topics: biking, headwind, rain, wildlife and endangered species, lodging, tourist towns, Dalmatian islands; jump to dispatch

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Croatia

Rider Notes: April 18-19, 1998

Food of the Day: manistra od bobic(z)a

As much as we hunted, we never found "manistra od bobic(z)a," or bean and fresh maize soup. This sounded to Corinne like the ultimate vegetarian delight, but it wasn't anywhere to be found. It might be something cooked only by parents and grandparents that is not commonly found in restaurants. Perhaps on another visit...!

Person of the Day: Kat Tokic click to view a photograph

Kat Tokic came out to meet us the evening we arrived. Ethan had met her via the Internet through a Croatian friend more than a year ago, and it was great finally to be in the same place at the same time. She was ready to show us around a bit and to learn more about us.

A biker herself, but also a journalist and writer by vocation, Kat was editing the book written by her brother Ante, who biked for over four years for peace. Throughout his journey around the world, he had a sign on the back of his bike which read "For Peace in Croatia". At the time, there was an occupational war going on in his homeland. The book details funny and sad incidents alike and fleshes out his journey. It also discusses the way all people can learn more about each other and together pave a path toward peace.

We thank Kat for her time, and applaud her effort to share the spirit of biking for a better world. It's always great when we meet people somehow on the same path as us!

Place of the Day: Dalmatian Coast

Any map of the Croatian coast reveals that the eastern Adriatic is dotted with islands and islets... hundreds of them... 1185 to be more exact. (Perhaps this is the reason for its being called the Dalmatian Coast - just like the spotted dogs.) Fewer than 100 of these islands are actually inhabited, especially since some of the islands are very rocky, with little or no vegetation. Thousands of years ago, when this part of the earth was trapped under Ice Age ice, the mountains along the edge of the Adriatic were submerged in water. Accordingly, some of the rocky slopes into the Sea look stripped clean, devoid of life.

Tech Fact of the Day: Wildlife in Croatia

Wildlife in Croatia is protected in National Parks scattered throughout the country. Vast forests between and in the mountains are home to a wide variety of animals, including birds, wild cats and canines, bears, and lynx. Endangered species in Croatia include the griffin vulture which lives in the Paklenic(z)a National Park near Zadar. Another park, the Plitvic(z)e National Park, is even on the UNESCO World 'Natural' Heritage Sites list!

Group Dispatch, April 18-19
photograph of Corinne

It was time to say a sad goodbye to our new friends at Mladi Most. Their hospitality on such short notice can't be mentioned enough - so we will thank them for it again here. Unfortunately, though, despite their reiterated invitation to stay the day and enjoy the house warming party that evening, we did have to move on. Over a quick breakfast, we made certain that we knew how to stay in touch with one another and then headed out of Mostar.

Of course the rain was back with a vengeance, but we plowed back into it. Our more-or-less dried clothing, and Corinne's dry-but-shrunken shoes were again headed into a dreary day of rain. This only made the still constant reminders of the war click to view a photograph - the burned-out buildings, gutted neighborhoods, peace-keeping tanks click to view a photograph and the rebuilding efforts - seem that much more real.

But these were not impediments to our progress. The challenge of today's ride came from the weather, which included a stiff headwind. Now that our descent from Sarajevo was mostly over with, and we were much more in the plains, the headwind off the coast was serious business. Yesterday had been rough enough, but the winds of the first part of today were something else altogether. The farms and other scenery took second seat to the importance of just bearing down and concentrating all effort on the task of simply moving forward...

When we finally made the turn toward the coastal road and out of the wind, the difference was immediately noticeable! Even in terms of the weather. After we passed through one final narrow and enchanting section of the river valley, the sky between the mountains hinted that the weather would be turning in our favor. It appeared that the rain was finally, albeit temporarily, behind us.

Still, although we had only biked about 45 km (28 mi) since breakfast in Mostar, the furious wind had made it seem like much, much more. When we got to within a few meters/yards of the Metkovic(h) crossing point at which our Bosnian trip had begun click to view a photograph, we had earned our lunch and a good break.

So we munched... and tried to decide where to stop for the evening. We hoped to get as close to Split as possible... still over 150 km (93 mi) away.

Through the border (no problem!), we intersected again with the coast. It was back to the remarkable Adriatic and all her island friends (see the Tech Fact of the Day). Watching the sun have fun with the islands and the water was an all-day joy. Padraic's broken spoke click to view a photograph even gave Anthony and Ethan a few more moments to relax and take in the view. click to view a photograph (To give you an idea of how much the scenery changes for us as we bike north up and along the "Dalmatija," see our Place of the Day.)

By the time we reached the town of Drvenik, it was time to stop for the day. Luckily, Drvenik was precisely where we had planned on looking for lodging (we had considered biking along the coast of the island of Hvar - reachable by ferry from Drvenik - instead of sticking to the mainland, but the ferry schedules and cycling distances just didn't work... sometimes we just have to sacrifice for our own sanity) and we found a little sobe apartment to suit our needs. We even got to the market before it closed. You see, because the tourist industry has suffered so much as a result of the war, and because the tourist season for those who do visit hasn't quite yet begun, finding nice, cheap accommodation and food can be a little tough. Our options are more limited, especially in the smaller seaside resort towns that aren't used to seeing anyone except in the summer when the water warms up. But tonight we were again lucky, and, after yet another meal la Anthony, we crashed.

The next morning, it was on to Split. The sun was finally with us as we ate that old familiar breakfast of cereal and milk. But, sure enough, the clouds moved in again. Our wet and sweaty clothes hadn't dried all that well overnight, so the day started fairly clammily for all of us. And, since it was definitely going to be another "anyone's guess" kind of day weather-wise, we feared that it might finish the same way. To our surprise, though, it was the first no-rain biking day we had had in a week. Dare we say that it seems like summer is on its way? click to view a photograph

Again we pedaled along the coast and past many camping facilities and parks. We enjoyed the intoxicating smell of the pine trees, right through Makarska (the tourist resort and region), and the little villages that climb the rocky walls of the mountains. It was the same gorgeous and ever changing view. click to view a photograph

And so, in the late afternoon, with somewhat squeaky knees after a few particularly mean hills in the final stretch, we arrived in Split. Famished and tired. Heading straight for the bus station after finding the tourist office closed, we were hopeful that an old woman (or two) operating a sobe would seek us out and scoop us into beds for the evening. It took some looking, as it always does, but eventually a match was made, and for a decent price (with the help of another tourist who spoke the language).

Quick showers made us street-ready, and we went out to explore some of the squares and plazas that make up this pleasant old town. For more history on Split, be sure to check tomorrow's dispatch when Ethan will fill you in on all sorts of details.

Waiting for us on the portside promenade for our evening excursion was Kat Tokic click to view a photograph, a journalist, author and our Person of the Day. Kat was editing the book written by her brother Ante's four-and-a-half-year bike tour for peace around the world.

We let Kat know that we were quite hungry and she easily steered us to a place where we could eat for cheap as well as talk comfortably about her writing and our adventures. Of course, along the way we couldn't resist a quick jaunt up the central cathedral bell tower. Our already aching thighs sure heard the ring... But the view was great - a step above the noise and rumble of the tumult below and a grand introduction to the city.

Following this leisurely Sunday evening of strolling around with Kat and what seemed like every other person in Split in the pleasant spring warmth click to view a photograph, we were still hungry and found a delightful little Italian restaurant where we settled into a good thick plate of pasta.

Back at the sobe, we fell into our beds. The next day would be jam-packed.

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