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Croatia, Dubrovnik: the second hardest day

Written on December 14th

Dearest Dominique,

I think today was the second hardest day.

The way from Kotor to Dubrovnik had to be halved into two days. I left at 8:40 in the morning and arrived at around 6:40. I rode approximately 110 kilometers today.

The most difficult section today was the last 14 kilometers. It was long after the sunset and so very dark. Then, the cars driving ahead of me began to go up. Oh my god. A mountain? I’m almost here and a mountain? A mountain in this darkness? I had to pull myself together. I decided to go up without stopping. If I were to get off the bicycle because I’m tired, it would be extremely difficult to maintain balance on an incline, and wobbling on the road in the dark can cause accidents. Ahh, but there was no end to this incline. I resented God. It was just too much. This resentment type thing piled up inside me. I was ready to start cussing. I couldn’t go up anymore, so I got off the bike and walked it. Ah, should I have asked for a bed in the village passed on my way here? I had to find a place to sleep at Dubrovnik anyway. With a lost phone, I couldn’t call my host, and so I couldn’t guarantee myself a bed tonight.

I knew I was wearing a frown on my face. My face was filled with frustration and pain. That face you make when asked to make a painful face expression.

When I was exhausted from an incline in the dark in Tbilisi, Ga-nam was with me. Ga-nam rode ahead of me and kept pace. But this time, I had to take this on all alone.

A crosswalk appeared, and I thought I saw a downhill beyond it. Ahh, finally. I’ve jumped my hurdle. I happily changed my gear. But, what the hell. As I traveled downhill, I came across another uphill. I felt as though my patience was being tested. A sign appeared. The sign looked like a switchback mark. This can’t be. But when I really got to the top of the incline, I saw a summit much higher than where I was. Car headlights in the distance were traveling downward from high above. I was devastated. Then, my built-up resentment went off. My eyes were crying tears. This is too hard. This is too much. I bawled. I let my tears flow. I was walking my bike even as I cried. I couldn’t stop. The oncoming cars flashed their headlights directly at me and my bike and passed me by. They may have seen my tears but because they had to maintain their speed at 50 kilos, they couldn’t stop to speak to me. The cars traveling from behind me passed by with their wide range headlights turned on thinking there’s a foreign object ahead of them. Eventually when there were no cars around, there were only two lights. The crescent moon shining down at a 60-degree angle in the west. And my headlight. It was dark everywhere. To the right of me was a mountain; to the left was the open Mediterranean Sea. But the night was so dark that no horizon divided the sky and the sea. I was able to recognize the sea from the clouds that casted their shadows down onto the sea. When my tears dried out, I traveled up the incline with a straight face. Yes, the last incline. Finally, finally. The lights of Dubrovnik began to shine. Beautiful castle walls appear, too.

I entered the city. I saw residential areas, and everything was dark. I had to hurry, and find wifi and a place to sleep. I traveled quite a distance and found a gas station. I parked my bike in the front, washed my hands in the bathroom, and asked the front counter if they had wifi. I was told that connection was very weak, and that there is a café 400 meters away. I had a feeling that tonight would be a long one.

I went down the street as I was told. The road was closed due to construction, and I walked my bike on a sidewalk to the crowded downtown area. I was starving. After eating breakfast at 7 am, I had only three pieces of 85% cacao chocolate. I saw a man eating a hamburger, and I ordered a chicken burger at the hamburger restaurant he owned. I was the only customer and befriended this man named Domaguy. He let me use his store computer. I sent a message to Michelle, who had agreed to let me sleep over. After that, I browsed nearby hostels. If Michelle failed to respond, my plan was to go to a hostel. The store was very cold because it open in all directions, and I tried to warm my hands on the pan where chicken was grilled. The chicken burger carefuly prepared by Domaguy was ready, and I enjoyed it very much with the exception of one bread. He felt bad for me as I trembled from the cold, and offered me mint tea. I found out that Croatia used a currency called Kuna. I didn’t have any local currency – he exchanged my 10 euros with 73 kunas and charged me 3 kunas. When I still hadn’t received a response from Michelle, I decided to go to a hostel. I was told that there is a hostel across the street from the hamburger place, but there wasn’t, so I went to the 365-day hostel I passed by on my way here, but they were closed.

As soon as I returned, Domaguy asked what happened, and I sighed and told him that I need to ride a long way out. A man holding a wine glass who heard our conversation (wow, a wine glass at a hamburger joint! And wow, middle-aged me ordering wine at a shack like this!) suggested in english that I go to this hostel.

"But sir, this is the lowest area. And the location of it is unclear. If I can’t find this place, I would be taking a long detour to the hotel I reserved."

The man showed me the location of the hostel he was referring to via Google Street View. I thought, “sure why not?” and decided to follow his suggestion. I said my goodbye, walked my bike over to the construction area, and rode over to the seashore. Then I found the location the man spoke of. The hostel was dark. It looked like it was closed but I decided to cross the street to see it more clearly. Right then,

“Are you by any chance a Warmshowers member?”

A man in the passenger seat of a car asked while coming to a stop beside me.

“Yes, I am.”

“This is a car road, so come over there”

Speaking to this stranger, I was 70% worried, whether this man could help me, and with 30% hope, I walked my bike over to the bus stop where the man halted his car.

“My name is Niksa.”

Niksa! How amazing. Niksa is the name of the Warmshowers host in Dubrovnik that Hans and Elsa recommended. But I couldn’t find Niksa’s name on Warmshowers, and so I ended up relying on CouchSurfing. Knowing the man was Niksa, I was relieved. Inside the car was a German couple, and they were also travelers on bicycle.

“My house is very close. I will drive my car very slowly, so please follow me.”

I couldn’t believe my luck and this coincidence. Following him, I rode my bike on this beautiful, picturesque portside by the sea onto which lights reflected. After about 1.5 kilometers, the gate to his home appeared. The German couple helped me carry my bike into the garden. Ah, now I am safe. I am thankful. God was great. The chance of Niksa and me running into each other on the street is bare. Niksa said that for some reason, his shopping took longer than usual and that this was some coincidence.

me, Katerine,  Nico, and Niksa
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