(written by Dave)
First up, last night Italy won on penalties in Euro 2012. I was too tired to stay up and watch. I’m glad I didn’t as it had to go late with extra time and the penalty shootout. I’m sure that Ross and the boys are happy, but all our friends in the UK crushed. England has such a poor record in big tournament penalty shootouts… While I did not watch, I was pretty sure that Italy won by the roars we heard from our room. The fans in Cres were decidedly cheering for Italy. It was late but they woke both of us up, for about 3 seconds. I am also happy to report that we both slept well. The cool room worked the treat.
We got up early hoping to make the 9AM ferry. We were riding just before 7AM and climbing right away (after getting a little lost in town on the way out – making Nancy even more nervous about time). It was 5k of good hard climbing, followed by 5k of mellow climbing. All this meant we were covering ground nowhere near fast enough. I was not too worried as I figured 10k up meant 10k down. Nancy had this fear that they may have moved the ferry dock up to 1,500 feet and that we would not make it. Have we mentioned previously in this blog who is in charge of worrying?
The views on the top of the climb were stunning. We rode the ridge of the island for much of the route, at times being able to see off down 1,500 feet to the Adriatic Sea on both sides. Guardrails were somewhat optional it seems so we were careful not to get too close to any edge. I stopped for a few photos but tried to be quick as the worry department was keeping an eye on her watch. We passed two cyclists sitting at the top of one climb, we waved and did not stop. Then we caught up with two touring cyclists just near the top. We chatted with them as we rode before pushing on ahead. We knew that we would have more time to talk as they were heading for the ferry as well. If we all made it there in time, we could relax on deck and swap stories.
Well, without further suspense… We rolled up to the ticket booth with 30 minutes to spare. And right behind up were Mateja and Mayaz, two cyclists from Bled, Slovenia, out on a short trip down to Croatia (apologies if we have gotten the spelling wrong). As we had hoped, we had a chance for a proper catch-up on the deck of the ferry. Mateja and Mayaz are relatively new to cycle touring but not short of enthusiasm for riding in Slovenia. They gave us more suggestions for routes in their home country than we will have time to cover off on this trip, but we’ll follow some of their tips for sure.
We read about the ride out of the ferry being very steep and it was hard. It included a couple pitches at 11%, complete with signs for effect. There was a sign for 14% but thankfully it took off the other direction and we didn’t have to ride it. The four of us rode up more or less together, both Nancy and I jealous of the short-trip, “semi” lightweight loads that Mateja and Mayaz had on their bikes. When you travel like we do for 14+ months you take everything, including the kitchen sink.
Once at the top of the ferry climb, we had another spectacular ride along the coast until we stopped in Brsec for morning tea at a bakery. We knew traffic would pick as we approached Rijeka but it was as if someone flipped the traffic switch at Brsec. For the remaining 20k we had non-stop (though polite) traffic the rest of the day. It turns out today, 25 June, is statehood day here in Croatia. We didn’t know before we arrived in camp but now all the traffic makes sense. Lots of folks were heading to the beach today.
We had a couple campgrounds picked out but were also interested in pushing on as far as we could so that tomorrow is not as difficult. With this in mind, we skipped looking at the first campground. We then found that the second campground was closed and were stuck with only one option. The folks at information were not overly kind in their summary of our one campground so we headed off with some trepidation. And in fact when we got here, it was not perfect and we considered moving on. They have a separate tent area which was completely empty but it was pretty sunny and not very level. After much discussion, we decided to stay, pick the flattest spot and use our tarp to make our own shade. It has cooled off and there are some high clouds today, so shade is not as important. Now that we are settled in, the site doesn’t seem too bad. It is close to the road, so we’ll see how we feel about it after trying to sleep tonight.
The campground is in Preluk and it is clearly the spot that folks have been coming to for years on end. There are couple “town mayors” set up – sites that no one dare pass without stopping to say hello and have a shot (of some unknown liquid). And the beach is amazing. It can’t be more that 40 meters long and it is nothing more than rocks. Here again, it would seem that spots have been reserved for years. We took a look out at the water taking great care not to tread in any pre-marked areas. We’ll see if they have fireworks tonight or if the party is what we’d expect for a national day. One of the mayors is right next to the tent area. It may be that we end up doing shots ourselves.
Tomorrow we head into Slovenia. We have no guidebooks and limited info on the first town. The second night we are planning on a Warmshowers stay. We are keeping an open mind on the route past the second night as we are sure that we will get some local tips. Fingers crossed for a quiet-ish night…