Chapter III: Water to the right – Rijeka to Albania

Water to the right - Rijeka to Albania

The Adriatic coast is everything, but flat: cycling towards Makarska (Croatia)

The sea is flat, the road is not

Miri Ryan Statistics

Miri

We stayed two nights in Rijeka, so we didn't have much time to relax, because there is always a lot to do. Updating the blog, making the video and washing clothes. I imagine my rest days a bit different, but at least the alarm is off on those days After the second night, Ryan went back down into the city center to pick up the letter we were expecting and I waited in Ronans flat. We started quite late on this day. But I was looking forward to actually experience the Mediterranean Sea, since we were not far away, but still too far to go for a swim.

The first kilometers were quite steep and I feared it would go on like this forever, since Ryan already told me, that the coast line of Croatia is steep. But then we came on the actual road along the coast. The view was amazing, at least 98% of the time. I love the sea, I love the colors and the road wasn’t as steep anymore. I finally started to really enjoy this trip, at least a bit more

After a longer uphill drive we met Etienne, because he was faster then us, especially me, no surprise at all. . . We talked a bit, went shopping together and then also continued together. But we would not ride together for long. It was late and so we searched for a camping spot and Etienne continued. We actually found a very nice one, directly in the center of the city, next to the harbor was a bit of no mans land and as we but up our tent and go for a swim (the water was quite cold, so it was a short one ) no one cares about us standing there. Sometimes you just need to be a bit more bold to have a nice camping spot

The next day was a record day for me, because we cycled more then 1000m ascent on that day. But it did not felt as hard as I would have expected it, because there were more smaller uphills and one bigger, but not too steep uphill, so I did not expected this ascent-record, I was actually surprised when Ryan told me in the evening. Finding a camping spot was not easy that day. Ryan asked at two houses, but Croatia is too touristy and people just tell you were the next pay-camping is. We still found a very nice place directly next to the road under some trees next to the sea. And we weren’t the only ones. Bogdan from Romania was already there. We talked a lot and had a wonderful evening. In the morning we decided to stay one day at this spot, because it was so beautiful and peaceful. We visited the other world cycle couple, who also stayed not far away, but had arrived quite late, so we couldn’t talk in the evening.

After the three had left, it was a very peaceful rest day, more like what I expect from a rest day, we even had our own cranberry bush

The other days were quite unspectacular. More beautiful coast and even a bit backcountry, which wasn’t as clean and touristy as the cost line. The road was in very good shape and also the traffic was not too bad.

Ryan

We rested a couple of days in Rijeka, washing our clothes, drying tent and sleeping bags and enjoyed to have a shower and a cozy bed. Also, we recieved a letter from Germany containing my new credit card, so we could withdraw money anywhere. At the post office, was incredibly lucky to meet an official who was fluent in german, which made the process of finding the letter easier. Since the adress Google gave us for the main post office was complete nonsense, it took them a while to see in which shelf the precious package ended

When we left Rijeka, the coast with all its benefits and disadvantages hit us in an instant. For instance, we started climbing on the spot. There are rarely flat parts along the Adriatic sea, and as soon you leave the big roads, you are guarateed to end up in front of some ramps. Luckily we were already used to climbing, thanks to the Alps. Nevertheless, the landscape was rewarding. Stony, dry islands spread out in front of us, once we finished our way up. The latter wasn't bad either, because we chose to stay on the big coastal route 8, the climbs were rarely steep. Instead we would pass along canyonlike landscapes and often enough the terrain would drop spectacular next to the road.

Aside from that, one other thing became obvious: we weren't alone anymore. On the first day, we met Etienne, a french guy on his way to Athens and back to France afterwards, and shared the road for a short while. Little did we know, that the next evening we would end up in a lovely spot with not less than three other bicycle travellers. So we ended up chatting with Bogdan from Romania this evening, listening to his incredible and hilarious stories (he likes to travel off the beaten path, literally...). The next morning we would have a chat with Marion and Facu who were camping one bay further that night. They are also heading towards Asia just like us, and we enjoyed meeting likeminded people. The place was so beautiful, Miri and I decided to stay one more day there. We spend the time resting and sleeping.

Our way would continue like this until Split, resting on nice beaches, enjoying the good, only occassionally stormy weather and climbing a lot (we would firstly climb more than 1000m a day).

