So, I’m sitting here, in a tiny patch of shade, eyeing up the next stretch of road which is shimmering in the heat. Even I can hear the crickets – they are so loud and a constant backdrop. (Steve would be complaining of “The heat, the drums, the drums” right now, I’m sure). It’s another 30˚C day. So why do I do this? Because the views from this spot of the mountains and the orange roofed villas tucked in amongst the olive groves is stupendous and I might as well sit and chew the cud here as sat on my sofa at home, ay? Swallows darting and swooping, a pigeon cooing and a solitary dog barking in the distance. Time to get going again.
Shortly after this, a couple came out of their house to invite me in for a coffee (and a home grown cucumber –or three!). They spoke Croatian and Deutsch - him having worked in Germany painting and decorating some years back – but no English, or so I gathered from his signing. It’s amazing what you can understand from signs and non verbals – though there are interesting opportunities for MIScommunication too, I think. I gathered that she has a relative in Sydney, Australia who she hasn’t seen for the past 4 years – but whether it was offspring or a sister I couldn’t work out. It was very congenial sitting watching the swifts feed their chicks in the nest just over our heads and watching green lizards dart into crevices.
4 miles later and the sun is at its zenith and I take shelter in yet another deserted house – this time, just on the balcony – moving around as the sun tries to find me. I snooze for an hour or so, then have a cup of tea. I’m just thinking about moving on, and step out into the full glare which is too much and I retreat again, watching butterflies and plot the squares I shall have to knit when I get my tools back again: For Austria, a red poppy on a white and handspun background (their flag is red and white). For Slovenia – a cabled and textured square to represent the river, in the rough native yarn Nina and I bought in Bovec – then embroider a tiny kayak on it. For Croatia – a red and white chequered border with a butterfly stitch centre.
10 more miles and it’s still very hot. I am not very happy and dive for any patches of shade I can find. I call into Benkovac for something to eat. There is a festival happening in town, with many people dressed in traditional costume – both men and women wear pillbox hats – and lots of inkle (or tablet woven) braids sewn together to make leggings, bags, aprons and waistcoats.
I could only find a ‘fast food’ place open (apart from caffe-bars) – “That will take 10 minutes” she said, with no sense of irony. It was probably the nastiest meal I’ve ever eaten – but plenty of it, dripping in grease where the fat hadn’t really been hot enough to fry, I think. I need the energy though, as I want to do at least 10 more miles of cycling tonight.
I do a lot more than 10, because cycling is a joy when there’s a cool breeze and that great ball of fire has gone from the sky. Went onto a wrong road, because I wasn’t sure I was on the right road leaving Benkovac (I was). The wrong road was undulating, quiet, passing through small farming villages. I wonder if this area got caught up in the war between the Serbs and the Bosnians in the 90s as there seem to be shellholes in some of the dilapidated buildings, and many show evidence of having burned.
Advantages of night riding: fewer cars around (especially on this back track); pretty lights in the distance; can’t see the hills properly, so pedal up them anyway (when would probably have got off to push in the daylight); and of course, it’s wonderfully cool.
Disadvantages: there are largish bugs flying around, so better not smile or I’ll swallow one. There are also strands of spiderweb floating in the breeze.
Cats rule the night – there are so many! And, when I’m pushing Rowenna along a loose gravelled track, I catch the black quartz gleam of spiders’ eyes with my torch – there are lots (looking like the ordinary house spider) waiting amongst the stones for an unsuspecting cricket to pass their way.
I sleep in yet another deserted house – this time, with a smooth concrete (albeit dusty) floor facing a wide and open doorway pointing towards the dawn.