…and so it continues.
April 16: Zagreb
We landed in Zagreb and breezed through passport control, then on to baggage claim. There, on the belt waiting for us were the two big bags and then, over at the large item claim stood the two bikes, safe and in one piece. The baggage area was big and quiet, so we easily found a spot out of the way to put the bikes back together. Steve got to work and in no time we had two bikes assembled, loaded and ready to ride. We walked them through customs with nothing but a wave through from the customs officers and we were out into the Croatian sunshine, ready to set off, ride to the city and find the apartment where we’d be staying for a couple of days while we got ourselves organised for the onward journey.
We had a bike path as we left the airport, which was good because as I started pedalling, Steve said, “You’re on the wrong side.” Yes I was, I’d totally forgotten to switch sides and ride on the right instead of the left, so that was a good pick up and helpfully rectified on a bike path before I headed into traffic.
As Steve crossed the road onto the path, he intended to go straight ahead and the bike decided to make a right turn with an added wobble. “Oh, I mustn’t have tightened the handlebars properly,” he diagnosed, which again was a helpful pickup before we were surrounded by traffic. We set off and it was perfect – the sun shone, it was warm, just a light breeze and when the bike path stopped we were on roads that were quiet. It felt like we were riding along country roads, through villages even though we were still in the airport district with planes taking off overhead. The roads were quiet and rutted, we passed old houses and cottages and market gardens and a lazy tabby cat ambled across the road in front of us. When we left the airport district, we were on busy roads, although these roads were technically made to be busy but were still quiet and not much traffic. The traffic that did pass us was pretty kind and gave us a wide berth as best they could.
What a great start…everything arrived when it should, the weather was lovely, the roads were quiet, we were going in the right direction and hadn’t got lost, everything was going so well…and then…Steve got a puncture. Day one, ride one and already a puncture. Man-o-man! On to the side of the road we go, unload the panniers, tip the bike upside down and take the tyre off. It was the same, brand new, fancy shmancy tyre that got the puncture when Steve was putting it on the bike before we left. Steve thought the patch he’d used must have come loose, but no, it was fine. He pumped up the tube while I felt and listened for a leak and there it was, an obvious hole in the tube. A brand new hole in the tube of the brand new tyre. On went another patch, in went the tube back into the tyre, pump up the tyre, but no it wasn’t pumping up. Grrrr, the patch mustn’t have stuck. Off with the tyre again, pull out the tube, take off the patch and put a different one on, repeat the process and start pumping again. It was still leaking but we hoped it might hold for the last 8km we had to ride.
While we were on the side of the road with the bike upside down, a lycra-clad road cyclist stopped.
“Something, something, something something?” Brad asked. (His name of course wasn’t Brad, although it could have been, I didn’t ask, but he was a good lookin’ young fella who looked like he could have been in a Croatian soap on TV, with a name like Brad, so Brad he shall be).
We obviously had a bewildered look on our faces because he immediately switched to English. “OK? You OK, need help?” asked Brad.
“No thank you, we’re fine. Just a puncture,” I explained.
Oh,” he replied, with a toss of his head that said he understood and had been there before himself, “a puncture.” This is obviously a word understood by cyclists in any language. “OK though?” he checked again.
“Yes, thank you, thank you very much,” I said and Brad put foot to pedal and was off down the road in athletic leading-man style. Another friendly stranger.
We set off, back into traffic and a few trucks, but they kept their distance. We passed the tip (dump) and, fun fact, they smell the same here as they do in Tasmania! A universal fragrance obviously and the same cloud of gulls hovered overhead. On we rode and and eventually got onto another bike path as we got into the thick of the city. The traffic was heavy and bumper to bumper, so I was glad we were out of it on our own path. The sun still shone and we passed a lovely park with spring flowers in bloom.
We had to stop a few times to re-pump Steve’s tyre again, but we were making good progress. We found our way into the city, found our apartment and stopped in a nice little park across the road to make a phone call and announce our arrival. In a twinkling David was there to meet us and show us in. It’s a nice spot in what seems to be a slightly cosmopolitan area of the city.
It was now 5pm so we unloaded and headed off to a supermarket to get enough supplies to feed us for the night and morning and through the checkout we went. “Gotta practise some language tomorrow,” I said to Steve, “I can’t be doing this and not saying thank you or excuse me or hello in Croatian.” I have learnt some phrases but the language is a bit tricky as far as articulation goes, so I really want to practise with someone to make sure I’m getting it right in case I think I’m saying something and I’m actually saying something else. It also seems there’s more than one word for the same word, as there is in English, but some might be more formal than others, so I want to get the right one. A bit like in English we could say, hello, hi, good morning, g’day, howdy and all mean the same thing but we’d use them differently, so I’m guessing it’s a bit the same with some words here. As we rode in from the airport I waved to locals who were out the front of their houses and they waved back and it was on the tip of my tongue to call, “Zdravo!” but some translation sources said this is “hello” and others used a different word, so I chickened out saying anything in case I was being rude or too colloquial or something. So…tomorrow I shall find a way to practise some language and see what happens.
I cooked up a big pot of rice and vegetables and seconds after he had put his fork down, Steve was on the couch and rattling the windows with the less than dulcet tones of his snores. The long days had taken their toll. I cleaned up and with a sleep-addled brain, put together a hasty first blog entry as the prequel to this one, that may or may not have made sense and may or may not have been filled with typos and mistakes because the brain wasn’t functioning too well. It had been a good first ride, some glitches yes, but all in all a pretty good start. Tomorrow we’ll roam and have a look around the area and start gathering the essentials to replace what we had to leave behind and find some more supplies. But first…sleep!
Number of flights: 3
Number of friendly strangers met: 2
Distance cycled: 17.65 km
Hours without sleep: 49
Weather: sunny, warm, no rain!