April 8th we headed out of Dubrovnik along the coast. Split had been our next destination but after talking to the owners of the hostel in Dubrovnik we decided we needed to ride on an island. Croatia has over 1200 islands along its coast so our trip wouldn’t be complete without riding on at least one. We rode along the coast towards Pelješac, a penninsula north of Dubrovnik. We’ve really enjoyed riding along the coast because regardless of how hard it gets there’s never a shortage of nice stuff to look at. It really helps to make the climbing at 6 km/hr bearable. We stopped for lunch and just so happened to see Jacques, who we met previously in Dubrovnik. He is from France and is nearing the end of his 5 year circumnavigation of the globe by bike and boat. We had some pizza with him and realized we were headed in the same direction. We rode together towards Orebić where we could catch a ferry to Korčula Island. The riding was beautiful and it was really cool to talk to Jacques about his trip because he has seen and done so much! He told us about riding through Central Asia and the Middle East and about how different the culture is from what we see every day in the media. As a traveler on a long trip it seems that wherever you go people are curious about what you are doing and willing to go out of their way to help you. Talking with Jacques has us both really excited about one day going to South America and Southeast Asia. I’d highly recommend checking out his blog here. After a few hours of riding, we crossed a final ridge and descended to a campsite right on the beach that wasn’t open yet (AKA free)
The next morning we set out early with a plan to get to Korčula island by the evening. More beautiful riding all day. Rolling hills, great views of the sea and tons more vineyards. The vineyards aren’t growing anything yet so the fields look eerie with all the vines cut short, twisted and gnarled near the ground. We stopped for a snack at a little seaside town which was really cute but didn’t have a store to get food for lunch. As spring is just beginning there is so much in bloom all along the sides of the road. There are tons of flowers and everything is so green. Everywhere we have been in Croatia the water has been remarkably clear, it looks almost like lightly green glass.
We had to climb a lot in the second half of the day, it seemed like we were going uphill for hours. After lunch we saw a group of tourists from London on the road and they told Jacques that there was only one ferry at 5 pm. We didn’t want to risk missing it so we picked the pace up a little bit. Eventually we got to the top of the last hill and had an amazing descent down to the water. Part of the way down we met a couple of tourists who had just come from the island who told us no need to worry, the ferry goes every hour. We chatted with them a while about their trip and the island and continued down to the coast. We got into town and even had time to grab a coffee before catching the 15 minute ferry to Korčula town.
We slept at another not-yet-open campground which was right by the water. The ride down the whole island was only going to be 45 km the next day so we decided that we would go explore the city in the morning. We spent the night cooking, eating, and talking.
Soon after starting our ride we took a break for lunch and relaxing in the sun near an old church. It was the first day that it was truly hot out. We all felt pretty lazy and wanted to do nothing aside from lay in the sun, eat, and nap. It’s really nice to not have any sort of specific schedule. If we want to take a 2 hour break that’s totally fine, if we don’t make it where we planned to go no big deal. We always have tomorrow. The rest of the day ended up being pretty hilly but we had a really nice time. Great weather, great scenery, pretty much a perfect day of riding. We got to Vela Luca where we had to catch the 6:15 ferry the next morning. We stopped and asked for water at someones house before finding a camping spot and were given not only water but also a 2 liter coke bottle of homemade wine. It was actually pretty decent (Jacques has been teaching us a bit about different wines and what to look for). We had a fun time cooking. In the process of cooking dinner we managed to spill half the rice and run out of fuel in both our stoves, but we had a good laugh and dinner was still great. Autumn and I have adopted Jacques salad recipe which is basically buy whatever vegetables you see and an apple, chop it all up and douse in lemon, oil, and salt. It’s the first salad I’ve really really liked. We camped without the tents to cut down on time to break camp in the morning.
We caught our early ferry and a few hours later we were in Split. It took a bit to find the hostel ,but after finding it and carrying our bags up the 9 flights of stairs we got to relax for a few minutes. After we had recharged a bit we went to the market and I got some pants to cut into shorts (no one had shorts for sale yet…) and then spent the afternoon lazing around on the beach. The market in Split was our favorite so far. It was very lively and really big for a vegetable market. There are also a lot of nice butcher shops, cheese shops, and pekaras (bakeries) We are really starting to get used to the “euro” way of shopping where you might go to 5 different shops to get what you need. We already find ourselves a bit overwhelmed when we go into a big (by European standards) supermarket. In the evening we got dinner with Jacques as he was headed off the next day. We had a really great time riding with him and hopefully will see him when we get to France!
The next day was spent wandering around Split and seeing what we could of the city. We hiked up to a park overlooking the city and hung out for a while. We wandered around the city and saw the cathedral and walked through the narrow streets of the walled city. Split is another city that was at one point controlled by the Venetians and the style is very similar to the others we have seen. The walled cities we have been to feel really cozy and homey with lots of little alleys and crooked streets. It also seems that everywhere you go in Croatia are stairs and more stairs. With all the cycling plus a few hundred stairs a day our calves are going to be ripped by the time we get home. We got stuff to make sandwiches from 3 different stores in the green market and caught up a bit on our postcard writing.
On our last day in Split we made a picnic and rode our bikes with no bags on them to the end of the park and ate and relaxed on the beach. It was so nice to ride a bike without all the extra weight. They feel so light and fast. It’s so easy. We both are excited to be able to ride without all our gear when we get back home. The park in Split, called Majan, is wonderful. It is almost as big as the city itself and has hiking trails, roads for riding bikes, picnic areas and playgrounds. On the weekend there were tons of families from the city walking around and hanging out in the park which was really nice to see.
The next morning we headed out of Split towards Zadar by way of Krka National park, but as you know our plans are always changing…