Sugar Break: Celebici To Sarajevo - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

December 15, 2013

Sugar Break: Celebici To Sarajevo

I left the curtains undrawn so that the morning-light would stream in and wake me. And I'd taken the quilt from the other bed in the room and pulled it over the bed, so Is snug and warm. A pity to have to get out. But looking to the window, it is a grey cloudy morning out, which will mean it shan't be so brutally cold.

I scamper out and open the door and enter the kitchen where I left my clothes on a chair the evening before. The room is warm because the heating has been on all night. I put water on to boil for tea and slice bread bought from the village shop. I don't have butter, but I open a can of sardines to accompanies the bread.

I have a flyer for a hostel in Sarajevo called Franz Ferdinand and using the netbook visit their website. The photos look impressive. Comfortable looking rooms for ten Euros a night with breakfast included. And I have a good look at the Google map to familiarise myself with its location in the city-centre at Jelice 4, just off Ferhadija, the main walking street.

I wash the dishes and leave everything how I found it; turn off the heat and leave the key in the door. Then carry the panniers up the steps to the drive and return for the bike. While putting everything together ready for the road, my host is leaving. He's dressed smartly and seems to be in a hurry, so just waves in passing.

It's hard to say what the weather has in store after riding for half an hour. The sky is dirty white and there's a chill in the air. It looks like it could snow.

I reach the small town of Konjic which has a row of grey high-rise blocks stark against it's mountain-valley surroundings. The other notable building is the mosque with it's dome roof and tall cylindrical spire with a pointy-top, looking like a space-rocket. Riding through there are lots of small grocery shops with boxes of apples, potatoes and nets of clementine on display out-front. The urban stretch continues for a few kilometres in which I cross over a bridge and the road ahead is a gradual rise forcing me to slowly grind the pedals round.

As the valley narrows to a tight gorge, I could see Is in for a long climb. The road ahead is forever upwards and curves round the contours of the mountainside. Soon there is quite a drop to the tumbling river below, on the other side of which is the old road, little more than an earthen track carved out of the mountainside low down and barely wide enough for a cart.

It is getting colder the higher I ride and there's snow by the roadside. I think I've reached the summit when I pass through a tunnel; in which, I've to get off and push as the raised walkway at the side is a little too narrow to ride safely and there are regular holes to lift the bike over. All the while there's the rumbling din of vehicles resonating through from behind. Coming out the other side, I pass through a small place, Baldina; with a railway station, a restaurant which is closed and a few other houses covered in snow. Then the road goes down, but levels out and begins climbing again up a short valley to a point where it doubles switchback style up the mountain to the side.

Eventually I pass a long-awaited triangle sign with 10% beside a black wedge. I'm already extremely cold and it is only to be expected I'll get much colder descending. When the road levels out I keep plugging away hoping to reach Sarajevo soon as my fingers feel numb through my thick gloves. The sky is still dirty white and everything else is grey. And as I reach the start of the suburbs, the few pedestrians out are wrapped up in warm-fur-hooded-jackets. The way ahead then becomes a blue-car road with no-cycling signs, but I see a path on the other side of the crash barrier. There's access to this path by a petrol station a short way back along a on-slip.

The café at the petrol station is too good to pass. There are no customers and the two girls that would be working are sitting by the radiator. One rises when I enter and comes over and goes behind the counter. I order an espresso and take it over and sit at a table by another radiator. I have my gloves in with me and I put them on the radiator top to warm up and spend much time with my hands presses against the warm metal. There's a nausea feeling as the hands warm too quickly. Then when I'm feeling well again, I take a sugar sactual, rip the edge and pour the sugar into the coffee, then do the same with a second sactual and stir the coffee with a spoon. I don't usually take sugar, but on days like today I make an exception.

When I've finished the coffee and warmed sufficiently, I get up to pay and opening the purse of the wallet, I've a terrible amount of small coins which I empty into the palm of my hand and allow the girl to pick the right change out. She makes a shivering motion and intimates with a sympathetic look that it's too cold to cycle. I agree, but have no way of expressing it and just end up smiling pathetically.

The path eventually leads out on a highway I can cycle upon, then it's a long ride to the city-centre where I easily find Jelic street and the hostel, but it's looking like it's shut for the Winter, as there's nobody there. So much for nice flyers and a fancy website. There are others. I push the bike along and turn the corner where I see another hostel which makes a good impression with it's sign and name, Vagabond.

On the door there's a bow because its Christmas; a bell with Vagabond on the name plate and a camera. I ring the bell and immediately there's a buzzing sound. I push the door open and wheel the bike up the step into a narrow hallway where I lean it against the side. I hear clattering footwear descending the stairs and turning, see a lady with a welcoming smile stand on the half-landing half a flight up. I ask is there a bed and she confirms there is and beckons me up to reception on the first floor. She shows me the dorm which is eleven Euros a night. I ask is breakfast included. No breakfast. You are in the land with the cheapest food in the world, she replies, and goes on to show me on the city-plan all the good eateries.

She shows me the common area where there's comfy sofas with a Japanese guy lounging engrossed in his tablet and photos of the city on the wall. All is in order, so I give the lady my passport. She introduces herself: Alvina, and tells me her idea with the Vagabond name is an attempt to create a new type of hostel that will take more of an interest in the guest and provide a family atmosphere. She certainly takes an interest in my cycle-tour and says I'm a real Vagabond.

At an intersection on the way into Sarajevo.
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Today's ride: 68 km (42 miles)
Total: 8,651 km (5,372 miles)

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