Friday, August 03, 2007

Free Advice

Dubrovnik city walls.

It's been a week, but a lot has happened. We left Mostar and rode south to Medugorje, a town that's become a pilgrimage location for many Catholics. In 1981, six teenagers claim to have seen the Virgin Mary on the hillside. Since that time, the town has exploded despite missing the Catholic Church's official recognition of the validity of the apparition. We enjoyed the afternoon at the church and the sight of the apparition, but soon headed on toward Croatia and Dubrovnik.

Joel's bike broke down about 5km into Croatia, and it took us nearly three hours to get it running again. However, it was getting dark and we didn't know what to expect on the road ahead. We decided to sleep in the bocce ball court where we repaired the bikes. The police didn't seem to mind when they drove by as we set up our beds, and we slept well.

No bed like a bocce ball pitch.

Managed to get a flat tire about 3 km from this sign.

We arrived in Dubrovnik the next day after a brutal climb through a part of Croatia that looked like Mexico (with landmines). I got a flat about 5km from a minefield, and as my bike started to fall sideways off the road, we all braced for catastrophe. Tragedy averted and tire repaired, we pressed on and up the toughest sustained climb we've done so far. That was followed by a few more big uphills, but eventually we found the sea and Dubrovnik. Our apartment was located up on the hill above the harbor and had great views of the Lepad Peninsula. After showers and a few beers, we were ready to head out.

View from our room in Dubrovnik - first night.

The streets of Dubrovnik are made of white marble.

Greg and I wandered into town that night not knowing what to expect. We barely made it into the town walls when we met four girls from Denver who just happened to know a bunch of our friends from college. That night we had drinks and enjoyed talking to someone else - anyone who spoke English as their first language and hadn't been on a bike with us for the previous month. Their apartment had air conditioning, so we stopped in for wine from big straws and spaghetti.

We agreed to meet again the following night for a walk around the city walls in Dubrovnik. The city is beautiful from inside, but from the walls surrounding town, it shines. As the sun set, we tried to soak it all in. it was amazing. We ate pizza before the girls had to catch a bus back to Sarajevo (they're working there for the summer) and after buying a few beers, we watched The Simpsons Movie at an outdoor theater in Dubrovnik's Old Town. The city is great, the girls were awesome (thanks again for everything, sorry we're not getting into Sarajevo sooner), and we left feeling pretty good.

Walking the walls with the girls (hope you don't mind me posting your pics).

Dubrovnik from the city wall walk.

Just a note. Don't buy bicycle inner tubes in Dubrovnik. They only have valves that don't work with normal pumps. It took us three hours of frustration to come to this conclusion. Come prepared, or don't bother. Obviously, we didn't make many kilometers that day, and we slept in a vineyard just about 500 meters from the border of Montenegro.

Old Town Dubrovnik from the ride south.

Not a bad place to sleep.

So after picking up the first stamp in our passports since leaving Czech, we rode into Montenegro and toward Kotor, a small town at the head of the deepest fjord in southern Europe. It is a beautiful area with a fortress that rises high above the water below. After spending the afternoon resting by the sea, we climbed about 2000 feet out of the valley to the best campsite we've had so far. it overlooked the Adriatic and a large inlet to the fjord, and we slept well in the cool air. It was probably the first time the nighttime low temp has been below 85F in three weeks.

Kotor fjord at sunset. This was basically the view from where we slept.

Climbing on, we survived our first 100km day of the trip. Everyone rode hard as we entered the mountainous country of Montenegro (Crna Gora; Black Mountain), but it's been kicking our asses. Making the riding harder are the friendliest people we've met so far. Almost everyone wants to know where we're from, where we started, where we're going, and if we need any help. yesterday, a well-meaning man gave us beer and brandy at noon just before a 3000 foot climb. Well intentioned, but we paid for it.

Montenegran high country.

We followed the 100km day with another 80km into Zabljak, where we now sit. today we saw the Tara Canyon (second deepest in the world behind the Grand Canyon) and I visited Black Lake, which is really two lakes because the water is so low. Southern Europe is currently experiencing the worst year on record for wildfires, and the air quality for much of our trip has done nothing to dispel that statement. Anyway, the water in town doesn't run from 11p - 6a daily. Unavoidable, I guess.

Standing in the Tara Canyon

So now for that free advice. After all, if you've made it this far, you deserve something, right? Buy land near Zabljak. Simple, I know. But let me make my case. Beautiful town in the tallest mountains in the country with a ski resort at the base. Twelve kilometers from the second deepest canyon in the world. In a National Park. Looks like Crested Butte did 30 years ago. Two and a half hours from the Adriatic Sea by car, and one and a half from a major airport (at the capital, Podgorica). Country gained independence 7 months ago, and is already on the Euro. It's basically fast-tracked for EU membership. That means you don't have to gamble with some Mickey Mouse currency that may or may not gain or lose value meteorically before being banished for the Euro in ten years anyway. Look it up, check it out, and let me know if you want to go in on something. This is the next Sun Valley.


route update


Mike Flick said...

Fitzy - I have been following your progress fairly religiously. I apologize for not posting anything sooner, you've been riding for a long ass time now. It sounds like this experience has been incredible. Thanks for taking all of us back in the states on your ride with you!
A couple questions for you: who did those girls know from CSU? And how the heck do you run into people from Denver in Bosnia. That's amazing.
Again, thanks for bringing us along on your trip. Keep the posts coming.

Anonymous said...

Who is that hot girl in the khaki shorts you've got your arm around?? go buffs!