Marko and Urska’s apartment was warm, comfortable and happy. Outside was cold, grey, and dull.
But the show must go on. Peter and I said our farewells, and headed out into the grey.
Thank out Urska and Marko! You are the best!
Peter and I soon warmed up on the limestone hills, and made our way forward. First stop was an unexpected caving mish.
We were looking at the cave near Planina above (can you help me with the name, Peter?), when a two-man maintenance crew mentioned that they were going down to fix some lighting in the cave. Peter asked if we could come, and they said yes.
We walked to where two rivers meet (Peter, what were they called again?), and watched as the cavers did their thing.
Once on the road again, the next stop was Predjamski Grad, a castle built into the side of a cliff, recessed into a cave. History tells of a time when the castle was under siege, but the attackers couldn’t get access to the castle due to it’s position in the cave. So they adopted the strategy of guarding the entrance to the castle, so that no one could get out to get food. They thought that they would be able to starve the people out.
What the attackers didn’t count on however was the fact that the cave into which the castle was built was connected to another smaller cave that went all the way through the hill to the other side of the mountain range. The occupants of the castle were able to get food into the castle undetected. The attackers soon gave up when the occupants had a seemingly bottomless supply of food.
After lunch at a nearby cafe, we headed towards our accommodation in Matavun, near the Škocjanske caves. We passed old churches…
And lamented at the pitiful attempt at marking cycling routes. Is a cyclist cycling past at anything more than 5km/h supposed to see that arrow?! I’d have trouble seeing it if I was walking, let alone pedaling.
Logistics aside, we did make it to our warm accommodation, in time to eat a meal at the caves restaurant.
I slept so well last night. Urska and Marko have a nice big sofa that converts to a big bed. Peter and I slept in luxury.
The plan for today was to cycle around Cerknica Lake, visiting Postoyna caves on the way. Plans however are not to be taken seriously, and things ended up better than planned.
Peter and I left our gear at Marko and Urska’s, and cycled to the Postoyna caves. Here we were met by a reporter and cameramen from a popular national Slovene TV station, 24 hour. Peter had arranged this meeting, and here is the result:
My spot is near the end, at 11 minutes and 15 seconds. Thanks Peter for the link.
Just after the interview, the Marketing Director for Postojna caves introduced himself, and being suitably impressed by my travels, gave Peter and I free tickets for the cave. A big thanks to Postojna Caves!
The caves are impressive. A very well thought out tour gives you a good idea of the cave’s interior. The caves in total are some 20km in length, and the standard 1.5 hour tour takes in about 3km of this.
The first 1km or so is by train. Speeding through narrow caves and past massive stalactites and stalagmites, it’s almost as if you are riding on a train in Disneyland. Only the surroundings are real!
Photos are not allowed, but I snuck just one for the memories.
The cave tour took longer than expected, so we arranged to sleep again at Urska and Marko’s place that night. We met Urska after lunch, and the three of us headed towards Cerknica Lake. Two recumbents and a mountain bike.
Cerknica Lake is an intermittent lake, drying up in summer, and appearing again over the later months of the year. There are no rivers running into or out of the lake. The lake is fed by springs, and the water leaves via springs.
The causeway we are on here is at times completely submerged, and at other times is surrounded by grassy fields. Today we were lucky enough to see the lake close to half full.
In Dolenje Jezero, a small village on the shores of the lake, locals have constructed an intricate model of how the lake works, with pumps and channels that mimmick the lake’s changes. We got an in depth run down.
On the way to Cerknica Lake are springs that gush water out of the ground at an amazing rate. The photo below shows such a spring. There is no river at the left of the photo. Just rocks.
Such springs created rivers that flowed through caves and massive natural arches.
It was a fairly cold day. Grey and misty, requiring gloves to keep the hands warm. Urska and Marko’s apartment was a welcome place after an afternoon of chilly riding, as was Luka (at far right in the photo), another experienced cycle tourer, and a friend of Urska and Marko. He cycled for about three months in New Zealand, and even went to Invercargill (my hometown).
Dinner that night was prepared by Marko. A traditional Slovenian dish called Jota. It uses sour crout. Very good indeed.
Thank you again to Aleksander for the bed last night and for showing me the way out of Rijeka towards the Slovenia border.
This is the day that I was to meet Peter, another recumbent rider, at the Slovenian side of the Croatia/Slovenia border. I left Riejka just after 9am, and hoped to be there by 10:30am. Peter had told me that he would be waiting from 9am, so I didn’t want to keep him waiting.
I hadn’t counted however on the fact that I would have to climb about 500m in altitude up to the border. I hurried up the hills and didn’t get to the border until noon. Sorry to have kept you waiting Peter, but it was great to meet you at last.
You may notice that Peter’s recumbent is slightly different from mine. His has two 26 inch wheels – just like a mountain bike. It is an AZUB Max recumbent, made by Czech company AZUB. They are a small new company, but make very nice looking bikes. If you look closely, the rear fork is offset.
I met Peter through my website, after he made contact (Peter’s website). We arranged to cycle together in Slovenia, his homeland. The part of Slovenia that we will cycle through however is new to him, and many of the roads we will cover he has never been on.
Peter works in his parent’s company, designing moulds using CAD. He also has a small business selling recumbent bikes in Slovenia. Recumbents are not well known in Slovenia, so any extra publicity about these great bikes is a bonus.
We left the border after chatting and comparing bikes, and headed for Ilirska Bistrica.
Here we asked for directions to Susec waterfall. This waterfall only has water when it rains, and at certain times of the year. We found it in all it’s glory. Pity I got in the way
Through many interesting connections, we ended up staying at Urska and Marko’s apartment in Postojna. This fun and energetic couple recently arrived back to Slovenia from a three month cycle journey to South America. Take a look at their website for some amazing photos. Check out the massive salt plateu!
