Part 14: Majdas Touch

Where have you been? What have you been doing? Why have you left us hanging for the last 77 days, 19 hours, 57 minutes and 21 seconds…

Well, it turns out that life on the road is WAY simpler than life in the ‘real’ world. We’re truly sorry for the delay in getting this final post together and published but I’m certain that if you read this post you will be satisfied that we completed the trip in proper Really Big Bike Ride fashion…

So we last posted from Dubrovnik, the fortress city of Southern Croatia, our next move was to hit a couple of the islands, including Mijet, which means ‘honey’ and cycle through the National Park – very beautiful, very quiet and very expensive. So far so out of season. After a couple of nights immersed in the wonderful tranquillity of these splendid islands, we made the journey back to the mainland and headed for the border.

A pleasant Sunday afternoon crossing into Bosnia and we make our way towards Mostar for a few days rest. First impressions of Bosnia are that it’s a lot like Wales, in more ways than one. We deviate slightly from our intended route and end up in the sticks, after a few hours in the saddle in soggy weather, we call into the first restaurant we see – as we approach the doors are closed, shutters pulled down and the open sign turned to closed. We manage to speak through one of the windows to a youngish girl of around sixth form age and are told that it’s a public holiday of some sort and that there’s no food to be had. Fair enough. We push on further through the village and find a shop, purchasing a couple of chocolate bars and a packet of biscuits – this sets us back 5 euro.

Arriving in Mostar we’re soaking wet and are desperate to get a hot shower and a good meal. We meet a Kiwi couple and Ian proceeds to wax lyrical about his very own Dawes Galaxy that has a fixed gear on each wheel, proclaiming the simplicity of the set up to be a revelation. Except we agree when it comes to climbing a hill. Or going down one for that matter. We check in to a 94% rated ‘hostel’ formerly Majdas Rooms. We’re given hot soup, fresh towels and a low down of what to see, what to do and where to eat. So far so good. We drink a few beers; make a little conversation with our new friends David (American, from New Jersey, living in Hungary, total computer genius, rare dude), Veronique (French, travelling around Europe, three days sick, leaving tomorrow), Josie (Scottish, 19, busking her way around Europe, Classically trained musician, all round legend) and the Canadian who blagged our heads a little bit. We’re having a great time until Majdas comes home. Between us putting our shoes on and leaving for dinner Madja has made us Public Enemy No.1 and asks us if we want to leave the hostel. We’re shocked. It makes no sense. We’re very confused but we’ve just checked in and we’re not going anywhere. For the next two days Majdas makes a point of either being rude, threatening or ignoring us altogether. Its weird. Really weird. We’re not sure what we did to upset the lady but something about us she did not like and boy did we know about it.

Mostar though is truly beautiful and offers some interesting cultural experiences. We visited the famous bridge Stari Most, walked the Minaret, climbed the bank that was used as a sniper tower on the front line during the siege and bought lots of knitted wool socks. We enjoyed Mostar and would certainly go back to jump from the bridge. That is if we hadn’t had such an awful experience on the night train. Do not catch the night train anywhere in Eastern Europe unless you absolutely have to and definitely know where it’s going and if there are any changes.

Having cycled for nearly 100 days and had such amazing luck throughout we felt that booking a train would be pretty straight forward. We had I guess in a way let down our guards. EPIC FAIL. We boarded the night train an hour late with excitement and a touch of trepidation. We settle into our seats and decide that it might just be OK. That’s when the giant ex-military SAS style train conductor asks for our tickets, which we happily hand over having already paid the supplement for our luggage and bikes, turns out this geezer has other plans which involve us handing over a further 10 euros in cash. The last of our hard currency. He reeked of booze and was quite cross and shouty. Thanks then.

We sit back, pissed off, not certain that we’re going to make it Zagreb in one piece or not. Our worst fears are quickly confirmed when the train pulls into a station and we’re told that we have to change to another train, that is waiting at the platform – since we’re already an hour behind time we absolutely cannot fuck around and need to get all 10 of our bags and the bikes on the train sharpish.

We’re on our second train in a carriage with a reasonable looking chap feeling a little harassed so we open our little picnic hamper and share our bottle of wine and snacks with our new friend and begin to feel a little better about our prospects. We’re on the train for a little over an hour when we’re politely informed that yes, the train will soon be arriving at its destination and that we’re to be ready to disembark pronto. Alas, we’re not yet in Zagreb, but somewhere in North Bosnia and we’re to get on a bus. With our bikes parked right next to us in our seats. Great. The fun never ends for AJ and James. This is only the first leg of our four wheeled sections. We have to leave this bus and get on to a coach with a really irate driver who really would rather we weren’t on his coach and that we didn’t have so much luggage especially two bicycles. Who catches a coach with a bike in the middle of the night anyway?

So after finally crossing the border into Croatia and having our passports checked by the immigration people we are edging closer to our destination. We think. We think wrong and have to make one final ridiculous change that involves making a mad dash across several sets of train lines in the darkest of nights to climb aboard our fifth and final connection of the night. Happily we are helped with our luggage by two local chaps who seem very nice and are interested in Premier League football. We scramble across the tracks and onto the train in the nick of time. We settle into a carriage close to the bikes complete with sliding door and curtains. We doze off for what seems like a few minutes… Unhappily the two chaps who helped us with our stuff on to the train have also helped us off the train with some of the more valuable of our belongings including Adrian’s Kindle, camera with all our shots of South Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro, £50 cash and a BlackBerry mobile phone. Oh, and my jeans. My favourite jeans from Bershka in Barcelona. And my waterproof shorts too. Great. Thanks. Oh and they gassed us too…

MAP coming soon.

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