Day 05, Tour08, Between Bijeljina and Tusla to Lukovac, BIH

We aren't in Kansas any more,
Tusla, Bosnia

Today was a mix of hard riding, bad weather, a missed turn, and serendipity. I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked towards Sarajevo, but I spent most of an hour stuck under a store front umbrella with a Bosnian university student during a torrential rainstorm. The rain was so heavy that we sometimes had to yell to hear each other, but that didn't interfere with having a really good time talking about life, the universe, and all that. I ended up under that umbrella while trying to find an internet cafe in Lukovar. I ended up in Lukovar because I missed a turn to Sarajevo on the road from Tusla. When I figured out that I was no longer on the right road, I turned around and was hit by a few rain drops. There was a place to stay nearby, so I decided to take a short day. I wouldn't have reached Sarajevo today anyway, and now it will be a reasonable ride for tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be better too. In any event, my visit with the student made this stop worthwhile.

I got up this morning around 7 after ten hours of good sleep. The lousy night followed by a day of hard riding yesterday meant I needed that much sleep. After cleaning up and packing up, I rode up to the restaurant and had a good breakfast before I hit the road. I expected to be climbing that big ridge soon so I was a little concerned that breakfast was too heavy. It turned out that I had 15 miles of relatively flat riding before the serious climbing began.

A truck that had just passed me in the section before the big climb

There are a lot of places to find a cheap room for the night in Bosnia Most of those room, like the ones at this service station, will get a lot of road noise

A Romanian style haystack

The first part of the ride was through lush valleys with lots of small scale agriculture. I saw many people working with simple hand tools in the fields. It was strange to see fields of corn that weren't laid out for tractors, but for human beings to cultivate. There were many neat haystacks along the road, most in what I think of as the Romanian style. These haystacks have a permanent inner structure which includes a vertical post and several post angling out to the sides.

As I rode along river valleys through the ridges north of Tusla, I began to wonder if the waiter in BijeLjina had been wrong about the climb. I thought he had told me it was 15 km from BijeLjina, but he may have meant from Tusla. In an event, he was right about the 400 meter climb. It wasn't as steep as Fruska Gora (7% instead of 10%), but it was a lot longer. I was quite tired when I reached the top. I was climbing, pretty much at my sustained power output limit, for over an hour.

Climbing the big ridge before Tusla

The view down into Bosnia was quite spectacular and made me wonder about riding across Bosnia. I've been, except for Fruska Gora, riding on the plains. Now I will be riding in the mountains, mostly following river valleys.

The ride down was at 25 to 35 mph with only occasional braking required. I passed only one vehicle, a heavily loaded big truck that had passed me on the way up, and nobody passed me until I reached a relatively flat section. The first car that passed me braked hard behind me as a small tree fell into the road in front of us. The tree was cut down, with a single axe blow, by two men who were apparently clearing the road side. It only blocked half the lane, but that was enough to put me into a mildly dangerous situation since I couldn't go over to the side of the road.

After I got to Tuzla, after climbing over another, smaller, ridge, I found my self riding in a very urban mix of heavy traffic. It was mostly Taxis which would stop suddenly, in the road to pick up or let off their passengers. There were no other bicycles. Tuzla has a population of about 100,000 people, most of who live in big high rise apartment buildings and use taxis or buses to get around. Traffic wasn't nearly as intense as in, much bigger, Novi Sad, but there still was a lot of horn blowing and a bit of tire squealing gong on. After riding through the main part of the city, I decided hat I needed to stop at a service station to take a break and ask for routing advice. I pick a good one and had a good visit with the three men there about Tusla, Bosnia, and riding to Sarajevo. Tuzla was the first place I stopped that is in the muslim part of Bosnia. This is the part that has a real religious mix Catholic (Croats), Orthodox (Serbs), and Muslim (Bosniaks).

I got good routing advice, but, probably because I was focused on 'my' edge of the road in heavy traffic, I forgot about the turn I needed to make a few km west of Tuzla. I'm glad I missed that turn ;-}.

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