Whats In The Bags Sir: Mostar To Neum - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

January 4, 2014

Whats In The Bags Sir: Mostar To Neum

This begins late Friday afternoon.

I wake-up and still need to shower. The shower feels good and there's a place to rest the soap. Its surprising how many showers annoyingly don't have anywhere for soap. And you must set the soap on the raised bit to the side of the shower floor.

The guesthouse patron said it is only five minutes walk to the old town. Five minutes maybe if you don't get lost like I did. I know where the old town is from my previous visit to Mostar; but I take a street, thinking it's a shortcut; then, having crossed a modern bridge, Is on the wrong side of the river and have to do much walking to get onto the street leading down to the old bridge; across which, is the restaurant recommended by the patron.

I take a seat and start looking at the menu. The waiter come over and I give him a flyer from the guesthouse for a free aperitif. A minute later it come: a small glass of grappa. Not what I expected. I wanted something to quench my thirst.

The other tables are taken by people travelling over Christmas. I was passed by a lot of Italian campervans and cars on the road today. The next table has a group of Italians. Then at the table across from me is a middle-age English couple. The woman makes grandiose exclamations "Oh, everything is just fine!" on three occations when the waiter come over inquiring is everything all right. Then leaves most of the fine food untouched.

My drink come: Homemade lemomade which did more for the thirst than the bitter tasting grappa. Then come the salad Italia. A lot more than I thought when ordering; a large plate full, together with a basket of homemade bread. I take a slice of bread and lay upon it a lettuce leaf and put a chunk of mozzarello cheese on top. I top the open sandwich off with a slice of tomatoe and a black olive. By the time I've hungrily eaten the whole basket of bread and salad in this manner, I'm starting to feel quite full. But then come the main coarse, trout served with boil potatoes and spinach. I just about have appetite to eat everything and haven't felt as full in a long time.

Through tiredness perhaps, I miss read the menu prices. I presumed the prices are in marks. I didn't spot that the prices are Euros (there being two marks to a Euro). I think therefore the bill will come to around thirteen marks. But am surprised to see the bill is actually twenty-six marks; not thirteen marks but, thirteen Euros. It surely has been an expensive day. On a normal day, I get through a little over twenty Euros. Today it all added up to double the usual at forty-three, which is extravagant to say the least. I'll have to make up for it through many days of buying only the bare minimum.

Mostar means old bridge. Photo taken while pausing on the modern road bridge on the way out of town.
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Next morning the breakfast is substantial: an omelette and cheese with more than enough bread. But the coffee is Nescafe instant. The other guests are two couples from Poland travelling together and the guesthouse patron, gets them to move their car from the drive so I can get my loaded bike out.

It's another fine sunny morning and after leaving Mostar shortly after nine, the road onwards is straight and flat through wine country. There are rows of vines on either side the whole way until the valley narrows with the road pressed in close to a river; below on the right, it meanders around and between sandbars. It is enclosed by willows and trees on either riverbank and beyond are bare rocky hills. And before long, the now sinuous road passes through a succession of short tunnels in the vertical escarpment rising on the left.

My camera has something unextractable inside the lens.
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Further on the valley widens again with the road moving away from the river. The main land use here is growing vegetables with large areas under plastic tunnels. A sign that I'm nearing the coast with its mild marine climate.

Ahead are a barrage of hills which I take to be the Croatian border. And shortly, turning a corner, I see the frontier checkpoint booths.

The Bosnian guard briefly flicks the pages of my passport then hands it back and waves me on. The Croatian guard who is a young woman, studies the pages of South America stamps, then hands it over to a senior colleague to have a look. He flicks through the pages, but because he's busy checking passports and id cards on the opposite side, soon loses interest and put it down on the desk. There's a moments suspense before the guard on my side picks my passport up again. She then leans out the window and looks at my bike. She asks "What have you in the bags?" I reply "Camping equipment and spare clothes." Then she asks "You don't have drugs?" "No" I nod. Really. As if I'd say yes.

Beyond the border, an urban area stretches for quite a few kilometres where, I stop at a Konzum supermarket. I make a withdrawal of local currency from an ATM, buy two bureks for lunch, a bottle of coke and two packets of muesli biscuits for the evening and the morning.

My watch has stopped working again. Not long after having had a new battery put in before Christmas. I rely on seeing the time on the receipt. The time is 12.38 and so when, I come out of the supermarket, I sit down beside my bike to lunch.

The road onwards in the afternoon passes through countryside devoted to orange groves. The flat ground on either side is all orange trees and as oranges are in season, there is stall after stall by the roadside selling them in nets. I had already bough mine in the supermarket.

Then the road climbs up over rocky hills and later descends to the coast where, once again I cross a frontier. This time without fuss back into Bosnia. Yes Bosnia has a short bit of access to the Adriatic and the most convenient way for Croatians to reach the far south of their country is through Bosnia.

There is one Bosnian seaside resort town on this stretch called Neum. It looks to have sprung up since the sixties; the beginning of package holidays. Its mainly apartments and hotels with balconies facing the seafront. On the highway through, there's lots of cafes. I stop at one for a coffee to get rid of some Bosnian coins. I see it is a few minutes after four on the clock upon the wall. And see there's a bit of a stretch in the afternoon. There's still a while yet until dark.

I keep on going. I intent camping but the rocky coastal hills beyond town, look not to have a level place big enough and clear of scrub or boulders. I first look at one place up a trail from the road. Although it is slightly sloping, it would do at a pinch. Returning back to the road for the bike, I spot on the outside of a curve just up ahead, the trace of an old section of road; so, I ride on and check it out. It is both plenty big for the tent, perfectly level and completely hidden. The only thing are the pegs haven't much hold in the stony underlay, but that isn't such a problem as there are abundant rocks for anchorage.

The afternoon with orange groves to the side.
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A big of wild countryside in between.
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The orange groves.
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I reach Neum just after four.
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Today's ride: 84 km (52 miles)
Total: 8,855 km (5,499 miles)

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