To Pag - Balkan Dreams - CycleBlaze

September 30, 2020

To Pag

So, picking up where we left off at the end of the previous post, we bike away from the port at Lun and almost immediately begin climbing.  Our ferry captain pantomimed to indicate a climb ahead, and as we round the first bend a 20% grade warning greets us.  It’s really not as bad as all that though - maybe 15%? - and after gaining about 350 feet the road levels off and we roll our way south along the slender peninsula at the north end of Pag Island.  For the next ten miles we’re scarcely a half mile from the sea, on either side of us.

After about a half mile passing by homes on the outskirts of Lun we cycle through a weird landscape of open, rocky land scattered with sparsely spaced immense olive trees that look to be centuries old.  We see few signs of life other than a few sheep in the road and a few self-serve honey stands.  We’ll see very little traffic for the next ten miles, until we approach Novalija and the main population center (such as it is) on this long, sprawling, brachiated island.  We do see a few bikes out though - I don’t doubt that this peninsula is a favorite day ride for local cyclists or other cycling tourists.

Leaving Lun harbor. Incline ahead.
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Southbound, with the sea close by on either shoulder. We can seldom get a clear view of it or even see it at all though because of the contour of the land around us.
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Incredible olive trees line the road. For several miles, one after another is impressive enough to be worth a portrait.
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Northern Pag - a weird landscape of barren rock and widely scattered olive trees.
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Looking across a low spot in the land beside us, we’re reminded that we’re paralleling the Velebit range just a few miles to the east.
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Fun, fun, fun. And it continues in this fashion for quite a while - you can see the road ahead far in the distance.
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We’re a bit higher here, and get a rare view of the channel between Pag and the mainland.
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Ripple road.
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We have the Venetian Republic to ‘thank’ for this bizarre landscape. When they ruled these islands they clear cut the forests. The soil on the exposed eastern slopes blew away in the fierce bora winds, and has never regenerated.
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The smaller villages on Pag have such an eerie look, like they’re isolated in the center of a bleak moonscape.
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Somewhere in mid-island, near Novalija. Soon we’ll start encountering a bit of traffic. It’s never busy, but many of the cars keep a good clip.
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South of Novalija, bikers have a choice.  They can continue on the high road - the main highway south, which I assume (we haven’t ridden it) has the advantages of a smooth paved surface the entire way and presumably impressive views as it crosses the highest ridge on the island.  Both times we’ve ridden this stretch though, we’ve taken the low road - a crude, primitive path that hugs the shoreline.  Pros: 2 miles shorter, a thousand feet less climbing, zero traffic, and awesome beauty.  There’s just the one con to offset this: about two miles of unpaved, uneven ‘road’ that in places is so sandy or distressed that you have to walk with bikes and skills like ours.   

When I think back on our first visit to Pag, this road is the first thing that comes to my mind after the surreal landscape.  When we rode it we were in a hurry, trying to catch the first of the two ferries on our ride to Rab.  We didn’t know about these two miles until we arrived at them, and didn’t know how long they’d continue this way.  We had visions of walking about five miles, or perhaps finding it would eventually become impassable.

Having ridden it twice now though, I’ve no doubt this is the way to go.  I don’t need to ride the high road to verify it.  It’s an awesome little ride, almost a wilderness experience.  Just come mentally prepared for what you’re signing on for.

We arrive in town right at four.  We’re just pulling out the phone to call our host when a stylish young woman hurries up the street, her shy toddler in tow.  She sent us a message earlier that she’d be late (to have her hair done, presumably for her husband’s 40th birthday the we’ll later learn is the next day), and is concerned that we’ve been waiting a long time.  But no, she’s arrived within a minute of when we had.

We’ll be in Pag for three nights,or maybe only two.  It depends on the weather.  Today, as you see, is beautiful.  Thunderstorms and strong winds are just around the corner though, and we may decide to leave a day early if it gives us a better chance of reaching Zadar dry.

Beyond Novalija, we leave the highway for this slight road that follows the shore rather than climbing over the shoulder of Sveta Vid, the highest point on the island.
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Pag is a complex island. We’re riding on its trunk, but looking across here at one of its long arms. There are four or five small towns like this one strung along its western shoreline. If we had the time, I’d like to explore that long peninsula on a day ride.
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So we’ve lost the pavement here. At first it’s like this: very rideable, not bad at all.
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This is quite a scenic road, and different than most of the island. At time you’re riding with open views across the water, and at others you’re riding through a tunnel if reeds.
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And, at times you’re not riding at all. This reminds me of roads we’ve encountered in the Sicilian interior. An adventure!
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This really doesn’t look too bad, but it’s the intermittent wheel sucking sand that’s the problem.
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We hadn’t reread our previous journal, and had forgotten how long it this road continues like this. Along about now we’re starting to wonder if we’ll be walking the rest of the way to Pag and arriving about sundown.
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But no, there’s just the two miles. The rest of the ride is like this - smooth, easy riding with knockout scenery.
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It continues like this for the remaining miles to Pag town. Which is just appearing ahead at the end of the inlet.
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Crossing the pedestrian bridge and dropping into the old town. Our room is straight up the road ahead.
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Video sound track: Miles From Nowhere, by Cat Stevens

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Ride stats today: 27 miles, 2,100’; for the tour: 1,285 miles, 61,200’

Today's ride: 27 miles (43 km)
Total: 1,299 miles (2,091 km)

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Jen GrumbyPerfect video for 'miles from nowhere'!
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3 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks!
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3 weeks ago