Our expedoliday is at an end. After a last night sleep in some bushes by Dubrovnick airport, our bikes have been wrapped in cling film and loaded (we hope) on the plane.
5 counties in 4 weeks and more adventures than we can shake a stick at.
It’s been a fascinating journey through diverse landscapes and cultures. From the rugged beauty of the Italian Dolomites, to the idyllic coastline of the Croatian Islands and atmospheric medieval towns then the dramatic heights of the mountains rising straight up out of the sea in Montenego and finally, a sobering roll through the old and new Bosnia & Hercegovina.
We opted for the road less travelled where possible, landing us in some trouble at the Bosnian border where we were told we must ride back over a 1100m pass 40km away to enter by the international border crossing ("this crossing is on small road for local people, you understand?"- while cracking open walnuts with the butt of his pistol. We charmed them though. Ended up drunk on walnuts with passports stamped 2 hours later.)
There were times we found ourselves up to our unwashed armpits in thorn bushes trying to find off road alternatives to the busy Croatian coast road. We’ll always remember the times we were rewarded with sweet singletrack and beautiful wild camping spots off some big hills in Montenegro.
We’ll also remember with retrospective fondness the type 2 fun of the 120km time trial to catch a ferry in rain so torrential it turned the road into a river and lightning lit up the black sky.
Our days fell into a steady rhythm. Wake at 6am. Tea and oats for breakfast. Riding by 7.30am with the warmth of the sun gently increasing until it forced us to stop for coffee and a swim. Another few miles before lunch (and a swim). Then the majority of distance covered in the afternoon and sometimes early evening unless the ice cream took an especially long time to eat. As dusk fell we would scope out a spot to camp. Among some olive groves, in a cove by the rocky coast or, during a spectacular storm in the Dolomites, in an abandoned house on a high alpine pass.
The people of former Yugoslavia were animated whenever we mentioned we were from Scotland. Waiters, border guards, shop keepers, wrinkly couples on nudist beaches all held there heads and moaned "ah, referendum, aaaggh". We joined in. United in the understanding that a countries independent status is something felt keenly regardless of culture.
We travelled light and moved lightly through the wild spaces we found. There was such freedom in having very little stuff and only essential food. Choice is a stressful thing.
I wish I could hold onto the feeling of that last tea bag as a sacred thing but I know when I’m back home and have them in abundance I’ll make and drink tea without a second thought.
I want to remember the contrast between the bullet holes and land mines and the velvety sea and beach side bars but the emotional impact of these things are only fully tangible when you are standing there under the hot sun with the smell of sage and the sound of crickets.
So I’d better just dream up the next adventure. 24 Hour World Marathon Championships anyone?