The Icy Road: Guesthouse before Plitvice to Wild Camp 60 KM Onwards - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

December 5, 2013

The Icy Road: Guesthouse before Plitvice to Wild Camp 60 KM Onwards

The room was snug and warm and I sat up in bed reading until after two. Supper was part of a bag of granola and half a bottle of milk I had in the bag. The remainder of the granola and the rest of the milk I had this morning for breakfast.

Breakfast: toasted granola with milk.
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Once everything is packed, I looked around and under the bed making sure I haven't forgot anything. I turn off the radiator and begin carrying the pannier-bags downstairs. Panniers when not on the bike are the most awkward bundle of baggage. They're heavy, unwieldy and don't stand upright, falling over when the handle-straps are let go. And because of the necessity of even weight distribution for when they're on the bike, there's bits of what I need for an evening off the bike, like toiletry, non-cycling-clothes and computer in all four panniers. Furthermore, its hard carrying the lot, five bags if the bag that rides on top of the rear-rack is included; especially, because the way to a room, usually involves passing through narrow doorways, corridors and stairways. It'd be great if a pannier manufacturer came up with an off-bike pannier-bag carrying system: for example, a backpack harness with a mode to join four panniers together for such off bike hugging from the bike up to hotel rooms; or maybe, a big lightweight kitbag with a shoulder strap would do perfectly. I often envy backpack-travellers having just one bag. But then again they usually express envy at my journey by bike. I return upstairs to the room for two more panniers, and a third time for the bike, being careful not to knock over any of the house-plants on the landing with it on the way back downstairs.

There is nobody about as I stand the bike in the poach and hook the panniers on to the racks. Probably no one is up yet as it is only after seven thirty. I wheel the bike down the step and out to the edge of the road. Already I can feel the sharp frost in the air. The road is wet from thawing snow run-off from the shoulders and I'm thankful the gritter-truck has been out.

The road descends steadily into blinding low sunshine, down and across a bridge; whereupon, the road passes out of the sun and into the icy shadow cast by the gorge's vertical side on the left. But from the bridge its gradually uphill. The hard pedalling counters the cold which has begun to be felt through my thick gloves, numbing the fingers.

I pass the sign for the national park: entrance one and entrance two. The office at the former is shut, so I continue on the few kilometres further to entrance two, which is down a driveway through the trees to a car park by a hotel.

At national park entrance 1.
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I push the bike in off the asphalt over the snow, careful not to step on the glassy parts previously trampled, which would result in my feet sliding from under me and falling on my backside. I lean the bike against a wall and lock it, then step down steps, again mindful of the danger of stepping on slippery parts, down to a path, which is only the start of a long path zig-zagging down the gorge to the parks attraction: the Plitvice Lakes: a series of lakes beginning on the river high up in the gorge: the river cascading down from one level to the next between lakes, like steps, as pictured on the interpretation board by the park ticket office at the first hairpin bend on the path.

The pathway down to the ticket office at entrance 2.
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It is apparent that it'll take maybe an hour to walk all the way down and I would be here all day, something which I knew. The weather is sunny today, but according to the weather forecast there's a chance it'll snow in this area tomorrow, which could mean treacherous road conditions; so I make a quick decision, to return back up the path to the bike and use the day for riding while the weather's fine.

Picnic tables
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Its good to be riding again and not see the short sunny day pass having cycled nowhere. Approaching the next town Korenica at noon, there's a road junction. The yellow sign has the left turn for Bihae, followed by the letters BiH, meaning across the border in Bosnia. I ponder a moment, whether to turn left or not. But decide not to, as it'll probably be colder that way. I continue into town. I'm hungry so stop at the first grocery shop.

There's a glass display-counter with the usual hams, sausages and cheeses. But not much else apart from sweets, crisps and soft drinks. I buy a packet of crisps and a bottle of Pepsi. Further on past the centre of town, there's a roadhouse restaurant.

Looking at the menu-card, its pricey with most lunch dishes seventy to eighty (10-11 Euros). I settle for a ham omelette costing thirty. The waitress come out with it less than five minutes later. The pan must've been too hot as the egg is a little singed on the surface, but I'm really hungry and eat all of the basket of bread too, using each slice to make an open omelette sandwiches. There are only a few other diners; most are smoking, including two men two tables along who are arguing with gruff guttural voices in a haze of cigarette smoke. On the outside of the window panes, thaw water is flowing down. And on the edge of the car park, there's a row of orange gritter-snowploughing-trucks, parked at the ready.

The icy road ahead.
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2 PM: Hoping to have descended significantly by sunset.
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3 PM: Looking south west towards the waning sun.
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The road descends a fair amount in the course of the afternoon and approaching four o'clock, there's less snow to the sides and the air feels a lot milder. I know I'll be camping tonight as there isn't any accommodation signs in the few small places I pass through on this stretch.

There's plenty of open ground on either side all along; lots of camping possibilities in among low-growing trees with only a bit of snow. I want to press on until dusk knowing that'll it continue so. Then ahead of me, there's a flock of sheep in a field on the left, a few of which have wondered out on the road. When I slow to pass round the sheep out on the road, I see through the corner of my eye two sheep come running towards me from the flock in the field. But in the next instant, I see they're not sheep but two dogs. They reach and run out on the road with stripped teeth barking and I've to get off the bike otherwise, the big white dog would go for my leg. I grab a handful of gravel from the side and shower them with it. The black dog run back into the field, but the white dog is a real vicious beast and follows me along the road barking madly. I don't dare get back on and ride. That'd be asking for it. I walk gingerly pushing the bike along which is between me and the dog, grabbling gravel up from the side and throwing it while shouting go to hell. Once past a point, it turns and runs back to the flock of sheep and I get on and ride.

Today's ride: 61 km (38 miles)
Total: 8,199 km (5,092 miles)

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