Finally leaving Western Europe…Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia

“I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfilment to the calm state of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout” – Dean Alfange πŸ˜‰

  • Rome – Dubrovnik
  • 9 March 2016 – 9 April 2016
  • 2,061 kilometres
  • 7 English friends and family visitors ❀️
  • 0 fucking punctures…yessss life ✌️
  • Only 2 crossfit gyms visited 😒
  • 1 night in a children’s playhouse
  • 2 new dry bags ❀️
  • At least 30 bottles of wine/champagne consumed in as many days
Route through Italy – 974 km

After a good couple of days off the bike in Rome with my pal Jules it was time to get my ass back on that bike again…I had another two friends from England flying to Trieste to meet me and I couldn’t be late! Rome is pretty much a nightmare for cyclists…it’s busy as fuck, I’m not entirely sure there is any lanes, people are impatient and kind of mean n them frigging scooters fly about everywhere squeezing through impossibly small gaps n giving a shit about no one…safe to say I didn’t enjoy cycling out of the city…plus with no gps I cities are hard work! It took a couple of hours to get out of the urban sprawl and the cycling was pretty dull all day as I passed through flat built up areas passing the usual litter I have grown accustomed to (but still hate) and then of course it began to rain ☺️ The day was topped off by meeting a right wierdo (long story) and my annoyance with Italy continued πŸ€”

 The next morning was unenjoyable again and that afternoon I left the region of Lazio and almost instantly felt positive and began enjoying myself again…Lazio can basically kiss my ass, I didn’t have a good experience in this area and other than visiting Rome, meeting my pal and a nice host, Olga (who was Spanish) I didn’t enjoy this week! I hate the negativity but life on the bike is a continuous stream of ups and downs and I want to give a fair reflection of both…the ups certainly outweigh the downs but I’m not going to pretend that everyday is sweet as fuck πŸ˜‚πŸ˜’β€οΈπŸ‘Š

Getting ready to leave Rome

Leonardo…a refreshing change on the italian men i had encountered so far… a normal person…can you imagine…fucking hurrrrraaayyy πŸ‘

After escaping Lazio…the good times started rolling again πŸ‘ the sunshine came out, the riding was awesome 
and I started meeting decent people. I even stumbled across a natural, free spa in Saturnia which was amazing…40 degree water πŸ‘Œ although I looked a bit of an idiot on my own in my cycling shorts and sports bra compared to the locals in their bikinis and swim suits! I had to limit myself to a quick hour at the spa…as I had 125km to get to Fallonica on the coast, where I spent a great night eating and drinking with my hosts!

Natural free spa in Saturnia πŸ‘Œ
Another great host, Roberta in Fallonica

I
spent the next couple of days cycling over the hilly Tuscan countryside on small, quiet roads which were amazing! I took a couple of hours break over lunch to visit the beautiful city of Siena and ate my 

lunch in Piazza del Campo (one of Europe’s oldest medieval Squares)  where I was chased out of the square by the biggest wierdo of a police woman…I’m still confused on the matter…I’m not sure whether she was saying I couldn’t eat in the square or bring my bike in…fuck knows but she frog marched me right out of there shouting at me in Italian as if I was some kind of potential suicide bomber…I’m riding my bike n eating a sandwich…fuck off πŸ–•

Piazza del campo, Siena
Tuscan countryside
first signs of spring β˜€οΈ

Made it to Florence before dark and found a cheap youth hostel and lucked out at getting the dorm to myself πŸ’ͺ it’s a nice city…I’ve visited before…statue of David is worth a look at but its just another city…full of tourists(especially Americans), cafes and people trying to sell you shit you don’t want! The ride from Florence to Bologna was great…quiet roads over the Apennine Mountains and it felt good being able to go from a big bustling city to the top of a mountain pass, almost 1,000 metres elevation, in just a few short hours cycling and I was rewarded with 20km of downhill into Bologna, where I ended up staying 2 nights with my host, Thomas and his friends who were all awesome and really made me feel welcome!

