Sunken shipwrecks and abandoned gulags

The ride along the coastal road was agreeable once I got past the tacky Makarska ‘Riviera’. I met a young Polish couple cycling the same way and we camped together on the jetty in Omiš; another cracking sunset but already forty five minutes earlier than two weeks ago. The days are getting shorter. Incidentally, he would be the fourth cyclist, excluding myself, who had injured his left knee. In the morming I was shouted out by an angry man with an angry dog.

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Next, a traverse around Split and through the hills and out unto the wine and cheese country towards Zadar. After a long day I camped by a field under nightfall, feeling sure I was well hidden, only to be woken by a shepherd and his flock at 4am. Who herds sheep at 4am?! Luckily he did not see me. I remember lying, listening to the quiet (or the mosquitos) when a leaf slowly pirouetted through the air and fell neatly on my face. Autumn is coming!

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A rest day in Zadar then on towards the peninsula of Pag, a barren, rocky landscape with good views back to the mainland. Sage flourishes here because it doesn’t need soil but feeds on the calcium in the rock.

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Before catching the ferry to the next island I stopped by the bay of Zavratnica, remarkable for the German WW2 ship wreck in the shallow waters just by the shore. Finding it was a struggle. I asked a handful of locals in the nearby town of Jablanac of its whereabouts but they all have me blank looks. I found wifi and the location of the bay (trust technology, not people!) but once I reached it by foot I was none the wiser. A passer by pointed and told me it was just around the next corner so I walked on then got into my speedos (lightweight, newly acquired), strapped on my snorkel and got in. Although the water was very clear I saw nothing of interest so continued swimming along the coastline. Just as I was begging to think this man with the directions was having me on it emerged from the gloom. I felt a major attack of the willies.

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Next the pretty island of Rab. Things were getting greener and a raging tailwind spurred me past cyclists struggling in the other direction. From here I took a boat to nearby Goli Otok, once a top secret prison and labour camp, the only gulag built under the Yugoslavian regime; a Croatian Alcatraz, but nastier. And no one ever escaped. After the prison closed in 1988 it was abandoned and left to ruin. Today you can visit and nothing is boarded up or cordoned off. There are no warning signs or any kind of health and safety whatsoever. All right!

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A ferry over to Krk island and the scenery is getting greener and less desolate. A bridge back to the mainland and I treat myself to a night in a real campsite in Oštro. At the gates I met a German man pulling up on his svelte boutique touring bike and we shared a pitch and had an unspoken race to see who could set up camp faster (at least that’s the way I saw it) then a good natter over bicycle and camping equipment and previous trips over a few beers. Finally, someone I could relate to! It was most convivial.

This morning I head into Slovenia and hopefully cooler weather, greener pastures and easier wild camping.

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