Austria is just around the corner and we’re anxious to get going. Breakfast can wait until after we have munched some miles. Since we’re cheap we don’t want to pay for a vignette or any of the tolls on the major tunnels and passes. So the planned route takes us onto secondary roads only. The result is a wide variation of road types. Some sections are pretty boring and built-up, but luckily those are interrupted regularly with a bit of curvy fun. The rest of our crossing through Austria is pretty unremarkable, at least until we reach the small pass we’ve chosen to get into Slovenia. Finally the riding gets real interesting. And the weather is still amazingly good. We’re not really used to that. The previous time we visited the former Yugoslavian countries it was the wettest summer in recorded history.
It is already late afternoon when we descend into the valley on the Slovenian side. Time to check the GPS and Maps.me for potential spots to put up our tent. The first attempt turns out to be a bust. There’s nothing that even remotely looks like a campsite. So on to the next! The small road into the mountains quickly turns into a gravel road, but the ride is entertaining. This so called campsite ins’t either. What it is though is a really idyllic spot in the middle of the woods with a picnic bench, a small stream and enough flat area to put up our tent. Sometimes things magically turn out way better than expected.
Unfortunately our multi-fuel stove decides to spoil the fun a bit. The fuel bottle won’t pressurise properly and it takes ages for our meal to be cooked. Darkness sets in early in between the spruce trees so I don’t even bother to try and diagnose the problem tonight. It’s a frustrating experience, but a fix will have to wait.
Early to bed, early to rise they say. And that’s usually what happens when we’re on the road. Sleeping in the tent quickly drops us into a rhythm which is more aligned with nature’s clock. We go to sleep with the sun and are awoken again by its morning rays. It’s barely a few minutes past six and we’re already packing up the tent. Up at the nearby road traffic is surprisingly busy for such an ungodly hour in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. Breakfast consists of oatmeal with water. Milk would definitely have made it tastier, but we forgot to buy some yesterday. You live, you learn.
Today’s goal is to get into Bosnia, avoiding having to change any money into Croatian Kuna. Because we’re up so early and well rested, that shouldn’t be too hard. The remainder of the gravel road is just as curvy as the first part we rode yesterday. This continues well into Croatia. The houses we’re passing are in a much better state than what we remember from our visit 2014. It looks like the economy has picked up enough again to justify spending money on the cosmetics as well. Even the little gardens look very tidy and well-kept.
A wide arch to the east spares us the frustration of the busier roads around Zagreb. But the landscape has gradually become less interesting. The mountains have made way for a more softly undulating hills. The roads are straighter, full of speed traps and pretty built-up all the way. Another good reason for us to get into Bosnia as soon as possible. Despite the more boring ride, we still manage to find an interesting place for our picnic lunch. A shaded bench near a restored castle which was built as an, ultimately futile, defence against the Ottomans.
Meanwhile we did lose a lot of time replacing Sofie’s headlight bulb. It’s a properly annoying procedure getting the bulb out. And on top of that it turns out the plastic hook which holds the retaining spring in place has broken off. That might explain the rattling noise Sofie had been reporting and probably also caused the bulb to fail. A nearby gas station has a replacement bulb and a true MacGyver bodge job with some tie wraps solves the problem. At least for the time being. It is nice to notice how experience helps us deal with these situations. They are dealt with as part of the course. No stress, no complaining, just dealing with the problem at hand and taking things as they come. A few years ago this would have been a much bigger deal and we’d probably be worried about lost time and potential missed opportunities. Now we’re much more relaxed about these little things.
The crossing into Bosnia is very smooth and soon we’re riding through the Republic of Srpska, one of the political entities that makes up Bosnia and Herzegovina. Making good progress, we figure we should be able to make it to Jajce in central Bosnia. We know a nice camp site there. Along the way it does seem like tourism has picked up in Bosnia since we’ve been here last. There’s many more rooms for rent and a few more campsites as well.
The final stretch before Jajce takes us through a beautiful gorge with some really engaging riding. Unfortunately the asfalt road has been prepared for a new top layer with deep longitudinal grooves. I hate those things with a vengeance. I don’t mind my tyres slipping and sliding on gravel or rocks, but on this stuff i’m really not too confident. Suffice it to say I didn’t enjoy the ride as much as I could have. Along the way we did pick up two Germans on BMWs. They tag along pretty much all the way to the campsite.
While Sofie is busy inflating our air beds and spreading the sleeping bags, I turn my attention to the failing pump of the MSR stove. While pulling it apart the cause is immediately apparent. The rubber seal responsible for building pressure is a bit twisted and already showing some signs of wear. I’m less than pleased with that, as the pump is relatively new and has only been used a handful of times. But after putting it back together correctly and lubing it with some oil it works perfectly again. Hurrah, we’ll be able to continue cooking our own food. We celebrate by sprinkling some spring onion over it, making the bowls of chick pea curry look like posh nouvelle cuisine.
The past few days have been rather unremarkable, and the regions we passed through definitely deserve more time and attention to explore. But we’re on our way to the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Kolasin, Montenegro. And if we want to arrive there on Thursday afternoon we should keep moving. We’ve made good progress so far, so we are pretty relaxed and looking forward to the remaining part towards Montenegro.