2009/10/16: Ston 57 km
Travelling north from Dubrovnik, we saw signs that said “arboretum”, so to satisfy my botanical curiosity we went to the Trsteno Arboretum. We spent several relaxed hours exploring the fabulous grounds of an old family villa, which are now managed by the Croatian Academy of Sciences. Besides formal gardens, a fountain, and labelled native and exotic trees, there was a serene stone pavilion overlooking the Adriatic. An outbuilding held an old wooden olive oil press.
Further along, we met an Irish lad named Cillian. He was a bit of an accidental bike traveller, having left Ireland for what was planned to be a two week excursion. His plans had expanded, and he’d now been on the road several months, adding gear as his requirements grew. We chatted with him at length, and sent our remaining anti-malarial medications south with him.
A little later, we met Knut, a Norwegian who’d left North Cape (northernmost Norway) and was headed to Capetown, South Africa, planning to join the Tour d’Afrique in Cairo. He was close to our vintage, but moving faster averaging 120 km per day. He’d ridden the breadth of Asia the year before with The Silk Roads.
We arrived in Ston after a sociable low-mileage day, walked the newly restored walls in the evening, and ate an enormous platter of mussels and shrimps.
2009/10/17: Sucuraj, Hvar 83 km
We’d been planning to ride out along the Peljesac Peninsula as part of our route up the Dalmatian Coast, but had rethought our plans after meeting Knut. He’s deemed it a tough ride. Coming from an extremely fit Norwegian, we took his appraisal seriously. Instead, we rode north to catch the ferry to Hvar at Drvenik. The road passes through Bosnia and Herzegovina for nine kilometres. The Croatians haven’t bothered with border facilities, but the Bosnians have. All they did was wave us through, so we didn’t collect another passport stamp. The only comment we’re able to make about Bosnia is that they have excellent cherry strudel.
We arrived at Drvenik at 2:30, but there wasn’t a ferry till 5:00 on Sundays. This meant several relaxed cups of coffee in a wireless hotspot. Wireless is literally everywhere here! We arrived on Hvar in the dark, and soon found we had wireless in the tiny apartment we stayed in – possibly a shared town network.
2009/10/18: Stari Grad, Hvar, and Ferry to Rijeka 64 km
The ride along the spine of Hvar was pretty. Olive trees were strategically protected from strong winds by stone walls. In higher places forest and vineyards gave way to open heathland of juniper, sage, blueberries, and heather. In places we’d see a man standing by the road, shotgun in hand, looking out over the heath and whistling. Memories of my father led me to recognize that they were whistling commands to well-trained bird dogs who were working through the heather for upland game such as pheasants.
After a wait in the ferry port at Stari Grad, we boarded the vessel Marko Polo bound for Rijeka. We were really pleased to be charged a modest fee for the bikes and to be given safe and sensible place to secure them – a place where suitcases wouldn’t be carelessly flung at them like on Greek ferries.