Day 9 – Dubrovnik, Croatia to Herceg Novi, Montenegro (6/2/13)

We were pleased to see beautiful clear skies as we stepped out that morning. We walked down to the waterfront once again to have breakfast. While there, we couldn’t help but notice that there were few patrons who were having beer that Sunday morning. When we got back to the apartment we found one of the land lady’s sons sitting on the patio having a glass of what looked like vodka. During the introductions, I jokingly pointed to his drink and said “you guys start early around here, ay?”. From the puzzled look on his face that he didn’t get it. I told him what we had seen at the cafe and that it wasn’t something we were used to seeing. I think some of what I said got lost in translation and he seemed offended. In a defensive tone he said that “we don’t do that anymore, we don’t have problem with alcohol”. He then looked at his glass and said “this is just a Sunday drink”. I really wasn’t trying to offend him and was simply trying to break the ice. But seeing that it wasn’t working, I said “finally some nice weather”. Yep, when all else fails you can always talk about the weather to anyone and anywhere. “Oh yes” he replied. He got a bit relaxed after that and started telling us about his travels as a sea captain, his opposition to joining the E.U.,..etc. As he started sipping from his second glass, we asked to be excused and started packing.
After the events of the day before and the following morning, Dubrovnik left a sour taste in our mouths and we were looking forward to leaving the city. We paid for the room and the laundry (generously, I should add) and left. As we headed south the first obstacle we had to overcome was a small hill that sat to the north of the old part of the city and the citadel. But climbing of any sorts with a heavily loaded bicycle is never a pleasant experience, especially as the first part of a ride (as we had done previously leaving Trieste). Alas, there was no other option. As we pedaled towards the old city we kinda got side tracked ended up making a loop around the old citadel ending at the water level once again. That meant that we had to climb back the same hill back again as there were no other roads out of the city. Once we climbed back up the same hill for the second time, we got onto the main road out of the city. It was a painful climb with a sheer drop to the sea on one side and steep mountains onto the other. What made the ride especially stressful was that the road was especially narrow with barely enough room for one vehicle on either direction. There was no shoulder on either side of the road for us to ride on, so we had to share the lane with the motor traffic. The ever present tourist buses on the road to the south added to our misery and made for an uncomfortable and a stressful ride for both of us. By then it was past noon and the sun was really beating down on us.
We were only a mile out of the city that my brother reached a snapping point. We started arguing about the whole trip. He wasn’t happy. He said that he “didn’t sign up for this”. He complained that the road was too steep, narrow and dangerous. He said that “we should reconsider our plans”. I agreed with him on the road conditions. So there was no arguing there. My issue was with his solution. I knew that he wanted to take a ferry to Italy and onto Greece. If it was up to him at this point, he would have completed the whole journey on ferries and boats something I was not wiling to do. My argument was that I was almost certain that it would get better once we got away from he coastline. He just had to suck it up a bit. I told him that I knew it was quite painful and stressful for him at this stage and I too felt the same way. I reminded him that this was a one in a lifetime opportunity and something he would cherish for the rest of his life. And if he quits now, he might regret it for the rest of his life. He wasn’t budging. I think he was quite upset with my little detour around the citadel and the whole situation. He was suggesting that we should checkout the ferry option. It was becoming painfully obvious to me at that point that he didn’t really spend much time thinking or planning about the trip. This was a long time dream for me and I was going to finish what I started with or without him. I told him if he really wanted to give up I would ride with him down to the port and put him on a ferry, but I was going to continue on the bike. That might sound selfish but I don’t think I was being selfish at all. I knew that he was well capable of completing the journey. He is much younger than me and he was reasonably fit at the time. It was all in his head. It was about having the will to continue. He just needed a little push. After arguing back and forth about some more non-sense I brought the tone of the conversation down a bit. I told him that I believed in him and that I rather complete the journey with him. I said “give it a bit of time, you can always change your mind later”. He calmed down after a while as his adrenaline rush wore off. He agreed to continue with me. At hindsight, I don’t think I would have left him alone on that trip.
As we inched our way out of the city onto the surrounding mountains and away from the coastline the road had gotten a little wider. I kept seeing signs for the airport and I was hoping that most of these buses were heading there and it would be a much comfortable ride after that. As it turned out that was half the truth. Although the traffic got considerably lighter after the airport, huge buses continued to keep us company, making us nervous along the way. They turned out to be tour buses ferrying tourist up and down the coast between Dubrovnik and Kotor. They would pull over at every scenic stop for a photo op. These stop areas were quite small as they were usually situated at the narrowest sections of the road road overlooking a cliff or a very steep hillside. So, it was quite a scene when two or three of these buses pulled into the same stop one behind another without any room to spare. Although the scenery changed a bit on each stop, the routine was always the same. Several dozens of tourists would spill out to snap photos of themselves against the scenic backdrop before the bus drivers hastily ushered them back onto the buses. The same scenario repeated itself at every turn out. Looking back, the whole thing was quite entertaining actually.
A few miles after after the airport as we were heading down into a beautiful valley my brother got his first flat. This section of the road was newly built, it had plenty of room for motor vehicle traffic and best part it had wide shoulders on each side for us. So, we were quit pleased that it happened here and not on the side of a cliff. We pulled into the large parking area on the opposite site of the road near the bottom of the valley. A large herd of sheep about half of click away the road made for a great backdrop as I unloaded his bike started repairing the tire. The pump and the tire repair kit worked great and we were back on the road after a few minutes.
Just as I had predicted once we got away from the coast the roads had improved. It was really pleasant riding in the countryside. We arrived at Montenegro border sometime in the afternoon. The crossing was quick and uneventful. We had plant on spending the night in Herceg-Novi but we had no reservations. As we entered Igalo, a small town outside of our final destination for the day, we pulled into a gas station. The had a small outdoor cafe and free WIFI. The cake my brother picked was delicious and the coffee was surprisingly good for a gas station. After finding a place to stay in Herceg-Novi and we made reservations for the night and got back onto the road.
We pulled in front of ‘Apartmani Nautica’ late in the evening. There was a young lady at the reception. She was really helpful with all the arrangements. The palace was quite nice. As the name suggests, the it consisted of apartments / rooms for rent. We got a top floor apartment. We felt quite safe leaving the bicycles down at the lobby. By the time we unpacked, showered and went to the front lobby it was already getting dark. We asked the nice young lady for a recommendation for a seafood restaurant. She gave us directions to one on the water front.
The restaurant was quite easy to find only a few minutes walk down from the apartment. We ordered a large sea sampler plate for two. It was probably the best dinner we had during the trip. I highly recommend you stop there if you are in the area. After we left the restaurant, we went for a short but a pleasant stroll on the water front before we headed back to hotel and called it a night.

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