Cycling Day 20: Pag To Novi Vinodolski

Time to catch up on events of the last 24 hours…
For the first time yesterday (cycling day 20) I suffered in the saddle beyond the point of comfort. I self-diagnosed myself as a little dehydrated, combined with that slight fever you can get from having lots of mosquito bytes (I remember it well from Siena in 2010) and a sickly feeling from having swallowed too much factor 30 sun cream. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been mixing it with melted Snicker bars and imaging I’m living the high life sipping Baileys (that’s not really the high life is it?), but I did replace my factor 50 with factor 30 the other day. The problem is that the 30 is much thinner than the 50 and when you apply it to your head and face, combined with perspiration (I want to avoid the word ‘sweat’ as it sounds so unpleasant but…), it’s difficult to stop the diluted liquid from being swallowed to some extent. I need to go back to the 50. I was also suffering from a bad back again. I’ve been told on Twitter that aches & pains and dehydration are often combined so I’m hoping that by addressing the dehydration problem, I’ll also be aiding my back. I bought some rehydration sachets from the pharmacy, some water & fruit juice to mix together and a large bag of peanuts. And last night I had my fingers crossed…
But let’s go back to Camping Sv. Duh on the island of Pag. From above and from a distance it looked so nice and tranquil, set beside the body of water called Paski Zalijev. The rough track upon which I cycled on cycling day 19 was a steep climb from the campsite and I did pause for a few moments knowing that once I had descended to the campsite it would be a decision I wouldn’t be wanting to reverse. The reception caravan should have rung alarm bells but I didn’t actually realise it was the formal reception to the site until I arrived where the tents, caravans & camper vans were parked and there was nothing else. The ‘interesting’ bunch that appeared to be running the establishment were based around the ‘spirit bar’ on the far end of the site and it’s there where I had to go to pay my £5. I made sure that when I pitched the tent it was as near what I would refer to as ‘normal’ people as I could, round the back of a second bar on the site next to three Czech twenty somethings who were setting up a camp of identical small tents. I borrowed a mallet from them and asked who the tents were for. A music festival the following day they said; things clearly could have been worse had I arrived 24 hours later…
I didn’t sleep well in the tent again. Music was emanating from somewhere in the distance; perhaps it was practice for the following night. If so, why did they feel the need to practice until about 4am? As I faltered between being wide awake and not sleeping (there is a difference which you will know only too well if you’ve ever spent a night on a thin camper mat) my Rough Guide mentioned that the nearby town of Novalja had earned itself the title of the ‘Croatian Ibiza’. Mmm…
Clearly when dawn broke – and it was a spectacular site as the sun edged its way over the mountains to the east of the island – my main aim was to get out of there as soon as I possibly could and return to a place that was within my comfort zone. So, anywhere then. For the first time on the trip there was a dew; I’m unsure as to whether it was the weather conditions or my geographical location. The late rising sun (over the mountains) may have been an influence. The result was that there was a lot of tent shaking to do before I was ready to set off. I crept out of the place and pushed Reggie back up to the track leading back to the main road. I looked back at the campsite just as I had the previous evening. It still looked as welcoming as it did then.
The ferries back to the mainland were fairly frequent and after an up and down cycle of about 15km I made it to the isolated port where three ferries were docked. I really wanted a good hour crossing but the trip was over and done with in about only fifteen minutes. Then came the first fist in the stomach. The road from the small port on the mainland was about 3km from the main road that would allow me to continue my journey north along the coast. It did have switchbacks to make the climb easier but nevertheless, it was a climb of some 300m. Impossible for me on a loaded touring bike so I got off and pushed. The sign written on the road at the top – ‘STOP’ – was simply stating the bleeding obvious. I sat, sweating profusely on the other side of the road in an attempt to recover. After a few minutes, a group of Dutch tourers cycled past me smiling and waving. They didn’t have a bead of sweat on them. Once I had partially recovered I set off again and I cycled past quite a number of touring cyclists. They all looked as fresh as had the Dutch. It should surely mean that somewhere up ahead had been a long descent for them, but a long climb for me. Great! Around lunchtime I noticed three cyclists huddled together on my side of the road. Finally, somebody who had decided to travel in the same direction as me. But they hadn’t. It was simply that there was room for them to stop and chat. All three were French (I kicked myself later for simply asking where they were going, in English, without asking them if they could speak the language and by so doing compounding the myth that the British don’t speak foreign languages…) but were not together. All in their twenties, a male-female couple on their tandem were off to India, hoping to arrive in January, the third person – a man – was cycling to Greece having started in Venice. They too all looked as bright and as perky as the Dutch had done. I could hear my voice croaking a little when I spoke and knew that I probably didn’t. I also made a point of complaining about the uphill sections of the route to which the single guy told me I was in luck as there was a long downhill section towards the town of Senj. This cheered my spirits a little but I still had a series of moderate ups and downs to come. My back was getting painful again as it had done the previous day and I stopped frequently to straighten up. I spent an elongated break in a service station filling up on fluids before finally the decent arrived. It was, as you can imagine, wonderful. One long, continuous descent over about 10km. Only one thing perturbed me. All those fresh-looking, sweat-free people that I had seen pass me earlier had all at some point that day climbed those 10km…
I began to wonder if perhaps I was over-stretching things or had been in the last few days. There is much time to think while cycling and by the time I arrived in Senj I had diagnosed the three issues as detailed at the top of this post; dehydration, mosquito reaction & poisoning by factor 30. The back ache just made things worse. In Senj I spent a good hour considering my options. Stop? Well, wasn’t giving me much, there weren’t many ‘rooms’ signs that I could see and the campsite option – there was one – wouldn’t be great for my back. The route continuing along the coast looked much flatter – it was simply nearer to the sea – and gave me a 50€ room in a decently-rated hotel at a place called Novi Vinodolski. I booked it and cycled on arriving about 25 km later in a sizeable coastal town but with only modest appeal. It’s certainly not the kind of place that I would ever choose to spend two nights in but…






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