Touring Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina: Introduction

It’s been 2 years since my first short cycle tour at 18 and in that time I had yet to set out on another trip. I’ve always loved to get out on the bike and travel around different parts of Ireland but within the last 2 years I’ve grown a more intense thirst for travel.

My only previous trip was a 6 day tour of the beautiful Iveragh and Beara peninsulas in south west Ireland. It had been great but due to the time taken up by college and my other hobbies, mainly mountain biking and photography it took me one and a half years before I was planning my next trip. The plan was to do a 2 week loop of southern Spain in the winter. It was the coldest winter Ireland experienced in nearly 50 years and the roads were covered in ice. The day after my college exams, 3 weeks before the trip I went for a short spin up the nearby Woodcock Hill. I had no idea there was so much ice on the roads so wasn’t being as careful as I should have been. On the way to the hill I took a corner too fast, slid out on the ice and smacked my wrist into the tarmac.I thought it was just a sprain but after checking the symptoms online, it looked like it could be a fracture of my scaphoid.I got an x-ray the next day and it turned out it was! 2 months in a cast put an end to that tour.

While I was in the cast I set about researching another trip for the summer. I wanted to go somewhere interesting, most likely somewhere in Europe for my first foreign cycle tour. After stumbling upon some photos of the Croatian coast in Ben Voyage’s excellent blog I did a bit of research and found I could make a great loop through Croatia and Bosnia. Looking at the flights, Aer Lingus fly direct from Dublin to Dubrovnik. This sealed the deal!

After a very difficult 4 months in college doing endless projects, I was lucky enough to get a job for the 8 months of work placement as part of my course. Funds for the trip sorted! So midway through the summer I booked my flights and started preparing everything. To sort everything for the trip took a surprisingly long time since I didn’t own much touring specific gear. But in the end it all came together.

Although this is mainly a tour about experiencing 2 new countries and cultures it is also a test trip to see how I would fare cycle touring by myself so far from home. After college I am hoping to go on a tour to Asia, travelling through Europe to Istanbul, through Iran, the “Stans” in central Asia and onto Mongolia and from there if I still have the funds, continue on around the world. This is a dream of mine and something I am driven to do once I finish college. It was important that I would learn some lessons from this tour and get a feeling of what a much longer tour would be like.

The plan for this tour was to do a 900km loop taking in the length of Bosnia & Herzegovina and travelling back along the Croatian coast. As I learnt though, not everything goes to plan!

List of Gear:

Bicycle: Land Rover Athabasca (Bought for €170 2 years ago) Great bicycle so far, no problems whatsoever and have had to do very little maintenance on it in the last 2 years. I haven’t even had to fix a puncture! Ok for a short trip but needless to say,for a longer tour I would definitely go for a better quality bike.

Tent: Gelert Solo (Bought for €26 from Amazon.co.uk) Stood up very well for such a cheap tent, hard to know how it would perform in extreme conditions though.
Also brought sleeping bag, however it wasn’t really needed as it was fairly warm at night.

Camera: Canon 400D with Sigma 10-20 lens.

Handlebar Bag: (Topeak TourGuide DX Handlebar Bag)

  • Phone
  • Passport
  • Torch
  • Compass
  • Fake Wallet (Crime is very low in this area of the Balkans but just in case I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time I brought another wallet. This had a small amount of money in it which I could hand over if necessary while keeping the real one hidden,not sure whether this would work in practice though!)
  • Real Wallet (With Euros,Croatian Kuna,ATM card and ID)

Panniers: (Cheap Raleigh Panniers from Argos)

  • 4 Tshirts, 3 I used for cycling and 1 for off the bike
  • 1 Pair of tracksuit pants
  • 3 Pairs of cycling shorts
  • 1 Fleece
  • 1 Rain jacket
  • 3 Boxers
  • 3 Pairs of socks
  • Camera charger
  • Phone charger
  • 1 Book
  • Map of Bosnia(Freytag & Berndt 1:200000): Map was very detailed however there were some minor mistakes which caused me to go off course on a couple of occasions. Probably best map available of the area but do not rely on the minor details too much or risk getting lost!
  • Map of Croatia(Euromap Croatia Dalmation Coast 1:300000): Map had the amount of detail necessary, might need a better map if going onto very minor roads

Repair Kit:

  • Allen Keys
  • Chain Tool
  • Powerlinks
  • 3 Spare Tubes
  • Puncture Repair Kit
  • Spanners for rear wheel (front is quick release, rear is not)
  • Spanner for removing pedals
  • Brake Pads

Packaging for flight:

  • When flying with Aer Lingus the bike will need to be in either a box or bag.
  • The front wheel will need to be removed and secured to the frame
  • The handlebars will need to be turned 90 degrees in line with the frame
  • The tyres will need to be deflated
  • Both pedals need to be removed

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