Nothing happens by chance, and the reason I undertook this trip is that years ago I was lucky to embark with my wife on a cruise on the Greek islands that stopped in Dubrovnik; frankly it left us amazed: my wife for the monuments, the sea, and the good atmosphere in the area, and me too... but with some nuances, something more ‘biker.’ I knew I had to return, but this time by bike. Croatia had been on my list of things to do for several years but it was fate who again put this fate in my way.
The guys from Tourism Croatia watched one of my YouTube videos and thought it would be a good idea to show me the trails they have in their country, so without thinking twice I was riding on a plane to new adventures.
Day 1: Arrive, Island Krk
The truth is that the first day was simply conditioning. We arrived at the airport in the capital, Zagreb, and waiting for us was Mario, our driver during the trip through Croatia. After a few hours travelling by road we arrived in the area of the Bay of Kvarner, before heading to Krk, a beautiful fishing village on the island by the same name.
Both Fernando and I had not had a bite since breakfast, so we thought that despite being Spanish we could make an exception and have dinner at 7 p.m. (For those of you who do not know Spanish customs, dinner is usually served at 10 pm.) Dessert time arrives and Fernando very seriously tells me, “Hey David, the light is going out, you have to go out and shoot some shots in the port.” Shit, after a black risotto and steak with pepper sauce I still had a hole for a homemade chocolate pancake. Well, duty is duty.
We are heading to the port and that is where I decide to make a weather forecast: “today it will not rain.” Well, after 30 minutes we would return to the hotel soaked. I know that I could not work as a weatherman. I decided to take advantage of the time checking mail, updating social networks, and riding my bicycle so that everything was perfect to get up early the next day.
Day 2: Riding Island Krk
The day began in a somewhat worrisome way; the rain and wind were felt from the hotel window. After a good breakfast we met Mario, our driver, and Dimitri, our guide for that day. Despite the bad weather we decided to continue with the plan and set course for the first trail, Veli VRH, the same trail that serves as the start of a stage of the 4 Islands MTB Stage Race.
The rain begins to tighten and the first meters of this road make me swallow mud like a damned man. Luckily the mud disappears at 500 meters, but it gives way to a hurricane wind that, as I go down the mountain, also seems to want to disappear like it’s yielding to me and saying, “the summit is yours.” After a vertiginous descent, very fast and paved, I reach the lower area, where a connection section will begin that will take me to the “to the moon and back trail.”
These paths are also used in the 4 Islands competition, but uphill in instead of going down, which is how I plan to do them. They are fast and fun trails that take me down a hillside that reveals incredible views of the sea and mountains where you can also see the town of Baška.
After a morning full of wet emotions we decided that it is time to eat. It is 4 pm and I have not eaten anything since breakfast. I had also forgotten in the van a bag with nuts and some fruit that I usually carry with me. After a copious meal at a local restaurant, Cicibela, where you can eat yourself to death, we head to the ferry that will take us to a new island, Lopar and where the town of Rab will welcome us that night.
After checking into the hotel we met with Luka, our guide for the next day. He accompanies us to eat at a picturesque restaurant of traditional food where we taste the local delicacies, risotto and some fish, not forgetting their typical dessert — finger licking good. Today I have eaten so much that I have the feeling of not having done anything else all day.
The rain and wind continue to punish strongly, so we go to sleep thinking that tomorrow will be another day.
Day 3: Rab Island
The third day of my journey through Croatia did not start much more encouragingly than the previous days. A hurricane wind greeted from the early morning. Bad luck we were having with a front that hit the whole country.
The first of the spots placed me at the top of one of the mountains near Rab. From there the views were impressive and unfortunately, so was the wind that blew. After a small stretch of road and path I connect with an area that attracts attention from far away because of the reddish colour of the earth. It is a canyon where locals usually go riding. Unfortunately it is totally muddy and I have to take an alternative route that leads me to unexpectedly practice freeriders down one of the mountains to reach another stretch of path. The rain begins to discharge with great force and the wind is rising, the first hail balls begin to hit my helmet, so I decide to tighten the pace to get to the point where the van awaits me.
Once in the van and with the heating to the fullest we decided to move from spot and wait for the rain to subside. After 90 minutes of waiting it seems that the weather does not improve. We decided to study the meteorological situation for the next few days. We asked the Croatia Tourism boys to modify our itinerary slightly since it seems that the front is going to intensify in that area and possibly the ferries stop working on the island.
After a few phone calls we have a new plan, so we decided to eat something. Well, that's just a saying since a copious meal is planted before us at the local restaurant, Ana. Veal soup first, a huge source with different types of meat as a main course and an amazing hot chocolate muffin with vanilla ice cream. I assure you it was to lose consciousness. If something has become clear to me, it is that in Croatia the quality of life is good and that its cuisine is very rich, abundant, and top quality ingredients are used.
After such a tribute we set sail for the ferry that will take us back to the island of Krk and then to the island of Cres.
Upon arriving at Cres it seems that the weather theme has calmed down slightly, so after dinner, this time something lighter because frankly this culinary rhythm is very difficult to maintain, we decided to rest in the room for a while, check mail, and finally we go to bed.
Day 4: Cres Island
Start the day with a hearty breakfast, my mother again binge food. We meet at 8:30 am with the girls from the tourist office of Cres, Jadranka and Mariana, who take us to explore the island. Today it does not rain but it seems that the wind has increased considerably; it will be difficult to ride fluently, but I want to ride this beautiful island, so I will do whatever it takes.
The first stop is a small town where only 4 inhabitants live, its streets of yesteryear remind us of a certain Roman descent. In that place begins a spectacular path that borders the mountain, crosses the cliff and goes down to a beautiful beach. Later we go to the town of Cres, a cozy place with a very careful environment that gives me the opportunity to ride a little through its streets, see the shops and of course fill our stomachs with energy.
Later we decided to discover the trails near the town of Cres, a route borders the entire town and shows its charming bay. I need some more action and our friends recommend us to visit the north of the island, a much more forested area and which in my humble opinion is the most beautiful and impressive of the island. We head to Beli and ascend with the van through several forest tracks that leave us at the top of the mountain in front of the town. A winding path leaves from there to cross some of the most charismatic forest areas in the area. Finally a track takes me back to the van.
The day has been intense so we decided to dine one of the local delicacies, lamb, and water it with some Croatian beer. We are dead so we decided to rest. Tomorrow will be the day back and despite not being able to ride a bike, it will be a long and exhausting day.
Day 5: Return Home
This adventure through Croatian lands has left me with a great taste again, although I have that strange feeling of having a pending debt again. Do you know what I am talking about? It's like going to school without homework done.
I think it is not the last time I will visit Croatia. There is incredible potential for mountain biking here and I want to come back and explore every corner of this cozy and friendly country. I will try to do it when the weather forecast is not of a Siberian front and thus also enjoy its wonderful beaches.
See you soon Croatia!