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Bosnia, Neum: Cycling in the winter rain

Dearest Dominique, 

Today is the 197th day of my trip. I am currently in Croatia. I can’t show you any photos because my cell phone broke, but I’ll tell you what happened today.

I am so cold right now. I came out of the shower and am now warming up my hands in front of a fan heater the size of my palm. I am now sitting on the bed warming up my feet.

I pledged myself that I would wrap up my bike trip well, after I saw the many videos of traveling bicyclists that the German couple showed me in Dubrovnik. I remembered the Korean folktale of two men who had to strand a straw rope as their last task after working tirelessly for 3 years. When I came to Europe, because it is winter and would be snowing, I had been thinking all this time that I would hitchhike or ride a bus in extreme conditions. But, this winter, I came across traveling bicyclists. Of course, they were heading south, while I was heading north.

I was going to buy a cell phone yesterday. But there are no 128-gbs in Dubrovnik, so I have to buy it in Split, which is a 3-day bike ride away. I used my cell phone for the last time on Monday, and so I’ve been living without it for about 7 days. This may be a good prescription for a cell-phone addict who uses it for 3 hours a day. It’s basically reducing 21 hours of cell-phone usage. How great!

I rode 70 kilos today. It was a relative short distance, but really difficult. I rode 40 kilos in the winter rain. The rain streaks thickened with time. It was the same conditions as the time I went to Skodel.

I saw a sign that indicated the last remaining 16 kilos. I see, a 1-hour distance. Riding in this rain for another one hour. I thought maybe I should rest at that gas station. But, in my experience, on a rainy day, taking a break and then getting back on the bike has always been a toil. I chose to ride as best as I can to Neum. Even with that in mind, it felt too far and cold that I gave into deciding I would take a short break at the next gas station or restaurant or wherever. But I couldn’t see any houses at all. Then I saw an area in the far distance with no rain clouds.

Yesterday, I regretted that I hadn’t bought that water-resistant windbreaker when I went to the intersports with Nico and Katherine.

“I think I can handle it with this windbreaker.”

This is what I told Nico when he handed me the water-resistant jacket. I didn’t listen to him. I plan to not buy any clothes on this trip as much as possible. First of all, it requires money, then the weight I must carry. To own is pain to me. So, I’m still riding with a short sleeve t-shirt, a non-water-resistant summer windbreaker, and a non-water-resistant parka on top. Rain penetrated my parka and even my arms were cold. I told myself that I would buy a water-resistant windbreaker at the next sportswear store I come across.

I kept riding, and I finally came to see the Bosnian border. At passport inspection, my frozen hands took forever pulling down the zipper.

When I arrived at Neum, my destination, my hands and thighs were all “frozen.” Really. I don’t know how else to explain it. My thighs felt like sheets of ice. Riding uphill, then, downhill. When riding downhill with a completely soaked body, you experience excruciating cold caused by head wind. And I rode downhill braking more than necessary because my hands were frozen. Rain-drenched roads. Should I lose my grip with my frozen hands, I could easily fall off the coastline cliff.

I thought I should hurry to my hotel. I was on the verge of catching a cold. But I decided to first call the number I got from Jackie Chan. I went into a restaurant. The waiter said that he couldn’t lend me his phone because it roaming was unavailable. I went to the pharmacy next door, and used the owner’s phone to call Nikola. Nikola told me that because Jackie Chan used up all his hot water during his 3-day stay, he has no hot water. He told me to look for another place to stay.

After I got off my bike, I realized that my pants were wet all the way up to my butt. My entire lower body was drenched in rain. Should my vaginal discharge travel up my uterus and spread throughout my body, I would immediately catch a cold. I had to quickly change my pants. I left the pharmacy and rode more on my bike. About 2 kilos later, a hotel appeared. I wanted to go to a hostel, but now wasn’t the time to worry about rates when I could catch a cold.

I walked through the hotel door. As soon as I opened the door, I saw a restaurant where table were readily set up for a wedding reception. I asked the employee what the room rate was. Seeing the rain-drenched me and perhaps intending to extract a lot of money from me, he didn’t give me an answer but started to call someone on his cell phone.

50 euros per night.

That’s okay, I’ll leave.

Now that I changed my pants, I decided to go out and inquire about rates at other hotels. So I headed out.

40 euros.

The employee said, while following me in haste.

That’s okay, I’ll leave.

What is your budget?

15 euros.

Hmm… Is 20 okay?

Yes.

What a relief. So this is how I found a 20-euro room. The employee showed me inside and served me teach with a blueberry tea bag. He asked me to sit, but I felt uncomfortable with the wedding reception setting, so I just stood by the fan heater. The heater was so weak that I trembled with my hands locked and pranced. I was so cold that I had 3 cups of tea.

Shortly after, the employee’s uncle drove in with a red car and showed me to my room. I can’t believe I rode my bike in the winter rain. This is the type of thing my mother hates most and would call me “as stupid as a donkey” for doing it. The man showed me to my room. I stayed at a hotel for the last time on October 23, which means that I stayed at homes of locals for a whole month and 3 weeks. Wow.

The very first thing I wanted to do was to shower, but the hot water was unavailable – the water heater would not turn on. Plus there was no shampoo. I took a cup downstairs to the first floor for some shampoo, and he squeezed some into the cup. Then he taught me how to turn on the water heater.

I came back and turned on the water heater. In my experience, you must wait more than 20 minutes for the water to be heated, and the arrow must pass the center and point to the right. I came bak to my room, and ate an apple and an egg very deliciously in front of a 15cm fan heater. It was my first meal after my 8 am breakfast. I was slowly becoming a camel. There are times when I would eat at 7 in the morning and then at 7 in the evening. I usually eat chocolate until I arrive at my destination. Because my bike lacks a stand, I have to take a bite of my chocolate and put it back in within a minute or so before I take off. I don’t even drink water because I don’t want to drink cold water when it’s cold, and also because I don’t want to pee.

Do you see that little fan heater?

After waiting for as long as I could, I showered. Wow, the feeling of hot water warming a cold body. As I had expected, hot water came out in only a specific amount. Shortly after, hot water ran out and lukewarm water came out. This is my first time at a room so cold. The only heating device is this super small, palm-sized fan heater. After my shower, I put on my clothes, and now I am warming myself up to the fan heater, changing my position every 10 minutes or so – east, west, etc. The opening of the fan heater is so tiny that I have to warm up my thighs one at a time. You don’t know much I miss the warm floors and electric heat pads in Korea.

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