Day 129 - Vale Jack

19 April 2022

Much has been said about the bond between man and dog. The devotion a dog gives its master and the joy one gets from the companionship are unique. Maybe you have to be a dog person to appreciate the relationship. You understand this or you do not. It cannot be explained.

We lost a good boy today. My good friend Luke Hulands lost his closest friend. When I received the news I was watching an elderly gentleman exercise his Belgian Shepard. You can see the joy they bring each other.

To Luke Hulands, there are no words I can offer.

Tonight we drink to Jack. A good boy.

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.” ― Milan Kundera

We head out of Tivat and follow the coast to the ferry. 1 euro each, bikes included. It is a quick trip across and we are following the water on the other side of the peninsula.

The GPS moves us off the coast. Shell pulls over and quickly maps out an entire route that follows the water. I am grateful, just up ahead is the gaping maw of another tunnel. Crisis avoided.

It is easy riding. The coastline is stunning but you do not tire of it. The riding is great without traffic. We jump back on the main road and are suddenly presented with a bike track. Outstanding. It finishes after a few kilometers and we start the long climb for the day.

There are police officers along the side of the road. I cannot work out what they are doing. Shell points out we are following the border. Her bet is they are watching for people crossing the mountains on foot illegally. Makes sense. The mountains are steep but if you are determined enough you could make the journey.

“You cross a border because you are searching, because you want more, because you want to match where you are with who you are, because you want to test your place. Maybe because you want to expand your sense of place. You are searching for something that may as yet be indefinable. A border crosser questions the very idea of home.” ― Sergio Troncoso

Soon after the incline begins our passports are stamped. We took our time in Montenegro, with no huge rides. It still went quickly. You get an appreciation for how vast Australia is when you can cross a country on a bicycle in two or three days.

It was a decent climb. Over 200 m in elevation. A tough 11˚ incline the entire way. At the top, we are stamped into Croatia. We coast down the mountain and we are dropped onto a quiet gravel track that follows a fast flowing stream. There is a sign warning us of wild boar. I realise I am hungry.

We jump onto a winding back road that cuts over a river. They have rocky bottoms and are fast moving. The water is crystal clear.

There are vineyards everywhere. For a while now Shell has declared herself an authority on dating flora. Ancient olive trees and vineyards are her specialties. As we pass them she informs me of their age.

‘Those vines are 50 years old’

‘Really? They look more like 20 to 30 to me’

‘You are wrong. They are obviously at least 45 years old’

And on it goes.

“There is a way of being wrong which is also sometimes necessarily right.” ― Edward Abbey

We grab lunch at a spot on the river. The sign tells us it serves local cuisine. We get the waiter to advise us. We start with asparagus soup and a salty, dense bread. Sliced beef in a thick peppery gravy served with potato dumplings similar to gnocchi in texture and a pasta dish of wild boar. Delicious, the boar is the pick. We wash it down with local red wine and finish up with apple strudel and crème caramel.

At lunch, we change out our Albanian SIM cards for the Spanish. They work fine.

Some more vineyards, another hill before we coast down a long hill into Cavtat. Whenever I roll down to a coastal village I imagine riding back out tomorrow. This is the steepest decline we have done.

We sail all the way to the harbor. More crystal clear water. It looks exactly like Montenegro and I am reminded countries are man made. Oceans and mountains do not care where we draw lines on maps. We are 50 km from where we were this morning. It is on the same coast.

“There are no clear borders,

Only merging invisible to the sight.”

― Dejan Stojanovic

It turns out I did not have the correct address in the GPS. We have a steep 1 km climb to our place. Back the way we came. It was worth it for the view. We sit looking at the coast. It is as beautiful as people have told us. Why am I thinking about Bosnia and the mountains?

Shell says it out loud. We should go to Bosnia. For some reason, I go into bat for Croatia. What about this beautiful coast? My heart isn’t in it. We walk our bikes up the hill, it’s that steep. I am chewing over the Bosnia.

We get to our place and Shell finds an old train line in Bosnia that has been converted into a bike track. From Ivanica to Mostar. It is called the Ciro track and follows a disused Austro - Hungarian railway line. We are currently in the perfect location to jump on this trail. At first, I am reluctant. I can’t get my head around the logistics. I come around quickly. Organise it all in my head. It sounds incredible and ticks a few boxes.

It is in the right direction, heading north toward Zagreb. It stays close to the border, so we can drop back into Croatia should we want to see more coast. It is a bike trail, so no cars. Apparently, there are over 120 000 landmines in the region. Worth it.

What is it about Bosnia? People have told us how much we will love Croatia. We have been here a day and have made plans to leave.

Today's ride -


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