Changes: Mostar To Celebici. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

December 14, 2013

Changes: Mostar To Celebici.

I've seen such a change since crossing the border yesterday. Bosnia where I'm now is a land apart from Croatia where the capital Zagreb is like Vienna or Budapest, insomuch as it reflects the Central European location; whereas Split is like Italy, it's neighbour across the Adriatic. The climate on the coast this time of year is sunny with double-figure-temperatures. Bosnia on the other hand is landlocked and high up and almost ten degrees cooler. But the other striking difference is religious makeup. Bosnia being mainly Moslem.

I haven't been to Turkey yet but have met lots of Turkish people and a lot of people here are similar in appearance: they're dark featured and olive skinned; also many of the women go about in Islamic dress with head scarves. And yesterday being a Friday, was like a Sunday in the Christian week. I heard the call to prayer from the Mosque shortly after settling into my pension room.

The part of the old town the pension is in is modern in respects with small grocery shops and a shopping street and locals going about their business, or hanging out in cafes. Then there's what must've been the first village built by the river where the old bridge of the city's name is: Mostar, means, old bridge. Most of this seems to have been recently reconstructed. It's all souvenir shops and the restaurant I ate in only had foreigners at the other tables. Worse is the smooth river-stone-cobbles of the streets which are a pain to ride upon and equally not so easy to walk along.

The old town. Mostar means old bridge. The town was made a World Heritage Site in 2005.
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I take a photo with the old bridge in the middle, then push the bike back over the cobblestones to the shopping street where I get on and ride. I turn out into the traffic and soon see a sign for Sarajevo. Then see no more signs as the suburbs stretch for a dozen or more kilometres and wonder am I still going the right way. Though it is the right direction which is east. Also it's a busy highway and there cannot not be any other road as lofty mountains enclose the city on both sides. Then I pass a sign: Sarajevo 109 KM.

The road is a single-carriageway and the side is rough and broken and the traffic is a steady flow in both directions, meaning cars pass too fast and close for comfort. But the traffic then eases as the suburbs peters out.

I grind a middle gear which can only mean the road is uphill, though it's so gradual, you wouldn't know to look at it. Then as the valley narrows, the road curves round to the left and I see the mouth of a tunnel ahead. With cars passing so close, I don't want to think how dangerous it'll be riding in the tunnel where the drivers may not see me in time.

With more than a hundred metres or so to the tunnel mouth, I Look for traffic, before veering left across the road and through a gap in the crash-barrier, off onto a track which looks to be the original way round the mountainside before the construction of the tunnel. I'm soon off pushing as it's overgrown and uphill, then it's not possible to go further as the bush closes in. Returning back I see through the bushes down the steep slope and see a road along the valley below, but I would have to double back a kilometre to access it and there's no guarantee there'll be some way up to the highway on the other side of the tunnel; so, decide to go for the dark tunnel mouth, after all I've been through loads of tunnels before where there's a safe margin on the inside of a white line; besides, you can hear the rumbling din of cars coming from behind long in advance. I pass a sign with the tunnels name and length: 658 M, and then see there's a curb and a raised footpath along the side, just wide enough to ride upon.

Emerging out into daylight the other side, the road continues tight between vertical mountainside on the inside and a lake on the left, a few hundred metres across to a wall of mountain. This is how it is for a long way with countless more tunnels until reaching a bit of a rise up to a small place shown as a white circle on the map and which, Is looking forward to, as I have no food. I pass a sign for a restaurant one kilometre ahead. The restaurant looks appealing and when I get that far there's an appetising aroma of grilling meat, so I'm sold. Its a wood built with wide windows affording a panoramic view for diners down the valley and across to snow-capped mountains opposite. The menu has an English version, but still it's hard deciding, until I see the people at the next table's order of fish, so I go for the trout. When it comes, it's two medium size fish: the skin crisp and flesh underneath succulent. It's served with boil potatoes and homemade bread. A satisfying treat; which is fine on my budget once in a while as, together with a coffee afterwards, it cost fourteen marks; or seven Euros.

Also, not having a working watch, I'm glad to see the clock above the counter and see that it's only one thirty when I get up to leave. The afternoon is short and the way ahead fairly hilly and additionally, the waning sun means the road is soon always in shade with the temperature plummeting. Then I descend through a small village and see a sign for Auto Camping & Sobe (a room) 400 M. And I warm to the idea of being in out of the cold.

I pull in at a gate on reaching the abovementioned place, a house built into the side of the hill and shortly a kindly looking man about forty comes out the door. Through sign language we communicate. He calls back to the house for his ten year old son who can speak English. The little boy asks where I'm from and I reply. But either, he misunderstands me or it's me being lazy with pronunciation, because when I say Ireland, he says Iran. No Ir-land, I say once more. He says "Thailand" then adds "I don't understand you."

The price is 40 marks, a little expensive, but there is no alternatives and I've gone off the idea of camping, so settle for it. My host shows me down a flight of outside steps to the room in the lower story below their living quarters. It is a whole apartment with it's own small kitchen. He then helps me carry the loaded bike down the steps. A little later, returning from the village shop where I buy ingredients for a simple evening meal, I stop by his door to settle up with payment when his wife comes out the door with a slice of caramel cake on a plate for me. A kind offering at the end of a day cycling.

The road was a gradual uphill all day with many tunnels.
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The itinerary was gorge with the road often in shade where it felt cold stopping to take this shot.
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It was nice when the road crossed over to the side in the sunshine.
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Rail action. This freight-train waits for the other engine, seen coming on the left, to push from behind as there is a severe incline ahead.
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The same train crossing a viaduct, now with the second engine on the rear.
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I pass through a small place.
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On the map which shows large chucks without roads and from what I've seen today, the country is extremely mountainous. Here at a road-junction, a turn-off for another road which will snake its way along a deep gorge like the one I've been in all day. And notice the second language on the sign. I haven't worked that out yet.
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One of the many tunnels which luckily have a footpath along the side.
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A kind gesture. The woman at the house where I stopped for the night gave me a slice of cake.
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Tasting the soup.
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Today's ride: 57 km (35 miles)
Total: 8,583 km (5,330 miles)

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