Day 8, Monday, started out fairly straight forward, quick trip down the coast to Split. It’s fair to say the alternate road to Split isn’t as attractive as the alternate route to Zadar, and with progress slow I took the A1 to the city. The toll roads in Croatia are bizarre – unbelievably cheap and unbelievably empty (and on today’s experience, unbelievably windy – that’s weather windy, not twisty roads). In theory there is a 80mph speed limit, but with the wind it didn’t feel safe to ride about 70. Still, the scenery is lovely.
Anyway, it was just a quick stop in Split, I didn’t really have anything I wanted to see there, so decided to just visit the football ground – there’s a Billy Bragg link there if anyone wants to guess?
Next, Mostar. The town is synonymous with the Balkan conflict from 1992-5 because the bridge across the river was destroyed in the war, but has been rebuilt since. Getting to Mostar means entering Bonia & Herzogovina. And to be honest, I panicked a bit – my sat nav stopped working at the border no longer recognising any roads, just a directional arrow, and my mobile phone warned me about expensive charges, the border control was a building site and it wasn’t clear who was an official, where I needed to buy a green card (vehicle insurance), who was a builder and who was a traveller. Road works and road signs were confusing, the name Mostar painted out of signs, and for a time I was lost and heading in the wrong direction… I was cross with myself for not checking and double checking that all countries on my route are on my sat nav (I have downloaded files for the Asian part, but Europe was pre loaded) I was surprised by how lost and vulnerable I felt just a few miles outside of Europe… I pulled into a petrol station to ask for directions and no one spoke any English (funnily enough, I don’t speak Bosnian either!) – the conversation involved the word “Mostar” and some pointing.
I bought a paper map. Looked at Mostar, and beyond to Sarajevo and panicked about getting lost again… And thought about retreating to the safety of Croatia, a working Sat Nav and cheap mobile phones. Still, I stuck with it, pulled over a few times to check the map. But I made a decision to get to Mostar and then turn back towards Dubrovnik – Sarajevo was just too far away, road signs bobbins, and it was getting late, would I find a hotel or not? Maybe I’m not ready for the adventure…
Anyway, I made it to Mostar. Not sure it was worth it though; the town feels like a tourist trap run by men who look like Bond henchmen – all shaved heads and I’ll fitting sports wear. I was charged €5 to park my bike (bear in mind my hotel the night before was only €23) and the guy admitted that it really wasn’t for parking, but for security. The road to the bridge is lined with stalls selling ethnic junk, the type you find in markets all over the developing world. the cafes selling over priced crap food.
I didn’t stay long, I took my photo and returned to the bike. And was greatly relieved to find the sat nav was working. I guess it got confused crossing the border and didn’t just transfer automatically from Croatia to Bosnia – but turning it off and on again made it work properly again (never fails). I’m sure I had check that Bosnia was covered, but in my panic earlier I wasn’t confident about it. So, I changed my plan, again, and headed for Sarajevo. And I’m very glad that I did. The road from Mostar to Sarajevo was a treat, scenery beautiful and the two hour ride just flew by.
I didn’t really have a clue where in Sarajevo I was heading for, but I saw a large Holiday Inn and parked up, presuming it was in a tourist area, and if the worst came to the worst, I could stay there. I read my copy of the Lonely Planet for accommodation advice, and used Bookings.com (sod the data charges!) to find a hotel. And a very fine hotel it is. I’ve booked for two nights as I want to stay and explore the city tomorrow. Add to that, pizza and a pint cost me £3. I think I’m going to like this city. Surprising what a difference a few hours can make.