I woke up early on my bunk bed in a hostel’s dorm, in the city of Split. I grabbed my belongings to have a stroll. My rumbling tummy got fed with a, still warm, croissant from a local bakery. I wandered, on this sunny and yet quiet Saturday, through the alleys of the old town, until I came across the local food market. With curious eyes, I walked through the stalls of fruit, vegetables, honey and meat. Women were selling sauerkraut, which they scooped out plastic barrels, with their bare hands. I was intrigued and bought a handful. Then, some traditional homemade bread, caught my eye, I bought a quarter from the old lady and local cheese to go with it. Every time I bought their local goods, I watched the old women’s eyes lighting up.
Back at the hostel I ate my prey for breakfast. When I finished, it was, once again, time to reload the bike.
I could feel an inner storm brewing. The uncertainty of the route ahead, led me into a state of anxiety. My rough idea was to ride to Bosnia in the upcoming days. However, the route was unclear. Online I was asking for recommendations of routes. Different opinions were stated, some said to avoid Bosnia at all, as cycling would be very dangerous there. No matter which route I was investigating, all of them included climbing mountains. Again?
When I finally left the hostel behind, I still was not certain about the route. I will figure it out on the go, I thought. It felt calming and proactive to push the pedals again. While I was riding I was repeating affirmations in my head to encourage myself.
The beginning of the journey was pleasant and on paved roads. Soon, was I led further and further away from the city, closer and closer to the mountains. However, everything the route laid out in front of me, my legs and body dealt with. I could feel how strong my body was, after almost eight weeks of travelling on a bike. Why was I questioning my abilities? Why did I always doubt myself before cycling mountains? I was pleased by my bodies performance and knew: today my body was leading and my mind is getting dragged and pushed by my body, until it can keep up again.
While my body was doing the work, I led my mind work on itself. With every push I got more confident. I often get asked during this journey, if I am not scared. I am scared – if I don’t believe in myself. If I don’t take this journey step by step, one day at a time, I doget overwhelmed.
Things were going really well, until my back tyre lost air. I stopped on the side of the road, turnt my bike upside down and started to remove the wheel calmly and focused. Suddenly it daunted me, that neither had I updated my puncture kit nor fixed the tubes with existing punctures. What a rookie mistake, I thought, standing in a remote area on a mountain. When I checked my tube, it didn’t have one puncture but multiple – Swiss cheese! I had two patches left and was running low on puncture glue as well. Soon I found myself in a state of fear and desperation. Stay focused! I fixed the punctures, however when I pumped up the tyre, I could instantly hear airflow. The puncture was still leaking. Now I was going through my bags, desperately looking for the spare tubes, not remembering, if both of them had existing punctures. Inspecting them, every little mark started to look like a puncture. I decided to use one, which seemed to have none or maybe only a slow leaking puncture. It stunned me, how many cars had passed me in this whole time, not a single car had stopped to check on me. Would I stop, I asked myself – maybe after today, maybe after this journey.
When finally my bike was reloaded, I was praying for the air to stay in, not knowing when the next bike shop will appear.
Again, I stopped to ask some locals to refill my water bottles. It was close to sunset, which means: refill water bottles, buy groceries if necessary and find a suitable campsite. While I was waiting for the woman to fill my water bottle, I frantically took everything out of my frame bag – there it was – an additional puncture kit, with three patches left. Deep breaths!
When I noticed that the leak, in the back tube was slow, I was eager to make up some distance.
At around 5.30pm I stopped pushing and gave in to dinner and a campsite, just after the town of Sestanovac next to some olive trees and the mountains at the horizon.
So long – dovidenja from Sestanovac!
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