Cathedral of Prato
I look stupid…that fucking helmet like…but Thomas is a legend πŸ‘

After a rest day I headed north again and called in at Crossfit 7987 in Ferarra to join them for a wod…really great people and they were extremely kind to me but the whole class was nothing but deadlifts…and with not really doing crossfit anymore I literally spent the next week barely able to get my leg over my bike or bend to reach passed my knees…fuck…crossfit is not a good sport to pay the occasional visit to…it’s either all or nothing or be fucked for a week after! I met up with my Aussie friend Mike again to cycle the last few hundred kilometres to Trieste together and by the time we found a spot to camp 
I was sooooo hungry I’m ashamed to say I ate so much I immediately threw up…a rather grim, embarrassing reunion 🐷😷

Thanks for the visit Crossfit 7987…i think i need to work on a head tilt…my picture game is lacking πŸ€”πŸ˜œ

The next couple of days was fairly uneventful flat cycling until about 20km from Trieste where the coastal road leading into the city was pretty sweet cycling and I was happy to arrive in the city the day before my friends Hannah and Foz were due to arrive…I was early for once!
Basilica of Aquiliea – an ancient roman city, now only home to 3,500 people but in the early hundreds was one of the largest cities in the world
Duino on the adriatic coast πŸ‘Œ
Not that im the churchy type but theres some very impressive churches (architecturely speaking πŸ˜‰) throughout Italy and Trieste, with its Latin, Slavic and Germanic history had the widest variety of churches…this one being serbian orthodox

Mike headed to Slovenia and I had a great few days off the bike hanging out with Hannah and Foz in Trieste, I even managed to get them to hire bikes and cycle a bit of the coast with me πŸš΄πŸ– I’ve been extremely lucky with visitors from back home and I’m always so grateful to see them all but I always feel a bit sad when they leave…As much as I honestly love what I’m doing I guess the familiarly of being back with people that you know and can communicate easily and comfortably with comes to an abrupt end and you’re quickly thrown back into fending for yourself in an unfamiliar country, where communication is limited and you have no idea where you’re sleeping that night! Although…
actually I’m being a massive drama queen tbf as I only had a 2 day period of fending for myself before another visit from two more bezels from England πŸ’

Piazza dell Unita d’Italia, Trieste – the largest sea facing square in Europe
Pals 🍦
Foz having a bit go fully loaded

After leaving Trieste I started heading back on myself along the coast towards Venice to meet my two pals Coral and Andy who were flying over to cycle from Venice toDubrovnik and

 I was getting pretty excited for someone at home to see what it’s all about! 

The night before I met them I called into Crossfit Goriza in Monfalcone to join in an inter box fun Easter competition and after party! It was a great night with over 60 members turning up to join in the competition and we ended up drinking until 4am…which was unfortunate for me as I was staying the night in the gym and had to drag my ass up at 6am to get out of the way for the first morning class of the day!

making friends at Crossfit Gorizia…and looking like a rat after a shower 🐁
Crossfit Gorizia’s youngest member, 12 week old whippet…Grog 🐢❀️

The sun was shining the next day as I set off excitedly towards Venice to meet my friends…I eventually met them along the road (actually in the spar to be honest…all the way to Italy to shop in the Spar πŸ˜‚) and we drank a bottle of champagne to celebrate ( wine and champagne are super cheap in Italy…€2 euro bottle of champagne n it’s not bad either). I had contacted a host from Germany who was living in Italy for somewhere to stay our first night on the road who kindly let us camp in the garden, cooked us food and let us use the house for a shower etc. I’ve become accustomed now to meeting strangers and staying in their homes but it was funny to see how awkward people can feel when they have never done it before and it made me laugh watching Coral and Andy squirm as I went for a shower and left them alone having to make small talk πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ From the bathroom after a few moments of silence I could hear Andy saying ‘…sooooo, there much skiing in Germany?’ And I knew they were struggling πŸ‘πŸ˜‚

Route to Dubrovnik – 1,087 km
Larl fellas getting ready to set off on their first morning πŸ‘«
The kids playhouse we spent our first night together in…nice and cosy for three
Our kind host Uli that let us stay despite having 2 friends and their 4 children staying at the house also!
I’ve always known Coral has a clever little way to manipulate people into doing things for her by asking questions without explicitly asking for it to be done and when I overheard her saying to Andy inside the hut, before she had made any effort to try, ‘how do I blow my sleeping matt up’…I knew she was up to her old tricks again and his calm, honest response of ‘put your lips around it and breathe out’ made me laugh and meant that he was wise to this also πŸ˜‚βœŒοΈπŸ‘«

