Bright And Breezy: Pecs to Pitomaca (Croatia) - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

November 19, 2013

Bright And Breezy: Pecs to Pitomaca (Croatia)

I had four days sightseeing in Pecs and one day in particular, the Saturday when, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and perfect light for taking the camera along. I take pictures of whatever; often it is just a shadow which can make a scene interesting. I like signs and posters, ordinary houses and industrial buildings. I'm not much for ecclesiastical or iconic city landmarks: the postcard image. I like spontaneous snaps with a little chaos in the final picture; a tiny bit of an everyday object like a chair or a car peeking in at the side.

It was convenient having a café downstairs from the hostel. I would have a glass of Hungarian wine of an evening. The place was always full from late afternoon onwards, when the university students would come in; then around eight, the students would head off home or to another café and the place would fill up with a more mature local cliental. By nine there wouldn't be a free seat in the house and, I'd have to push in between burly men at the bar.

I was for Serbia. But looking at the map, leaving Pecs and going in that direction, the road isn't direct. I'd either have to double-back east on route 6, and perhaps hit motorway and get lost finding an alternative; or, there's a road climbing up the hill out of the city to the south, south to the Croatian border, where I'd have to pass through one country to get into another.

The easy straightforward next move is to continue southwest on route 6 where it's sixty kilometres to Barca by the Croatian border; then cross the frontier, where the road continues to the capital Zagreb. So that's what I'm for doing. I'm flexible and whichever way I go, I'll be covering new terrain.

I said I will be leaving in the morning. But if it's raining, I'll be here another day. The morning come bright and breezy with only a few wisps of white cloud in otherwise blue sky. I say goodbye to the young woman managing the place and thank her for the hospitality as I wheel the loaded bike out through the café to the street.

As expected there's a steady flow of traffic, lots of trucks, but I don't feel vulnerable, as drivers without fail give me sufficient space on passing. The countryside is pleasing with hedgerows and trees as field divisions and there's a lot of ploughing with birds following the tractors and the earthy smell of newly turned furrows.

I am making good progress and when I stop at a Lidl supermarket around eleven thirty, to get rid of the last Hungarian Forints, I see the reason why. There is a brisk easterly wind which because I'm facing west wasn't apparent, nonetheless it's been pushing me along effortlessly.

I eat a couple of meat pastries outside the supermarket, a quick lunch before going further. There's only twenty kilometres more to the border and the traffic is noticeably lighter and the road passes through forest, ideal for camping. But it's only one thirty.

A nice cycle-path, but only for a short way.
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I pass through a roundabout with the border town Barca exit to the right and follow the sign round to the left for: Zoll. The road onwards is totally empty, until I come to yet another roundabout, where a black Mercedes comes round from the left and passes. It has a HR sticker, the letter id of Croatia, beside the rear number-plate. Isn't Croatia now in the EU? I ponder. It'll be an open border. When I get as far, the road fans out into a number of lanes and passes under a bridge building with window-booths and pole-barriers. The last lane on the inside is open and as there doesn't seem to be any one about, I veer over to the right; but as I cycle pass the empty booth, I hear a female voice call from the left. I turn and cycle towards the voice. The guard is a tall woman in police uniform with a holster belt and pistol. I produce my passport from under my clothing and she takes it into the booth where she spends many minutes clicking on the computer-keyboard while staring at the screen.

Once the guard returns my passport and I'm free to leave Hungary, there's an uphill approach to a bridge over a broad river, then downhill the other side to the Croatian border checkpoint. The guard here only flicks through my passport and asks "First time in Croatia?" To which I answer yes. And. "How long you stay in Croatia?" A question I don't know the answer to, but reply three weeks, sounding plausible.

Goats liven up the day.
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At the last village in Hungary.
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The road number changes from 6 to road 5 and there's a big yellow sign with: Zagreb 167km: Split 534km. Zagreb is further than I thought. I thought there'd be around a hundred and twenty kilometres from the border to Zagreb, meaning I could get there tomorrow. The time is twenty past two and it'll be getting dark in two hours and say, I reduce that to around a hundred and thirty in the little daylight that's left today, it's still asking a lot to cycle one hundred and thirty tomorrow when it's dark so early.

It's all level farmland, road side villages and an ocational shop or cafe and farmyards with grazing flowl; and a veil of cloud has moved in and it's raining on the horizon. A few kilometres onwards a great smokestack and column of white smoke appears up ahead.

The wind blows the smoke horizontally.
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Ten kilometres into Croatia.
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Downwind of the great funneling plume.
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A grey afternoon, nice yellow signs and my turnoff for road 2.
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Looking at the map, the more direct way to Zagreb is to turn right onto road 2 approaching the town of Virovitica. This highway runs parallel with the border and forty kilometres in, there's a turnoff for a road which descends upon the capital from the northeast. This way it seems is much shorter than what the sign showed for continuing on road 5. There's also minor roads off this on the map.

I turnoff left. There's a steady flow of traffic and so, take the first feasible side road, about ten kilometres further. This minor road meanders through pleasing countryside; low rolling hills ahead; vineyards to the side; but, there are houses just about everywhere; and, no sooner do I leave one village, than the next begins. It's nearing four o'clock and there isn't much in the way of woodland where I can camp. I pass a small grove of willows which may provide enough cover, but decide to keep going; that maybe there'll be better camping possibilities further.

leaving a village.
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I thought I'd be able to remain on these nice meandering roads. But all the signs are for places which aren't on my map, or for Pitomaca, a circle back on highway 2; so, I continue back to the busy road. Pitomaca is a large town spread either side of the highway for a few kilometres. It's dusk and the headlights and streetlights make it seem darker. There'll be woodland or somewhere I can camp beyond the edge of town I hope, as I ride along on the sidewalk. But on eventually passing the end of town, pass the yellow sign Pitomaca with a red stroke through it, there follows another sign on the entrance to a village. I have to get off the road as I cannot ride further without lights. At that point I'm on a bridge over a water channel with a grassy embankment running off to the side into farmland between the town and village where I see no houses.

I push the bike in almost half a kilometre along the channel to a small grove of willows, beyond which I pitch the tent in the corner of a level stubble field. I remain tight in along the grove as not to be seen. It begins to rain and I listen to it drumming on the outside of the tent as I eat egg and bacon sandwiches I'd made in the morning for lunch, but didn't need because of the stop at Lidl.

Today's ride: 97 km (60 miles)
Total: 7,868 km (4,886 miles)

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