July 3, 2013
Distance: 45.7 miles Climbing: 4596.5 ft
After our pleasant day exploring Kotor we had to hit the road again. Our original plan was to cross into Croatia and spend a day at Dubrovnik, which by all accounts is an awesome place. However, after a considerable amount of research we discovered that getting in and out of the city on a bike was a dangerous and stressful undertaking, as the highway was the only way in and out. We were also a little sick of sharing space with tourist hoards. Even though we’d only been in Kotor for one day, we were ready to get off the beaten path again. So our only other logical destination was Trebinje, Bosnia. We didn’t find a lot of info about the place online, but there was a cheap place to stay and the little we did find to read was positive.
Kotor Bay has a main road which winds along the shore headed west , or an alternative route that runs on the opposite side of the bay which links up to the main road with a short ferry, cutting out a few miles. We usually wouldn’t “cheat” by taking the ferry to cut out distance, but the main road was busy and the far shore looked pretty quiet so it was an easy choice. Things went fine until we got off the 1€ ferry and were dumped on the main road. We tried to escape the traffic by following the local road along the coast, but instead of being jammed with cars it was loaded with sunburned tourists wandering all over the place. Chandler’s bell was almost constantly ringing as we swerved around the oblivious holiday-makers.
Eventually, we got funneled the wrong way onto a one way street that ran at the bottom of a big hill. The highway was the only road that ran in our direction, at the top of the hill, so we blissfully rode against traffic which infuriated the other drivers. It was a small local road, so traffic was slow and there wasn’t any danger, but it did require oncoming traffic to give us some room and slow down a little. One man rolled down his window yelling something and pointing at us then screamed “police, police!!”. Sure enough we rounded the corner and there were two police officers standing watching traffic. Chandler gave one of them a nod, he nodded back and continued to watch traffic- they could not have cared less. This all may seem insignificant, but after the past few days of dealing with ridiculously inconsiderate drivers we reveled in our ability to return the favor in such a satisfying way.
Our moods buoyed by our immature act of traffic safety rebellion, we turned north towards Bosnia and started to climb. And climb. And climb. We ended up on another of Chandler’s shortcuts which started out as a paved road, which deteriorated into a pair of concrete strips in the grass at what we estimated to be about 15% grade and then to completely washed out gravel at the same grade. We did a lot of walking.
It was so ridiculous it didn’t really spoil our moods much. When we got the top we had a snack of chocolate cookies and then finally met up with the main highway. It was a brand new road with perfect asphalt that continued to climb, but at a manageable grade. It was really hot though and we didn’t have much water. The climbing was relentless and our moods started to tailspin. Right as I was feeling really low, I came around a corner and spotted Chandler talking to three other bike tourists. They were a group of two guys and a girl in their early 20’s from Montreal riding from Spain to Greece for a music festival. We traded travel stories for a while and had a nice chat. They really enjoyed Bosnia and we told them about our favorite places in Albania. They let us know we were almost to the top of the hill and the rest of the ride to Trebinje should be pretty easy. We parted ways and felt emotionally reset.
After a quick 20 minutes of climbing we hit the Montenegrin border and were stamped out into no man’s land. It was a little confusing because we rode along for several miles thinking we should have been stamped into Bosnia by now, and just when we thought maybe the border we crossed was some sort of a combo thing we rounded the corner and saw the Bosnian border station. Again, no problem getting our stamp, and we rolled down a huge hill into an extremely flat valley. We breezed into Trebinje, but we feeling pretty shot after all the climbing.
At the outskirts of town I spotted a motel, so we swung in to check out the prices but were turned away, which was weird since the place looked empty. Chandler remembered that he saw on the internet a place way up on the hill on the other side of town for 25 Euros so we rode over there. When we got to where he thought the place should be there was no sign of it. Our moods were starting to sink again. Chandler turned around and was waiting for me to catch up before turning to ride downhill back to town. I was taking my time when a woman came out of a house and started speaking to me in Bosnian. I was able to communicate that we needed a place to sleep and she indicated I should wait for a minute. Out came her husband who spoke pretty good English and I secured us a room at their house for 20 Euros!
There were three apartments in the building and since no one else was staying there we got our own floor which had three bedrooms, a bathroom, a full kitchen and living room with a huge TV. The owner pulled out a bottle of prune whiskey made by his son in-law and we enjoyed a drink with him before taking showers. The apartment had a balcony that looked out over the whole valley and the town below. We cooked up a nice dinner of vegetables and relaxed by watching some stupid American television. What a day!