Today was both a disappointment and a surprisingly good day. The disappointment was that, at least today, the Croation coast is not as nice as the Montenegran coast. The water is not nearly as pretty, the land is much more arid, and there is too much commercial crap here, as well as too many tourists. The good day is a reflection on the end of the day when, as I rode into town with the only two bike tourists I've seen on this trip, a woman called out that she had a nice apartment for three people. We took it, so once again I have low cost housing and have met new people. They are London police officers who have been touring together on two week trips for many years.
I woke up at 7:40 AM this morning, having slept for 11 hours. Yesterday was a really exhausting day because there was so much climbing. After a good breakfast - included in the 20 Euro room price - I finished yesterday's web page and packed my stuff. No one a the hotel had much English, so I didn't try to ask them about the ferry. Instead, I rode down to there lakefront and asked the people that ran a tourist boat there. I found out that the ferry dock is 5 km north of Tivat and impossible to miss if you are on the road from Budva to Tivat. And I learned that bicycles, and pedestrians ride free.
It was a nice ride to the ferry and, within 15 minutes I was on the other side of the lake heading for Dubrovnik. The other side was much more touristy - it is lined with hotels and other businesses that cater to tourists - and the traffic was worse. However, both side were nearly flat so riding was easy and fast.
The flat didn't last. There was steep 4 km climb up to the top of a ridge - nice views from up there! - and a descent to another small city. After that, the road turned to run along a valley - no sea or lake views - and became pretty rural. It was also nearly flat, rising with a max 3% slope before descending again into another valley. That valley didn't last very long and the road climbed steeply - 8 to 12% (!) sustained - up to the border. That was the steepest sustained climbing I've done on this tour. It was also the steepest riding I've ever done to reach a border.
Things went smoothly at the border, and I stopped for an overpriced lunch at a small restaurant just across the border. As I left that restaurant, I almost got run over by two bicycle tourists!
We exchanged Hi's as they rode past and then I headed down the hill - not nearly as steep on the Croation side - behind them. Since my bike is more aerodynamic than their modified mountain bikes, I passed them on the way down that hill and slowed down at the bottom for them to catch up so that we could talk. They were from London and had been riding in Montenegro on a two week holiday. They were headed for Dubrovnik, and flying back to England in two days. They were lightly loaded and so rode away from me on while climbing the next hill. I did not expect to see them again.
The road ran down the side of long valley and then, gradually at first but getting steeper as it went, climbed the valley wall. At the top, I saw a strange sight, there were about ten big tour busses, belonging to companies from places like Ireland, parked in a small village. I soon found out why.
Just as in Montenegro, it is hard to find flat land in this part of Croatia. The main airport for Dubrovnik, and I suspect, southern Croatia, was a few km down the road. Much of its business seems to be package tour customers who are picked up at that airport by those buses. I assume my new roommates from London are flying out from there as well.
As I rode down the hill after the airport - traffic got much worse - I passed a man cycling on a nice mountain bike. He looked quite fit, but I was a bit faster downhill or on the flat. The rest of my ride to Dubrovnik was, with him in my rearview mirror. When we came to a long steep hill six km from Dubrovnik, I pulled over to let him pass me about half way up. We never spoke, but because of him, I rode harder than I would have for that last 16 km.
As I reached the top of the hill before Dubrovnik, that rider was cooling down ahead of me. I pulled over into an overlook to take some pictures of Dubrovnik and the guys from London came riding up a steep hill that was one way in the other direction. They said it was too narrow down below to ride against traffic. We talked a bit and they headed down into town. I followed a ways back. Then I saw one of them in a pullover and found the other one waiting farther down the road, where the road to Dubrovnik exited from the road to Split.
I stopped to visit some more and, when the other fellow joined us, we rode towards town together. We stopped by the fortress to take pictures, and that is where a woman called out to us about rooms.
My roomates have gone into town and I stayed here to do this write up. Now, the apartment next to ours has been taken by a nice couple who are Norwegian policemen! Strange, but I feel safe here ;-)