(written by Nancy)
Sorry to say we had to leave our nice comfy apartment this morning – it didn’t matter how long I stayed in bed, Dave kept saying ‘are you getting up, are you getting up?’ as he puttered around making as much noise as he could. So, after a cup of espresso and some muesli for breakfast we packed the bags and hit the road about 7:45. And, 30 minutes later we were still trying to get out of Dubrovnik! Because it is essentially a town built on a hill, most of the roads are one-way and wind their way back and forth along the hillside. Because the roads are narrow we weren’t too excited about trying to ride the wrong way to take some shortcuts so we tried to be good citizens and follow the traffic flow. Up and down and up we went, finally working our way up to the main highway and out of the town. As we got out of town we saw a side road we could have taken that would have avoided most of the mess – oh well, we survived.
There is a great bridge just about 1k or so from Dubrovnik and our apartment if you knew which way to go though it took us about 8k to get there in our polite, follow the traffic rules method. There was a nice pull over to allow folks to take a look, even equipped with porta-potties so they obviously get quite a few cars and buses stopping to take a look. We stopped so Dave could take some pictures, and of course, use the facilities.
There is another bay just on the other side of Dubrovnik where we saw three cruise ships and another 3-mast tall ship just coming in. Dave stopped for many pictures and later found on the web that it was an Italian training ship called the Amerigo Vespucci, used by the Italian military and carried a crew of 450 when it is on a training sail (apparently only 270 when it is on a regular sail).
We continued on the highway for some time, enjoying the views out to the sea and the islands just offshore but not really enjoying the traffic on the shoulderless highway. At the little town of Slano we pulled in to get a cold drink (where we saw 5 touring cyclists go by) and Dave did a map check and came up with a potential route that would take us off the highway to the east a bit. Now, the highway basically ran up alongside the sea and to that point the terrain above the highway just went up. So, I was pretty sure any diversion would be up into the hills. Dave really wanted to go that way, so rather than bear his disappointment for the rest of the ride we made the right turn.
It was a much quieter road but, not surprisingly, it did wind its way up and up and up. At one point I asked Dave if he was throwing in some hills because he was concerned that we wouldn’t get enough exercise today because we weren’t doing a long ride. At that point he dropped back a bit so he couldn’t hear me anymore… The hillsides were covered with low shrubbery so we were in the hot sun, snaking our way up several 10% grades. There were a few small villages set along the hillsides, and a quarry way up high as well. At one point we came around a corner and could see relatively steep hills all the way around in front of us. I could see one little steep road with lots of switchbacks that seemed to go straight up the side of a hill, and another road that had a slightly easier grade that went off to the left. Thankfully our road turned out to be the slightly easier one so we pedaled slowly up and finally over.
We finally came down off the hillside on the other side, noting the highway far below, running along the seaside. We finally came to the intersection with the highway and took it for the remaining 5k or so to the turn-off to the town of Ston. The bays just before the town seemed to be filled with mussel and other shellfish beds and we saw several little shacks that seemed to be selling them. We stopped at a little picnic area to eat our PB&J sandwiches and to take in the views. From there it was a short ride into Ston, where we stopped at the grocery store to get some supplies and at the tourist information office to check on camping.
After confirming the campground was about 3k further on, we set off in the direction of the campsite, stopping once at a little produce stand to pick up some cherries and homemade olives to top up our dinner supplies. After a nice little hot hill (thankfully Dave was carrying the backpack with the food supplies) we came into the bay where the campground (Autocamp Prapratno) was located – of course down two little hills with 10% grades posted, which will be a nice warm-up in the morning.
We picked out a campsite and set down the tarp and ate our lunch of nice cornmeal rolls and some kind of cream cheese-like spread with fresh cucumbers and our cherries while we cooled down in the shade. After getting the tent set up and cleaning up we relaxed a bit and enjoyed some people watching. Amazing the number of people who wear bikinis who perhaps shouldn’t – though what the heck, they are on vacation so good on them. I think I would feel pretty dowdy in my one-piece swimsuit around here, let’s just put it that way. Not to mention looking very weird with the two-toned colour scheme of my legs that comes with riding bike shorts.
We finally walked down to the little beach that is in the cove next to the campground and stuck our feet in the water – it felt pretty cool, but I am sure it feels nice to get in it in the hot sun. I have never been a beach person, can’t really see the fun in sitting in the hot sun, sweating and getting sand stuck all over, only to get in the water for a bit and then start the process all over, but then I expect most of the folks here have the same feeling about riding a bike up and down these hills in the hot sun, so to each their own, I guess!
We have snagged a table at the restaurant at the campground (we did have a coffee) to work on the computers. That is one of the downsides of camping in Europe – not a picnic table in sight at the campgrounds and since we sent our little stools home (hmm, whose idea was that now?) we have to scrounge a bit for somewhere to sit and fight for our space with the ants and other insects that run around on the ground.
It appears that we don’t quite have the internet worked out yet for Croatia, as we can’t get our internet tethering to work on the iphone at the moment. It appears to be somehow connected to the sim we bought – not sure if this carrier prohibits tethering somehow or what the problem is (my computer expert is working on it but hasn’t quite figured it out yet). All a bit of a pain, as we can’t really type a blog on the iphone – way too small of a screen for our age! It was a bit stupid of us, as for some reason we didn’t check it until last night and by the time we figured out it wasn’t working the shop had closed. We usually check it right away but we got distracted by all of the other things to do in Dubrovnik so now we have to somehow try to find a shop that can help or get some help through customer service… We bought some internet time here at the campground, but it is a bit spendy so we do not want to have to do this on a regular basis.
Anyway, off to cook dinner now.
Oh, we also had a nice surprise– we were contacted by Dee at Steripen after she read our entry about all the changes in touring since our 1992 trip. We carry the Steripen classic with us and it has been a great lifesaver for us, ensuring we have clean water to drink at any time. It’s so easy to use and avoids the slow filtering of water with the traditional pump water filters, though you are battery dependent (4 of the 34 batteries in our current arsenal go into the Steripen). Steripen has kindly offered us one of their new Freedom Steripens, which are rechargeable via USB cable, and posted a little blurb about us and a link to our blog on their community forum. We will meet up with my sister in Sweden and Steripen will send it to her to bring along. A very nice surprise – feels a bit like Christmas to us!