After unwinding the previous evening at the hunting cabin we set off to a great start the next morning, we enjoyed smooth fast roads and everyone rode happily and confidently but as you may already suspect it didn’t last long. I know it’s in poor taste to blame my maps but I must state in my defense that those smooth, fast and modern roads we enjoyed in the morning were represented by the same yellow line, described in the maps key as ‘Main Road’, as the dilapidated dirt track we battled across later that evening. A dirt track that carved its way over a mountain decorated on both sides by frequent reminders that we were traveling right through the center of a minefield.
Despite this the road was manageable for quite some time, obviously you can’t step away from the road in that situation but as long as we could keep going forwards there shouldn’t have been any real problems. The other thing to note about Croatia is that on the smaller to medium roads signposting is typically poor or absent, often you may see a hand painted and sun bleached sign but occasionally you’ll have to read meaning into arrows spray-painted onto trees or simply guess when confronted with a junction. We had the pleasure of the latter as the sun set over our forested road and the decision was a difficult one. One the one hand I had a path that looked to be more or less on the right bearing according to the compass but it was tiny, narrow and overgrown suggesting infrequent usage and on the other a road leading the wrong way but on a marginally better looking path.
As I set out to scout along the smaller path I noticed a small battered car ahead of me heaving and rocking its way over the lumpy ground towards me, it was the first time we had seen any other people in hours and I welcomed the chance to receive some local advice. The tiny car stopped beside me and within sat four large and surly looking men with a shotgun each resting on their laps, they didn’t speak a word of English but the message was clear. The driver pointed down the path I was attempting to ride, he shook his head and said, amongst other unintelligible things; ‘Boom’, he then pointed down the second path and, still looking quite excited, exclaimed again that most distinguishable of words; ‘Boom’. I tried to show him my map and protest that there should be some route over this mountain but before I could speak and just to make sure I had got the message he pointed one last time at me and then down the road we had arrived by. With the distinct impression that our presence had annoyed them I watched them drive off along the road they had proposed we take, the road that, after hours of cycling into the night, would leave us where we had started that morning if we chose to follow it.
I rode the short distance back to the junction where everyone was waiting and explain the situation but just as soon as I had finished another vehicle approached; a car towing a caravan (with great difficulty). Out stepped a couple of German tourists, also lost and also hopelessly clinging to a map as if to suggest they had been similarly deceived. We compared maps and I explained what had just happened with the gun wielding locals and we decided to follow them down the second forbidden track, the path was very broken up and had big potholes and puddles, the caravan struggled to clear the ground and could be heard scraping along mud and rocks as it slowly pulled away from us. We had exchanged numbers and so when Lallo got his first of many punctures on the descent it was a great relief to hear that we were going in the right way and that the German couple had made it to a large road a few miles ahead.