Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina: I found my mojo in the Balkans. My momentum is back. Today I entered the 11th country on this tour, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I surpassed the 30,000 meter threshold in cumulative climbing. And I had the pleasure of climbing through yet another mountain range.
Most of my day was spent along Croatia’s beautiful coast in a 3-H environment — headwinds, hilly and hot. As I entered the Balkans the Route 8 turned inland into the mountains. Although the Balkans are rocky and barren, the flat irrigated valleys are fertile and actively farmed and lush green. The cartography of this area is funky. Bosnia and Herzegovina occupies a narrow, 20 kilometer sliver of Adriatic coast which bifurcates Croatia. Neum, where I am staying tonight, is in the Herzegovina part of the country.
As I approached a very visible border I stopped to speak with the border guards, as one does at border crossings. None spoke English. None asked for my passport, or showed any interest in me. One pointed straight ahead and said “Bosnia.” That certainly clarified matters. I decided not to bother border guards who did not want to be bothered, so on I went.
A few kilometers past the border I arrived in Neum, a tourist town with a handful of uninteresting hotels built on the side of a mountain. I went to one; to my surprise they were full. I went to another; same story. In total I went to five hotels, all full with bus loads of tourists. Some of the hotel staff suggested I try private accommodation, including their own homes, but I wasn’t that desperate. At least not yet. I finally passed by the small, family run Agava hotel on the edge of town and on the edge of a mountain, overlooking the bay. I went in. No one was at reception. I waited for a few minutes. No evidence of life, but I spotted a hotel brochure. I called the number on the back and after several rings someone answered and luckily spoke some English. (My other conversations in Bosnia had been in German). The Agava had a vacant room. “Wait hotel. I come five minutes,” Martina told me in a Russian-eque voice. Lodging crisis averted.
Tomorrow I will take a side trip to Mostar. Figuring out bus schedules has been a headache. Mostar is split into Catholic (West) and Muslim (East) sections, each with their own bus station and schedules. “It’s political,” Martina explained in a thicker Russian-English accent, showing me the map of Herzegovina and the numerous political and religious divisions — more invisible borders — in this country. Bosnia was at war with itself and its neighbors 15 years ago. I have set to see any evidence of war.
Although my recent jaunt to Hong Kong disrupted my momentum and disoriented my cycling, there is a side benefit. I have a revitalized appreciation for cycling in this part of the world. Not only is my mojo back; so is my enthusiasm for this ride.
Day 62: Omis, Croatia — Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Distance: 128.94 kilometers
Ascent: 1,304 meters
Weather: Headwinds and hot. 35 degrees centigrade hot.
Terrain: Very hilly
TransEuropa 2011 Trip Summary:
Distance: 4,375.82 kilometers
Ascent: 31,276 meters
Countries: 11: Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Incidents: 4: flat tires on Days 45, 53 and 56; police reprimand on Day 2