I know you have more than enough things to worry about, but let me just add one more. It is a small thing. But it has worried me since I found out. You know when you are eating something and despite all the practice that you have got since your mum weaned you onto solids, you get it all wrong. You breath and swallow at the same time, and the thing has gone beyond the point of no return. It is on its way down your windpipe. Now as long as the thing is not a piece of tender stake the size of a golf ball, all should be fine. There is that 1 in a million moment when you are going to need someone to step in with the heimlich maneuver, but things do not end there. What I, and now you should be worried about, is that there is no mechanism for getting any of these things out of your lungs. They sit there, presumably for as long as you live.
So, why am I worrying you with this? Well, I was trying to think of a way to describe how, on a long trip, things vanish to the darkest depths of your panniers. Sometimes this is on purpose. We have a wonderful water filter of the finest Swiss craftsmanship. It has been used just once this year. It is a heavyweight insurance that sits in the bottom of my front left pannier, far from sight, and any thoughts about the weight I have carried.
You flicked through all the photos in the last blog, well remember all the snow? Not surprisingly, all the summer weight gear went to the bottom of the bags, along with the factor 50 and the bug spray. All well and good. Until we dropped like shot ducks from hundreds of meters down to the shoreline of the Adriatic. We swapped autumn tinged forest and finger nipping morning cold, for 26′c. Out came the summer ultra light Rapha bike gear from the darkest depths of the Ortliebs. Almost October, and we are back in summer.
Just a few days ago, we set off on a foggy Monday morning to ride into Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Bike paths and quiet roads linked together to take us close to the city. We expected the fog to burn off quickly, but it has lingered till midday and it is still cold. As we get close to the city, it lifts suddenly. We shed arm warmers, leg warmers and gillet in one go. Ljubljana sits, surrounded by a ring of alpine mountains. These are jagged edged, bear trap sharp brutes. It is spectacular. Back home in Edinburgh we like to point out how you can be walking on hills within 30 minutes of leaving Princes Street or the Royal Mile. Ljubljana, rather trumps that.
We have got a deal on the WWW for a rather nice hotel. As things become a bit busy I turn on the gps and we are just 2Km from the door. Again, there are good bike paths and to complete the joy, we get an upgrade of rooms, hurrah indeed. If this city was just a little closer, a slightly shorter flight, it would suffer from the stag nights and wedding party groups that Tallinn and Prague get. It would also have more tourists. Perhaps it needs to be slightly bigger. For us, with just the one day, it was perfect. Italian style and eastern block disrepair. Absolutely perfect.
I came up with a slogan for getting the city better known ‘ Ljubljana, as beautiful as it is difficult to spell ‘. One of the great advantages of its small size, is that within 6Km of leaving it in the morning, we are biking amidst fields of maze, cows and freshly cut hay. It is flat riding, which is a relief, as I do not feel well at all. My first’ non-food-poisoning illness of the trip ‘, I have woken with a throat so sore that swallowing breakfast muesli was as painful as saddle soars on a long ride. I have had little sleep, feel and possibly look rubbish.
Slovenia is looking beautiful, a wonderful place to cycle even at the tail end of summer and possibly more so without the heat of a few weeks ago. The grass is still growing, and these old swords have countless wild flowers. White cattle, as white and big as caravans, stand chewing the cud, happy it is now cooler. Vrhnika, Logatec and we start to climb, and at 580m my body says enough for the day. We take a few kilometres to find a spot to wild camp. We pick a spot in the forest, and for the first time it looks as if mosquitos are not going to be a problem.
We settle into our down bags for a cosy night. From the first owls close to the tent things get more tense. Stags, several of them to left and right. It is the rut, we are very close, but luckily not quite in the heart of it. No gelled-up, aftershave-doused teenage male on a Friday night comes even slightly close to the pent-up yearnings of a male red deer in his prime. There are few things in nature that are such a fruitless waste of so much energy than the deer rut.
There is the primal bellowing to be done all night and much of the day, the fighting and the worrying. The poor sods lose half their body weight just when they need it to get them through the oncoming winter. Very few of them get the girl for the slow dance and some may die of horrid wounds. I am trying to work out how much danger we are in. They are very close and we can feel the bass of their roaring. I can remember a story of a tent being destroyed, but can not remember the full account. The rut appears to be centered on a patch of open ground we had considered as a pitch. We decided to get more out of view, and a good thing too.
The moon casts paisley patterned foliage shapes on the tent and we drift off. From midnight to 3am I am awake and burning up with fever. Too hot and then too cold, I am crawling in and out of my bag and silk liner. By morning, the worst of the sore throat has gone, replaced by a traditional stinking cold. There is a stiff climb to over 600m. All around there are hills with churches on them, hills with castles on them, and hills with holes in them. There are caves everywhere, some very impressive.
The sun comes out as we near Postanja. It is again a perfect day to be on a touring bike. We stop for food. As you know, I am a big fan of Goulash and have eaten it since it appeared on the menu back in Kosovo. Here, there is a goulash that goes a step too far for me – Nedvedji Golaz. Luckily the translation – Bear Goulash is obvious. I say no, perhaps a bit too human or something. I zoom out the gps, there is a big blue splash of colour on the screen. The Adriatic is just 30Km away now.
The soil is now thin and sandy and the Pines, now Corsican more spindly and the grass less lush. We are dropping, throwing away hight and falling into warm air. In 20Km the homes have gone from wide-brimmed high-pitched roofs to almost flat roofed mediterranean style. There is now vineyards at the roadside and trees with fruits of fig and olive. We have a final 300m to drop and it is done almost in one go as we drop into a heat haze. We pick up the D8 bike path to take us to the coast. It is 26′c at 5 in the afternoon and we are in another world from the one we woke up in this morning.
Coasts, we have discovered, are the same the world over. Parting you from your cash is the main objective and it varies little from country to country. The only good point, the thing that is going to save us a little, is that it is the end of the season. We need a shower and the campground is bearable. It would have been hell just a month ago. It is still too expensive, but at least quiet enough to get the 9 hour sleep you need as a touring cyclist. I am worn out from stag night and am asleep by 8.00pm.
It is a very short ride from Ankaran, to the Italian border. We continue around the headland towards Muggia and the view across the bay to Trieste opens up. Muggia is very nice and very Italian. We have already entered the part of the world where ‘ man bags ‘ and lap dogs are everywhere. There is also the prospect of excellent coffee. There are already extravagant flappy handed gestures from the people at the tables around us. We are sitting at a waterfront cafe considering our options.
If you have a fascination for container ports, or are doing a thesis on ribbon development, take the road. If you want a safe and picturesque route in, then for just €4, there is a ferry. We have, in our excitement, broken a rule of touring, and do not have a room booked in a big city. We spend two hours pushing the bikes around the narrow streets. Everywhere is booked out, there is something happening and everyone is in town for it. Just at the point of despair, we get a two night deal on an apartment. It is till expensive, but there are big fluffy white towels to enjoy. I need a rest to recover from this cold. Sitting and people watching ( not sure if that phrase makes me sound creepy ) at wonderful street cafes is all I have the energy for. Trieste with the Dolomites behind it, is beautiful, and full to brimming with history from Roman to Hapsburg and beyond to the World Wars. We will have a walk around in the morning.