Traumatised by the gravel, the weather and the dogs I took a day off the bike before clipping back in and exploring.
From my previous ride, I had learned where not to go on my bike and so did a bit of map reading beforehand to come up with a route that would keep my on relatively smooth roads. In theory I thought this would also keep me safe from dogs but this turned out to be rather optimistic.
The hill that I had previously flown down after struggling on the gravel roads was to be the main event on most of my cycles as it was a relatively long climb with some nice switchbacks. The views from the top were beautiful and so I tended to fit rides around this climb in the middle.
In the days since my previous cycle, the local dogs had obviously convened and discussed the presence of an odd looking cyclist in the area and how best to scare the living daylights out of him. There may even have been discussions on a prize for who could actually sink their teeth into one of his whirling ankles.
After my last ride, I decided to some internet-based research on the subject of dog’s verses cyclists and I was shocked to see how big an issue this was. The advice for dealing with chasing dogs seemed to suggest that the best method was to get off the bike and slowly walk passed the dog, using the bike as a barrier between you and it. This seemed like advice directed at the bravest of people and I for one was not about to test my bravery in this way.
My main tactic was to use the opportunity to hone my fast-twitch muscles and sprint away as fast as humanly possible whilst shouting aggressively at the snarling beast in my best Croatian. I am not proud of this but generally once I knew I was clear of them I would turn back and taunt them with words. I don’t know why. It is not like they could understand me or the subtleties of the diss. I also remember mocking a couple of barking dogs trapped behind the fence of their property. Again I am not sure what this achieved.
On one occasion, up ahead of me I could see a couple of dogs just lying in the middle of the road. Clearly they were waiting for me since my route was now an established daily routine. As I slowed down and inched closer I could hear barking from the adjacent abandoned building. This was obviously some sort of violent dog shelter, no doubt about it. Shamefully, I turned around and headed back to the farm but pride is a powerful emotion and I was not willing to let a couple of dogs ruin my day in the saddle. We are the dominant species after all.
With enough speed I flew past the local gang of waiting dogs and continued on my way. I have not checked but I would imagine my heart rate stats would show little discreet spikes that correlate closely to the proximity of snarling dogs.
On what was to be my last cycle of the holiday, after conquering my new favourite hill once more with my best time I decided to head to the village that I could see from the top of the climb in the distance. I am guilty of being a slave to the Garmin as a cyclist so sometimes it is nice just to pick a direction and see where it leads.
I found my way up another climb to the village of Cetingrad. No dogs to speak of but plenty of confused looks from locals. Lycra is not really a thing in this part of Croatia. It was your typical small Croatian village. Church, café and bakery. This village was also quite remarkable because it had one of these…
During all the hours cycling in this small corner of Croatia I had not seen on other cyclist but it was still encouraging to see stuff like this.
Typically, I missed the only reason to really come to Cetingrad in the medieval fort built in the 14th century. The potted history of Cetingrad also includes a helicopter crash caused by the Serbs during the war (I also passed a memorial to this event on my cycles), battles with the Habsburg empire and being part of Serbia during the war. There is never a dull moment in Croatia’s recent history.
Feeling relatively fresh and wanting to make the most of my last cycle I continued east, down from the village and towards to border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. The rabid dogs now gave way to an altogether more menacing danger…land mines.
If ever there was a sign (pun intended) to turn back from whence I came it was this so I headed back through the village to the same inquisitive looks and found my way back to the farm.
I will post a blog soon that sums up my experiences of cycling in Croatia, warts and all.