Tag Archives: Adriatic

29 & 30 August 2015 – Pag, and the Adriatic coast

Routes and stats for the 29th and 30th below. Cycling down the coast of Croatia is proving delightful, if a little hilly. I’m really enjoying a swim in the Adriatic at the end of each day.

–> 29 August 2015 – a short ferry crossing to Pag
At the moment I’m attempting to pedal 200 miles every 3 days, which works out about 110km a day; today was a moderate day, covering 106km, a few of which were on a ferry to the island of Pag.

Packed and ready in Selce

Packed and ready in Selce

It’s definitely warm in Croatia, with temperatures reminding me of cycling in Spain. I’m used it now, however it makes sleeping in my tent a bit uncomfortable, especially as it’s humid as well. Thankfully I now have my hammock to lounge in, as long as there are adequate trees and no threat of storms; would be a bit inconvenient if a thunderstorm broke halfway through the night! Mosquitoes also seem to have reduced in number, which is a relief, however that could change at any moment so I’m keeping the super-strength repellent handy.

I made a good start to the day, waking up early and pedalling off down the coast on the D8 to Novi Vinodolski. The road followed the coastline pretty tightly, with some lovely scenery. The downsides were the traffic and hills, however the first was tolerable and the latter good for the legs. The hills also break up the route a bit, although I don’t want to take on too many big climbs in this heat.

After a few bananas, passing through Senj and Lukovo, and past the turning to Jablanac (love these town names), I rode down a steep hill to the ferry terminal at Prizna, to get the boat over to the island of Pag. A lot of tourist traffic had the same idea, with a long queue of waiting cars and a few groups of motorcyclists. The majority of the tourist traffic seemed to originate from Germany, certainly all the motorcyclists, however I also spotted lots of cars from Austria, Slovenia, Poland, the Czek Republic, Hungary, Italy, a few from France, and one from the UK. Seeing what other nationalities you can spot is quite a good way of passing the time, and in this case demonstrates just how many people are descending on the Croatian coastline nowadays. It’s certainly very popular, and I can see why with a beautiful coastline, relatively cheap prices, friendly people and interesting towns. One cautionary note; I’ve nearly been short-changed twice so far, which would have cost me about £20 in total, so worth checking your change carefully if you visit.

The more I read about Eastern Europe the more I realise how much it has to offer. There’s so much history, and so many interesting places to visit. If you’re into your water sports the coast has loads to offer, and there is no doubt good climbing and walking to be had further inland. I could spend a few months just touring around the Balkans; think I’ll have to come back!

Anyway, being on a push-bike I skipped to the front of the queue, along with the motorcyclists, and had an ice-cream whilst waiting for the ferry, followed by a cold beer just to ensure I was properly hydrated. A road cyclist had the same idea as me, and we both used the cold beer bottle to sooth our hot heads.

Once on board I chatted to a few Germain motorcyclists on their way to Montenegro. I seem to run into German motorcyclists everywhere when cycling, from the North of Scotland and all throughout Europe, and now down towards Turkey. They are always good to talk too, and were complimentary, and a little taken-aback, of my pedalling efforts; though I agreed it would be easier on a motorbike. I sometimes have to remind myself that I’ve pedalled a long way, having covered over 6,500 miles so far on this tour, and having seen such a variety of landscapes and weather, from ice and snow up in Scandinavia, to the heat of Spain and Southern Europe. It’s starting to get darker earlier now, so I’m wondering just when it’ll begin to get cooler.

The ferry couldn’t take all the waiting traffic, so I was glad I was on a bike for the short 15 minute crossing to Pag; must’ve been about 2km.

Pag looked a bit desolate when I arrived, with lots of dirt and rocks, and not much vegetation. There was no shade on the climb over to the other side of the island; man it was hot. I pedalled down to Simuni where I’d spotted a campsite on the ACSI app; it turned out to be more of a resort, and mostly for camper vans or people staying in the chalets, but it had a small if hard area for people to pitch tents on. Thankfully there were a few trees so the hammock was once again a win.

