I woke up on day 18 in Cortina d’Ampezzo in my little camping spot. I’d spoke to a group of bikers in town the night before who said “All the hotels are closed, there is one open, only 95 Euro for a double room, you can follow us if you like”. A nice offer to spend an evening with some other bikers but 95 Euros is enough for 3 days fuel and food for me, so I passed. They said “There’s nowhere to camp around here, all the camp sites are miles away” little did they know how low my standards for “camp site” were. I found a nice little spot up the hill at the back of the city in the woods. Turns out 2 stoners also knew about the spot and came to climb to the Ski Chair Lift tower at about 10pm for a smoke. They were harmless though and once they’d left I got a good nights sleep. It was bloody freezing though, it was at 1500m so by 3am I had to get out the sleeping bag liner.
I forced myself out of my warm(ish) sleeping bag at about 7.30, it was still freezing but I started decamping, getting pretty fast at it now. I was on the road by 8.15 ish and heading to meet a friend in Lienz. She’s part of the group I’m joining for crossing through China in August, and we happened to be in the same place at the same time, so we met for a late breakfast. We had a long, awesome chat about bike trips, why we’re doing them, and basically ended up having a game of “who is more unprepared” by trumping each other with things we had forgotten or not got yet. Turns out, we both lost that game, we have no idea what we’re doing, but that’s kind of why we’re doing our trips too. If it’s easy, why bother doing it?
After breakfast I headed for a couple of different towns in Austria to find a replacement for my broken camera mount. I can’t mount my camera on my head or shoulders anymore since it broke (knees and toes are fine though…sorry). No luck though, I’ll keep searching as I go along, I can still mount it on my indicator using my bendy tripod, comes in very handy.
Something changed between decamping in the morning and tracking down my camera part. Some weight lifted off me, and I felt totally different about the trip for the rest of the day and still do (on day 20). I think part of it was meeting up for breakfast with another traveller and talking about what we’re doing, and part of it was finally reaching somewhere I’d never been before, Austria was a new country to me, though it’s hardly alien. I think the combination of those, plus getting ahead of my schedule, I now have 3 weeks to get down through Croatia, Albania, Greece etc. which is more than enough time.
I spent the rest of the day much more peaceful than I had been, not stressing about when I should or shouldn’t be making ground. I never had to “force” myself to stop for a break, I just did when it felt right and all was well. Even riding, parking and walking around in 2 different cities in the heat didn’t stress me out at all, I knew I didn’t really have anywhere to be so I took my time, melting slowly in the heat.
I ended the day in Slovenia! Another entirely new country to me, and this one was a little alien. You cannot guess Slovenian, I tried, and failed. Just looking at the cashier, and saying “card?” to pay, holding up my magic piece of plastic. I’d booked an Airbnb to stay in near the capital Ljubljana (no. I have no fucking idea how to pronounce that). I got there about 7pm, a little later than I’d hoped since I had a load of stuff to do, wash clothes, sort 3 days of photos and video, Facebook updates, calling family, let alone cook some nice food for once.
It was an odd place, the shower was brilliant, above head rain style thing, loads of features, but it was in the middle of the bathroom with a plug extensions lead hanging from the back of it, ready to spark in the humidity. There was also an entire bedroom, not plastered with just an ironing board and clothes drier in it, and cables sticking out the wall throughout the house, I didn’t test if they were live. It suited me just fine anyway, I got a load of stuff done and even cooked myself some mediocre steaks with boiled potato and veggies, all stuff that’s impossible with one pot while camping.
Sill riding on my peaceful streak I didn’t even leave the Airbnb until 12pm, sorting out more stuff and rejigging my bags. Then I lazily rode down toward Predjama Castle to check out at least one sight of Slovenia before I left, it was actually very impressive, overhanging cliffs above, and undercut with caves and a river beneath. If it was in a film I would have called CGI. I still didn’t want to stump up the 10 Euro fee to go inside, I was happy outside thanks. I met a Slovenian biker after lunch who wandered up to say hi after he saw my “GB” plate. We had a little chat and he said “you wouldn’t believe, I saw another British guy here 2 years ago, about 60, and he was travelling round the world on his bike!” …. yeh, unbelievable. It took a couple of minutes to convince him he’d met another one.
I headed off toward Croatia after that, stopping for an ice cream on the way, that’s how lazy I was being. For the first time since leaving the UK my passport was actually checked! The border guard actually told me to put my helmet on though, I was very confused, I tried to tell him that I took it off so he could see my face but he just told me to put it on because I was riding. I just nodded and smiled, gets you through most things. Then I was in Croatia! I rode direct to the coast, did not pass go, did not collect $200. I got there and soaked it in a bit, I’d never been on this side of the Mediterranean, something a bit new to appreciate. Then I started riding down the coast road, right next to the sea and through all the little towns.
I stumbled on what looked like a big resort, so I rode in trying to find somewhere to maybe get a good photo, they usually set up somewhere high and dramatic for tourists to take pictures. I didn’t find anywhere but I did stop at one of the camps on the way back through to see how much they were, expecting extortion, but it was reasonable, so I ended up staying. It’s basically Butlins for old German people, and me. It had WiFi and bars open till late on the beach so it suited me just fine. It’s my first paid camp of the trip which irks me a little, but on the other hand, I’m proud I’ve managed to wild camp for free 8 nights, and all in great spots, not perfect, but most better than paid camp sites.