Return point

Day 377, Zadar, 25.967 km

Last night, I am near Šibenik. I have been away for 376 days, I have ridden 25.890 km. I am at a crossroads. On the left, the road goes south in the direction of Split, Dubrovnik, Montenegro, Albania, Greece… On the right, it goes up north and towards Zadar, towards Ljubljana, towards Vienna, towards Hamburg… It’s time to make a choice: left or right. Continue or return. This is the return point. I go to the right, and from now on, every pedal stroke, every turn of the wheel, every kilometer I ride will bring me closer to Hamburg. To the end. Did I hesitate to continue? Maybe, although at the time I was very busy trying to take a picture without getting knocked down, the road not being wide enough for me to stop… And then I tell myself that it is necessary to go back to leave again…

The return point (well, just after…)

From Rijeka, I decide to make a small tour in the islands before reaching Zadar. First Rab, which I can reach by ferry from Vlabiska, about 50 km from Rijeka. Then Pag, also served by a ferry from Rab, that I would have time to visit between my two boat trips. I’m a little bit late in the morning, the café where I stop to have a breakfast has only the leftovers of the day before to offer me (Hmm, an old croissant…) and I start a time trial to arrive before the departure of the ferry: it’s 8:30 am, the GPS announces a travel time of about 4 hours, and the ferry leaves at 11:45 am. Not that much margin… Fortunately, there are not too many people on the road, the weather is good, no wind, and I ride well. I even have the leisure to admire Bakar, that the road overhangs, and the sea, that I ride by during a small moment before taking a bridge to join the island of Krk (I recommend you to train in the pronunciation of this name, it is very practical to transmit bacteria and other viruses…). The road is a bit hilly, a bit busier too, but I arrive in Vlabiska with enough time to have a little lunch break before the ferry departure…

Then follows an uneventful crossing, I even take the opportunity to have a little digestive nap and to admire the islands we pass. Then I disembark on the island of Rab, in Lopar. The next ferry leaves Rab in four hours, I will have time to make a small tour of the island. At the beginning, I decide to follow all the small roads that seem to lead to a cove, a beach or a cliff. The first one turns quickly into a rocky road and stops next to a garbage dump… Good but not great. I then take the main road, which runs along the magnificent transparent blue sea, and fork again on a small side road. It’s a little narrow, but at least I’m at the water’s edge. And then I have a nice view on the island of Maman but when I want to join the road I am again on a gravel road, impossible to pedal, I have to push. A bit burnt, I decide to stay on the road, to go as far as possible to the south before turning back to take the ferry. Maybe I should have done that from the beginning…

These colors…
Not very wide this path…
Maman’s island
My next trip will be done with a paddle!

When I arrive in Rab, I see the captain of the ferry that will take me to Pag, at the port of Tovrnele, and ask him if he will have enough room to take Jay, Bob and myself (the ferry doesn’t look very big). He begins to answer me something that I don’t understand, is caught up by a group which passes by and goes to have a drink with them in a café at the corner… I imagine that it means yes… Indeed, once the bags are dropped on the roof of the boat and Jay is hung to the prow, we put the sails (or rather the gas) towards Pag! After about twenty minutes that I spend once again dozing, we arrive at Tovrnele. No more boat for today!

The port of Rab…
… and the one of Tovrnele

As soon as I get off the boat, I am in the land of olive trees (at least that’s what the signs at the side of the road claim), and with the sun beating down a little less strongly, few cars, I spend rather a good moment. I stop in a farm to buy a piece of cheese to improve my evening meal and learn in passing to pronounce correctly « Hvala (thank you) » in Croatian. Then the road rises a little and I can see the mountains of the mainland on the other side of the see. It’s beautiful and I can’t get enough of it, to the point of getting a slight stiff neck. The day is coming to an end and I spotted a small beach that would make a perfect bivouac. The descent to this one is a bit perilous, my front panniers get unhooked because of the shaking, but I finally reach the bottom. Except for a family of Italians who are packing up, nobody. And this incredible view on the mountains that I will be able to contemplate until I fall asleep. A dream. And I even have the pleasure to share the evening with an Austro-Croatian family who came to roast corn on the fire… Even if I didn’t start it, I finally had at least one campfire during this trip!

Welcome to the land of the olive trees
I can’t get enough of the view of the continent
Not bad for a bivouac…

The next day, I continue my way towards Pag (the city) on the roads of Pag (the island). Magnificent landscapes, still and always this view on the continent which leaves me blissful every time the road rises enough for me to distinguish the sea and the mountains. I have the opportunity to leave the main road to follow a dirt road that seems to be closer to the sea (and potentially less frequented), but a sign at the entrance of this one indicates that the passage is prohibited. I tell myself that it must be only for cars. 500 meters further, there is another sign… The excuse « it’s only for cars » is still valid… Finally, I understand why the sign is there, and it’s unfortunately also valid for bikes: a landslide has taken the road, it’s difficult to pass. Moreover I almost fall in a crevasse while trying to find a passage, I guess I better turn back… I see a path which goes a little higher, perhaps it would allow me to circumvent the obstacle?  I quickly find myself in the middle of a field, scaring away the sheep, and painfully trying not to lose my balance while pushing the bike… But at the same time, if I keep the sea on my left, I’ll end up falling back on the road at some point… What finally happens (not soon enough for my taste but we don’t always have the choice…) after what seems to me to be hours of hard work (but which probably lasted about twenty minutes…). I can go back to admiring the sea and the mountains in peace…

It will be complicated…
We will eventually find the road again!

After Pag (the city), I ride along the sea for a while before leaving Pag (the island) by crossing the Paški most. The road turns to the right towards Zadar, but I decide to continue a little bit to the south, to go for a ride towards the lake of Novigrad before heading back to the coast and to go back to Zadar the next day. Good choice! The lake is beautiful, with always these mountains in the background, and the view on the city itself is breathtaking! All this on a road that seems to have been abandoned by most tourists…

View from the Paški most bridge
The lake of Novigrad
Novigrad

There follows a climb that I find much too long and much too sunny. The water which is fresh when I fill my water bottles at the cemetery is hot 20 minutes later. And the cars have decided to invade the road again, and to play at who will pass me the closest. When the trucks also start to do it, it’s far from pleasant… Fortunately, it ends up going down, and I’m going too fast for the cars to catch me. I stumble upon the Krka park, hesitate to go further to see the waterfalls but finally opt for a small place a bit further downstream that I had found to spend the night. I even have my own private beach to go for a dip in the water to refresh myself…

Skradin, on the Krka river
Alone at the edge of the river…

To finish, I go back to the north and Zadar, along the sea. Not the best stretch of road, except for one or two paths along the sea, I am rather in the middle of industrial areas… But I arrive early enough in Zadar to have something to eat, to have a look at the city center and to see that it is possible to swim from every square centimeter of access to the sea, and that people do not deprive themselves of it… It’s a change from my empty places of the last days… And in the middle of all these bathers, the famous sea organ, whose sound created by the waves would be very relaxing if people didn’t scream around so much…

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