Poised now to go to Montenegro
25.07.2011 35 °C
My Journey from Senj to Podgora, maybe, 150km from Dubrovnik?... and so much nearer to Montenegro.
It seems a lifetime ago that I was in Senj inwardly marvelling at how far I`d got without some major incident having taken place. Its not that I want one, and I do hope that in time to come I can say I escaped unscathed having got all the way home without encountering any problems at all. But there is that other side of me that needs an adventure, the reason for being. The whole trip cannot be just like an extended shopping trip to Kingston in the Royal Borough of, or I would not have set off in the first place. So a warning to myself, be careful!.... things are likely to happen when you least expect them and particularly if I start thinking that this is anything like an ordinary life, or just an ordinary bike ride.
We had a dry spot for tourists and their en-masse milling from about midway from Senj to where I am now... It only picked up again from Split onwards, where the villages there had decided that that was where their future might lay...... When I Started seeing people out in the street openly touting that they had `Apartmen` to rent.... Not a spelling mistake, it`s a German thing.. This can be displayed as filial groups making an affair of it.. Table & chairs... Grandmother smiling approvingly at her extended families industry, she sitting nearby on the ever present rock. Or young girls parked up with the same sign in the back window and sitting nearby reading a book... all looking up expectantly, and holding up the sign as the next pulse of traffic roars past.. I always smile at them, it is ridiculous of course, I know the young girls will smile at me as I pedal past.... They are hoodwinked, and think that my smile is a prelude to letting a room, or a flat. Me? I just love seeing those smiles in return, it is really good for my morale and helps me get through those really hot, sweaty and gruelling July days, and no question, it is a guaranteed response!.. Oh I know I`m such a tart!..But happy that I can still smile, and get some smiles in return... fraudulent? Absolutely!.
I`d first had a conversation with a guy in a site just outside Selce.. When the subject of `The road of Death` first came up... It was a very small campsite, a short but steep gorge, created a millennium ago by the run off of water from the mountains on its journey to the sea. The present owner a young lady and 3rd generation of the original gentleman who owned this piece of land, her Grandfather, decided that this would now be a campsite, and that was back in 1960, it is beautiful, and for those months that the site is open.. between, April-August.. It is almost a Hippy Commune, loved it there.. I`d have let my hair down... If I had some. No that`s wrong, what I meant, is the inclination; and I really don`t have that anymore! .. The original tunnel was only big enough to let the expected amount of water thru` to the sea, but now it has been enlarged to accommodate quite biggish vehicles, but not some of the huge stuff that you now might see... But, as she said, its a small unspoilt part of paradise who would want the monster traffic, it would be a mismatch... Hey now, and read this, the Government of the day paid to have the tunnel enlarged and a narrow road built to accommodate the sites new use.... because they were now returning the land back to him!.. Or as it is now: Her.
Oh I must mention: Apparently the water course has changed and does not now pour off the Mountains in the usual way. That this area has been ignored by those extreme torrents of water, and that this has been so for the last 50 years. In case you were wondering!....
As with all these places along the Coastal road, they cannot be open during the winter months.. There is a real risk of being `Blown off`` a delightful expression, but not what you might think... I see now the signs that warn of this, on this, just another hot July day... The risk is so high that often the road will be closed...... Cycling along it, I can imagine the way it might be during those winter months. Many of those passes are so very high and exposed, the wind even now can hit me like a hammer blow, as I pour downwards into a sweeping bend to be met by the ``pushy, unpredictable, do be careful I will now try blow you off and down into the deep and rock strewn sea`` wall of air!... Conditions so much more extreme than when I cycle quietly to Sainsburys back home to do the weekly shop.
So back to the Campsite in the Gorge, and the conversation about the `Road of Death`. We agreed that there was much evidence to back the reasoning for such a name. My personal experience as I`m struggling up a pass my head turning from side to side with the effort, and then suddenly to see the angelic features of a young woman from only a feet away, shook me the first time it happened. Now I see these memorials all the time along this road. Very thought provoking, and with few exceptions all so young. Seems as you might guess, mostly motorcycles, cyclists.. and then cars. Beautifully cared for, coloured bottles containing candles, flowers. A stone depicting DoB, a short dedication, that `far to soon` date of death, and the Photograph, usually as part of the memorial itself. Our conversation developed, we shared that weekends camping with a diving club who were carrying out qualifying dives and other practical and theoretical tests... Instructors and their pupils, working hard and playing hard. Having once been a Diver myself have found usually a hard core of selfishness prevalent, these guys had that. I must also add, that that additional qualification although not in my log book, should have been during the diving segment of my life. This lot stayed up all night frolicking, its a wonder they were not lynched. Lovely tho` to see them suffering the morning after.
