Day 143-144 – So close now!

17 Oct

View from our apartment in Split

Igor surveys the city

When we left Split on Monday morning, it was a perfect autumn day. Crisp, clear and sunny. But as we rode north along the coastline of Croatia, foreboding dark clouds developed around us. We kept a watchful eye on the sky, but it seemed to be clear around us, and rainy on the horizon all around.

Rolling in

Eventually the rain caught up with us, and when it did, it came pouring down. We felt the telltale ‘ping’ of heavy drops hitting our helmets, and didn’t even have time to say “let’s head for cover” before the heavens gave us everything they had. Lightning flashed in the sky, and thunder followed all too closely after it. Within a minute, we were both completely soaked through our riding gear. We pulled in under a tree, but it offered very little protection – and we didn’t like the idea of being under a tree in a lightning storm. We continued on and found a tourist apartment building that was closed up for the winter that had a large verandah where we could shelter. We were thoroughly saturated. We got off the bike, and rivers of water ran off the end of our jackets and gloves. (Our feet were the only thing that was dry – these Sidi boots are a-mazing!) Water was gushing down the hillsides, overflowing the drains, and pooling on the road surface.

And then just as suddenly as it started, the rain eased. We peered out and saw the menacing black clouds heading south at a rapid speed. It was still raining lightly, but we figured we couldn’t get any wetter so we may as well get on the road while we had a reprieve.

Hilltop ruin

We decided to ride on to Senj, a coastal town another 80km on. We had researched a few accommodation options there, and knew that the town was at least open for business. An hour or so later, we rolled into town, soaked to the skin, and ready to call it a day. At least the rain had stopped. We followed our GPS navigation to the apartment we’d looked up, but there was no-one there. We eventually used the wi-fi at a pizza restaurant to book the room and get in contact with the owners. All the while, we were being followed by a guy touting tourist accommodation, insisting that we should look at his place. At one stage he got in his car and followed us. Kinda weird, but you have to give him credit for trying!

Fishing boats in Senj

We relished the comfort of our modern apartment. We peeled off our wet clothes and set them out to dry (oh my there’s a lot of stuff in my jacket pockets!), took long hot showers, made dinner and mooched about for the evening.

As we packed in the morning, we noticed dark shapes forming on the horizon. It didn’t look good. We waited a little longer, and the weather didn’t seem to get any worse, so we hit the road. We rode through Wellington-style wind up the coastline for a while but then everything cleared and we were back to the really pleasant autumn weather we’d been enjoying in the Balkans.

View from our apartment in Senj

Nek minnit…

And before we knew it, we were nearly out of Croatia. We still had kuna in our pocket, so we spent our last currency at the gas station near the border. We ate sandwiches and croissants, drank coffee, and bought water and treats for the road, doing our best to spend everything we had left.

Service-station feast

1km down the road, there’s a toll booth. And we have no Croatian currency left. Oh the irony! Fortunately they let us pay in euro cents.

We left Croatia and crossed into Slovenia without any mention of insurance or bike paperwork. And shortly after that, we rode past a sign saying “Italia”. That’s it then – we’re in Europe proper! No more border crossings or paperwork, and no more stamps in our passports.


There’s not much difference in the landscape or the houses we see from the road. But everything is faster. And more expensive. The motorway system is huge and trucks and cars fly along at 110km. We haven’t been on a motorway for so long – it feels weird to be hurtling along in a straight line, not able to take in the surroundings. Not that there’s much to see when either side of you is large trucks and motorway walls. We had already decided that we’d try to stay off the motorways in Europe, but today we wanted to cover some distance and figured it would be faster and more direct to take the motorway from Trieste to Venezia.

It’s disconcerting to be on the motorway, speeding past Venice. There’s not even a clue of what lies just a few kilometres from this gargantuan road system.

When we were in Italy last time, we used the town of Monselice as a base from which to visit Venice. We decided to revisit the Venetian Hostel, where we’d spent a couple of nights with Igor’s sister and her husband five years ago. The place felt instantly familiar – we remembered how to get there and the layout of the hotel, where the restaurants are, and the bank machine that threatened to swallow Loretta’s ATM card. It’s like we were here not so long ago. And yet everything is different. The town is busier, everything seems more expensive, and this time, we’re not on holiday. Caught up in the excitement of achieving another milestone, we splurged on a really nice meal and a bottle of wine – we’ll call it an early birthday celebration.

From here on in, we’re in largely familiar territory. Had we more time, we’d explore the region, but we are keen to get to Nunspeet by the end of next week and as we intend to live in Europe for a while, we hope we can travel more extensively in the future. Today we’ll go to Milan, where we will visit Giulia and her family. Giulia lived with Igor’s parents as an exchange student a few years ago. She’s going to show us around the city tomorrow – spend my birthday in Milan? Don’t mind if I do! – and then we’ll ride on to visit friends and family in Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.

Our suitcases – and my skates – have arrived at Joep & Liesbeth’s place! I can’t wait to ditch the Icebreaker for a dress. And some tights. And some nice shoes. And a haircut would be good…




4 Responses to “Day 143-144 – So close now!”

  1. Judi October 17, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Almost there to begin another new adventure. Happy Birthday to you for tomorrow – have a wonderful day that you will always remember! Hugs from us here

  2. Tom October 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Happy Birthday Penny! So weird that you guys are a only a mere 3 hour flight away now!

  3. Marjolijn October 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    All good things must come to an end. What an amazing journey it has been, also for all of us followers 🙂 XX

  4. Liesbeth October 18, 2013 at 4:47 am #

    lang zal ze leven,lang zal ze leven in de Gloria,hiep hiep hoera!!
    Have a wonderful day and we Will see you soon in Nunspeet
    XXX Joep en Liesbeth

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