Just a quick update, we have not died and we are not still in croatia.We are in Nukus Uzbekistan and just about to hit five days of deserts! wish us luck! oh and I have decided to start a new low water diet to try and become even more efficient. I will try and drink under one litre of water a day from now on (joking).
We all woke up pretty early and packed up our stuff before having some breakfast. Vincent gave me some coffee, which was the best start to the day. I have realised that I am completely and utterly dependent on coffee and that it would be almost impossible to give up, lucky its not opium.
After the bikes were packed and loaded up, we all got set to go our different ways. Richard had been cycling for about a year and half and was just going around wherever he felt like going, so he was in no particular rush. Vincent was waiting for his girlfriend in Montenegro, so he was heading inland to the mountains to kill some time. I was thinking that it was still a long way to Istanbul and that it wasn’t too long until josh and luke came to see us, so I thought I better push on.
That morning ride to Kotor was probably one of the best yet. It wasn’t too hot yet and it was perfect blue sky. The road was pretty flat and quiet so you could get some good speed. The road just went along the bottom of the lake, so that you had the mountains on one side and calm water on the other. I would suggest looking at photos on google as they will be much better than any of the ones I took.
The first 20 miles went really quick but it started to get seriously hot and steep again. The road clung to the coast and it felt like I was going up and downhill constantly.
The views were fairly ridiculous all day and I seemed to be making quite good time, I stopped after about 60 miles for some lunch and got going again at about 3pm, I still had most of the day so I decided I could probably make it to the Albanian border and try and find somewhere to camp before crossing into Albania. I thought I had planned a really good short cut, which would take off some time , but a policedude stopped me and said it was extremely hilly and that it was a bad road to go on. I thought about going for it anyway but decided I would be quicker on a better road.
I kept going until about 6 or so before stopping for a coke to give me a bit of sugar rush. the last 15 miles to the border were pretty tough, as some mountains seemed to appear out of nowhere, I was getting a bit tired so I listened to queen to try and get motivated. It was lucky there were not many people about as apparently I am gifted enough to sing Flash Gordon by myself. My earphones fell out at one stage and when I heard my voice it was fairly terrible. I could not fault myself for the amount of effort I put in…but it sounded horrific.
Although some bits of the day were a bit tough I was really enjoying pushing it and was having a great time just listening to music and chattering to myself, so I carried on to the border and still had some daylight so I headed towards the Albanian town closest to the border, Shokder.
It was a little bit crazy heading into town, I didn’t really understand how the roads worked, it seemed like you could pretty much just do what you wanted. This is very well if you are in a car but I felt a bit exposed on a bike. Having said that there were loads of people cycling so I decided to follow somebody and just do waht they did. I chose to follow and old man on his bike because I thought he would be fairly safe. I stalked him at a distance so as not to alarm him. I followed him until we got close to the city centre. At this point he started to cycling towards oncoming traffic so I ditched him.and followed someone else for a while. I am aware that this may have made me seem slightly strange to follow elderly people at a distance, it is a habit I am probably going to give up in the future, but for the time being it worked pretty well.
I found a hostel to stay in for the night and got some food pretty quick, I was seriosuly hungry. I think I cycled about 110-120 miles that day and it didn’t take long to fall asleep. It was a bit of a shame to go through a country so quickly but I will definitely come back to Montenegro and spend some days cycling inland in the future hopefully.
Having just crossed the border in the evening I was going to to try and go on to Kotor that night but I checked the map and it was about another 50k. So I just had a beer and some food instead, a much better plan.
I had a chat with a the guy behind the bar and he said that you could catch a ferry to Kotor. I still really wanted to get there that night so I went around looking for the ferry. I forgot to ask him the important detail of where you get the ferry from, so I just cycling towards the water and hoped for the best. Unfortunately it didn’t really work out this time but I did bump into some other guys who were cycling so I stopped and had another beer with them instead (it sounds like all I am doing is just drinking beer but its not that bad).
