Croatia Postcard

Bridge crossing from Krk, a modern arch span that we pedal in the low railing pedestrian lane getting buffeted by caravans. Those last couple of hours on fractured dry rocky terrain on the north side of the island, like riding in Tucson with a close view of the Adriatic. Resupply, dinner, we’ll ascend half way on an abandoned track up to the ridge, camp looking at Rijeka’s glow, in the morning drag ourselves onward through overgrowth and sometimes at an edge’s drop carefully very attentively concentratedly looking everywhere but.

And those next days headed toward Sjeverni National Park, startlingly dry, a concrete impacted heat, leaves us heaving into noons. I’ve marked water stops on the gps but only after the second one do I realize what I’m looking at. Low “chimneys” in the ground built over tanks connected to massive rain catches. We open one, peer down, ten feet to our quizzical sunglassed reflections. No bucket, pedal on. On the way to the next we’ve collected a stray spool of wire and a cola bottle. When Jack lowers our improvised pail and pulls up water, we cheer, laugh.

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Here on the mainland and well above the sea and the E65, we don’t see anyone for twenty hours. It’s as if we’re pedaling against a static painting, pebbly grit, haze chalk green. There’s a surprise segment of mountain bike trail marked for competition, we imagine the whoops and hollers. Ride in silence for an afternoon that telescopes past dehydration and fatigue. Sometimes far below we see a sailboat or a town with cars, but usually the rippling coils of the track are an enforced solipsism.

So again Croatia surprises. The islands were suggestions of civilizations of millennia, now knifeline mountain paths triangulating into nothing but timeless pure space direction. Ascend into a new biome at just the right moment to hike our bicycles into a soft grassy copse, tangerine sunset, creaking branches lullaby.

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