Day 4 – Mostar to Posusje: Lost in the Bosnian Mountains

Tuesday September 7, 2010, 66 km (41 miles) – Total so far: 244 km (152 miles)

I woke late making up for the lack of sleep the previous night to find I had a puncture. I lazily fixed it in the room and only got going at around 10. I had no real plan today, just to head north and see where I ended up. Getting out of town was easy and I was soon climbing into the hills surrounding Mostar on the main road to Posusje.

Overlooking Mostar
Climbing out of Mostar
Mostar Valley
Near the top of the climb

After a nice climb with some good encouragement from the honking locals I reached the top. From here the state of the road got fairly bad. The closer I was getting to Siroki Brijeg the worse the traffic was getting and the worse condition the road was in. Trucks were speeding by with nothing to spare. There were several occasions where trucks started to overtake me when another truck was coming in the other direction. They would give a honk and if I wasn’t off the road in a few seconds they were coming through anyway. This led to some very close calls and me having to pull off the road far too many times. I realise I’ve been complaining about the traffic on the coast road and the road to Mostar but it was nothing compared to this.

This was miserable. The truck drivers clearly couldn’t care less about a cyclist, once they were safe that was all that mattered. They felt they just had the right to barge me off the road and the annoying thing was there was nothing I could do about it. Coming up after Siroki Brijeg was a 10% climb to a 750 metre pass at a town called Vranic. I wasn’t looking forward to this with trucks speeding by me while I struggled up the hill on a loaded bike. I had a look at my map and made a decision to head for the hills to the east. That way I could take a longer quieter route along minor roads to Vranic. After Siroki Brijeg as the traffic was getting even worse I found the turn off and left that road behind me.

Siroki Brijeg

After a kilometre on this road I had my second puncture of the day. A man appeared from one of the nearby houses and supervised me fixing the bike, calling me a “maestro” several times. He helped put the wheel back on and I was off, until 200 metres later where I had another puncture. I found the thorn that had caused both the punctures and set about my 600+ pumps to inflate the tyre fully. For my next trip I think I’m going to invest in a better pump…

After this I eventually got some rhythm going and made my way up to 700m via a load of nicely graded hairpins. Houses were few and far between, I was really getting into the Bosnian countryside here. I passed around the tiny village of Crne Lokve which was a bit off the road and continued on towards the road to Vranic. Soon enough I came across my first sign. I took the turn off for Vranic and all seemed well until the road narrowed and turned to bare rock and gravel. I had surely gone wrong since this road was heading in a different direction to the one on my map. I headed back to the only house near the sign. Two women lived there and luckily one of them spoke German. She said it was the right road and that there was “nicht asphalt”, she also mentioned that the road went “oberen, oberen, oberen” (higher,higher,higher). The fact she said this 3 times worried me.

3rd Puncture
Gradual Climbing
Bullet ridden sign
Vranic this way

I headed on up this gravel track which turned out to be pretty technical at times. After a long time climbing on this track without seeing any signs of civilisation (except for 2 or 3 abandoned houses) I reached the top. I had started the day at 50m and was now at around 1000m. Whatever road I was on now it definitely didn’t exist on my map as the road on that avoided such a climb. On the descent I got yet another puncture, this time a pinch flat. After repairing this I was halfway through my 600 pump routine when the valve broke. So I had to repair an older tube and after my 5th puncture of the day I got going again. Time was getting on so I sped down the last of the gravel descent before I finally arrived at some tarmac.

I thought I was on the right track however the road soon split into 3. Luckily there were a few houses around here so I headed down road #2 and asked a local for Vranic and was pointed back in the direction of road #1. I headed down this but it soon split into 3 gravel roads! I was a bit lost now as my map was completely useless out here, I would have to rely on the locals directions. The only road it had printed for the area didn’t exist. I followed the most used gravel road and after 500 metres ended up in the front yard of a house. The family outside on the porch drinking seemed shocked to see me! This house really was in the middle of nowhere. I asked for Vranic and luckily one of the men spoke English. He told me I was in Rujan which was a good distance out of the way. He pointed me back in the right direction which was apparently road #3. They asked me to sit down and have a beer with them. I would have loved to but it was getting dark so unfortunately I had to refuse. Instead they gave me half a litre of Karlovacko beer and sent me on my way!

Oberen, Oberen, Oberen!
Gravel climbing

After a 3 kilometre tarmac descent I arrived in the village of Vranic. Eventually I knew where I was! Due to the time of day I powered on towards Posusje at full pace. I stopped off in a petrol station there and had a long chat with the German wife of the owner. It turned out there was a truck stop/motel just outside town. I wasn’t too sure about the landmine situation around here so decided to head for the motel instead of camping. I arrived in the pitch black and got a room for €20 and sat back and enjoyed the hard earned Karlovacko.

A well earned Karlovacko

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