There was an American guy called Richard who was pretty much the veteran of cycle touring, he knew every trick out there! He gave me some pretty handy advice for cycling in the desert.
1, Put a tiny pebble or bit of grit at the front of your mouth as it keeps you salivating all day. He said not to worry about swallowing the stone as it comes out the other end anyway.
2, Don’t try and stay out the sun all day. it stays hot the whole time so just get on with it.
3, Don’t drink as much water as possible during the day as you only end up sweating it out. He said to sip water all day and then drink more at night when your body will not sweat it out.
I camped with them that night on some old sun loungers, which saved putting up the tent and all the extra hassle. I wouldn’t have had the guts to camp there myself as it was really close to the road and I thought that fishermen would be there in the morning, but richard and vincent said it was alright so no problems!
Before we went to sleep we were standing around chatting about our bikes and equipment. It became fairly obvious that I know nothing about bikes or equipment. Richard had a look at my bike and had told me that I was doing my bags up all wrong. He said there was an ortleib video online which showed you how to set up the bags properly so they all tied together, which I probably should have watched before I left. My dad suggested I watch the video before I left but I told him I knew what I was doing and that it couldn’t be too difficult! But it turns out he was right about that.
We chatted about what were the best kind of foods to eat as well and I was told that you need to eat loads of proteins and stay away from sugar drinks. So my previous cycling diet of pizza, beer, bread and cheese may have to change at some point.
Richard said that it was a really good idea to drop a couple of eggs in the pan when you cook up a pasta meal, boil the eggs and save them for later. About three weeks previously Luke had been telling me that he carried boiled eggs around as a healthy snack. I told him that it was insanse to carry eggs around and that it was not acceptable to eat whole boiled eggs in public places. I guess I was wrong about that as well and it pains me to admit it!
It was great bumping into richard and vincent as they taught me alot, which would definitely come in handy. We shared some homemade spirits richard had before going to sleep. A good day!
Now I was by myself entirely and thought it was time to push on to try and get a little closer to Montenegro.
I was having a pretty cool time, I was dealing with the isolation much better and got into a good rhythm. My days tended to go like so, I would wake up early and try to leave by seven, I would go for 20 miles or so before stopping for coffee and food, do another 30 miles before stopping for lunch and a swim and then see how many more miles I could do in the afternoon.
I kept on like this for the next couple of days and saw some pretty amazing views along the coast. The main road runs right down the coast and made it easy to stop and go for a swim at lunch time.
I thought that being by myself would give me time to have some pretty intense introspection, really get to know myself blah blah blah. Instead I realised I think about rubbish 50% of the time.
I kept hearing Alan Partridge describe my new look and these lines kept repeating in my head for about two days.
Cycling shoes compel the wearer to adopt a dainty yet deceptively powerful waddle, much like a large mallard duck. The cleats on the bottom of the shoe forces the wearer to take part in a raging battle with balance, the smallest pebble becomes your greatest enemy and may lead to many slips and trips.
However once one’s balance has been mastered, your walk trascends to new level. Gone is the waddling mallard and in its place a sawggering cowboy. Heads turn as as the clip clop of cleated shoes serve as a warning to all in town. The weaer now arrogantly struts into town like a drunken cowboy in a Clint Eastwood Western. The walk now subtlety bellows to all onlookers ‘Oh no hombre you got the wrong man, this cowboy means business!’
Tight lycra bib shorts ensure that the weaer is as aerodynamic as humanly possible, the wind cannot and will not slow you down. The bib shorts are multi-functional and double up as elegant swimming shorts, protecting your modesty whilst paying homage to the more classical style of mens swimwear, reminiscent of the 1920’s.
The torso is covered by a loose translucent white cotton shirt. This serves to protect the skin from the midday sun, whilst informing all those around you that, not only are you a sportsmen but a member of the intelligentsia, ready for philosophical debate at the drop of a hat.
