This was my image of what most of todays ride would look like
I did not expect this!
I'm headed down, more than a thousand feet to below the lowest spot you can see in this image
I took it easy, and enjoyed the amenities - sitting in my living room catching up on some of my regular blogs - and left about 9:30 thinking I'd have relatively easy ride to Mostar. The first implication that this might not be true showed up after I'd spent most of an hour just getting out of Sarajevo in heavy traffic. The road to Mostar, which had been an expressway, became an autoroute.
There wasn't even a way to get off the autoroute when this happened, but I lifted my, heavy, bike across a waist high barrier and rode on paralleling the autoroute. I saw a taxi driver and asked for help. He said go on the autoroute for 2km then exit and go left to Mostar. I exited and found a round about with three ways to go. The one that said Mostar looked like it went back onto the autoroute, and another one was marked as going to an industrial area. I took the third one but, after a promising start, my compass told me I was heading in the wrong direction, so I stopped at a service station and asked for help.
No one at the service station had english, but one of the guys in the cafe area had a little german. He told me to go back one km and take a left. I was confused since I thought that way would take me onto the autoroute. Sensing my confusion, he led me back to the roundabout in his car and then walked me to the actual road as a truck went past and said "follow him!" I did and that road, which looked like an entrance to the autoroute I had just exited, led me to the highway to Mostar. If I had followed the Taxi drivers instructions, I would have saved two km of riding and that good fellow at the station wouldn't have had to leave his friends and drive two km to help a lost bicycle tourist.
I had ridden for more than a hour, and close to 20 km when I saw this sign
When I finally did get on the road to Mostar, I saw that I had over 100 km to go after having ridden almost 20 km, but still figured it would be an easy day of riding. My next clue that ghat was not going to be the case was when the road finally entered a river gorge. Somehow, and this was silly, I had it in my head that I'd be riding down the same river till I got to Mostar. The first river was really a creek and I was riding upstream, not down stream. Hmm, could it be up stream all the way to Mostar. The river in Mostart is a lot bigger that the creek I was riding up, so that didn't i seem likely! Maybe I'd ride up one valley, ride over a ridge, and ride down another vally to Mostar? At that point I should have looked at my map, but instead I decided just to keep on keeping on and see what happened.
Gentle climbing in the first gorge
Starting to climb - the first climb that needed my granny gear
The gentle climbing, with a little descent continued for quite a while. Then a serious climb began. The road climbed up the side of the valley. After a big climb -1000 ft? - the road entered a half mile long, unlit, tunnel. I stopped to turn on my rear light and get out the small LED light I'd brought along for tunnels. Then I rode into the tunnel and saw that , at best, the LED light could help me see where the curb was. There was a moderate amount fo traffic in the tunnel, but most of it was coming toward me. I rode, at 15 to 20 mph, trying to keep a reasonable distance from the curb that I could barely see. I wasn't able to see the pavement ahead of me except by the lights of oncoming vehicles, so I just had to hope there were no potholes.
Looking back from part way up the first climb. A very pretty valley
The tunnel entrance
When I came out of the long unlit tunnel, I stopped to turn off my tail light and put away my headlight. The descent started out pretty innocuous, but after 5 km or so it got steeper, it was marked at 9% for 4 km, and more exciting to ride. In some ways, it reminded me of the 7% for seven miles grade coming down to Steamboat Springs in Colorado. but this one was much twistier and had another unlit tunnel in the middle of the fast descent. I came around a corner,saw that tunnel, and had just enough time time to let a bus and a truck behind me get ahead of me going into the tunnel. Then I kept to center of my lane. A jerk in a small car passed me near the end of that tunnel going fully into the other lane with motorcyclists coming the other way.
When I finally got to the bottom of the descent - that took quite a while - I started looking for a place to have lunch. I quickly found one and a nice lunch of local trout -two of 'em ;-}. Then I rode on a few km, and descended some more, into Konjic, the biggest town between Sarajevo and Mostar. Konjic, like Mostar, is on the Neretva river, so I figure the rest of the ride would just be down the river for 50 km. That was not quite correct.
My bike at the restaurant
The river Neretva, near Konjic
Looking across the lake
The road ran along the river - really a lake in that part, Lake Jablanicko - for a few miles. It was beautiful and easy riding. Then the road started climbing again as the river gorge rapidly narrowed. There was a pretty good headwind - there had been a headwind most of the day - - and I was grinding uphill into that wind when someone called out "Wie Gehts?" I figure they knew I had to be German because only Germans enjoy riding uphill into the wind ;-}.
The road ended up several hundred feet above the river and the rail road ran near the river. Both the road and the railroad needed frequent bridges and tunnels to deal with the crinkly sides of the gorge. One of those tunnels was also half a mile long, but it was lighted. Several shorter tunnels were lighted, but tunnels short enough and straight enough to let some natural light get to middle weren't. My main problem with the longer tunnels was the high noise level in them.
The road descended again to another town, Jablanica. I cruised on through the town, then stopped for a snack as the road started to climbing again. As I stopped, it began raining and, looking ahead where the road went, I could see light rain in the mountains. Jablanica had a - soviet style ;-} - hotel and I decided to ride back there and stop for the day. When I got the hotel, it was dark inside and it took me a few minutes to find anybody there. I finally found a woman folding laundry and she found another woman and that woman made several phone calls and, in ten or fifteen minutes of, mostly language free, communication, I had a 20 E room for the night. It certainy doesn't compare to my room for last night, but, other than giving up on ever getting hot water up to my room and taking a cold shower, everything works and I think I'll sleep very well here tonight. Tomorrow, I hope I'll have a pretty easy ride into Mostar.