Tuesday, July 8, 2008

August 14 Vranja CROATIA to Rijeka CROATIA via Vela Učka

Today wasn't the longest of days but it contained a monumental climb, Vela Učka, The big Učka. I began cycling at 6:38 from my tent site in a farmers field in Vranja. Yesterday I ran out of daylight and couldn't reach my desired destination in Rijeka due to the miserable maps I had purchased. Thus I had no choice but to coast down into Vranja and ask the first folks I spotted about tenting. Good fortune smiled. The college-aged girl, I assume the farmer's daughter, spoke perfect English and I was pointed to the field across from there home. Anyway, after 200 meters the climb began, about 4K to where the Big Učka kicked in. I thought my legs were a little toasted from yesterday's roller coaster up and down 14% hills, but not this toasted. Then I thought this is really steep. Then I was comparing it to climbing Mont Ventoux with panniers. A few kilometers there was a sign (photo) proving the steepness. And it was even steeper before the sign. WOW, Whoa!!! Thankfully it was ONLY 5K. I guess a little fitness helps. All totaled the climb was 9K. Then a terrific downhill all the way into Rijeka where I holed up at the Hostel International. On the way down I stopped at a small market in Matulji where I met a cyclist, David, by asking him directions. He was about to the climb the Vela Učka. He spoke enough English to have a good conversation. He is Italian with a Croatian girlfriend. He asked me if I spoke French or Croatian or Italian before he talked to me in English. Since 1:00 this afternoon I've been strolling around City Center, gathering info from the tourism office and eating and figuring out my next moves..

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