When I look at the map I don’t seem to have cycled very far today compared to the previous two. However, three days into my post-Dubrovnik campaign to make it over the border into France by the 1st August, the number of kilometres cycled has been comparable to the previous two days; 116, 90 & 103 respectively. Now there was a bit of faffing around at the end of today (more of that later) so I should really knock off at least 5km from the final distance but nevertheless it was approaching 100km. It just doesn’t seem that far on the map.
I didn’t sleep well last night. Did I sleep? Not sure. If I did sleep I must have dreamt about being in a tent on a campsite situated next to a busy dual carriageway for that’s all I remember. Despite having paid the campsite – Croatia’s most ‘sympathetic’ in addition to being campsite of the year 2012 according to one of the many certificates papering the wall behind the reception desk (“oh… I’m so sorry to hear about your cat… and that business with your neighbour really is awful… how is she now?”) – last night to save time in the morning, they insisted upon holding onto my passport so that I didn’t run off with the shower band. I’ve never experienced this system before. Your shower band has a chip in it that allows three showers per 24 hour period (they owe me one). You place it against a console in the shower block, choose a shower cubicle number and it gives you seven minutes of running hot water. Very clever. Anyway, I stood in reception waiting to exchange my band for my passport but would you believe it… the person in front of me had a horribly complicated situation to sort out with the only receptionist working. He was German or Dutch and his car towing the caravan had broken down some 300km north of Split. The car had been transported back to wherever he lives and the caravan had been towed to the campsite by a friend who was already staying there. Here’s the twist (and bit that kept me standing waiting for about 15 minutes). His insurance company are going to arrange transport home for the caravan but they can only do it a few days after he leaves the campsite so he needed to arrange a place for it to be kept after he had gone back home… Why me?
A stiff, long climb from the campsite towards Split itself on the dual carriageway that had kept me awake (or I had dreamt about all night long) did nothing to improve my mood. I had, however, resolved to split from Split and head straight to the town of Trogir as recommended by my friend Claus. I was determined today to get away from the busy red routes on my map and I did find a minor route running towards Trogir slightly nearer to the coast. It required hauling Reggie over a concrete wall in order to escape the dual carriageway but it was worth it as I now passed through towns and villages and even next to the end of the runway to ‘Split’ airport as a large jet from Norway was landing. Very exciting! Split airport incidentally is much nearer to Trogir than Split itself but presumably that’s the Ryan Air effect for you. It’s something that seems to be catching on in Croatia more generally as I have noticed that distances between towns are stated to the point where the sign says you are entering the town. For larger towns, this is nowhere near the town itself. And one of the campsites at the end of today’s post called itself Camping Skradin despite being no such thing. I’m thinking of changing my home address to Reading-Windsor in the hope that it will boost the value of my flat.
Trogir was a jewel of a place and the crowds were smaller than in Dubrovnik. That said there were still people with white table tennis bats ushering around the cruise gangs. As I sat sipping coffee in a café, Reggie to my side, a few of the men took great interest in the solar panels mounted to the back of the bike. None asked any questions (they were probably under orders not to speak to anyone who didn’t fit the cruising criteria lest it get back to the captain and their place on his table at the end of the cruise was put in jeopardy) but once again I was liking to think that they were dreaming of escape from HMS Tower Block.
After about an hour of wandering around Trogir I set off up the hill that would take me inland a little and away from the coastal road. I’m getting a little bored of the Croatian coast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful but I need variety and I’m currently not getting it. Hopefully the inland route around the back of the Boraja Villaja hills would give it to me. It was a nice long climb and I was rewarded with great, almost aerial views of Togir (even the passing planes were below me on their descent to the airport), but I wasn’t rewarded by a nice long downhill ride on the other side. The road flattened out somewhat and it became a series of long cycling trudges slightly down (but increasingly against the wind) and then slightly up (against the wind…). It went on for over 50km all the way to Sibenik. I had planned to pause and have something to eat here but I gave in when I saw and smelled a bakery about 5km from Sibenik itself. I devoured the latge cheese pastry thing i had bought with the table manners of a wild boar who, according to the signs, were in the vicinity. It made, perhaps, a good choice of eating place as Sibenik didn’t shout ‘pause here’ as I cycled through the centre and up the other side towards the hills once more.
I was aiming for Skradin as it had a campsite marked on my map. About 5km from the town I was delighted to see three advertised on a sign! The first two however were out of town and not in the location – an attractive one by the lake – promised by the map so I cycled on and was finally rewarded with my long descent that I had earned earlier in the day. There was no way that I would be cycling up that hill should the other campsite not tick the boxes… Skradin is in a stunning location and has a nice old town centre with lots if very expensive yachts moored in the quay. I continued to cycle however as the other campsite was on the other side of town. Then it became two sites! One was signposted up a steep hill the other further along the valley. I asked the guy who was looking after the ‘free’ in big letters (‘if you are staying at the luxury hotel’ in minute ones) out of town parking which one was best. He indicated that the one up the steep hill had shade, the one down the valley didn’t… I went up the steep hill to discover a rudimentary place without many (any?) facilities and just a few camper vans parked up and plugged in recharging. I could see no one around. So I cycled back down the very steep road and further down the valley to find Auto Camp ‘Stradin’ did have shade but no customers whatsoever. This was not looking good.
I cycled back into the centre of town and to the point where my map indicated the turn to the campsite. There was a cabin staffed by two young lads working for the national park that I am now in. “There hasn’t been a campsite down there for ten years. Camping is not allowed in the national park.” Brilliant. Thank you Marco Polo maps. It doesn’t give me great confidence for the rest if my trip north.
I returned for the third time to the town centre and sat in a café. I went to Booking.com that has served me well over the last few weeks but there was nothing listed that didn’t make me sigh. My hotel budget has been stretched to the limit by Dubrovnik and I really want to avoid them until after pay day at the end of the month & Nice.
There are however lots of signs advertising ‘Sobe/Rooms/Zimmer/Camere’ (I’m not sure what the French do) so I started to knock on a few doors. “No”, “No”… Then a lady looked at me in an inviting way. She was far too old to be offering the kind of wares you are probably thinking of (although perhaps if Wayne Rooney is in the area on his yacht…) and spoke little English. She called over her son, Zorin who was in the other side if the road. Negotiations lasted about ten seconds (he had the upper hand although was perhaps not aware of how high it was) and I now have a room. In fact I have two single beds so if you are in the area… Tonight I shall eat and wander. There are worse places to do both activities. Much worse…