The Day Time Stopped: Beyond Sestanovac to Mostar. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

December 13, 2013

The Day Time Stopped: Beyond Sestanovac to Mostar.

I have half a packet of muesli biscuits and a drink of Pepsi for breakfast. It's a lovely sunny morning and I push the bike out of the plantation and am on the road for eight thirty. Today I aim to reach Mostar. It is ninety-three kilometres according to the map and I hope to arrive around three.

At the top of a gentle climb I enter a crossroads village and turn right for Imotski, continuing ever so gradually uphill with a fine view to the right down across brown valley to a range of hills opposite.

At some point I come to a rest-place with picnic tables and checking the watch, it's that time I like to take a morning break. I eat the remainder of the muesli biscuits and drink the rest of the Pepsi. Then sit enjoying the sunshine. But not for long as I'm anxious to get going again.

I past a series of these rune stones. There was an interpretation board, but only in the local language.
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I check the time on my watch often. And when the road begins to descend towards a broad valley on the left with what must be Imotski sprawling up the hillside opposite, I check my watch and see the face has gone all misty grey. The digits have gone. The battery must be dead. It has lasted three and a half years and supposedly doesn't last forever. But it's a bugger. Now how will I tell the time. I'll have to see what position the sun is in the sky, which will give me a rough idea; fine on a day like today, though not great on an overcast day.

The steep descend levels out and I cross over a long bridge, with the river flowing slowly beneath and continuing out along the valley, then ride a couple of kilometre to the edge of town stretching up the hillside to craggy cliffs. I pass by a Lidl on the right just as the road begins to climb again. Chances are I'll be able to shop when I cross the border, if I find an ATM there first. I hope. Though, it is Friday the 13th. There is potential for many things going wrong. But I'm not superstitious, or at least I like to think I'm not. Most things have a logical reason for happening, like the battery in the watch coming to the end of it's life.

The steep climb continues for two kilometres, passing turnoffs for the town centre on the left, also a sign for a Konzum supermarket; could be my last chance to buy food until Mostar over forty kilometres away.

Once over the top I see the border patrol booths ahead. The window-blind is down in the Croatian booth to block out the sun and the guard inside whom I pass my passport through to and can only see his uniformed arm, then lowers his head and looks out underneath to see my face as he scrutinizes the photo-page. What country you from, he asks. I reply and he gets up and leaves the booth via a door the other side and goes off to an office across the road. He's gone less than a minute, though it seem much longer as I worry what he can find wrong with my passport. But then he returns and hands me my passport.

My passport has been through a lot. The country has worn off the cover and the country isn't clear on the photo-page either.

The thick set guard with a stock of grey hair in the Bosnia Herzegovina booth chuckle as he looks at my passport photo. Then holds it over for his female college on his right to see. She smiles and he draws it back and chuckles again. What is so funny. The photo was taken on a sweltering day in Buenos Aires with the sweat dripping off me and therefore doesn't do much for my image. He then says something to her and she replies Bonjour, so somehow they've decided I'm French. He then photocopies it and passes it back through the slot in the window, bidding me in a jovial manner what I think to be farewell in his language.

The road descends into Bosnia, across a valley to a scattered village where I turn right and pass a sign: Mostar 49 KM. The terrain ahead is extremely mountainous, though I think it shouldn't take more than three and a half hours, if the road keeps along a valley with no major climbs.

Onwards I pass through quite a few small places with at least a shop and a petrol station. I slow passing the later in each place and look hoping to see an ATM, but see none.

Then I reach the main town on the stretch and come to a nice modern supermarket which will definitely have an ATM inside. There is, so I'm able to get some of the local currency and buy lunch. Once I've shopped, I see on the check-out receipt that the time is 13.29. I've still plenty of time.

I push the bike across out of the shadow of the building, to a grass lawn between the car park and the road to sit in the sun while lunching on salami in a baguette sandwich. While eating, a procession of motorbikes passes in a blare of horns, all the riders dressed as Santa Claus.

A modern cutting with the original road around the outside.
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There's a bit of a rise towards the end, then over the summit, there's a five kilometre plunge with Mostar spread along the valley below on the left and the vertical mountainside on the right casting the road in cold shade.

By the time I reach the street below I'm feeling really cold as the city too is in shade and the air feels frosty. There's a big drop in temperature since the morning. And I just want to get to a hostel or somewhere to warm up. But there is not much in the way of signs for the city-centre and so it takes quite a bit of time riding round in circles until I find the way to the old town; in which, I stop at red-lights and see on the other side a bombed out high-rise block and then another to the right of it. Buildings hit in the war.

I check into a pension over a café for 40 Km, about twenty Euros, a little more than I would've wished to pay, but I'm in no mood to shop around.

Mostar in growing afternoon shade.
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A close in view of all the high-rises.
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Today's ride: 94 km (58 miles)
Total: 8,526 km (5,295 miles)

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