I set up, then headed straight for the sea for a swim in the Adriatic; much-needed after a very hot cycle, and good fun diving off the floating platform. The resort was busy, but had a good atmosphere, with several small bars, a few restaurants, food stalls (bought a hot-dog, it was nice) and small markets/tourist shops. I bought dinner from one of the small supermarkets then relaxed in my hammock for the evening, doing a bit of reading up on the countries to come; route looks fairly straightforward but I do need to get a few more maps, hopefully in Dubrovnik, so I’m not reliant on Garmin or my phone. Also need to apply for a VISA for Turkey, but that’s a 5 minute job at some point in the next week.

Nearly a full moon tonight; I wonder if they have werewolves in Croatia, seems likely…

–> 30 August – to Pakostane (autocorrect trying to hard to change that to somewhere a lot further away)
As far as I’m aware…I didn’t get bitten by any werewolves during the night, however I believe I’ll have to wait until the next full moon to be sure.

Full moon over Pag, Croatia

Full moon over Pag, Croatia

One thing I was sure about was my washing hadn’t dried overnight, in fact it felt wetter; it’s pretty humid at the moment and I think damp washing just absorbs more water. I’m looking forward to it getting a little cooler, and less humid, and to freshening up some of my more smelly bits of kit and clothes; heat + damp + panniers aren’t a good combination; everything just festers a bit during the course of a day pedalling.

I left Simuni camping in good time, pedalling up and over to the town of Pag, then  down the island towards the mainland. I passed what I think were fish farms, as well as several restaurants with pigs being spit-roasted by the roadside, in big ovens; smelt pretty good. There’s a bridge connecting the island to the mainland at the Southern end, with a nice looking small castle down near the water’s edge.

After Pag I turned right toward Zadar, and had to tackle a series of hills before making it to the coast again. I think there are still a lot less hills than if I took an inland route, but I’m not really sure what’s over the coastal mountain range; maybe it’s flat! I need to get hold of some maps detailing Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, so I can get to Istanbul via the most efficient route, not get lost, and hopefully avoid too many unnecessary mountains.

Unfortunately I noticed my back tyre starting to go flat near Zadar, after the bike starting skewing about a bit when going downhill. I pumped it up, but needed to change the inner tube; it could wait until the evening as only a slowish puncture. I continued down the coast, past many an inviting beach with people swimming and snorkelling, or yachts drifting lazily in an idle wind. My next stop was at Lidyl, for a late lunch and to pick up a few supplies. Lidyl has proven a boon whilst touring in Europe; it crops up everywhere, is good value, and has everything food wise you need. It may not have had a good Tarte du Jour option, but I did pick up a few nice pastries, and an ice cream for good measure.

I suspect the supermarkets around here, including Lidyl, are catering for Germain and Austrian clientelle, hence the great Frankfurter sausage roll; seen so many German cars.

After a shorter day, covering 97km, I made it to Autocamp Nordsee near Pakostane. I didn’t mind a shorter day, as it’s good to give the legs a break, however I’m trying to pedal 200 miles every 3 days, keeping the total rolling, so I’ll need to put in a longer day at some point.

The campsite owner, who I think was probably German, found me a small corner to pitch my tent, and only charged me 50 Kuna, bargain; thoroughly nice bloke. The campsite seemed to be hosting mostly Germans, with a few Croatians thrown in for good measure. Needless to say there was a lot of beer being consumed, and a fair amount of food from the campsite restaurant; I thought I’d better join in.

After a cold beer I set about mending the puncture in my rear tyre. I hate mending punctures, and this one was particularly hard work in the heat; sweat was running off me in streams by the time I finished. Unfortunately I couldn’t patch the inner tube, so replaced it with a new one. The puncture was actually on the inner side of the tube, and had resulted from what looked like wear and tear, and a bit of stretch; or maybe the shop pinched it when they fitted it, not sure. Either way it’s mended now and touch wood seems to be staying inflated. The thing I hate most about mending punctures is the doubt that sets in as to whether I’ve mended it properly? Did I pinch the tube, or miss the pin that caused the puncture? Is it going to go flat again immediately? I suspect a lot of cyclists have exactly the same concerns! Hopefully that’ll be it puncture wise for the next 1,000 miles or so. I also adjusted my brakes, then thought I’d better have a shower and least rinse my cycling gear; everything pretty manky after the ride and repairs, including me.

