The ride from Udbina to Gracac was at times a tough ride. The main reason being the weather. It can be very windy up in the mountains that are close to Bosnia, and that is exactly what I was feeling that day. Also, there are very few cars on the road, so you definitely feel like you are out there in the middle of nowhere. But sure enough, the maps that I had and the road signs were always helpful and kept me sane.
Once I arrived in Gracac, I had no idea what to do, so per usual, I stepped into a small coffee shop. This coffee shop was not too big, but it had some serious action going on inside. There were several friendly people who were interested in what it was that I was up to. I told them my story, and they were still in a state of disbelief for a while.
As it turns out, the family who owned the coffee shop invited me to spend the night at their house, which I accepted. Gracac is a small village, maybe a few thousand people. There is a school in Gracac, and there is a mix of Croatians and Serbs living there as well. The family that I stayed with was most definitely Croatian, and they showed me all kinds of pictures from the war that happened in their country just a few years prior. I learned that not only men were involved directly in the war, but the women were too.
I had a great time with this family in Gracac, Croatia, and I hope to see them again. They really made the trip very memorable. There house down on the river as you can see in the movies was pretty cool, and the bbq we had was great.
I landed in Zagreb, Croatia in early May of 2005. Right after landing at the airport, I got my luggage, which was my mountain bike and bike bags that was all boxed up in a typical cardboard bike box, and I went to the curb outside the airport and started putting the bike together. It didn’t take too long. Maybe about thirty or forty minutes. But after it was built, I left the box for someone to put in the trash, and started biking in the direction that I thought was the city center. It was a bike ride I will never forget. Not knowing a single person who lived in Croatia, and not knowing where the heck I was going to was all sorts of fun, and I hope to do it again.
When I was finished walking around the Plitvice Lakes, Croatia, it was time to get back on the bike and head in the general direction of Dubrovnik which is where I needed to take a ferry to Italy to make it to the wedding.
Luckily, the road I biked earlier was headed in that exact direction. The actual day was quite rainy when I left the national park of Plitvice, but after getting my wet soggy bike back from the room they let me stash it in, I somehow was ready to hit the road again. It’s been a few years now since the ride, but it was a great one. I only made it to Udbina that day which is about 40 km. I passed through the town of Bjelopolje which was even tinier than Udbina which I was told is 200 people.
But back to the bike riding, when I left Plitvice it ws rainy, and about 20 km into the ride the sun came out. I can remember clear as day the look of coming out of the mountains with trees everywhere and making into some really nice rolling hills/flatlands and seeing the steam beginning to rise from the ground where the rain had been. It was amazing, and that along with the fact that I was biking along quite nicely at probably about 30km/hr at a constant clip at times made it really enjoyable.
As this is not the most populated part of Croatia, it was even nicer once I finally arrived at Udbina. The turn off for the town takes you up a small hill, and right before it on the left hand side there was a restaurant. As this was the first sign of civilization for a while, I went inside and had a nice coffee. I remember asking the person there named Marko if he knew of any hotel rooms in Udbina, and his answer in Croatia was something to the effect of probably not. But I made an attempt anyways.
After leaving the restaurant and getting back on the bike, I made it up the short hill into the center of the village, and saw a bar with some people in it. So, guess what, I left my bike with all saddle bags and all my gear, and headed in to see what I could see. It was one of those situations where the locals gave me some stares as if to say “What the heck are you doing here??” And up at the bar there were several guys drinking beer, and I joined in on the fun. THere happened to be some type of election happening soon in the area, as I remember all kinds of posters big and small all over teh walls. I asked the guy next to me who spoke English if he knew of any hotels in the town. He pretty much laughed and told me there for sure werne’t any there. I was a bit to scared to ask the hot Croatian girl who was tending the bar if she had any extra room. But the guy told me that maybe the restaurant I was at earlier might have a room in the back for the night. He said that sometimes he sees large trucks parked there and potentially the drivers were spending the night.
So after a short beer, I headed back down to Marko, and somehow communicated that I wanted to spend the night, and somehow he understood. He then took me to a detached building that sure enough had a room with 4 beds in it and a window, and that is where I spent the night. There was even a shower down the hall, and it had SUPER hot water. Up to this point, this was the most interesting place I had ever spent the night in my life. I can remember when I went back to see Marko after leaving the bar, there were several men in army unifor in the restaurant now, and they kinda creeped me out. And that was my night in Udbina, pretty uneventful, and actually worked out quite nice.
Marko made me up some awesome bacon and eggs in the morning and then I was off on the bike to Gracac.