April 24 – Labin to Pula
We pulled up well after the events of yesterday and apart from a twinge in the knee and shoulder for Steve and a little twinge in the back and some bruises for me, all to be expected the day after colliding with a hard surface, we are fighting fit and ready to go. We checked out of our very nice hotel – another recommendation there if anyone is passing through Labin, the Hotel Peteani is beautiful and the staff wonderful.
As we pedalled down the street we passed another cycle touring couple and exchanged waves. It was a grey morning with fog and mild mizzle rather than rain, so that was an improvement. We managed to get in a few free kilometres this morning with a long downhill for about 8km. When we got to the flat though…wind! That dastardly wind straight in the face. Pedalling into wind, even on the flat, is like slogging uphill anyway. The downhill was a little hairy with a lot of trucks passing us. The traffic was really good though and sat behind us if they couldn’t pass safely. As soon as we could find a spot to pull off the road slightly, we’d stop to let the line of cars go past and then set off again. We made it to the bottom, slogged into the headwind and then prepared for the climb.
“I was a bit nervous on that downhill,” said Steve, “my confidence was a bit rattled after yesterday.”
“Nothing wrong with being cautious,” I said, “especially since we had to hug the white line and that’s always more slippery.”
We were both a little more careful on the downhill, but that can only be a good thing I reckon.
We got ready for the climb, a winding road, up a very big hill, for a straight 7km of climbing. We’d already ridden this climb ahead of time, last night, when we checked it out on Google Earth. We went up it to get an idea of the incline, so we knew it was long and had a switch back about half way up. Up we went and even though it was long, it wasn’t hugely steep, so it was quite manageable and not lung busting at all really. A motorhome with German plates went past and the people inside gave us a toot and encouraging wave and then we saw another touring cyclist on his way down and we exchanged greetings. Yesterday we saw a veritable peloton of about eight touring cyclists, so we must be heading into the season for the likes of us.
We had views down to the valley and across the hills and I even had a little froggy cheer squad on the side of the road as I neared the top.
“This is where we turn off,” I heard Steve call behind me, “that’s the end of the climb.”
That came around quick, it wasn’t nearly as hard as we’d been expecting.
Just up the road was the tiny town of Barban. Actually you couldn’t really call it a town, or even a village. It was tiny but had some really nice carved wooden statues and a big church. Churches absolutely everywhere here!
Just out of Barban we found a bus stop that gave us a dry spot to sit for elevenses.
On we pedalled and we were in the countryside. It was lovely. Hedgerows and avenues of trees and green as green and then out into the open country and farmland. Once we hit the long flat stretches, that wind hit us with force. Man-o-man it pummelled me. Steve can push back against the wind but it just does me in, I just don’t have the mass or something to be able to push back against it and it just nails me every time. My speed instantly drops at least 10 km/h as soon as the wind hits me. It’s just WHAM, TAKE THAT YOU FEEBLE CYCLIST YOU ARE NO MATCH FOR ME THE GREAT AND POWERFUL WINDY ONE. True, very true, I am indeed no match. I slogged on.
We came upon the town of Vodnjan which was lovely. Very Italian. In fact the signs were in both Croatian and Italian and as we pedalled down a cobbled street, a lady was standing in her doorway and gave us a cheery wave. “Dobar dan,” I said.
“Ciao,” she replied. So an Italian greeting to my Croatian and it certainly had an Italian look and feel to it.
We found a park for some quick lunch and then on we went towards Pula.
Leaving Vodnjan we were on a main road and it was busy, with trucks and cars speeding along and no shoulder on the side of the road. The wind was blowing too and I wasn’t looking forward to navigating the rapids of traffic along with the wind having a party at my expense. I took the lead and I stared down that road…put foot to pedal…and gunned it. I just wanted to get to the end of that busy road as fast as I could. I picked up speed and then the self-talk started…Eyes on the white line, eyes on the white line…concentrate, concentrate…go, GO, GO… fight the wind…concentrate… look out for that BUMP!…wheels on the white line, wheels on the white line…watch out for that HOLE!…keep going, keep going… don’t slow down…don’t slow down…GO, GO… PUSH HARDER…GO!
My legs were going like Road Runner legs I was pushing the pedals so hard and as fast as I could, going like the clappers. I got up to 27 km/h and all I could think about was getting off that road. Surely there must be a path soon. The wind caught the hood of my coat and became a sail that made me tack to the right unexpectedly. Not content with blowing in my face, that wind was turning bits of me against me now! It’s 6km to Pula now, there must be a path like the one that took us into Labin. Look…up ahead…is that a path? That looks like a path. It could be a path. YAY, it’s a path! Not only is it a path, but it’s a bike path! You little ripper, we can get off the busy road and onto a bike path, this is surely going to take us all the way into the city now.
Nope. It didn’t. The path went on for a short while and then abruptly stopped. Nooooo! Don’t do this! Why oh why would you toy with me like that and give us a path only to take it away again! Now we were back in the traffic and up ahead there was…no…please no…roundabouts! Here we go…indicate with one hand, hold on with the other hand…one handed turn around the roundabout…hold on…don’t wobble…balance…concentrate…HOLD ON! Here we go…here’s another one…indicate with the other hand…hold on one handed…don’t wobble, hold on…go, GOOOOO…get across QUICK… through the roundabout and out of the traffic…GO, GO, GO! Aaaah, we’re through.
We’d made it to Pula and as we rode into the city we passed the Amphitheatre, which was absolutely spectacular to see. Pula has the only remaining Roman amphitheatre with a complete circle, in the world and it was quite a sight. We plan to stay an extra day in Pula to have a look around, so we’ll head back and have a good look at it tomorrow.
We found the apartment we’ll be staying for a couple of days and set of out for supplies. It’s certainly a city teeming with tourists but we’ll have some roaming time tomorrow to have a good explore.
As we sat down tonight and talked about the day, Steve suddenly cracked up laughing.
“Your little legs!” he laughed, “they were going so fast! [hahahahahaha] I was coming behind you [hahahahhaha] and your legs [hahahahahah] your little legs [hahahahhahah].” He had a good laugh until he was a bit red in the face and had tears in his eyes. Well…clearly I provided the entertainment today. I must have looked a sight on that road though, going like the billy-oh.
So that was the day. The rain left us alone, but our nemesis the wind found us and gave us a good slap around. We still had some nice scenery and some climbing that wasn’t too hard. So all in all a nice contrast to the eventful day yesterday. Now a day in Pula to explore and roam and then head north along the coast and see what there is to experience and discover. Just remember though, it always pays to be prepared for the unexpected and sometimes it helps to have a sign or two to warn you…
Distance ridden: 47.2 km
Time in the saddle: 3 hours 31 minutes
Contest results: Wind 1 – Me 0
Short, middle-aged cyclist providing proven hysterical entertainment: 1