Day 5 – Posusje to Sinj: One does not simply leave Bosnia

Wednesday September 8, 2010, 118 km (73 miles) – Total so far: 362 km (225 miles)

I got going from the motel at 9. I followed the main Tomislavgrad road through the hills to Mesihovina. Here I turned off onto a small road leading through Rasko Polje, a quiet valley with a handful of very small villages spread along it’s length.

Tomislavgrad Road

After a peaceful cycle through the valley I descended down to the southern shore of Busko Jezero, a large manmade lake at the base of the Dinaric Alps. To the west these mountains designate the border between Croatia and Bosnia&Herzegovina , to the north is the expansive Livanjsko Polje, a large karstic plateau sitting at 700 metres.

I was unsure what road to take from here. I could cycle to Livno and spend the night there or do a lap of the lake and cross the border back into Croatia via Imotski. But another road crossing the border caught my eye. It was northwest of the lake and hairpinned from the base of the Livansjsko Polje(700m) into the Dinaric Alps up to a pass at nearly 1200m before descending 900m into a decent sized Croatian town called Sinj. On the map the route was marked as scenic and was apparently a class B road which would mean good quality. This sealed the deal.

Road to Rasko Polje

I cycled the eastern length of Busko Jezero and then along it’s northern shore before joining the main Livno road. Here I picked up a ferocious tail wind and absolutely flew the next few kilometres. From here I followed some back roads for 10km to the start of the climb.

The Dinaric Alps

When I reached the base of the climb I was surprised to find a gravelly rocky road cutting through the hillside. This definitely wasn’t a class B road as my map had said. This route looked deserted and if I was thinking straight I would have just headed south for the Imotski border post. There would never be an international border crossing at the top of this mountain but since I felt a bit adventurous, I decided to plough on.

Livanjsko Polje
The first part of the Vaganj Pass

I followed the hairpins up and up and soon enough had a brilliant view over the Livanjsko Polje below. It was tough going on this road with the grade hitting 10% at times, not easy going on this surface. It was very quiet though at least with only 2 cars and a truck passing me on the way up. For the first half an hour I took it easy enough but I realised at this pace I might struggle to make Sinj before dark so for the next half an hour I put the head down and grinded up the hill at full pace. The fact I hadn’t eaten a meal or any proper food for 2 days made this pretty tough. I had been surviving on chocolate wafers and Milka for the past 2 days which meant I had absolutely no energy! After this half an hour grind I eventually reached the top, absolutely shattered. After this I made a promise to myself to eat properly over the next few days.

Livanjsko Polje
Vaganj Hairpins

At the top of the pass there was only an abandoned house and a sign pointing off the main gravel road onto a smaller single lane one. I climbed a bit more and then descended a stony track following spray painted red arrows which apparently would lead me to Sinj. I came across a house after a few minutes, the 2nd I had seen in the last hour. Here I met a Bosnian farmer who said I was going in the right direction. He also mentioned the Polezi so there would be a border crossing of some sort up here. That was bad news as it would most likely be a local-only border crossing.

Road to Sinj
Bosnian Farmer

Since I was up here I decided to head for the border crossing and see if I could get through. I ended up on a wide gravel track again and soon enough saw the Bosnian border post: 2 JCBs blocking the sides of the road and a barrier between them with a tiny hut for the guards beside it. I rolled up and showed the 2 guards my passport but it was met with shaking of heads and “NO STRANGERS”. I tried my best to convince them but they said if they did let me through I wouldn’t get through the Croatian border post at the bottom of the pass. After 10 minutes I was getting nowhere so I headed back up the hill and stopped to look at my map deciding where I could go before it got dark.

As I was doing this the Bosnian guards called me back and said I could go through, they were laughing as they were saying it so they obviously thought I would be turned back at the Croatian border and have to climb all the way back up again. I decided to go with it anyway. Either way I would most likely be camping on this mountain tonight.

The Croatian side

The descent was absolutely stunning, an empty, perfectly smooth road switchbacking it’s way down the hillside with great views of Croatia laid out before me. After a long descent I reached the Croatian border post. The 2 guards had a look at my passport and shook their heads, they said there was no way I would be let through. They were 2 fairly nice guys and invited me into the hut for a drink. I hung around asking was there anything they could do since it was a long way back up the pass and back down again into Bosnia. They made a few phone calls but even the chief of police said I couldn’t pass. It wasn’t looking good and I was resigned to having to climb all the way back up but after half an hour and another phone call or two it seemed I had been let through. I gave them a huge thanks and freewheeled another 400 vertical metres down to Sinj. I arrived just before dark, there were no motels in town so I broke the budget and went for the only hotel in town. I was quite lucky to get through the border in the end and the only reason I did get through was due to the time of day and having nowhere to sleep. It was a good lesson to research border posts properly in future.

Long and empty road
Road to Sinj

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