Statistics

28.09.2017: 68,3 km Average: 16,8 km/h Elevation: 655 m

29.09.2017: 56,2 km Average: 17,9 km/h Elevation: 703 m

30.09.2017: 85 km Average: 15,1 km/h Elevation: 1101 m

02.10.2017: 78,2 km Average: 16,8 km/h Elevation: 536 m

03.10.2017: 59,3 km Average: 15,9 km/h Elevation: 487 m

04.10.2017: 76 km Average: 16,9 km/h Elevation: 500 m

  • Etienne from France

Teaming up

Miri Ryan  Statistics

Miri

I wanted to visit Dubrovnik and so we planned on going there in the morning, leave the bikes somewhere save and then exit the city again in the evening. But we would arrive on a Sunday and not all the shops would be open. So to make our chances a bit better we planned to make a rest day after we pass Split. We made out a nice beach 50km after the city. So we started off and since there was no alternative we had to take the city highway through Split.

It was an absolute horror. And the adrenalin was pumping through my system, especially when I had to cross two lanes, that were turning right, of the four lane road,so I could go on straight. Since no one uses their signals, I had to wait some time till the lanes were clear enough, so I could cycle as hell and cross, since I didn’t now if the cars and trucks would go right or straight. Next problem of this road was, that it went uphill. So the difference between my speed and that of the others was high, which made it even worse. But what goes up, goes down again. The downhill drive was actually a bit fun. And suddenly there was another touring cyclist between Ryan and me on this downhill ride.

Well, this is how we met Simon , who is also from Germany and also wanted to go to Albania. We started cycling together and waited how things would work out. On the way to the beach,we have made out earlier, Simon got a flat tire. Since he wasn’t as well prepared as we are, thanks a lot to Ryans cycling experiences, we had to fix in on the road. We helped him a lot, because he was new in the business. And afterwards the tire held till we got to the beach (And a lot onger then this, it is still working ). We had a nice evening together and we decided to cycle to Albania together.

On our planned rest day Simon went to Makarska to get some spare tires and Ryan and I rested. It started to rain in the afternoon and the temperature dropped. Well we didn’t know that this was a pre sign of Bora but we learned quickly. The night that followed was hell. The tent was shaking as fu** despite the fact that we had wind it down, which we never had to do before. Our bikes were blown over from the wind. It was so loud and it was not a steady strong wind, but strong gusts from different directions, so we were lying in the tent and waiting for the next gust to hopefully not blow us and the tent away. Simon had it even worse, because his tent wasn’t as sturdy as ours. But we survived the night and also the tents were still intact.

Cycling in Bora is also very uncomfortable because you never know when the next gust will come and also the direction changes a lot. But we made it out of the Bora zone without any causalities Man, I was so glad.

This day we camped in a river delta, very quiet and very flat. It was a nice change of scenery. We slept instantly without any talking that evening. The day after that we wanted to cycle as close to Dubrovnik as possible and we also found a nice place, where some campers were already standing. Ryan asked if you had to pay to stay there, but it wasn’t the case. And the man he asked turned out to be a passionate traveler. He gave us so many tips for our further travel, especially for South Amerika and South East Asia, we will see if we can use some of those. But one of the tips we could use instantly, because he showed us a place were we could camp in Dubrovnik for free

The next day we cycled there, it turned out to be a little no mans land next to the harbor again, perfect for us, there were even cold showers on the beach there. And we also found a nice older man who arrived with his camper to stay there for the day and would look after our stuff while we explore the old town of Dubrovnik. Well I didn’t know what I expected, but there were still lots of tourists there, even in the off season. But the city was still very nice with lots of small alleys completely consisting of stairs and little balconies, I loved it. And there were restaurants everywhere, but they were not very cheap so we didn’t eat there. And returned to our camping spot to put up our tent and cook our dinner.

The next day we climbed out of Dubrovnik. It was very stressful because of traffic and steep ascension. But we made it and Montenegro awaited the three of us.

Ryan 

Split was a stressful experience for us. The shortest way through went over the four-lanes city highway, which we took due to a lack of good alternatives. It was the usual mess of heavy traffic, the necessity to cross over to some lefthand lanes and steep uphill ramps. The downhill made up for some of this, and we even met another touring cyclist, whom I passed quickly on this descend.

The other guy caught up on the next traffic light and introduced himself as Simon. He started his bicycle journey in Split, and we quickly decided to team up for the next couple of kilometer. After a short flat stage we would ascend again around a nice bay. It was then, when Simons back tire appeared unusually low on air. And right, during the next descend he got a flat tire. Even worse, the cause seemed to be a damaged tire. With the help of duct tape and some garbage laying around, we made a patch which sealed the tire.

That way we three arrived at our next camping spot, a small beach, unsuitable to use tent pegs. We used heavy stones to pitch our tents, and enjoyed an incredible bright moonlight night. The next day, the weather was announced to become worse, and we wanted to avoid visiting Dubrovnik on a sunday, so a day rest seemed very fitting. Simon stood with us, riding to the next bigger town Makarska for some spare parts. Little did we know what awaited us!

