It was the end of May in 2005 when I biked from Gracac to Pag. My goal was to get all the way to Novalja because it sounded like a seriously fun party town on the water, or at least that is what the guide book made it out to be. But of course, you never really know what anything is going to be like until you do it yourself when you are on a bike trip.
As I spent the night in Gracac, I shoved off relatively early in the morning, and I remember going up some serious hills before things turned to downhill. It was not so much forest as it was more barren red mountainous areas as I recall, and it was quite beautiful. Most importantly, there were few if any vehicles on the road with me. This was usually the case in most of Croatia, and that is one of the best parts of biking in this awesome country. No vehicle traffic means you can actually hear what the natural life and sounds are, and it also gave me a sense of really being off the grid at times.
This stretch of biking was filled with a massive uphill and then a massive downhill towards the Adriatic Sea. Once I neared the bottom of the downhill portion, things began to get somewhat tough. There was some type of semi road construction going on before I got to Maslenica, and the pavement was not too good. Looking back on the trip, this was one of the first times where the road conditions were sub par actually, so it was somewhat exciting to be biking on some nasty road finally. I had expected this much more often, but up to that point it just never happened.
The cuttof to get to Zadar was another major crossing point in the day’s bike ride. I took some time and figured out on the map where to go to head towards Pag Island, and there was actually some really great signs so it definitely was not too difficult.
I remember stopping at a small restaurant in a town that might have been called Razanac or Miletici. It was a hotel/bed and breakfast type place, and I sat outside where there was another couple and had lunch. I was really hungry and it just turned out that this place was serving my new favorite meal. Seafood pasta or Spaghetti Fruti de Mare. Although Croatia is very different than Italy in many ways, there is some similarities as well. One thing that is for sure is that the Croatian cooks surely know how to make seafood pasta. This on many days turned into by lunch and dinner. After a long morning or afternoon’s bike ride, there is something to be said to sit down to some fabulous seafood pasta with fresh calamari/clams/mussles and scallops and fish mixed in. I can taste it now, and the price was always about 30 kuna or $5 at the time.
One thing to note, was at this restaurant, I started to notice that the weather was changing. It was not getting very cloudy or raining, but it was getting VERY VERY WINDY!. To the point where I had to grab my napkin off the ground and was worried that my bike would fall over from where it was laying often. But, of course, I didn’t think anything of this wind.
After lunch, I got back on my bike, and was planning on making it over to Pag Island and eventually to Novalja or somewhere in between. It wasn’t too long until the wind was blowing so hard that I started to have to lean to the right just to stay on the bike. This was definitely something new to me.
And then there came a point where I came around a bend and the land/wall that was on my right got lower and I was much more exposed to the wind that was flying by, and somehow, I looked towards the Adriatic which was to my left, and my sunglasses flew off my face at about 30 miles per hour, went up before they went down, and probably landed about 200 feet away from me and have never been seen again. Also at this time, I was straddling my bike on the side of the road, and leaning to the right(way over) just to maintain being upright. The wind had to have been blowing 50-60 miles per hour now or more, and I was actually panicked and not sure what to do. Little did I know, this was just a few hundred yards from the bridge that goes over to Pag Island. And, there were several motorcycle bikers who were not allowed to pass over the bridge due to the high winds. They have a little bridgetakers booth, where an older Croatian man was waiting and telling all 2 wheeled vehicles to stop and go back. I was lucky enough to have someone who was waiting run out and help me get to safety(which was behind this little bridgetakers hut and out of the wind). So there we were, I remember a Frech guy, who was also on bike, and a few motorcycle guys. One of the motor cycle guys was named Josef, and he helped me out in a major way. He actually owned a restaurant in Novaja which is where I wanted to go, and he told me a friend of his was to pick him up in a van and I could pack my bike in there too if I liked. So, I took him up on the offer(this was my first time travelling by something other than bike or boat so far on the trip)
Everything worked out in the end. I made it to Novalja, found a house to rent a room in(young guy named Marko lived there and took me around) and I even stopped into Josef’s restaurant my first night and ate with him and his friends, he wouldn’t let me pay a cent as is the usual Croatian way.
I decided to stay a few days in Novaja, and hung out with some of the locals, mainly Marko’s friends, even played some basketball with them, they kicked my butt but I blame that on me having to play in sandals. And of course, I ate some Pag cheese. This is some salty sheep cheese that the locals are very proud of.