In Jake the Peg I described how I hauled my caravan from Scotland to Croatia and made friends with Jake the one-legged seagull.
This is the story or part of it from my summer spent down there.
My Eriba Troll caravan needed careful weight distribution otherwise the tail started wagging the dog when towing with my 2 litre Dodge Caliber and at 1200kgs gross weight she was bang on the maximum for that car.
All this meant that heavy items from the large storage space beneath the permanent double bed had to be moved forward while in transit or even into the car itself. At that stage I was considering moving to Croatia permanently so had everything with me I could carry. But – with a little jiggery pokery my light alloy framed Raliegh bicycle found it’s way into the empty space beneath my bed and proved to be a useful means of transport once I was settled for the summer.
Porec was my nearest town at three miles up the coast. To the south I had the smaller but equally picturesque harbour town of Vrsar about five miles away.
The statues in this peaceful park were donated by a famous sculptor son of Vrsar – so famous in fact that regrettably I can’t remember his name. He is eco-friendly and made his statues using re-cycled vehicle tyres.
Well done that man – who unfortunately will have to remain nameless for now. And yes – I was careful not to scratch his work of art when I parked my bike. It was really to give an indication of the size of the thing.
Vrsar is quite close to the entrance to the Limski Kanal – the only official ffiord in Croatia and possibly outside of Norway. The scrub covered area on my side of the ffiord was designated a National Park and the vast network of dirt trails through the bush became my playground.
But first I had to pass Airforce One – —
One of the dirt roads into the National Park starts around here so I got to know the area and it’s wildlife quite well. There are wild pigs – I saw there tracks on a few occasions where the family had crossed the trails but never caught up with the pigs. I was probably lucky as I remember meeting a family of warthogs down by the Zambezi when I worked in Africa at the Kariba Dam and they weren’t to be trifled with. A wild boar or a sow with piglets can be a tricky proposition.
What I did see near where my bicycle is parked above the Limski Kanal was a herd of wild goats. They were mostly stood on their hind legs feeding from the green tops of the thorn bushes just off the trail. They didn’t panic – just melted into the undergrowth but the smell of the big billy goat lingers in my nostrils yet! Boy was he rank!
Halfway down that cliff below my bicycle in a cave is a family run bar used by the many tourists who have taken pleasure boat excursions out of Rovinj and Vrsar to visit the phenomenon that is Limski Kanal. I seemed to be the only visitor they had from up top.
I bumped into this young lad and his mate on the trail. They were collecting some kind of weed or grass from the roadside. I can’t remember what it was called but it was a sweet herb if hard to find with the un-trained eye.
The lad wasn’t very old and as a proficient footballer he had already spent time with one of the senior clubs in Zagreb. Croatia and especially Istria where I spent my summer is a sport mad country and it is little wonder that many of their countrymen ply their trade on the world scene. It is also a training ground for many professional cycling teams because of the testing mountain roads and the facilities at the sports complex where I was staying at Zelena Laguna play a big part in this too.
It was with one of those teams I had my Mr Bean moment.
After my 20 odd kilometre trek through the bush I would stop at a roadside fruit & veg stall to stock up. The farmer and I had no lingo in common but he aways offered me a glass of schnapps after I had made my purchase – it would have been rude to refuse.
Suitably fired up I was cycling steadily back to the coast on a metalled road when one of the afore-mentioned cycling teams caught me up and sailed on by.
After a kilometre or two they weren’t far ahead so I put on a ‘casual’ spurt and got on their tail. Just an everyday thing for us sporting grandad types. Phew! Once up there it was surprisngly easy to be dragged along by the group.
When they got wise to my presence one of their number with legs like muscled tree trunks dropped back alongside me to say hello and to look for my hidden electric motor. He gave me a look of respect when he found it was all down to pedal power! At least that’s what I want to believe – ok – pedal power fueled by the magic locally brewed schnapps!
On the flat was fine – downhill I didn’t have a high enough gear and my chicken-legs were whizzing round like a wild things! Then we came to what I would call a climb! Nobody told the bunch it was a climb and they kept up the same speed while I dropped off the rear with all hopes of being signed for the Tour of Croatia gone.
Now I know how World Champion sprinter Mark Cavendish feels on the alpine stages of the Tour de France. Just like him I must have short twitch muscle fibres more suited to sprint finishes than alpine climbs. That’s my excuse – take it or leave it! Yes there are two goats in the above pic and only one of ’em is a work of art!