Saturday, 29 June 2013

the bends

Our road along the Konalve coast of Croatia takes us past Marko's place.  You can't miss it - he has big signs for warm showers and welcoming backpackers and we had written him to say we would be coming but kept postponing.  By the time we reach him at the highest point on the road the sun is setting over the sea.  
the Konalve coastline
We are immediately invited to pull up a chair and share in some sushi with Bruno, a Bavarian cyclist/bike mechanic/nomad who is evidently handy with a fishing rod, whilst Marko supplies the wine and repartee.  He talks like an express train, candidly critical of his home country but also full of stories from his 47 years spent in Canada.  If you compare Croatia with Canada it's a hard act to follow and he realises it.  Like Antonio, he too talks about the mentality of the Croats that hinders their development/progress.  But he too is cautiously optimistic about Croatia joining the EU "if only to put an end to the men with guns".  
"did you say bristly?"
It's hard to describe the man (but I'll have a go), a bristly entrepreunerial old hippy with a big heart.  He seems like the kind of guy that could irritate everyone for being too frank and too ambitious maybe, but at the same time he is opening his door to any passersby and is trying to restore an old local narrow gauge railway for tourists in the mountains as a means of generating some employment.  We have a great evening with both of them before crashing out in the spare beds in Marko's office.

The next morning we ride a helter-skelter road to the border and into Montenegro.  We want to reach Kotor, which sits in the far corner of a huge sea loch, and to get there we have to take the main highway again.  It's a horrible rolling road busy with traffic and we're happy to leave it at the entrance to the loch where a free ferry takes us over to a smaller road on the 'quiet' side.  We have visited Kotor before and the drama of the mountains falling into the bay, the coast dotted with small villages, the light on the water - all of it remains impressive.  We stop at a house advertising rooms and camping before Kotor where the shower is improvised in the driveway and the lady who runs the place offers us raki shots in the morning.  We share the front garden with families from Lithuania and Hungary.  Here we take a day off to soak up the views and psyche ourselves up for the ride north into the mountains.

We also need a little space and time to reflect after our stay with Ivana and Antonio.  I still have Antonio's ideas and questions buzzing in my head.  Gayle is more practically thinking about our route south to Greece and winter time.  It's now a comfortable 25 degrees in the shade but we are both keen to get into the mountains and get some cooler weather.  A young Macedonian who has come here for seasonal work warns us that he has come down to the coast to escape the excessive summer heat.  Looks like no escape for us temperate travellers. 
at last.....some downhill
Our journey from Kotor begins up the old road over the mountains climbing 26 hairpins up to a pass overlooking the bay of Kotor and out to sea.  The gradient is not too cruel but the sunshine is, so we're glad of the shade from the trees on the way up.  We emerge into a hanging valley with rolling grassy meadows and pine forest and houses dotted here and there.  The road then continues to climb up more hairpins until we reach a pass with huge views northwards.  I don't think either of us knows what to expect along the way as the empty road drops down into a series of wooded bowl-shaped valleys with very little habitation.  We stop at a tiny cafe bar at a junction for water and then find a place to camp.  We're sweaty and tired but very happy with the cycling - it seems that the harder the cycling the better the views.  The word for hairpin bends here is serpentina - I fall asleep wondering about snakes in the grass.......

1 comment:

  1. "The harder the cycling, the better the views" - I will hold on to that thought.