Lastly, an equaliteral triangle has been cut from a dirty t shirt. Once attached with a safety pin across the bridge of the sunglasses, your nose is protected against the rage of the suns rays.
I also thought in great detail about how to harness the elements. I had talked to someone who said that the winds can get pretty powerful in deserts. I was obsessed with the idea of creating a sail like system to attach to the back of my bike so that I could be blown forwards, using as little energy as possible. Engineers of Wilder House, I am depending on you to make this dream a reality. I don’t have a concrete design yet any suggestions would be welcomed!
My days continued like this as I went towards the border of Montenegro. It blurs a little bit now, but Dubrovnik was really cool to have a look around and the sections of Croatia further inland were pretty amazing as well, it had a very different feel and seemed to be a bit quieter.
One thing I remember is just how hot it was all the time. I remember just drinking water constantly, but feeling like it didn’t do a thing. I had to stop in the shade just to rest and take in enough water.
After Dubrovnik it was not too far to the border of Montenegro!
We woke up pretty early and enjoyed 20k of downhill to our first Croatian town and shortly after we got our first glimpse of the sea!
We stopped off in Rijecka quickly to buy some new garms, as a constantly evolving wardrobe is essential for cycle touring. We went to H and M and that was pretty strange, it felt like being in Cabot Circus again. I took a long to find the men’s department. i was surprised that the alarms were not sounded, as usually a man drenched in sweat, completely covered in skin tight clothing, furiously pacing up and down the lingerie section is a great cause for concern. Looking back on it, I am not sure why but I decided to buy some trousers, whereas vito opted for some shorts, much more sensible.
We took it pretty easy going through the first bit of Croatia. It was difficult to really push it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was insanely hot, even my forearms started to sweat after just pushing the bike to the next cafe.
Secondly, the coast line was so beautiful that it was almost impossible to resist going swimming or stopping for beer!
We were going to have a rest day but thought we would have a proper rest in Novalja, on the island of Pag. Supposedly this was a bit of a party town but we arrived two days before a big festival so it was only building up at this stage.
It was really strange not cycling and I kept getting a bit restless. I tried practising some capoeira on the beach front, but the police stopped me. Apparently, 10am is to early to be doing topless cartwheels, expressing yourself through dance on a busy beach walkway. Upon reflection, fair shout.
I turned in quite early as I was planning to make a move early in the morning. Vito and I had been talking about going separate ways for a little while. He wanted to explore Croatia a bit more and I wanted to press on and go through some of the other countries. We cycled together in the morning and stopped for lunch before we came to a cross roads and went our separate ways.
It was really strange saying goodbye for now especially after being around someone all the time for the last two weeks. But, it was much better to do the things we wanted to do, then force the other to do what we wanted. So after he held my bike one last time whilst I went to the toilet, we said goodbye and good luck!!!
After stealing as much fruit and cereal bars as possible from our last hotel in Italy, we set off for Slovenia.
The atmosphere seemed completely different, the pace of life seemed very slow and relaxed in the countryside. We made our way through mountains covered in forests and there seemed to be endless possible camping spots in comparison to Italy. We passed by pretty cool wooden watch towers, which would have been perfect if was not about 10am.
The food was much much cheaper and we stopped for a three course meal for lunch, which only came to to a total of about ten Euro! I thought that I could definitely get used to eating like this every meal time.
We were in no particular hurry so we took it quite easy throughout the day and stopped fairly early in the evening to get a few beers. It sounds strange but we really struggled to find a bar, I almost gave up until Vito found one down the road. We thought about finding a hotel or somewhere to camp, but lost motivation and decided to drink our way through the beers on the list.
It was already dark by the time we thought we should find somewhere to camp. Reluctantly we set off on the road again to look for a quieter spot. We looked for a while but couldn’t see anywhere that was not farm land. After a few pints I had felt I had the confidence to just ask someone. Luckily a farmer was feeding his cows nearby and I asked him. He led us in silence to a remote spot and indicated that we could stay there. I felt pretty embarrassed that I couldnt even thank him in Slovenian, so fron then on I decided to learn at least please, thank you and hello in each language.
