It all begins on a boat around 6:00 AM. We are surrounded by islands, and we feel like we are on a lake. We arrive in Split early. The town is not even awake yet and the sun is slowly warming up the yellow stones of the ancient city.
We feel a little bit lost. Arriving on a boat is kind of brutal compared to crossing borders on the bike. We are also drowning in this language that sounds like nothing we know.
At Pascal's we feel like at home. He hosts us three days, and we take it easy. He takes around town, to bars, restaurants, hiking in the mountains ; it's a good start for our stay in Croatia.
And with the sun, that makes us squint we already know we will have a good time here.
Travelling on a bicycle means making choices. In every country we look at beautiful pictures, we hear about places we can't miss, about important towns or historical monuments... For the moment, we are more or less heading directly to Turkey, but we sometimes decide to stay a little longer here and there if we like it, to avoid big cities that are painful experiences with bicycles, to explore more some regions... Here is a choice that could be surprising : in Croatia we will not go to Dubrovnik.
The croation coast is a patchwork of hundreds of islands stretching along the coast. Following Pascal's advice, we decided to go to Hvar and Mljet.
After almost two hours on a boat we arrive on Hvar island. During 5 days, we camp in isolated creeks, cross beautiful villages, build fires and set the tent every night. A few times we felt like we were on holidays... after 2 months it's about time!
(Julien) It must be a good sign to manage to get away from reality, to let go, and to live on simple things. But I keep a small feeling of guilt in my mind though : not realizing how lucky I am and not always thinking of enjoying each single minute of this trip.
On these Islands we don't cycle much and I feel like I am not moving forward anymore. I feel frustrated not to move forward. A few days ago I was thinking that we were going fast and now I find us to slow. I need to move, to be on the bike, and to follow the map without even knowing where I am going. But riding in t-shirt, cook potatoes in fire and bananas on the red ambers, swim in the sea in november make these last days quite awesome, and I quickly forget about my dark thoughts and I ust enjoy.
(Stef) Am I dreaming or the hills are fucking steep here? Anyway I must get used to it. As we say it's always more beautiful when it is hilly. It is so nice to enjoy all these landscapes, this green nature, the blue sea, this desert island. Since we arrive in Croatia people are looking at us like we come from another planet, because it's getting colder, because it's low season, because there are no tourists around in november.
Hvar was really worth going. I am not feeling like I want to freeze my ass in the Balkans … but I know that my curiosity will push me over there.
One important thing of travelling on a bike is the excitment in the evening when we have to find a place for camping. Sometimes night is falling too fast and we end up in curious places. But we still feel this spark of excitment, it's a good thing, right?
Mljet is a small island, in the south of Croatia and half of it is a national park. There are no tourists at this time of the year, and beside the beauty of the lakes, some places look like dumpsters. We found incredibly dirty places where in peak season people have to pay 15 euros to enter the park. There are no tourists around and the locals are surprised to see us. The first question is always : ''Aren't you cold?''. We reply that by the fire it's always nicer. We spend hours looking at the flames, finding more firewood, cooking, reading, playing, without talking a lot. Then we run inside the tent and enjoy the comfort (and the smell) of our sleeping bags.
After nine days on these Islands, away from civilization, we go further east. Next stop will be Mostar, in Bosnie Hercegovina. A new country, a new adventure...