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Days 16 – 21 : Spik, Ljubljana & Split

Day 16 Breakfast started at 7am, I arrived at 7.10am. Fully aware that I wouldn’t come across an all-you-can-buffet anytime soon, I made the most of it. Stomach full, I left the hotel restaurant three hours after arriving. An incredible achievement. The amount of food I ate in that one sitting would have cost at least 50 euros if I was to eat at a normal establishment. Feeling rested, full and with the mood lifted, I layered up and ventured outside. The day marked a huge milestone; it was the first time I’d experienced rain (on the trip). Excluding headwinds, I’d been very lucky with the weather up until this point. As mentioned in a previous post, I’m a Fair Weather Cyclist, so the thought of rain would have usually been anxiety inducing. However, with a new sense of optimism, I simply clipped into the pedals and cycled along the alpine cycle path I’d been on the night before. The rain didn’t phase me. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it was the best ride up to that point.

Sat in the shadows of mountainous peaks, surrounded by conifers fighting for sunlight, I came off the alpine route and followed a steep incline into the hills. This led to a brake-burning descent, which eventually eased into a slight decline all the way to the capital, Ljubljana. This 15 or so miles was endorphin inducing; reminiscent of cycling in the Alps, but without the traffic. I reached Ljubljana soaked through, but happy. I didn’t make much of Ljubljana, but to be honest I wasn’t too interested. My mindset was: Eat, sleep, repeat. For the few that are insterested: Ortlieb bags are waterproof, Restrap aren’t. Day 17

After a morning of navigation problems, which saw a detour of endless switchbacks, I reached a town on the outskirts of the Slovenian-Croatian border. I was wrecked. Legs were completely gone and my body was drained. 17 days of cycling long distances with only two rest days had taken its toll. I sat in a dreary looking pizzeria, downed two cappuccinos and a basket of fries. I then decided, instead of crossing the border that day, I'd ride 20 miles and camp along the river Kopla, within 500m of the border crossing. Before leaving the UK, I created a tight deadline to meet a mate in Split, Croatia. In hindsight, this deadline was unrealistic, but Joe was flying to Split the following day. With time slowly running out and my body screaming for rest, I was worried. Days 18 – 19 I woke up optimistic. I left camp early and cycled to the border. Up until this point, the only physical border crossing and passport check was in France, so I was surprised to see one. I arrived at the bridge (the river Kopla acting as a natural border) and handed the security guard my British passport. Almost immediately, I was refused entry because I didn’t have an EU passport. I had to pedal up the hill, I’d cycled down the previous day, and ride 20 miles north to a bigger crossing. Easily done in a car, but with a bike, weight and added time pressure, it was infuriating.

After 2,000ft elevation, I was mid-way through telling the tarmac how much I hated Brexit, when I heard a metallic bang from the rear wheel. I pulled the brakes hard and jumped off the bike. Two spokes had broken; one was wrapped around the hub, the other hanging loose from the rim. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I had no phone signal (to Google 'how to fix a broken spoke'), so kept body weight off the saddle, and cycled the last few miles to the border. The rest of the afternoon and following day were a nightmare trying to fix the bike. I eventually arrived in Split a day or two later. Day 20 Rest day with Joe in toe.

After a free walking tour of Split, we grabbed a couple beers and prepped the route to Sofia. Joe refrained from booking his flight home, to ensure we had flexibility with dates. The last couple weeks had ledt me feeling drained, so I was keen to take the next two at a much slower pace. I'd also lost alot of weight, so spent much of the day inhaling food. Day 21 To ease Joe in, we planned a short ride which followed the Dalmatia Coast south to Makarsa.

The cycle out of Split took us up a short, steep incline and then onto the main road. We made steady progress. The traffic was constant; lorries would pass within a couple of inches, leaving no room for error.

It felt good to be back on the coast, the weather was nice and it wasn't too hot. We stopped for lunch and coffee on the beach, which made the cycle feel more like a holiday. Exactly what I craved. 40 miles after we'd started, we set up camp at the small coastal town. The day ended with food, beer, a debrief of the day, and bed.


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