(written by Nancy)
If anybody is looking for vacation ideas, Kotor would be a nice place to spend some time – there are lots of hikes to do in the area and it would be easy to spend hours just looking at the scenery and relaxing. Based on the crowds that are already there in June, I’d recommend going a bit earlier, perhaps sometime in May. There also seemed to be quite a bit of property for sale, if anyone is looking for a vacation home in a unique destination!
We had a beautiful ride around the Bay of Kotor this morning, working our way toward the small town of Lipetani to catch a ferry for a short ride across the neck of the bay to Kamenari. The southern side of the bay isn’t anywhere near as developed as it is in Kotor and feels very laid back. The small quiet road is lined with stone buildings, some looking quite derelict and others looking very quaint with green shutters on the windows that look out across the bay. We had to stop at one point to wait for a freshly cleaned and painted fancy boat to be winched across the road from a small boat builder’s yard into the water. A fellow with a good sense of humor stood by the side of the road with a red t-shirt hooked over the edge of a long stick, acting as the temporary flagger.
Once we got off the ferry we had about 23k or so before we reached the Montenegro/Croatia border. This border crossing took a bit longer than we have experienced for a while. Perhaps we have just been going through small crossings, but on both the exit of Montenegro and the entry into Croatia we had to wait for quite a long time the in queue (no separate queue for walk-throughs this time). But we finally got our stamps out and stamps in and there we were, in our 16th country!
We hit brand new pavement just after passing the Croatia border but, as in Montenegro, it didn’t last. We quickly hit road construction, with the road in various states of preparation for paving for about 15k. Not much fun riding with the dust swirling about but we made it through and finally hit pavement again. Just after we hit the pavement we ran into our first touring cyclist of the day, Lee from Korea who was on a 3-month tour from London to Istanbul. We chatted for a bit and we gave him our Albania/Montenegro map as he had no maps.
The road got progressively busier and the shoulder wasn’t great but cars were generally polite, other than a few trucks and buses. We stopped for a cold drink about 15k out from Dubrovnik and finally got use some of the Croatian kuna that we got from the two London boys a few days ago. Great, more standing stupidly at checkout counters while I stare at coins trying to figure out just what they are! At least we will be in Croatia for more than a couple of days so we can get some practice.
We continued on and then ran into some more touring cyclists parked in a small pull-out having a rest. Gini and Yong were also from Korea and have been on the road for a year, working their way down to Turkey from Korea, up to Serbia and now back down through Croatia. They were also headed toward Montenegro and hadn’t met Lee, their fellow compatriot, who was now just ahead of them. We chatted with them for a bit and they kindly gave us one of their Croatia maps. Neither of them had blogs but hopefully they can meet up with Lee on the road ahead, as Lee mentioned how loneliness was a bit of a problem when riding on your own.
We actually saw three loaded cyclists ride by as we stood and talked to the Korean couple but they did not stop. And, we also saw two loaded cyclists this morning as we stopped for a coffee – they didn’t stop either. So that makes a total of 8 touring cyclists – I think our days of not seeing fellow tourers are over and we have to get used to not stopping every time we see someone. We are normally both so excited by sighting that just riding past and waving seems wrong.
The last final push into Dubrovnik was not too pleasant with the heavy traffic on the main highway, particularly in the heat. We had read about an old disused road into the city that took you off the highway and saved a bit of a climb so we were keeping our eyes peeled to see if we could see it. Sure enough, we spotted the road leading off the highway on the left hand side of the road. The only problem was how to get across the busy road and get our heavy bikes over the guard rail. We did it, but it was not fun! Those bikes are dang heavy to lift up over a guardrail. Anyway, once we got on the old road it was a lovely ride right down to the gates of the old city.
We stopped at one of the gates to the old city where we saw a tourist agency advertising rooms. Dave went into check and came out with some directions to a place we could take a look at. Dubrovnik is basically built up on a hillside so everything is either up or down. Of course we were on the down side, so we followed the instructions and rode up the hillside a bit, stopping to check out a couple of rooms along the way. There were a lot of ‘rooms/apts to rent’ signs in the one street we were on so it looks like there is a lot of options here, though nothing is very cheap (and yes, Dave has already pointed out that I shouldn’t have been worried…).
None of the rooms along the way were stellar and when we found the one the agency had sent us to Dave said it wasn’t super. There was, however, a lovely place right next door at the Ingrid Apartments, thought the price was a bit out of our range. While we stood there a lady across the street came out to ask us if we were looking for an apartment. I went in to look at the first place while Dave was convinced to go into the second place. I was ready to take the nice apartment but the other apartment Dave looked at was 15€ less – a significant amount and he said it was almost as nice as the other apartment. After a bit of friendly discussion the gal with first nice apartment agreed to come down 10€ so we took that one. It is bright and cheery and even has a washing machine!! The woman who helped us is the daughter of Ingrid and is very nice so it made it easier to take this one.
After getting cleaned up a bit we headed down into the old city to check it out and see if we could get the phone sorted out. It’s a pretty stunning place and we only saw a bit of it before we decided we better get something to eat, as we hadn’t really had lunch and had only snacked on muffins during the day. We ended up at a restaurant and had the daily special – a tasty piece of fried fish, potatoes, salad and a glass of wine. We then went around the corner to a great ice cream shop and got an ice cream cone that was the best we have had since we left Italy. I think we may go back there tomorrow…
Finally we had satisfied our hunger enough to go find a SIM for the phone, which we did with the help of very friendly salesperson at VIP mobile. It seems to be working so far and will hopefully be enough to last us through Croatia. After a final stop at the grocery store for supplies we headed back to the apartment, where we are now both bushed and ready for bed. Though, the Poland/Russia game in Euro2012 is now on TV so Dave may be able to keep his eyes open for a little bit longer.
Tomorrow we’ll try to see a bit more of the old city and try to figure out the plan for Croatia. I might even be able to convince Dave to stay an extra day here, since he got such a great deal on the apartment…