April 23 – Lovran to Labin
We both went down today and there was absolutely nothing we could do to avoid it.
Rain was forecast and the forecast was spot on. It started in the night and was still going in the morning. We fuelled up from a terrific breakfast buffet and said goodbye to Villa Eugenia, which was a lovely hotel. Anyone passing through Lovran, we can highly recommend it – very nice rooms with friendly and helpful staff and a super breakfast selection included.
I dressed in my full slicks, rain coat and waterproof trousers and we set off, prepared to pedal in precipitation. We had a long climb right from the start that went on and on and on but it was a gradual climb so definitely easy and nothing lung busting. The only down side was that we didn’t get any free kilometres on the downhills because they were equally as gradual in their incline, so we had to pedal downhill as well.
There wasn’t as much to see because the coast was shrouded in low cloud and mist and the rain continued to fall. As we went on, it eased off, teasing us, and then would start up again to continue drenching us as we put our heads down and pushed into it. I was actually beginning to feel cold so when we stopped for elevenses in a bus shelter outside Brsec, I took off some layers and replaced them with fresh layers to try and warm up a bit. The temperature had been hovering between 9C-12C.
We took a short pedal into the streets of Brsec which didn’t so much have streets as a single little lane, lined with houses and a bar and a little mini mart, perched high up on the cliff looking down over the water. It was a pretty little nook.
On we went. We were on a main road but it was really quiet and not much traffic. We saw the sign for Brestova and considered again our alternative plan to catch a ferry from there, which will take bikes, to head over to Cres Island. In the end we ditched that idea and continued on. We were enjoying the coast and we thought we’d push on in the direction of Pula.
We continued on the main road and the GPS on each of our bikes, beeped and told us we were off course and should have turned down another road. By this stage the rain was really coming down, big fat rain and the wind had got up too, making everything chilly. The temperature had dropped below 9C. Steve stopped to put his gloves on.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said, “the course is taking us down that big hill and up another big hill or we could stay on the main road but it’s probably three times as long.”
In the end we opted to stay on the bike route and turned around to go down the narrow, quiet road.
This road was steep, I mean REALLY steep. Steve took the lead and I came behind pumping my brakes. As I started to go down the incline I felt my back tyres begin to slew in the wet. I pumped the brakes a bit more, conscious not to hold them on, just giving them short, sharp bursts, tap-tap-tap. Then, up ahead I saw Steve go down and the bike sprawl across the road. I could only see the bike and was hoping to see Steve get back up and then literally seconds later, as my mouth was open to call out to see if he was alright, my bike totally aquaplaned – no traction, to braking ability, no control, it just began sliding and I couldn’t stop it and this hill was a pitching forward type of steep. I turned my wheel to try and slow myself down and stop sliding at full speed downhill but my wheel turn then had me careering off into a stone wall. I crunched into the wall and the bike hit the ground but at least I’d stopped. I looked down the road and thankfully saw Steve upright and beginning to walk up the hill towards me.
“Did you come off?” he asked.
“Me too, I just had no traction.”
I hauled my bike up with all its load and got it off the road. Then we both began walking back down the hill to retrieve Steve’s bike and scattered panniers. As we were walking back down, Steve’s feet went out from under him on the road and he hit the deck again. It was treacherous on feet or wheels.
“I don’t know what to do,” Steve said again, “I don’t know if we should keep going down there.”
“I don’t think so,” I said, “if it’s that slippery going down and it’s steep to go back up, our wheels are probably just going to spin on the uphill and then we’d have to push and I don’t know if we could do that.”
Steve took some careful steps to have a look around the corner as the road continued to snake down.
“No, we’re not going down there,” he said emphatically. It really was too dangerous in the conditions.