I managed to squeeze in a swim prior to the shower, but had to take care to avoid Sea Urchins, which were present in numbers, and a bit like mini mines on the sea bed. Stepping on one is bad news, as the spines tent to break off and are hard to remove. I hadn’t noticed them at first, and don’t have any sea shoes for swimming in, but froze when my big toe clipped one and I noticed I was surrounded. I made it out, still having enjoyed a cooling swim, but had to remove a few splinters from my toe; think I got it all out, but I’ll have to keep an eye and employ vinegar treatment if any of the spine is still embedded; really don’t want an infection to take hold!

I decided to eat at the campsite restaurant, and enjoyed a lovely sea view for my meal, with a couple of cold beers to wash everything down. It was a nice atmosphere, and very friendly at the campsite; one to recommend if you’re passing through. Being right next to a beach is also a big win. Needless to say I slept pretty well, despite it being hot still.

Tomorrow I continue on towards Trogir and Split.

25 & 26 August 2015 – Verona, Vicenza and reaching the Adriatic

Starting to get more and more excited about Croatia now, with only one more day left in Italy, before crossing briefly into Slovenia and continuing down the Adriatic coast. Think it’s going to be ace.

Routes and stats for the 25 and 26 August below:

–> 25 Aug – Two A Gentleman smelly cyclist and his Lobster in Verona, and on to Vicenza
I covered a sedate 97km today, taking it easy with a stop for some sight-seeing.

Do you ever hear things go bump in the night? I was awoken in the early hours of the morning not by a bump, but by rustling and some snuffling/snorting. The noise came from just the other side of my inner tent partition. Somewhat tentatively I unzipped the inner door, and glanced out; hedgehog…again…about the 3rd time I’ve been visited by these lovely creatures on this tour. The hedgehog was busy snuffling about for crumbs, but had somehow got wedged into a crisp bag I hadn’t got around the throwing away. I carefully upended the varmint, releasing him/her from his/her predicament; the hog made a swift exit. A great encounter, but on a serious note it reinforces the problem plastic packaging presents to the natural world. Creatures are always getting stuck in plastic bags, or ingesting bits, or in the case of the film clip I saw recently breathing it in; a turtle had a whole plastic straw stuck up its nose and down into its lungs – the rescuers got it out but it was pretty horrific. Plastic takes a very long time to decay, and we should all be more thoughtful about how much we use. For example do we really need to use plastic straws with drinks, for instance at fast food chains? (if you’re squeamish don’t watch that film clip, but brings it home – say no to plastic straws!)

It was still cloudy and damp when I packed up on the shores of Lake Garda, so I didn’t hang around, instead cycling the approx 25km to Verona. I unfortunately passed about 3 squashed hedgehogs on the way, not unusual, but sad after my earlier encounter; more routes needed for animals to get under/over roads.

Verona is a lovely small city, with some spectacular buildings including a huge amphitheatre that dominates the centre; the Grand Arena, built in the 1st century AD, and which now stages shows, operas and plays. No history lesson today, however needless to say the city goes back a long way. It’s also the setting for at least 3 Shakespeare plays including Two Gentleman of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew (loved the modern film adaptation), and of course Romeo and Juliette. I spent an hour or so looking around, and grabbed a Calzone pizza for lunch. Unfortunately I failed to find a suitable Tarte du Jour, but I did get caught on webcam by the Norwich MI6 branch; good work.

I was slightly confused by all the Egyptian paraphernalia located around the Grand Arena, however it’s the time of year when Verona hosts an annual opera festival, and the props were for Aida; always wanted to see that and must be superb in the amphitheatre – I’ll put it on my list of things to do when back in the UK.

Me in Verona - you have to look quite carefully as in a crowd

Me in Verona – you have to look quite carefully as in a crowd

After being a tourist for a bit I pedalled East towards Vicenza. I decided to put my fate in my Garmin’s hands, and followed its route to my campsite for the night. It took me what was probably a longer route, avoiding some main roads, but they were a lot quieter and I rode through some nice farmland – nice grapevines. I had to detour when confronted by a bridge that no longer existed, however I can’t really blame Garmin for that; it looked like it was being rebuilt. I can blame Garmin for trying to take me through a military base just prior to the campsite; a definite no go area which I had to circumvent. This isn’t the first time it’s tried to do that; happens frequently in the UK around Thetford.

