Thursday, July 26, 2007

Island ˝Hopalong Cassady˝

Our afternoon siestas sometimes get weird.

There's so much to cover since the last post... On 18 July we left Rovinj on the hottest day of the summer. The temp was over 40 centigrade, and because it took us a while to get rolling, we didn't leave town 'till almost 1pm. This was a bad idea. We struggled through the heat and rode across the Istrian Peninsula all afternoon. That evening we caught a ferry to the island of Cres, and slept just above the sea. The next day we had our first ˝siesta ride.˝ We broke at midday near the water to swim, eat and nap during the hot hours. it was great to relax for a few hours and it really broke up the day. that night we came across a burning car in the road before the fire department arrived and watched people on mopeds vainly try to put it out with hand-held fire extinguishers before the real firefighters showed. after passing the charred VW beetle, we camped in what amounted to a trailer park. not glam, but our options were limited.

Stretching on Cres.

the next morning we planned on taking the catamaran ferry back to the mainland, but they wouldn't let us with our bikes. instead, we had to wait an additional 7 hours (not bad - we spent it at the beach) and then take a slower ferry (5 hours longer) that arrived at 11pm in Zadar, in an industrial harbour. let me tell you about bad news. we ended up sleeping in the port 'cause it was too dark to do anything else, and the bugs ate me alive. I must have had 40 bites, and if I'd been alone, I would have gotten up and ridden the rest of the night - I was that mad. it was too hot to sleep in the sleeping bag, so we just laid there knowing we were bait. not good. I think that was probably the low point for me.

Catching up on writing, late ferry to Zadar.

however, it was all up from there. greg and I rode into Šibenik the next day and spent the afternoon eating and sleeping in a park in the town center. is was one of the most relaxing days we've had, and that night we stayed in a sobe, or room, in someone's house (for rent, of course). we caught a concert in town later and met daniel, a croatian who gave us a few pointers and bought us a number of beers. to make matters better, joel was arriving the next morning and we figured he'd be in early - around 9am.

Side-Splitting humor, in matching board shorts. Cool.

so the next morning, after struggling to climb out of bed, we met joel as planned at the train station in town. it worked out well, and it was great to see our friend and have the three of us together for the first time since prague last january. we caught up in the park shared a late-morning beer before riding off to Krka National Park for the afternoon. Joel wasn't ready for the heat and hills, however. not that anyone could be expected to be, though. it was oppressive, and he did well to ride hard. it was good that we only did 25 km that day, and that night we enjoyed some cheap beers at a nearby campsite.


Roman ruins at Split.

the next day we rode most of the way to split, and camped along the road in the desert. this was joel's first ˝squatting˝ experience, and I think it went well. no one bothered us, and we easily made it into split the next day. Split has some of the most extensive Roman ruins outside of Rome. We spent that afternoon in town, and caught a 5am ferry the next morning to the island of Hvar, the greenest and wettest Croatian island.

Hvar Island.

the ride was beautiful, and a welcome change from the crowds, cars and madness of the mainland. we rode through forests and under shade for some of the day, which we hadn't done in a long time. we rested during the afternoon under the shade of giant juniper trees near a church, and finished the day riding downhill to a ferry ride back to the mainland.

Port Town on Hvar Island. The moutains in the background are on the mainland.

that night as the darkness grew, we needed to find somewhere to camp. we knew we had a 6am train to catch, so we needed to be close to Ploče. We found a nice place near the sea, but also near someone's house. they walked by as we watched the sun set, but said nothing. then we were awakened at midnight by someone no more than 5m away (and below) from us talking in Croatian on a cell phone. it was a short conversation, and we couldn't tell if they knew we were there. so after the guy left, we debated whether or not to pack up and ride, thinking he may have just called the cops. we decided against leaving - here we'd make our stand. when I woke again, it was two hours later and the moon had set, leaving us in total darkness. no one bothered us, and we left the site as planned at 4:30 to catch our train after a 10km ride into town. more surprisingly, we actually made the train, and arrived in Mostar, Bosnia, this morning at about 8.

The ˝New-Old Bridge.˝ The tradition of jumping off the bridge has resumed since it's completion.

This rests at the foot of the ˝New-Old Bridge.˝

Although it could be another blog, I'll say a few things and try to keep it short. This town has been the most sobering experience of the trip, and it's up there with the top ˝real world˝ moments of my life. Town is divided east and west by a road known as the ˝former front line.˝ that would be the front line of the wars during the 1990s that we all saw on TV, mostly with shots from Sarajevo. But Mostar suffered extensively, and many buildings remain today gutted, fallen skeletons of the past. The entire east side of town (the Muslim side) was destroyed, and much of the west side (Catholic Croatains) as well. The two just went at it in this small mountain town, and most buildings are still scarred by numerous holes.

As simple as it looks. Only a skeleton.

One of many destroyed buildings in Mostar.

The population of the town decreased by 25% during the war, and has not regained it's former numbers. While the two ethnic groups are becoming recociled, physical wounds remain open and unhealed. Cemeteries in town are entirely filled with graves with 1993, 94, and 95 as dates of death. Many of the dead were not older than me. And there's nowhere in town where you can't see a bombed-out building.

This cemetery has graves entirely from the war. I could have picked any angle and found a bombed-out building in the background.

But it's getting better. The ˝New-Old Bridge˝ was finished in 2004. It was brutally destroyed during the war, along with nearly all of the mosques in town. Today, they too have been rebuilt, and both sides continue to practice necessary tolerance. It's been amazing to be here, and sobering. Sarajevo will surely be similar, but on a frighteningly larger scale.

Necessary self-portrait. I need a hair cut.

route update


Brett Swanson said...

Ahh Fitzy, warms my heart to know three of my CSU buds are out there doin' stuff like this (just as it's warmed to have friends like Mitch who's living in a big tent in Estes Park, climbing as much as possible, and is uber-excited to have something akin to, but not quite, running-water).

Keep giving the to read when I's bored and restin' in a coffee shop.

When're y'all returning to the US?

meg said...

hey jonathan! just wanted to let you know that I've been following you on the blog and it's fantastic and I wish you safe travels and good times til I see you again!
love, your cousin, meg