Total to date: 3042km: Day totals 99km – 1400m of climbing
Today was a brilliant day. It had everything – fantastic scenery, blood pumping ascents, scary descents, ferries where the timetable God had us in his good books and ending with a lovely meal in an idyllic fishing village.
But it did not start too great as I got stung on the foot by a Croatian wasp – a whopper of a wasp with a whopper of a sting – straight through my socks. I was wearing sandals with socks so maybe it was a fashion offended wasp but, whatever its reasons, it gave up its one and only sting as I came back from doing my teeth as we broke camp. I managed to avoid waking the rest of the campsite and hobbled back to our pitch.
As a result we were a bit late starting but left the newly made friends (still asleep mostly) just before 7. The route took us Eastwards long the island of Hvar. For those unfamiliar with this part of the Adriatic, these islands are almost all extinct volcanos with massive mountainous spines rising out of the sea like the back of some massive teradactyl. They are quite green with cultivated parts, and now specialise in viniculture. The road snaked its way from the shore to the ridge of the island, never more than about 7% gradient but constantly up. It topped out at about 300m and then undulated along the spine of the island offering magnificent views to the mainland to the north and to Korcula Island and the Peljesac peninsular to the south.
The views are best expressed in photos which I will leave. Incidentally I was reading a funny book, “Us” by David Nicol (which is a series of excellent one liners interspersed with an attempted narrative). One of his best oner liners was that sex was like other people’s holidays – you want them to have fun but not look at the photographs. The stats on our website suggests that we have a small and dedicated band of armchair followers who do like looking at the photos (or our holidays that is). No photos of the other are intended to posted to the site!
Anyway back to the cycling. The island came to an end after 50km with a superb descent – swinging the bike around tight corners at between 50 and 60kph and hoping the trailer would be fine (which it was). We arrived at the far eastern end of the island which has the “port” of Sucuraj. There was a long line of maybe 100 to 150 cars, almost all of whom had passed us on the road (almost all courteously but a few came a bit close). By this point it was about 11am and getting hot. It was also markedly hotter at sea level than on the ridge which was 400m higher and had a cooling breeze.
We sailed past the parked cars and just had time to buy tickets and get a coffee when the boat came into port. Maximum capacity was 30 vehicles but we count as foot passengers so go straight to the front. But this did mean a long wait in the hot sun for those who had to wait their turn in the queue.
We rested during the 45 minute crossing and then started up the steep bank to join our old friend, the coast road (known as D8 here). It was 21km from the ferry port to Ploce where we planned to get another ferry. The D8 wound its way along the coast, busy but not too bad with a few climbs, some stunning scenery and a good surface. One almost gets used to the blue transparency of the water, little fishing boats and the yachts plying up and down (rarely under sail as far as we could see).
At one point we passed the SunSail depot (or was it the previous day – yes must have been as it was Saturday which is changeover day) and saw maybe 100 boats ready for their next customers. Sailing in the Adriatic is big business.
Anyway we arrived on the road above Ploche and saw the boat coming in. So we quickened the pace, and stormed into the port (well storm might be putting it a bit high but did not limp in as per usual). Bernie bought the tickets and we were soon on the delayed sailing. If it had been on time we would have missed it and the next was an hour and a half later. Once again we felt a tiny bit guilty as we jumped the queue (but only a tiny bit). There have to be some advantages of peddling under one’s own effort.
An hour later – an hour spent in the air-conditioned inside of the Jangrolinja Ferry – we arrived at Triban. These are the original “RoRo” ferries. They roll the vehicles on and off super efficiently and the “ports” are often just a hardstanding at the end of the island road. This one had a few cafes around it but little more.
So now it was maybe 3pm and time to start the big climb up the back of another teradactyl but this one looked a touch bigger. It was a tough 10% climb in the afternoon sun (39 degrees in the shade) but we made height quicker and, as we did so, the scenery improved and the temperature dropped. At the top of a 350m climb we made a decision to press on to the East and covered another 15km of mostly up before we reached the top of a stunning pass, heading down to the sea. By this stage we had climbed 1400m – way more than before on this holiday.
The vegetation was black after a recent fire and we still went through hot spots. The worst of the fire was only 20 days ago and the destruction of trees, undergrowth, cars and just about anything else in its way was there for all to see (just like the fires in Oregon and Washington states we saw a couple of years before). We zoomed down the valley as the road dropped from 400m+ to the sea.
We then arrived in the beautiful fishing village of Trstinik. A swift negotiation got us a room (too knackered to camp) and we had a lovely meal overlooking the harbour. A stage was being set up for one of the most famous Croatian singers to perform but – after 99km and more climbing than a 55 year old should do in a day – we bailed on the singing and collapsed. But at every point today the views were ever changing, the scenery was fantastic and – exhausted as we were – it was a day to remember.