that others had found it first and they were full! A little negotiation and a little pathetic pleading saw us camping at the side of the car park (soft, quiet and ideal for a quick get away as well as cut price). Within 45 minutes we had the tent up, campsite sorted and were in the sea swimming away aching limbs. We do not, of course, need to put our bodies through excesses in order to appreciate the good things in life – like swimming in the Adriatic as the sun is coming down. But for us – it helps. The view is always better if we have sweated the way to the top. The sea water is warmer and more relaxing after a day in the saddle. Food tastes better if I have earned the hunger. It’s a personal view which many find unintelligible and I totally respect people’s ability to see the world in a multitude of different ways. But sitting in the tiny bar with a beer this evening, life looks pretty good.