Balkan Stage 17 Mostar, Bosnia to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sept 23, 2022

Stage 17 of 36, day 19 of 43: 146.4 km, 699m climb, 6:24 Moving, 7:52 Total,  62.4 kph max

Bosnia & Herzegovina211.01444

Well, today was a tough but very fun day. We had two options, gravel and paved, and I’d say about half the people raised their hands at breakfast when asked if they were taking gravel. But in the end, nobody actually did the whole gravel track, and just a few of us did most of it. We left Mostar just before 8am, on a busy road with no shoulder. But soon we were cranking along on mostly empty roads in the cool morning air. I rode with the Dutch team to the gravel turn-off, then caught up with Bob and then the two routes converged and diverged a few times so we rode with various people.

Riding under an incomplete bridge
Morning riding

Around 42 km, there was a decisive split, where the gravel got serious and many people tried a few meters and gave up. Bob and I continued, and that section ended up being about 20 km long, consistently climbing, on a very rocky railroad bed without the rails, but with all the rocks you could ever want. We went through 12 tunnels, and over half of them required a headlight. Luckily I had one, not great but just good enough so that the two of us could ride every tunnel.

Start of 20 km of gravel excitement
The tunnels looked like this at the start, pitch black inside

There were many deep road cuts and a few amazing rickety old bridges that were somewhat scary and if they had failed (as it looked like they would at any time), we would die. But we kept going. Bob bloodied himself massively on some kind of pricker bush, I was stung by a bee and stabbed in the foot by a branch that my wheel kicked up. Rocks were flying everywhere. We laughed a lot though, and it was actually really fun, once we resigned ourselves to going no more than 13 kph.

Riding the first of a few interesting bridges
Fall through here and it’s 40m to your death
We had to ride 100%
This is your ideal tunnel bike
Bob heading into yet another tunnel

After a really long time, we came to a paved road, and then just had to pass it and stick with the rocks for another several km, then finally onto a paved road, then just a few more km to lunch. We assumed we would be dead last due to taking SO long climbing all that way, but no, all the fast guys who took the road were still there when we arrived. We ate long and hard, and a couple more gravel-heads arrived. Then it was time to go. We still were not half way, so had a LONG way to go.

Lunch stop, very Andes Trail-esque
After lunch there was one more tunnel and gravel section. This photo is a 100% accurate representation of what it looked like. This tunnel had bats flying around inside as well as suspicious soft sections that seemed like mud but were probably bat guano.

After a short, steep climb, we got back on the rail path and cruised a really long way. 70 km, 80 km, 90 km, 100 km, 110 km, etc, repeat until done. Around 135 km we topped out on a hill and then cruised down to the Croatia border. We got out of Bosnia pretty easily, then after a 250m no-man’s land, the line to get into Croatia was pretty long. So we just coasted down past all the cars to the front and pushed in and were through quickly.

The view 300m down to Dubrovnik after we reentered Croatia

Then we had a great descent, steep and fun, to Dubrovnik. After a final 5 km through town we arrived at the hotel to find Caroline had made smoothies for everyone. She is awesome. We got our room, and took perfect awesome showers, did laundry, and even took a rest for a few minutes.

But soon it was 5:30 and time to go out with our craft beer-loving friends. We walked 1.5 km along the harbor to a nice place I had found online. We had decent IPA and other beers, then Niek, Bob, Liz and I decided a real dinner was required. Now. So we walked back, tried one place then settled on a pizzeria that was pretty good. An ice-cream stop on the way home and we were all set.

What a day! The most adventurous of the tour by far, but will it be beat later on?

Hanging out at Dubrovnik Beer Company, vitamin-replacement therapy

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