Coza didnt forget to pack her selfie stick
Larl fella with his chops full 🐹
First night wild camping for the group…jamas on and getting that stove going while Andy models his new puffa

The next day was pretty overcast as we headed along the Adriatic coast towards Trieste on our way out of Italy! I was really excited to enter a new country and couldn’t wait to get to countries I had never been to before! The hill climb out of Trieste was a bit of a bitch as we headed towards the Slovenia border! We got to the border checkpoint and rolled through without stopping but felt pretty nervous as there were police/army with guns…must of been racial profiled and given the thumbs up! Took a little while finding a campsite just over the border as I’m always cautious finding a wild camping spot in a new country until I feel comfortable with the customs and we were on a hillside so it was difficult finding some flat ground in a hidden spot! While me and Andy took off in
spe r
ate directions to scower the area for a decent spot…Coza was preoccupied with her phone and had had assumed her ‘snapchat position’ πŸ˜‚ legend!

crossing the border into Slovenia

Coza and Andy both struggled getting much sleep for the first few nights camping as they got used to the hard, bumpy ground, lack of pillows and cold nights…however I was well used to it by that point and passed the fuck out 😴 We were only in Slovenia a short time as we made our way over the mountains towards Croatia and the weather took a turn for the worse…wind and rain all day! By the time we made it over the Croatian border (where I had to show my passport…first time since I’d left home 6 months earlier) we were absolutely soaked to the skin and took shelter in a cafe for a few hours in an attempt to warm up and dry our stuff out! We decided to look for a cheap place to stay, after all they were on holiday and didn’t really fancy the prospect of setting up camp in the pissing rain and we managed to find a little apartment in Rijeka for only Β£8 each! When we arrived there we were greeted by a little old woman who was clapping and cheering our arrival…she couldn’t believe we had biked there and totalled off to make us tea and cakesπŸ‘

Dried out and ready to leave Rijeka the next morning after gting shelter in an apartment for the night
Made it down to the coast for lunch

The next day was overcast and we got a few light showers but managed to stay dry for most of the day! As we made our way down the coast towards Senj where we would look for a campsite for the night before heading inland to check out Plitvicka national park! The Adriatic coast of Croatia is really fucking nice…bright blue seas, craggy cliffs and a mix of rocky and green mountainous inland…it really is the perfect picturesque landscape for cycling! but this is where the money is and where the toursits are so maybe not the best example of the ‘real’ Croatia!

Northern Croatian coastline
Trying to keep up with the pelaton πŸš΄πŸš΄πŸ’¨πŸš΄
setting up camp with perfect position for a sunset
Best days β€οΈπŸš΄πŸŒβ˜€οΈπŸŒ…πŸ
The weather had started to get its act together as we headed inland towards Plitvicka National Park and we had three mountain passes to tackle! it was an exhausting but rewarding day, accumulating over 1,500 metres of elevation and less kilometres than we usually tried to do at about 70km for the day! The first few days I was really having a tough time accepting that I couldn’t keep up with my pals on the hills and kept finding myself getting in a bad mood with myself…despite the load difference I thought with my months of riding about I should be able to keep up but it was fucking impossible! Once I got over myself (which is always hard to do 😊) accepted this and just stuck to my own pace I really enjoyed the hills again and my pals were always waiting for me at the top β€οΈπŸš΅πŸ—»

Once away from the coast these signs were all over the side of the road warning of landmines! Croatia was the country most heavily landmined during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and this made it difficult to find a suitable wildcamping spot
Finally found ourselves a sweet camping spot…landmine free

The next day tear a little more hill climbing of course, we made it to the national park and spent the afternoon walking around the lakes! It was a series of waterfalls and lakes and really was pretty cool but always takes the edge off when tourists by the bus load turn up for a bit wander around! The cycling away from the coast was awesome and we were really glad we changed it up and got to see a bit more of the real Croatia, which was greatly different to the coastal area! The lifestyle of the people was much simpler, selling small homegrown products from their homes on the side of the road and many self sustainable small holdings. The people seemed much more reserved, nobody spoke English and you could see the effects of the war on men over the age of 40 years old, many with big scars all over their faces! There was also a few stray dogs around…one of which chased Coza down the road to a chorus of high pitched, frantic screams πŸš΄πŸ•πŸ˜± I didn’t warn her about the dogs…thought it would be best if she didn’t know!

