Hello from sunny Dubrovnik! Since I last wrote, the story goes like this...
I left the internet cafe in Ancona (sorry I called it Ancora in the blog) and asked Ken (my trusty GPS) to find me a campsite. Head had me ride north from Ancona central and took me about 12km before declaring ˝you have reached your destination˝ when I was left on a busy road in the dark with no sign of tents. I was cursing Ken in my usual fashion, as I turned to go back into town, when I noticed a 'camping' sign to my left - the machine was right again! The campsite was wedged between the afformentioned busy road and the railway line, so you can imagine how much sleep I got! The nearby (250m) beach was lovely though - check out the pic.
In the morning I arrived at the ferry check in place to crowds of tourists waiting listlessly and I didn't fancy joining in. A quick check with Ken suggested it was an 850km 15 hour ride to go around by land though, so I suppressed my frustration and joined the throng. The previous evening at the terminal I had met a man with his teenage daughter travelling from France to Croatia two up on a 20 year old Vespa, so I thought I had better toughen up!
The ferry was expensive but promised to be fast, although in the two hours we had to wait to depart I had plenty of time to get to know a couple of Aussies from Melbourne - we recognised each other's accents in the crowd.
On the ferry I enjoyed watching dolphins surfing the wake, the police boat doing donuts and fishing boats doing their thing as we left Italy behind. Inside the ferry an Italian couple, Luca and Daniella sat and talked with me for a while. They were form near Rimini, travelling to Croatia for a few days but wanting to see Australia! Hopefully they will visit me there (although I'm not there much at the moment).
Landing in Split I was impressed to be checked in by two police women with immaculate hot pink, gel nail polish! Split is a mix of very old and newer, crowded in the extreme with tourists. I looked around until I found the tourist info centre, grabbed my customary free maps, then left town.
At this point Ken let me down again. He needs an update as his eastern European maps are a few years out of date and the new motorways don't always register. This time I managed to get about 30km off course. I worked it out, and got onto an old road so Ken knew where we were and was really telling him what I thought of the situation, when I turned a corner and found myself in Blato Na Cetini. I was tired, so asked the girl in the deli where I could camp and she directed me to the serene spot you see in the photo's.
As I rolled to a stop on the riverbank, I asked three men sitting at a table if I could put up my tent there. 'Yes' they said, 'and we can have a drink together'. I sat and drank with them for a while before they left and I pitched the tent. In the darkness a car approached and it was my friends returning with a meal for me! As I ate the food, I was greatful for Ken's mistake that had saved me from the tourist traps and brought me to this real place.
Morning brought the arrival of the cafe owner and the organizer of the rafting trips. I joined a group of Belgians for a trip down the Cetini and shot my first rapids - great fun! I was the only English speaker there so I had to watch as the guides instructed the others in Croatian and just follow suit. When I got in the raft the instructor pointed to the high seat and said 'you sit here - then in waterfall you sit there (pointing to the floor)'. They had deemed I should paddle alone and I was a bit worried about the 'waterfall' reference - but it was OK.
The price (39 Euros) included a great Barbeque lunch and the girl serving us spoke good English so it was a great day in all.
I finished the day with a relaxed ride to Slano, on the coast, where I swam in the Adriatic and camped under a tree. Afterwards I was hungry, so walked several km inot the town centar (that's how they spell it here) where I sat on a bench to eat my food and met a young man called Pero. he was studying and keen to travel. I encouraged him to follow his dream and go - it's not that hard once you start.
Today I am in Dubrovnik, at the Old City. Very impressive walls - not sure I will go in, again it is very crowded and quite hot. I am keen to go inland and experience the countryside. I plan to go through Sarajevo and up to Tuzla in Boznia. I have already been into and out of Boznia and had less hassle than Italy, mainly I suspect, due to the fact that I've removed the 'GB' stickers from the bike.
I'll write again next chance I get, meanwhile enjoy the pic's both mine, and the ones Sandi will post shortly.