Day 1 – Dubrovnik to Klek: Croatian Coast Road
Saturday September 4, 2010, 74 km (46 miles) – Total so far: 74 km (46 miles)
After a late night packing things, I got up for a 5AM taxi to the airport. Instead of boxing the bike I decided to take it apart and put it in a clear plastic bag, hoping the baggage handlers would treat it well. Unconventional but it worked. After a 3 hour flight the bike and myself arrived in Dubrovnik intact. I missed the first bus to Dubrovnik but I sneaked my bike on the second one. The bus took the coastal road to Dubrovnik which gave fantastic views of the coastline. After a 20 minute bus journey in stifling heat the bus arrived at the old town of Dubrovnik.
I carried my bike to the hostel I had booked for my final night in Croatia and left my packaging there for the return journey. I then found a good spot on the main street of the old town and started assembling my bike. Due to being delayed at the airport I made a late start and only got out of Dubrovnik around 2:30. I was going to be hard pushed to make it to Metkovic tonight.
After a quick stop for snacks and water I made my way up the steep climb out of Dubrovnik to Road 8 which follows the Croatian coastline all the way from the Montenegran border north to the Slovenian border. A suspension bridge signalled the edge of Dubrovnik and afforded some great views inland.
The coast road was absolutely stunning. The blue skies, the clear sea and the barren mountains made for some fantastic views as I cycled along the busy road. Unfortunately I was soon accustomed to the Croatian driving style which involved trucks and buses overtaking me with centimetres to spare. This was the first time I had experienced the suck when a truck passes you too fast and too close. Because of the proximity and the speed you find yourself pulled towards the space under the truck. This was a bit scary the first time it happened but after that you kind of get used to it.
Another thing I found with Croatian drivers was that oncoming traffic will overtake with no consideration to cyclists. This means that as you’re cycling along the road minding your own business a car coming in the opposite direction will pull into your lane to overtake. So suddenly you have a car speeding head on towards you at 60mph+! You have 2 options at this stage, pull in to avoid a collision or stay at the edge of the road and hope the driver pulls back into the traffic in the other lane. I liked to make a game of this, I called it Chicken, unfortunately by the end of the day I was losing 6-1 to the cars…
I continued along the coast road making slow progress due to the never ending hills. As soon as you had worked hard to climb away from the sea to the top of a 100/200 metre hill the road would head down again back to a harbour and the hard work would start all over again to get over the next hill. Due to this I ended up reaching the Bosnia & Herzegovina border a bit later than expected.
As you travel along the Croatian coast there is a 10km strip of land which belongs to Bosnia & Herzegovina which you must pass through. In the 17th century this land was handed over to the Ottoman empire and to this day it remains in BiH, completely separating the small coastal strip in south Croatia with the main country. I crossed the small border post without having to show my passport and headed into BiH.
After a couple of kilometres I was getting a bit hungry so I pulled into a small diner on the side of the road. Here I ordered some Cevapi, the local Bosnian dish of beef with bread. Here waiting for my food is where I first noticed people staring at me. Everybody walking by or working nearby would stop what they where doing and stare. When I would catch them staring they would look slightly embarrassed and look away, then a couple of seconds later start staring again! I guess foreigners on bikes don’t stop here too often. It was something I would soon get used to outside the main tourist towns.
After my Cevapi I realised it was getting dark very quickly. The sun was setting before 7, I had expected more daylight but due to being so far east but yet in the same time zone as Spain and France it got dark quite early here. As I passed above Neum the sun had set and it was fairly dark going through the Croatian border post. Luckily the police there didn’t care too much about me not having lights.
It was nearly pitch black at this stage and I had to pull over any time a car was behind me. After a kilometre or so of this I turned off the main road and arrived in the small coastal village of Klek (Population:80) which I knew had a campsite nearby. I made my way down the narrow roads of the village asking some of the locals where the campsite was but they had never heard of a campsite in Klek, they all replied with ‘Nye Klek Kamping!’ Not good news so I went looking for other accommodation and soon enough found a private room for €15 in the middle of the village.
You are tough and brave
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