Slovenia seemed to be incredibly beautiful, like the French and Alps but a bit quieter. In a way it was a bit of shame to go through so quickly, so it is definitely on the list of places to go back to!
Northern Italy has been incredible but i am already starting to feel the heat during the day. Its so lucky we are not going through Turkey during the summer!
We made our through the Alps towards Lake Como, which is incredibly beautiful. I saw villa for sale at €40,000, so if anyone wants to split the bill i am up for it. Its just on the Swiss/Italian border and it looks pretty damn good!
The food and accomodation were much cheaper and we got into the habbit of double meal. Double meal is essentially a whole pizza followed by a kebab chaser. Even after this I still feel abit hungry in the morning, luckily there is plenty of dainty pastries and coffee availble in the morning.
We made our way through some of the bigger towns in northern Italy such as, Bergamo, Brescia, Verona and Viscencia. the cycling was much easier as most of the terrain was flat but the roads were much busier and I had to listen to music to distract myself from the noise of traffic on some roads.
A few highlights include, stopping at a Hong Kong bar and having a few drinks whilst Vito found out where was best to stay, the bar owner suggested the local park, but this looked a little dodgy so we moved on.
Just as we were about to give up and try and find the nearest Hotel, a guy called Simione cycled past us and asked if we wanted to camp in his parents backgarden! We stayed there and had breakfast with him in the morning whilst he worked out a quiet route to Treviso. He showed us a route that was on a cycle path along an old disused railway directly from Viscenza to Treviso for 40k. Sadly, I think the Bristol to Bath cycle path may come second in this instance. Simione said he wanted to help us as he loved bikes and was interested in where we were going. He had a collection of 14-16? bikes, all with Brookes sadles. He said that Brookes sadles used to be made in Viscenza which was pretty interesting. He also turned oit to be a journalist and said he wanted to write a story about us for the paper, which was pretty cool.
Another highlight was meeting the Italian equiviliant of Josh Newton. We went to a small village bar for linch and were greeted by a giy who was fairly inebriated by at midday. We only meant to stay for an hour whilst we ate but he kept buying us drinks and tried to pursuade us to keep drinking with him….We eventually left after another four hours or so.
I learnt some pretty cool drinking rules. From what I gathered there were two main rules.
1. Drinking is like farming, you must have a tractor and trailor e.g. one type of drink in one hand and a different one in another.
2. You can only finish drinking shots on an odd number, but ypu must always try to get to an even number. I understood the concept but not how it works in practise, essentially you end up drinking alot.
He was determined to make us stay for the frog and fish festival in a couple of days time, but we made our excuses and left after a couple shots. It would have been a good night but its probably just as well, there was no way I could keep up with him.
After one or two drinks, the Slovenian border was not too far away. Oh an we also saw a pretty sweet boxing match on the border. These were pretty tough dudes, don’t mess.
Having an amazing time and have been really lucky getting help from strangers all the time! I have learnt a couple things so far.
1. people are generally really friendly and I should ALWAYS be more trusting!
2. I may be the last person in the world to know, but Switzerland is seriously expensive and everyone has really nice bikes!
3. The Alps are vety high mountains and it is possible to cycle uphill for four hours!
4. A new trick for fixing a puncture on the road. if you pour abit of water in the tyre to create a small bath. You can then run the semi-inflated inner tube through the tyre to find the puncture (TM)!
5. Northern France has amazing cycling infrastructure! bristol city council should send a representative on a training course to bring back some ideas for the highways division (or Place, i cant remember what bit we worked in)!
Lastly, a massive thank you to Darryl for the reeses pieces they saved the energy levels!
really good days ride although I have learnt to hate strong winds, and the fact that every food shop is shut for the majority of the day.
We had to stay in hotel because there was a bit of rain. Tomrrow we will be faster a stronger. I predict we will be in montreaux!