To Cres - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 24, 2020

To Cres

We went to bed last night still not knowing our plans for the day.  Our host here told us we are free to stay on if we want, and we told our prospective host on Cres that we hope to be coming but aren’t promising yet.

When we wake up, we’re elated.  The gods are with us this time and conditions look fine all morning.  Rains are due to roll in a bit after noon, but that leaves us time to bike to Cres as long as we make the 9:30 sailing.  We notify both hosts of our plans, bolt down a fast breakfast, break camp and hit the road.

A roof cat observes our passing.
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The ride to the ferry is along the same gorgeous coastline we’ve ridden twice before now.  Descending is best, but it really is great both ways.  After a steady but gradual seven mile climb we crest the ridge, come to the turnoff to the ferry port, and plunge seaward.  We arrive with about 45 minutes to spare and enjoy just standing around in the morning sun, admiring the views and watching the approaching ferry make its way across the bay.

Climbing south out of town, we pass beneath Mošćenice.
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Being in the right place at the right time is everything. We wouldn’t like this morning’s ride so much if we were fifteen miles to the east.
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This is our third pass through this stretch. We haven’t tired of it yet.
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The steep three mile descent to the Cres ferry terminal. We were here two years ago going the other way, but it don’t remember it being as enjoyable then. Maybe it was the heat then, or the view going this direction. it’s great to be biking into it. I doubt that the 14% grade at the end was a factor.
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Waiting for the ferry, the sun breaks through.
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There are worse places to pass an idle 45 minutes.
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Still waiting. It won’t be long now. The body of water, by the way, is the northern end of Kvarner Gulf. We’ll be island hopping south through it for the next week.
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Always the first to arrive at a party. Others will arrive shortly, but it’s an intimate gathering this morning: ourselves, a few walk-ons, and perhaps fifteen cars. Looks like we booked a larger venue than was needed.
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On the crossing we enjoy chatting with an East German couple, here for the cycling.  They’ve driven down in their box-shaped VW wagon, with enough roof clearance inside so that they have their four bikes (road and off-road) standing erect in a bike rack inside.  We go back and forth between talking Trump and cycling - growing up in East German,I’m sure they have an interesting perspective on hats happening in our country now.  They’re serious cyclists, but I wasn’t clear on whether they do unsupported touring.  Last year they biked the French Alps, and we enjoy comparing notes about the ascents of Galibier, Bonette and Ventoux.  every so often one or the other of us will break off to admire the amazing views all around.

Looking back at Istria as we cross the channel. This is Brseč, another ridge-top neighbor of Mošćenička Draga that looks worth a look.
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We’re not the only bikers on board this morning, though we’re the only ones who pedaled on. This is an East German couple, down for a week of cycling. They’re based in an apartment in Labin and are coming to Cres for a day ride.
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A lighthouse at the northern tip of Cres.
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Somehow, we both expected the climb after we arrive on Cres to be more difficult than it ends up as.  It helps that it’s such a steady grade, and modest enough that we can keep a steady cadence.  It helps too that it’s gorgeous the entire way, and we scarcely see a car or person the whole way.   and, I think that we’re finally starting to find our climbing legs again.  Most of all, it helps that it’s not raining!

Nearing the summit, we see clouds or fog spilling through a gap in the ridge.  It looks like we’re biking on the right side of the island this morning, and if we were on its east side we might be ascending through fog.  It’s quite beautiful at the top, the clouds rising above the curved profile of the road looking like steam rising from the caldera of smoldering volcano.

It’s a six mile, 1,500’ climb from the ferry terminal. A very steady grade, and the miles pass easily in a setting like this.
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On our right, we enjoy spectacular views across to southern Istria as we climb.
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For mile after mile we pass ancient, hand-built stone walls like these. The land is virtually empty now, but people must have lived here once.
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This and a second similar structure are the only ‘modern’ constructions we’ll see until we near the town of Cres.
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There are others about though. A few wandering sheep are here to greet us at the summit.
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Looking back at a short stretch where the clouds from the east side of the island cross through a gap. When we approached this spot, at first I thought we were crossing over and would be descending in the fog.
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A wonderful ride. I think we’ve been passed by perhaps a dozen cars in the last hour, all going in the other direction toward the ferry.
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This is a view south, down the east side of the island. The town of Cres is on the other side, on the western coast. When we leave Cres we’ll cross over this ridge again and drop down to catch that ferry to Krk.
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The descent to the town of Cres is longer, more gradual than the ascent was.  It’s one you could really fly down if you were in a hurry, but we aren’t and don’t - it’s all just too scenic to take it fast.

So, we arrive dry.  An hour or so later the rains arrive but they never amount to much.  The sun breaks out again later and I go out for a wander through town, but you can wait to see that.  For now, I’ll just say how happy we are to have made it here.  Happy because it’s the best and simplest route for our plan, but happier still because Cres is such an extraordinary spot.  There’s a reason that I’ve wanted to return ever since our too-brief visit two years ago.

Video sound track: Angel Eyes, by Raz.

Here comes our town now. It’s in a very sheltered spot at the end of a narrow inlet.
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We’re staying somewhere near here, in the old town about a block from the waterfront. It’s hard finding our place though, because the GPS has problems buried deep in this maze.
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Our apartment is in here, one of several addresses in this tiny branch off a tiny street. You’ll see a lot of bikes here, because the old town by the waterfront is carfree. These ancient streets are all to narrow for anything much larger than a motor scooter.
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Jen GrumbyCarfree! A beautiful word.

Can't wait to see more.
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1 month ago
The view across the harbor from our dinner table. It’s a tiny harbor, a branch off of the narrow inlet we saw from above. Really, just large enough for small fishing boats.
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Just to orient you, since we’ll be here for three nights. This is the inlet we saw from above. It’s roughly three miles long, and opens to the Kvarner Gulf on the left. The town of Cres is wrapped around the narrow harbor at the top. Too small for larger vessels, so yachts stay at the marina to the south, about a mile from town. The boaters stay out there and walk or bike to town.
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Ride stats today: 28 miles, 2,600’; for the tour: 1,221 miles, 55,600’

Today's ride: 28 miles (45 km)
Total: 1,225 miles (1,971 km)

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