Plitvicka National Park
Waterfalls
Cycling away from Plitvicka, looking for a spot to camp

The next day we began to head back towards the coast, but not before another couple of mountain passes, one of which was 1,000 metres elevation and by now our legs were used to the hills and Coza and Andy had settled into the wild camping really well and we were in a good routine! We decided to hop into a campsite we cycled passed towards the end of the day near a place called Licki Novi as we hadn’t had a shower in 4 days and at only €5 each it was too tempting to pass up!

Campsite…luxury of a shower and bathroom 😊
Posing in them mountains πŸ’ƒ

After plenty of climbing we got to do a 15-20km downhill stint winding down to the coast at Karlobag with amazing views the whole way! It was the best bit of riding in weeks…so much fun flying down the hills at 50+km/hr! We then headed down the coast towards another national park we wanted to check out…Paklenica!

Top of the final mountain pass before winding down to the coast
Almost falling off a cliff edge all in the name of a selfie πŸ–•
Sneaking in an orchard to set up camp for the night

We took the morning off to have a bit hike aroundPaklenika national park…it was amazing, I loved it there! There was hundreds of people rock climbing and I was so jealous I couldn’t join in! I sensed the feeling of freedom would feel amazing hundreds of metres up on a small ledge in a place only a handful of people had ever been ✌️There was signs up saying that there was bears, wolves and Lynx in the park so to take care! Andy was extremely cautious when he thought he spotted a wolf a few metres ahead of us on the trail…false alarm…just a husky…good looking out though! after our hike we got back on the bikes and headed down the coast to Zadar where we only had time for a quick look around before having to leave and find somewhere to camp for the night!

Leaving our campsite
Hiking Paklenica…Andy nailing that posture πŸ‘»
πŸ‘­
hahahaha idiot
Contemplating life ✌️
Best thing about living outside

The weather was really warming up now and it was so good cycling with friends…we had such a good laugh and setting up camp in numbers is so much more relaxing! Aside from the cycling which was amazing…we drank every night, ate ice cream, showered in the sea, watched the sun set, built camp fires, watched the stars and talked absolute shit! It was a holiday for Coz and Andy but it also fel like a holiday for me as it was much different from my usual touring and I loved it! We started to meet other cycle tourers also as we headed down the coast towards Split and bumped into 2 Swiss cyclists who I would later meet up with down the road!

Always creeping 😏

Dalmation coast
Split
Waiting for the ferry in Split
Navigating the narrow streets of Split

From Split we decided to get the ferry to Hvar and spend a couple of days cycling around the island! The ferry was cheap and only took a couple of hours to get to Hvar! During summer the Island ( well actually just Hvar town) is packed with tourists but as we were there before the start of the season the island was pretty quiet and it was sweet cycling on such good roads with amazing views and hardly any traffic! It was getting pretty hot and this was probably my favourite part of Croatia to cycle. The island is very sparsely populated and there is hardly any shops or cafes outside of the main couple of cities and we also found the best camping spot of the trip so far down in a small wooded cove on the beach completely deserted and with a campfire and trees chopped ready for us to start the fire!

Perfect campspot πŸ‘Œ
Who does’nt love a campfire!
View from our campsite

Andy had his first (and only) fall off on the trip as his front wheel hit into Coza’s back pannier and threw him off, luckily unhurt…but with a snapped sod clip which meant he had to cycle the last 150 km or so in his converse on spd pedals which is far from ideal but he managed ok! We struggled to find a camping spot our second night on the island and I thought
the first

argument was going to kick off as we all got tired and fed up but luckily tempers remained under wraps and we ended up finding what turned out to be a decent spot in an orchard overlooking the sea!