Later in the afternoon (it was already raining for a while), wind started to rise. Unfortunately, wind in Croatia is likely to be so called "Bora", one of the fastest winds in the world, and Makarska Riviera (the area we were in), was one of the regions very prone to fast Bora. We learned this the hard way, when the stones at Simons tent weren't heavy enough and his tent tried to fly away. After weighting it with some more stones, the gusts became stronger and stronger. In the late evening, we used the guy ropes the first time. But again, the stones weren't strong enough, so I spend the night carrying heavy stones to Simons and our tent in an attempt to withstand the stronger and stronger gusts. Sometimes, it would appear like some small dust devils shake our tent, then again it would be quite for some minutes.

In the morning we all have slept around four hours, which wasn't bad for this kind of night. We set the alarm early to escape the wind by cycling south, at least to spare our tents from some more bending and shaking. As soon it became brighter, we could see how the wind created a layer of spray over the sea, and some small whirlwinds passed along. We finally made it onto the bikes, and like Bora wanted to apologize, he came mostly from behind, pushing us up the hills.

Finally we made it to Dubrovnik, visited the lovely, but incredibly crowded old town with narrow alleys and interlaced architecture. Later we even found a nice place in the city to stay with our tent. Giles and Kelly, a lovely couple from Australia, gave us the location the day before when we met them on a deserted camping place. The next day, when we climbed out of the city, we were excited to finally cross into a new country: Montenegro awaited us.

Statistics

05.10.2017: 91,5 km Average: 18,4 km/h Elevation: 638 m

07.10.2017: 71 km Average: 16,2 km/h Elevation: 1042 m

08.10.2017: 69,6 km Average: 17,5 km/h Elevation: 622 m

09.10.2017: 26,8 km Average: 16,6 km/h Elevation: 232 m

  • May we introduce: Simon, our companion from Split to Shkoder in Albania

Montenegro

Miri Ryan  Statistics

Miri

The border crossing to Montenegro was unspectacular. And we were looking forward to some flat kilometers in the bay of Kotor. After all this up and downhill it sounded too good to be true. It started to be flat shortly before we entered the bay and we were looking for a place to put up our tents. We didn’t find one, because there were buildings everywhere. So we ended up on a deserted camping ground. The owner showed up the instant we put up our tents, but 10€ for three people wasn’t too bad, we had toilets, a cold shower, electricity and an awesome view. Later on a older couple from Germany arrived with their camper. And in the morning they gave us 10€ for when the owner comes, because they left before he came. We also did not see him again to give him the money, so we actually camped for free in the bay of Kotor, very nice

Cycling along the coastline there was amazingly beautiful. Especially the two little islands with the churches. . .so sweet. I like Kotor a lot. The old town of Kotor also looked very promising, but with two others on the road with me, I didn’t want to slow them down more then I already do with my slow uphill cycling We left the bay through a tunnel. The air was horrible, it burned in the eyes and we were happy when we were through.

Shortly after that we met Remi, who is on his pilgrim march from France to Jerusalem. Wow, he must be very mind strong to walk such a distance on his own, I don’t think I could do this. The rest of Montenegro was unspectacular, well the landscape was still awesome, but nothing extraordinary happened while we cycled towards Albania, to leave our strictly organized and clean European comfort zone and start to experience a bit more foreign chaos.

Ryan 

Montenegro is the perfect transit country into Albania. It's not as chaotic, but it's already far wilder than Croatia, where tourism took over most of the coast. Some first stray dogs crossed our way, the roads became really attention-demanding at some time, and tourism was only encountered very punctual. Plus it has Kotor, a incredibly scenic bay with an also nice, likenamed city.

After some flat kilometer along Kotor, we passed through the incredibly loud and muggy tunnel Vrmac. Shortly after, we met Remi, a french guy hiking from France to Jerusalem (everytime you think you might be tough, someone like him comes along and makes you feel like livin in a campervan ). We passed through Budva, the hell of a touristy town, and came towards Bar, the last big city before Albania. There we visited the newly renovated orthodox chruch with her stunning paintings, before we climbed our last meters up some 11%-ramps towards Albania. Just before the border, we met Stephane, another Frenchmen on his 5+-year journey around the world, by bike of course. So a pack of four travelling cyclists arrived at the border, astonishing border police and passer-bys alike

Statistics

10.10.2017: 71,8 km Average: 16,5 km/h Elevation: 741 m

11.10.2017: 71,1 km Average: 17,4 km/h Elevation: 697 m

12.10.2017: 73,7 km Average: 16,9 km/h Elevation: 568 m

  • Bus stations make nice places to have a break

In the next chapter, we will share our experiences from Albania

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