They introduced me to polenta. This is made from corn, cooks fast (2 minutes), is really light, last long, and best of all, is rediculously cheap. 1kg costs about 0.50 Euros.
Thanks to Nenad once again for contacting one of his cycling contacts in Rijeka. I was met in Rijeka by Aleksandar Popovic, president of Roberta Bicycle Club in Rijeka. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met someone so keen on mountain biking. His study at his home was filled with memorabilia from mountain bike races all over Europe. Thank you so much Aleksander for putting me up for the night.
The name of the game today was wind. The fabled ‘bura’ north wind was doing it’s thing in the grandest fashion today, stopping me in my tracks just after I got off the island Pag.
This donkey farm’s icon was in danger of being blown off it’s frame. In more danger were the many snails I saw on the road, making a slow beeline for the other side.
I wonder if this fella was happy that I picked him up and threw him to safety on the side of the road. Or perhaps he was mad that I didn’t think to throw him to the side of the road to which he was headed, rather than the other way…
In any case, I managed to make it to the island Pag safely, and was sheltered somewhat from the strong wind, despite the barren surroundings, just as Nenad from Makarska had promised.
The wind did have it’s effect on me however, and I was shouted at by the ferry’s cafe owner as we approached the mainland. I had drifted off to sleep on the ferry that runs between the island and the mainland at the northern end of the island. At the southern end, the island is connected by a bridge.
Once on the mainland, I could hardly walk, let alone cycle, because of the strong ‘bura’ wind. I sought shelter in some ruins for the night, hoping that the remaining corner of roof wouldn’t collapse on me.
Look Mum! I’m on TV again!
National Croatian TV came to Vodice this morning to do a spot on the crazy New Zealander cycling across the continent.
I left Vodice after lunch, headed for Zadar. It was dark and wet again, with dead animals roasting on the roadside, looking none too comfortable at all.
This little number is called Jajetina – roast lamb on a spit. All very gory. A Croatian I met said it wasn’t all that tasty.
Today the distance was correctly estimated, with about 80km to Zadar. Once there, I called upon Nenad’s great networking prowess, and had a number in minutes for the president of a local road bike racing club. Ante Zorovic arrived a few minutes after I called him in the club van. My bike was piled in, and we were off to his place.
He had recently purchased a new racing bike for his son. An Italian bike – a Wilier. Very nice. The frame is all carbon fibre, and the frame alone only weighs 1.2 kg.
I would love to have a go on some of the ultra-light recumbents out there. I do miss the thrill of a really fast bike.
Ante’s wife fed me till I couldn’t eat any more (really good jaffa cake!), and I had a restful sleep.
I left Mirela’s place late. It was 1pm before I got away. But hey, I only had 60km to Vodice, right? Ah, wrong. I read the map wrong, and it ended up being a mad dash to Vodice, 100km away from Split.
Nenad worked his magic once again today, and arranged for me to sleep at a member of the Vodice Mountain Bike Club’s place. Goran had just started a new job, but kindly let me stay at his place despite being very busy.
The ride to Vodice was like yesterday wet and generally miserable. At one stage I heard loud thunder not far away. The strong tailwind was the only saving grace. The 100km ride only took just over 5 hours.
On the road after a great few days in Makarska. Once again I have to thank Nenad Zidic and his wife and family for their great hospitality during my stay. Also a great big thanks to Goran, a member of the Makarska Bicycle Club who fixed my speedometer.
It was mostly flat for the ride to Split, and despite the light rain, I enjoyed a stiff tailwind that blew me to Split, passing more of the spectacular rocky coast that sprung up out of the water.
Nenad had been busy during my stay in Makarska networking so that I would have some places to stay for my route through Croatia to Slovenia. In Split, he had contacted Mirela, a student studying in Split.
I arrived in Split and nervously called the number that Nenad had given me. Mirela’s voice was friendly and open, so I breathed a breath of relief when she cheerily said that she would be down to pick me up in a few minutes.
It turned out that Mirela has done a lot of travel herself. Better still, she travels as I do. Cheap and free. She has hitch-hiked with friends through Spain and other parts of Europe, often sleeping outside. She had slept under bushes in Amsterdam, I had slept under a bridge in Greece…
For some unknown reason, I only have a photo of an orange and bananas from my stay at Mirela’s place. Oh well. Thank you so much Mirela! Many more happy travels to you!
Right it’s all on. Tomorrow will be the big day. The weather has done a complete turn around, and if I was a good 80’s NZ man, I’d be in my stubbies (watch this short video clip to become enlightened in the way of the stubbie). Didn’t you wear stubbies at one stage, Dad?
Anyway, I will be out of here tomorrow. It has been a resting time (again) here in Makarska, and it is time to hit the road.
And for some reason I have more photos of dogs from Makarska than I do of people…
The mini-pug pooch in the top photo would have fit in the mouth of the maxi-pooch in the bottom four photos with ease.
The dog at bottom is an Argentinian Mastiff (info). A massive, powerful dog. In Turkey, packs of up to three or four of dogs like this would chase me. Not fun. But this pooch was super friendly, and just loved to lick any skin that got close enough. The owner was a responsible owner however, carrying a muzzle. At one stage during our chat, he put the muzzle on the dog when another dog owner walking his dog came over. And just as well. The two dogs didn’t get on too well, resulting in some ferocious barking. After the other dog had left, the Mastiff was all happy again.
Which would I choose? The mini-pooch or the maxi-pooch?
Considering maintenance, the rug rat has my vote.
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