With tentative steps we made our way back down to Steve’s bike and it was too steep to push the bike back up, so we had to do it in stages, carrying panniers and leaving them up the hill, then going back and pushing the back of the bike as Steve pushed the front. Then we did it all again with my bike, Steve at the front pushing and me with hands on the back, pushing from behind. When we got near the top the gradient had eased off to 14% so we were able to push our own bikes single handedly from then on and we got everything back up to the top.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” I checked with Steve.
“Yeah, I hit my head, but I had my helmet on. I’m glad I put my gloves on.” Thank goodness for that, lesson learned about the old helmet I think. He’d also taken some skin off his knee and probably took some skin off higher up too.
“Are you OK?” he asked.
“Yes, I just crunched my back a bit on the wall and my wrist, but I’m OK.”
There was nothing left to do but get back on to the main road and just keep going. We hadn’t gone a hundred metres when we had to stop because Steve’s pedals weren’t turning. Something must have gone awry in the crash. He was able to fix them and we continued on…up and up.
A little further up the road we came to a roundabout and turned towards Labin. This stretch of road now turned really busy. Trucks, buses and cars sped past and in the wet, everything felt and sounded louder and closer. There was no shoulder to speak of and the edge of the road sloped down towards a gutter. It was another long climb, with the rain coming down and the traffic speeding past. I was scared. No two ways about it. There were times along that road that in my head I was just flat-out scared. I was worried about getting my wheel on that slope on the edge of the road and losing it, I was worried about the trucks collecting me, the road was winding and I felt like a truck or car would come speeding around a corner and not see me in the wet and rainy conditions. It was impossible to get over to the side of the white line and ride on the edge of the road. I couldn’t get any distance between me and the traffic so I just kept concentrating, trying to ride that white line and avoid hitting the slope that could give me the wobbles and send me into the path of traffic or down into the gutter. On we went and up we climbed. I would take the lead, then Steve would take the lead and we stopped a few times as we climbed up, checking on each other and checking the bikes were going OK and nothing was damaged from the crash. Thankfully, with 5km to go, we got a footpath that would take us all the way down into Labin and we could get out of the traffic. Down we went and it was so cold, my hands were freezing, my feet were freezing and the wind on the way down was biting.
Just to add insult to injury, our hotel was at the top of a steep street, so we huffed our way up as a final slog and it was cold enough for us to be puffing out steam. The man at reception was so good and we unloaded the bikes in the immaculate, tiled entrance, immediately lowering the tone of the place, but the man didn’t seem to mind and kindly helped carry our panniers to the room. I hit the shower to thaw out and it was an awesome shower, I didn’t want to get out.
Then Steve hit the shower and declared it “ a great shower” and I retrieved the First Aid kit from the bottom of the pannier, to give it its first use, reminded of the fact it didn’t get used at all on the last trip, and patched his knee. He’s got some grazes on his hip too, but all is OK. We then braved the weather again and went out for a roam around Labin’s Old Town. I love places that have an Old Town, they are so historic and beautiful. Labin’s had lovely cobbled lanes and streets, narrow passageways and old houses and churches, perched way atop a hill. It was a nice roam to end a somewhat eventful day.
How things can turn on a dime. After the spectacular day yesterday and the magnificent weather we’ve had, today we had a few…well…mishaps. Still, we did it and got there in the end. The ride started out just fine and ended with a few challenges but that’s what cycle touring is all about – just taking what comes, dealing with it and pressing on. These little blips will happen along the way, but they’re just that…blips in amongst all the amazing things we get to do and see. Again, it’s a case of don’t give up, just keep moving forward. So that’s what we did…kept going…we had some hills…we had some rain…we had some cold…we had some crashes…we had some hairy roads…but we did it. Now we just have to try and dry everything out ready to do it all again tomorrow! Well…hopefully not ALL again tomorrow…we can do without the rain…and the cold…and the crashes…and the hairy roads! We never know what the day will throw at us, but whatever it is we’ll take it, because this adventure is amazing!
Distance ridden: 41.4 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 21 minutes
Drowned rats: 2
Band Aids used: 1
Weather: wet, cold, unkind