Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hvar and Korcula Islands, Croatia

Sunset at my campsite on Hvar Island.

Memories of island hopping in Croatia will stay with me for the rest of my life. I'm just not sure which memories will stick around yet. On Hvar, I got off the ferry in the evening and had to find a place to camp quickly to not be riding at dark. After biking 3km in from the coast, I just took a right turn down an unmarked dirt road. There was no flat space though. I kept going and the road suddenly took a steep descent. If I went down, I was not coming back up that night. I committed to it and just kept following this dirt road to no where. I saw one van down there and nothing else. When I was just about to give up hope, I walked down to a beach to explore. The rocky beach didn't offer any place to camp. Neither did the area above the beach. However, there was a pine tree. Over the years the pine tree has drops its needles, buried all the rocks, and made me a wonderfully soft bed.

Morning from my bed at my campsite at Hvar Island.

There were so many women filling baskets with figs along the road.

I love slate roofs. I have no idea how they don't cave in.

I'm always a little apprehensive about being kicked out of my camp spots. I don't want to pack up and move in the middle of night and don't want any trouble with the authorities. Sometimes that fear keeps me way too tuned into sounds and keeps me awake. However, after a great with a fellow bike tourer after this event, I might have put that fear to rest. We chatted about it and he explained that the worst that happens is the police wake you up and you move. His worst experience was being woken up by an barking dog in the hands of the police. All of these assurances would not have made a difference though when a car came down the deserted dirt road and dropped someone off right beside my spot. They couldn't see me because the open side of the tree was towards the beach. They left with no incident, just like always. Back to sleep.

Beautiful water and beautiful mountains.

A quiet swimming cove on Hvar.

I spent the next day discovering that it is likely no part of Croatia is flat. The islands are just the top of mountains. I spent most of the morning climbing who knows how far up on tired legs. Then, I traversed the island on a ridge. There were a bunch of beaches to swim in but I didn't want to descend off the ridge to climb back up it again. Luckily, the road eventually descended on its own and I found a great place to swim and admire my Keen tan.

These may be my best tan lines ever.

A small street in Jelsa on Hvar.

Two boats with curious wooden posts in Jelsa harbor. I found out they put a horizontal piece up that connects to the a vertical piece on the stern. Then, they put another horizontal one perpendicular to the first horizontal one with a sun shade.

I was able to swim, instead of just wade, for the first time since I hurt my shoulder in July. It was probably only two hundred yards and I am out of swimming shape, but it still felt great. My shoulder only complained a little. I can't wait to get do it again.

After my great swim, it was time to get moving again. I headed to the first ferry terminal on the island in Stari Grad to ask about getting to Korcula. They said I was on the wrong side of the ridge and had two hours to get to the other side where different ferries leave from. It was only 15km back up the giant ridge and through a tunnel so I was going to make it to Hvar without a problem, but I was not looking forward to it. The tunnel was definitely a little unnerving because that seems to be the only place that bikes are not allowed, but they were allowed here for a change.

Jelsa harbor.

More great coastline.

I had hoped to spend a few hours checking out Hvar town, but only had an hour after meandering all day exploring the island. It looked like another cafe culture old town on a beautiful harbor. While they are beautiful, I had seen a few too many recently anyway. Also, I got thrown into a bit of a panic when I was told the ferry does not carry bikes. However, if you take your bike apart and wrap it up in something they will take it. They will still know its a bike so I figured wrapping it up won't make a difference so I didn't wrap it up, just covered the chain. When the ferry came, they didn't let me get on because of the bike. I started to get out my tent to wrap it up, but then other crew members packed up the gang plank to leave. I protested and just got on with my bike half wrapped up. They complained, but let me go, probably because they were in a hurry. Earlier this trip, I was pooped on by a bird and someone said it was good luck. About two hours before this ferry ride, a pigeon pooped on my bike. Maybe it was just the luck I needed.

Hvar town, Hvar.

A tuna (featured on the one kuna coin) they drug across the wharf while we were waiting for the ferry.

Unfortunately, the bike drama kept me from exploring Hvar town at all. Oh well, I did meet Davida, an Italian, who joined me for a couple days of biking. On Korcula, Davida and I set out to camp near the coast. We were having trouble finding a campsite though. I eventually spotted a pier and we went down there. While we were setting up, an older couple came by to discreetly investigate. Where I prefer to hide my camping, Davida likes to ask permission, if possible. The husband said yes. The wife said no. The husband overruled and said yes and Davida might have started World War III. On their way back to their house, they took their surfboard. I appreciate them deciding better to be safe than sorry, but I got a big chuckle because I am curious how they think we would have stolen the surf board on our bicycles.

Blato on Korcula Island.

Biking downhill in front of the sun setting on the Adriatic Sea.

Davida and our campsite on Korcula.

One of the best things about meeting Davida was seeing how someone else bike tours. He carries one backpack thrown over his bike. He uses an old, beat up, bike. He cooks real food every night for dinner. He lazes around in the morning. He showed me the good life of slowing down and it really fit the stereotype of Italians. I showed him how to put the pedal down a little harder and cover a lot of ground. I think we most happily met at the road side fig trees where he showed me how to pick the best ones to eat. It was a lot of fun to swap ideas about how to travel on bike. While we might steal a few ideas from each other, neither one of us is going to change our style for this trip.

Davida shows me how to pick the best figs to eat.

Korcula town, birthplace of Marco Polo.

On our ride across Korcula, I saw similar terrain to Hvar. We had more big beautiful mountains, stunning coastline, yummy figs, ripening olive trees, ancient rock walls, and a great cast of characters. We finished our ride in Korcula town, the birthplace of Marco Polo, though it was an Italian territory at the time. It was similar to the other old towns with winding streets except this one was the smallest. It was a small square on a hill and then several spokes as side streets back to the base of the hill and through the city wall. After a long lunch and a little exploring, I was ready to go. I was hoping to make it all way down the coast to Dubrovnik so I could catch a ferry to Mljet that night. Davida was not interested in Mljet so we both took the ferry and then split up but made plans to meet at Dubrovnik's clock tower in two days.

Korcula Town city streets.

A properly stocked kitchen.

One of the really curious things for me was that I got frustrated on our second day of riding together and not the first. The company was still great, but something had changed. On our first day's riding, I didn't have anywhere I felt I needed to be so riding with Davida was great. On the second day, I needed to get to Mljet to stay on schedule. Biking Davida's speed was not going to allow that. I was happy to slow down a bit, but on just his second day of riding and my 45th or so, I was a lot better equipped to charge the hills. I was still enjoying the company enough at the end of the day to plan to meet up again, but I knew those days would be shorter too.

Korcula Town city defenses.

On the beach with a view of the sea and reached by walking down fancy steps, this is a styling basketball court.

1 comment:

  1. Cool post about biking! Should you come again to Korcula, may we recommend to check out the south-western side, there are some really cool roads and paths for biking: Check out also korcula apartments