We spoke of Wreck diving, my new friend said that these guys are heavily in to ``wreck diving`` Oh! I said.. My own experience of wreck diving was a few of those that littered the med around Cyprus all those years ago.. Probably a lot more now. I remember one wreck being recovered from off Kyrenia on the North side of Cyprus. It had been preserved by being under the all encompassing, oxygen denying sludge of the sea bed, I think I`m right in saying that it was then known as the very oldest wreck ever recovered.. I think it is still now, perhaps 30 odd years later still undergoing a preservation process, in or near Kyrenia Castle? (Girne).
These guys here in the Gorge, their Wreck Diving, as it turned out, was on the vehicles that had taken that final and very dramatic high dive off the ``Road of Death`` of these there were many... I know we shouldn`t but - Oh! How we did laugh!
I have to apologise for the way this narrative reads. It`s a work of progression. I cook it offline when I don`t have access to the internet, which seems now to be most of the time... So the ending of this and some other editions can make a nonsense of the opening Paragraph... I think that this may have happened here.
I am now at this time just south of Dubrovnik, waiting for an appropriate time to crossover... Ah! I hear you sigh! another revelation. He is to finally announce that he is to `come out of the closet`
No - What I mean is the arrival of the exact moment that my dwindling amount of Kunar runs out, that I`m sleeping somewhere even nearer to the Border with Monenegro, that I have managed to buy a large scale map of the next stage of my journey after Montenegro. It is after all, only a short distance away. No. Important as those reasons are, I must have news of another imminent, arrival in Montenegro before I `crossover`
As I passed down the Coastal road from Podgora to Dubrovnik, I briefly left Hrvatska and entered Bosnia I Hercegovina... Just for ten miles, both borders were a `wave thru` no documents required. The old Gal and I have become seasoned European ``bikesetters`` Not Jet...and thoroughly looked the part, even if I do say so myself!
Mileage to date 2,431.3. Lost two more spokes over the last few days, the old Gal must lose weight. One on the front and one on the back.. Another puncture in the rear, must now be now ten altogether. I am scratching my head in puzzlement as I see quite excessive wear on my rear tyre, I don`t think I have got anywhere near 1000 miles on that, more like 500 I would say.
It`s the Balkans Brian the Bikingbarman. You are not commuting in Raynes Park - is the why..!
It was late afternoon the sun was low and to the west of me, it was warm on my back. There was a lull in the traffic that had been speeding to and fro` for the best part of the day... I guess they`d all got to where they wanted to be and were now leaving me to get on with it... I was watching my shadow, it was thrown on to the road and in front of me.. I could clearly see the flap of my open vest within the shadow as the still warm wind tugged at it.. It was a downhill section, I was careful not to take my eyes off the road. The potholes were waiting, the protective rail that would impede my downward fall off the mountainside was not there.. I was conscious of how near I was to free flight. I then suddenly noticed that my shadow neatly and smoothly was being swallowed by one that was much larger, and a moment later mine was obliterated ...It was as a barbers upward stroke with a strop razor, the beard was gone in one, so had my shadow. The sun was off me now. It was instantly and considerably cooler, the sweat was cold on my bare arms. I knew now that I must concentrate, as from experience I knew what would happen next. There was no sound, deceleration doesn`t make a sound.. That what was behind me remained silent, I then heard the click of, maybe a solenoid, a switch being flipped on – The ear shattering, bowel shuddering cacophony of a close proximity triple klaxon would now surely begin. I held firm in my resolution to stay cool, upright and resolutely in control of the old Gal. I would not be bullied into free flight. No matter what, I was determined to stay on the road.
Well what I heard next was the .. ``I was born under a wandering star`` as rendered by … craggy faced Lee Marvin, hugely talented in my opinion... but not a singer …. It was not loud, but quiet and close, almost intimate. The Driver had a selection, I got this one, and then the huge white Bus pulled to the left, came alongside, I felt the suction, and then the blast from it as it then pulled away and sped off into the distance...
What an extraordinary experience. Until that point I had been making preparations to die. It is after all `The Road of Death` …. ..
.... Was that dramatic? Or not?
Do not forget `Help for heroes`... This is the point... www.Justgiving.com/Brian-Pilkington1.. Or a search will do it....Cycling to Cyprus, and a fiver will do... or more.. Thanks in anticipation... I will then personally thank you by e-mail..