A few miles before the campsite I rode with an Italian cyclist for a bit, out for an evening’s ride. We spoke in French (he was born in France), as I related a brief summary of my tour to date. He’d recently completed the Camino de Santiago by bike. It was good to have a chat and we shook hands as he pedalled off; people very friendly in Italy.

I made it to the campsite and set up, discovering that it was infested by mosquitoes, therefore liberal application of repellent was required; seemed to work reasonably well, although the Tiger Mosquitoes are pretty persistent. I hadn’t heard of Tiger mosquitoes before this tour, but the name suits; they’re definitely stripey.

Campsite in Vicenza; under siege from mosquitoes

Campsite in Vicenza; under siege from mosquitoes

I met a German couple at the campsite, from Berlin, touring Northern Italy for 3 weeks by bicycle. It’s there first big cycle tour and they’re loving it so far; best be careful, its addictive. We discussed Ortlieb panniers at great length, as they were keen to extol their virtues; can’t say I disagree, mine have been brill so far. I also bumped into a Japanese cycle tourer briefly, on his way South, but didn’t get to chat for long as he was off for dinner.

I spent the evening attempting to plan my route through Eastern Europe to Istanbul, and think I have a rough idea of where I’m going now; Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey. I’m still a bit nervous about it, but a lot more confident than I was; thanks to Tim Moss for a few tips (http://thenextchallenge.org).

Off toward Venice tomorrow, although I’m bypassing the city as cycling is forbidden in much of it; I’ll cut up North and then down to the Adriatic.

–> 26 August 2015 – to the Adriatic and Duna Verde (Camping Altanea)
Campsites are definitely merging into one; when writing my journal for today I had trouble remembering where I’d stayed the previous night! 123km pedalled today, so a fairly long day, but all flat.

Packed and ready for the off in Vicenza

Packed and ready for the off in Vicenza

I set off on my way East, not entirely sure of the route past Venice, however I figured as long as I pointed my bike in the right direction and headed towards the Adriatic it would all work out. The cycling proved easy, as there were no hills to speak of, just lots of farmland and frequent small towns to negotiate.

I passed around the top of Venice by several kilometres, not wanting to get embroiled in dual carriageways and autostradas, then headed down to Jesolo and the Adriatic coast. After some busy and pretty boring roads it was nice to reach the coast again. I thought I might find a campsite in Jesolo, but they were all  very busy. I pedalled on looking for either a wild campsite or a quieter site. On my way further East I had another chat with an Italian roady, albeit it in rather hesitant English; he was enthusiastic about my tour and wished me bon route before pedalling off to Caorle. As I mentioned yesterday Italians have been nothing but friendly.

I made it to Duna Verde and discovered Altanea Camping, a ‘green’ campsite. I decided to stop there, as they had a simple field with trees I could pitch my tent in, and also use my hammock; it only cost €19 too, which is cheap for this time of year on the coast. Free wifi too!

Hammock time in Altanea Camping, Duna Verde

Hammock time in Altanea Camping, Duna Verde

After turfing Lobster out of my hammock, I enjoyed a siesta, before catching up with my parents and doing some admin. I also checked in to see how a poorly friend is doing back in the UK; get well soon JJ, thinking of you and hope recovery is swift – I recommend long hours in a hammock for convalescence purposes. I also discovered I needed to sort out a new washing machine for my tenants at home, the old one having given up the ghost. Why don’t modern appliances last longer?! This one is only about 7 years old.

I decided to eat at the campsite restaurant, enjoying red wine and mixed fried seafood; very nice it all was too. My dinner was accompanied by some Europop, from the adjacent ‘disco’ area. It wasn’t too loud, just amusing; the Macarena featured – used to know the dance for that from back when I taught foreign students English, and had to take them to the disco in the evenings.

Fried mixed seafood; good energy for tomorrow

Fried mixed seafood; good energy for tomorrow

On to Trieste then possibly Slovenia tomorrow, before heading to Croatia.

Note: Blog a couple of days behind – I’m now in Croatia after a few long legs, and making great progress.