The valley I rode up today. This image is from about 3100 feet and I still had several hundred feet of climbing to do
Yesterday, I was worried about how much climbing I would have to do to ride across Montenegro. This country is one of, if not the, hilliest country in Europe. Podgorica is the low spot in the interior of the country, so everything else is up from Podgorica. The route I'd planned runs around a mountain that is about 7000 feet. That meant several thousand feet - it turned out to be about three - just to get up from Podgorica to that part of the route. After being really tired from a steep 2000 climb, was I ready to do a 3000+ foot climb the next day? If not, should I take a rest day or just take a bus to avoid that big climb? I didn't know what I was going to do until I rode out of Podgorica.
I had a good breakfast and hit the road about 8:30 this morning. It was farther - 20 km instead of 10 - than I thought to get to Podgorica, but the riding was good and I enjoyed getting there. I explored a bit, decided I liked the city but was going to ride on. Then, since there no signs telling where the roads went, I stopped a bicyclist and asked how to get to the road to Kolasin. We didn't have any common language, but we were bicyclists and I had map. He gave me correct directions of how to go. If only I had followed them...
Well, I did follow them, but then, since my compass said the road was going in the wrong direction, I asked another man and got bad directions which got me lost in the north part of Podgorica. I asked another young man who had some English, but he didn't know that way out of town. Finally, I had an good idea and looked for a taxi driver to ask. The first one I found, a woman, had some English and patiently tried to explain what I must do. I was confused and couldn't understand her directions, so she said "follow me" and led me back to where I, with little more help from her and a small map of Podgorica, finally understood that the bicyclist direction had been correct. I offered to pay her, but she said "No. I am helping because you need help." As someone who regularly needs help while on tour, I think that is a really good response.
While I was lost, I 'found' a small market and bought bread, a banana, and yogurt. When I finally got out of town I found a small bakery and bought a burek. Then I drank my yogurt and ate my banana since I had already been riding for almost two hours.
The road I was on was the Beograd - Belgrade was 500 km away - highway. I figured that was a good sign for services. At first it was a fairly boring ride, but it soon turned into a ride up a stunning rive gorge. I knew I was in for a lot of climbing today, but didn't know it would be in such an incredibly beautiful valley.
The start of the river valley whose end you see at the top of this page
Looking back from half a dozen miles up the gorge
A real Mini Cooper for people who think that BMW sells real Mini Coopers ;-}
It lives near the start of the gorge
After riding up the gorge for about an hour and a half, I stopped for a burek break. I was very pleased to find that I had been sold a genuine Bosnian burek. I ate half of it at this break and the other half at my last break near the pass. Bureks make really good bicycling food!
The stunning view where I stopped to take a break
That is half a burek in the bag on top of my rack and a loaf of bread, my handelbar bag and a 1.5 liter water bottle in my Townie pannier.
The wonderful ride up the river gorge had a lot of small tunnels and one long, unlighted, one. When I got to the long one, I couldn't find my small headlight, but I rode in anyway. there was some other traffic, but not much, so I soon found myself riding in the dark. I had my tail light on, so I wasn't worried about being run over, but I was worried about running into a wall. I walked my bike till its front tire hit a curb and then walked along the curb, by feel, until another car came along to show me, briefly, what the next part of the tunnel looked like. Then I'd ride until I couldn't see anymore, and shuffle along waiting for the next light source. Fortunately there were a few 'windows' - holes cut out to side of the gorge - in this tunnel that let in some light and air. When I saw a window, I could ride towards it without worrying about hitting the wall. I found my little light again this evening so I won't have to deal with riding in complete dark again. I worried about it every time I came to a tunnel entrance on the rest of this ride.
This is a typical short tunnel on the gorge part of the ride
After several hours in the gorge, I was getting hungry and worrying a bit about running out of water. I started with three liters of water, but riding up a river gorge in hot weather uses up a lot of water. I only had one bottle left and I hadn't reached the serious part of the climb. Shortly after I passed a Thirteen Century monastery, I found a restaurant and a spring. Many drivers of big trucks were stopping at the restaurant and then crossing the road to fill their water bottles, so I did the same. I also had a good lunch and a .5l beer, Now I was ready for some serious climbing.
The steep climbing started shortly after the restaurant. From well before the restaurant, I had seen a road way up in the mountains beyond the end of the gorge. I figured it had to be the road I was on. It was and getting there not only involved a lot of climbing, but also getting through a lot of construction going on on that section. I saw a sign that said the next 9 km were under construction and would be closed during the following hours. One of the time started an hour and a half after I saw the sign. Hmm, I thought I could cover 9 km in the next hour and a half. I did, but just barely because I had to wait on one way traffic and climb through a long stretch of construction mess where the 'road' wasn't wide enough for me and a big truck, I had to bail out and wait when trucks caught up with me. I was the last vehicle out before they closed the the road for an hour.
My ride up the steep section was helped by the fact that it had clouded over. Since there was no sun, I took off my sweat soaked shirt. That made the climb a lot more comfortable! I put it back on when I was waiting at the start of the construction mess, but took it off when I got through that mess. I had to put it back on when the sky cleared when I was near the pass.
I stopped to rest, and take my shirt off again, after I'd cleared the biggest construction area
The sign for the pass. I've seen these before but not realized what they meant
After stopping to eat near the last tunnel before the pass, I was feeling comfortable when I got to the pass. There was another restaurant there, but I was interested in getting on down - not more than two hundred feet down vertically - to the resort town of Kolasin. There was at least five miles, of mostly very nice riding, after the pass and there was a construction delay getting to the bridge that goes over to the town. Once I got into town I rode around looking for what I needed, an internet access place. I found one and spent an hour and a Euro to check my mail and put up four web pages. Then I found a hotel. And now it is a hour after my usual bed time...