It was a great opportunity for us and when we returned to the UK in April, we decided that rather than flying back to Dubrovnik where we had left off, we would take a ferry across to France and start the trip again, this time heading directly through France and Italy to get back to the Adriatic.
There's not enough wind for windsurfing today and we have already been out on the mountain bikes this morning, so a great chance to do some catching up until the wind picks up!!
Hvar island - Croatia
We would be taking a couple of days off the bikes and waiting for Kirsty and James to arrive in Hvar. The first port of call would of course be the old town of Hvar, where David I were married in 2011. On the drive across the hills to get there, we pulled up at the high point to check out the view and low and behold, spotted another touring cyclist hauling her gear up the hill on the other side of the road. We flagged the young girl down and this is how we met Mary Sutton! From Seattle, United States, Sutton began cycling with a friend in Iceland and rode together through Norway and around Europe. In the last few weeks her friend had taken an opportunity to teach in Bosnia for a while and Sutton decided to continue riding solo. Sutton's fun, easy-going free spirit was infectious and we hoped she would accept our offer to stay at our rented accommodation for the night so that we could find out more about her travels. It felt great to be in the position to help someone else out for a change and reciprocate some of the amazing hospitality that we have received ourselves on this trip. We gave Sutton the directions and description of the apartment and hoped to see her later in the evening.
After a great day driving around, we were delighted when we saw Mary Sutton on the bridge outside our apartment. Sutton's loose plan had been to ride towards Istanbul, the same as us, then renew her 90 days allowance for the Shengen states so that she could head towards Western Europe and spend the winter in Spain and Portugal. Not only were we hitting it off with Sutton, I hadn't realised how good it was to have some female company for a change too, so we asked if Sutton would be up for riding together for a while. After a brilliant week with Rohan and Royce, unfortunately it was their time to bundle the bike back into the boot and head back to the UK. This is where we would like to say a huge thank you to them both, as they had in fact given up a few days of their holiday to rebuild my lap top so that I could continue using it on our trip. It was incredibly generous of them to give up their time and patience as it became quite a frustrating job, seriously, thank you so much!!
We snapped the victory photo outside the doors of the Old Palace where David and I had married and then set about seeing who was in town and which faces we would recognise. I had been super keen to head out to Parmizano island, part of the archipelago of Hvar, where we had had our beautiful wedding reception at Zori's family run restaurant. A few days previous, I had sent an email to one of the owners, Iva, to mention that we were planning to come over for lunch with friends. Remembering us from 2 years previous, Iva replied immediately and not only said they would be delighted to see us again, but also invited us to stay with them for the evening. It was a lovely offer and we thought it would be ideal to actually take our tents across on a boat and pitch up for a few days. Unfortunately, all the boats had been cancelled due to bad weather and unlike the previous nights camping success, the three of us were totally stumped on where to hide for the night. The problem is that it is actually illegal to wild camp in Croatia and they DO enforce the rule. The reason is mainly due to summer forest fires and they have volunteers on fire watch at the high points and people patrolling the coast line. If you are caught wild camping, you will be asked to pay a fine, although having said that, we have managed to get out of it twice now. Eventually, we came up with a pretty good solution..
Zori's restaurant - Parmizana
We arrived by ferry in the village of Vela Luka, the Western end of Korcula and took a bike route along the Southern coast of the island and then across to Korčula town in the North East. There is a main road along the length of the island that is fully asphalt, excellent condition with panoramic views the whole way and then there are other routes that take in the smaller island villages and tracks down to the bays, some of these roads are surfaced, others are gravel and can be very steep, but way more fun! If you flew over the top of Korčula, you would see that nearly the entire island is lush green with pine, olives and other Mediterranean flora. Riding amongst the perfectly manicured olive grooves is beautiful and fascinating, these ancient trees have stories of their own. Not only would the fruits have been harvested for centuries, but also various crops such as wheat have also been sewn into the rich soils underneath to utilise the space. With a history of stonemasonry too, the impressive art form can be seen throughout the orchards with walls and entrances around individual trees, the scale of it is unbelievable. The figs too were perfect for picking and as we bite into them, the jammy centres burst with flavour and gooiness, we tried filing our bar bags with supplies, but they don't travel in a bike too well!
At the neck of the peninsula, you will pass by another famous town of the region called Ston. It is immediately recognisable from the 5 km long defensive wall that scales up and over the Pelješac isthmus to Mali Ston (little Ston) on the northern side of the peninsula. This wall is the second longest defensive wall in the world after the Great Wall of China. In front of the town are large salt pans that have been an important resource for the town's economy in the past and still provides important value through tourism and the sales of the high quality salt. The area also farms oysters which are apparently some of the best in the world and offer a natural aphrodisiac too! I can't let you know on that one, we didn't indulge in oysters this time around!
We had an amazing few weeks with friends in Croatia, the islands are getting more and more popular with organised cycling holidays and there is a good reason why. If you are thinking about a destination for a short cycle tour, you can not go wrong.. any level, there are easy routes and mountain bike routes, just go and check it out!!!
NOTE: If you are flying in or out of Dubrovnik (and possibly Split for that matter) there is NO bike shop in town. If you need specific tools for putting bikes together of pulling apart, you will need to pre-plan. Good business venture for someone!!