Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Days 341 and 342
Gospic to Novalja (Pag) to Ražanac
Time: 8:37:00
Distance: 128.3 kilometers
Avg Speed: 15.0 kph
Terrain: Mountains to Dry Rolling Hills
Location: N 44˚ 17’ 1.9”, E 15˚ 20’ 34”

I’ve been a few places in the world where the mountains rise up from the sea. Yesterday we rode through one such landscape.

We started out from Gospić with a good breakfast in our bellies. The buffet was not spectacular but had a welcome sight – eggs. Chris worked over the fried variety while I picked the shells off of a few hardboiled. Our soup and pedaling diet probably hasn’t provided enough protein.
The juevos were still with us as we started our arduous grind up the leeward side of the Dinaric Alps. Beyond the rugged mountain range lays the Adriatic Sea. I was feeling good in the morning air, looking forward to a dramatic change of scenery at the top. My daydream was short lived as the road turned from asphalt to gravel. The pavement had been torn up from shoulder to shoulder and our route suddenly became a real challenge. I had a little trouble bouncing around and had to walk about half of the 2km section. Chris waited for me at the transition back to asphalt and we made the pass in no time. The sea was not yet in sight but we enjoyed fabulous views of the surrounding peaks.
A tunnel finally brought us to the view we had been waiting for – the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. I was definitely giddy and we found a nice lunch spot to sit and contemplate our latest accomplishment. We had finally made it to the coast!
The next phase of the ride took us to the bottom of the road and then north along the water. Our goal for the day was to get to the island of Pag. The journey would require a ferry crossing so we didn’t waste any time getting to the dock. As we pedaled along the shore we could see Pag and noticed right away that it was barren and rocky. If you didn’t know where you were, you might have thought you we in southern Utah.
We found the docks without incident and pushed out bikes aboard the boat. As we motored across the shimmering water, I remarked to Chris that we had now traveled by just about every means (bicycle, plane, train, bus, boat).
Our accommodation for the evening was an “autocamp” aka giant campground. The cost was a bit steep but we had very clean facilities and wireless internet. We made a few calls home and then settled in for a restful sleep.
Today we traveled through a desolate landscape. The white stone against the blue waters made for endless contrasting views. Life looks to be a little rough in places - I’m sure the dry nature of the land accounts for that. One of the highlights of the day was stopping at a roadside stand for paśki sir (Pag cheese). It’s said to be one of the things that makes this island special. The woman who runs the stand is most definitely a true professional. I ordered 200 grams of cheese and she was able to whack off the exact amount from the wheel. I just laughed when she put it on the scale and it read 200 – not a gram more or less.
We’re camped again tonight – this time in a smaller venue. The host (who doesn’t speak English) was amazed that we were riding our bikes. He was also taken aback when he realized we were from the US. Not sure if it was our mode of transportation or just that we are gringos in Croatia. Anyway, he insisted that we have a glass of wine as a welcome drink. Not a bad way to end a beautiful day of riding.

Here’s to sleepy little towns on the Adriatic Coast,

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