Hvar town
Hvar town
Hvar island
Orchard camping spot overlooking the sea
My impression of the Coza wave…nailed it πŸ‘Œ

We got the ferry the next morning back to the mainland and started heading back down the coast towards Dubrovnik as Coza and Andy had a plane to catch back home 😒 this part of the coast continued to be stunning as we headed towards Dubrovnik and we wanted to get within 50km of the city before we stopped to camp for the night! We were really exhausted by the end of the day and in typical fashion were really struggling to find somewhere to camp…I even attempted to ask some locals…all of which were either rude to me, brushed me off or were so old I’m not even sure they had any idea what the hell I was meant to be! I have a habit of trying to communicate with people who are at least 100 years old, obviously can’t speak a word of English and probably wouldn’t grasp what the hell I wanted even if they didn’t!I don’t know why I keep doing itπŸ–•

Croatia was not a particularly friendly country from what I experienced…I mean the people caused us no trouble whatsoever but they just didn’t seem to care about smiling or talking or making us feel welcome, which I have experienced in other countries!

Sweet sky
Little look in Bosnia…as they own 8km of coastline due to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia…not part of the EU and obviously don’t use the Euro

We only had 50km of cycling to get to Dubrovnik and we made it there by lunchtimewhich but it was pretty lady cycling trying to reach the city for the last 20-30 km as the road got busy and the driving was fucking crazy…overtaking on blind corners and giving us no space whatsoever! we put our stuff in the apartment, got a shower (6 days without one) and went to check out the city! I was happy to get there but it meant an end to my ‘holiday’ and a goodbye to Coza and Andy who I’d had an amazing time with so it was bitter sweet!

Walled city of Dubrovnik…you could still see the bullet holes and damaged roofs from the war in the 90’s…amazing to think this was happening only 20 years ago…following the usual trend of costing thousands of lives, pounds and for nothing
Last selfie on our walk back down mount Srj ✌️
Big rainshower on their last morning in Dubrovnik…i was well prepared with my poncho though…practical and stylish as always πŸ–•
Absolute legends on their way to the airport at 6am πŸš΄πŸš΄πŸ›«πŸŒ

We had one last day together and meal out with my parents who flew to Dubrovnik to visit me! It really was a fucking good 2 weeks and these two are welcome to come back out at anytime to cycle with me…they definitely made the grade and I miss the group for sure…good company πŸ‘ luckily I had 3 more days in Dubrovnik to get over the departure hahahaπŸ’” And a sweet few days hanging out with my much better than average parents before cracking on…

A trip to mostar…a city and bridge famously destroyed in the war to seperate the muslim and christian side of the city 😒 so much history in these countries of which i only scratched the surface
Looking like some kind of imitation warrior there! My mam instructing my dad not to look at the camera when he gets his photo taken because he looks like a dick πŸ˜‚πŸ‘«
Me n the lasso that made meπŸ‘
Perfect camping spot for our last wild camp together 🚴🚴🚴😒 quick sea shower in the perfectly calm sea! the whole coast is very calm, likely due to its sheltered position and hundreds of islands protecting the shores of the mainland

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2 thoughts on “Finally leaving Western Europe…Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia

  1. Francesca

    Oh Jamie …. I love everything about you (even getting used to the language πŸ–•!) … Words fail me .
    …..I love your descriptions …the wonderment of every corner you turn…your lovely friends… (Tears in my eyes when they left)Your wonderful parents (more tears) ..amazing scenery …I even love the stories about the fucking (see I said it!) Italians …But you are NEVER negative .. Just another experience !
    …… ” Only another 50 klms” OMG that alone shows your stamina …Take care..We’re all behind you ..pushing you up those mountains…swearing at those dreadful drivers,,,enjoying the sunsets … And smiling at the people who are kind to you…..
    Your Blog is wonderful ..πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡xxxx

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  2. mavis taylor

    Hi Jaimi – just read ur amazing blog. Glad u had some friends over and mam and dad – makes all the difference. Keep up ur wonderful wanderlust (biking) – good job ur better than nan – remember Centre Parcs (my bruises have just abt healed!!). I think you are very brave to do what u r achieving just remember the hatpin (keep it handy) Wishing you well – love you lots. Good job I don’t use 4 letter words or I might shock you!! Keep ga’an lass. Love Nan xxxx

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