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Stage 34

Croatia and Bosnia

Croazia, Bosnia

Great Venture
Great Venture

The 12-hour Jadrolinija ferry ride from Ancona (Italy) to Split (Croatia) was okey. The Adriatic Sea was calm so the ride was smooth. The ferry arrived at Split Harbour at 8am. I got on my bike and rode to the immigration. Border crossing was smooth and easy. The customs asked for Croatia’s Green Card which I didn’t have. The one that I had didn’t cover Balkan countries. I lied to him saying that the GC was in the bag which I strapped on the pillion seat and it would be troublesome to take it out (a method taught by adv-rider friends to me….LOL). Looking at the long lines of vehicles behind me, the officer waved me off. Yeayyy, it worked.
Split city was exactly as I saw it in 2010. Nothing had changed. I rode along the coast to the south of the country. Too bad that it was a cloudy day, so I couldn’t enjoy the blue Adriatic Sea.

The road was quite narrow and winding and went up down up down along the way. On my left was the mountain and on my right was the sea. Most of the time the road I was riding on was higher and the sea was down below the cliff. It would have been very beautiful if the sun didn’t hide itself behind the clouds. As this was my 2nd time in Croatia and I had covered most of the country before, I didn’t intend to spend any night here but rode straight to Bosnia. I crossed the border at Metkovic. It was a very small border and the border post was a toll plaza kinda office. I didn’t have to get down from my bike. Everything was settled at the window. I needed to hand over my passport and GD’s registration document to the officer and it was done in less than 10 minutes. Bosnia too was a second time visit for me. Bosnia is a small country in the Balkans which was once ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1463 – 1878.

My plan was to ride straight, crossing the smallest part of this country and after that cross into Montenegro. However, I changed my mind due to a request from a Malaysian traveller who asked to meet me in Mostar. The ride into Mostar was okey. The road was so-so. I had to ride in some unlit tunnels. It was very dark. Nearing Mostar, the view of green Neretva River came into sight. It wasn’t difficult for me to find the hostel which I booked via Airbnb. About 1 hour later, Menk Mahawangsa, the Msian traveller, came to meet me. Menk was a famous backpacker icon in Msia. At such a young age, he had travelled solo to many countries and it’s always long term traveling. His epic solo travel was overland from Msia to UK, to the place where he once lived when he was a little boy. He managed to find the same house. It was interesting to hear his story. We had lunch together and after that we walked to the Old Bridge, Stari Most.  There were too many tourists and it was very crowded everywhere.

I noticed lots of differences in Mostar now compared to 6 years back. It was December 2010, winter, when I first came here. The old city was deserted. Perhaps it was off season, so there were very few tourists at that time. It was very cold then, and stalactites of ice could be seen dangling from the tree branches. Part of the Neretva River surface was frozen and there weren’t many souvenir shops, only some along Kujundziluk. At that time, I really felt the effects of a post-war city with the stillness and the quietness around me, and I drowned myself in the emotions while walking from tombstone to another tombstone in the many cemeteries, feeling sad on how young the Mostarians lost their lives during the war. But now, the old city was so lively and full of people. Lots of cafes, bars, shops, loud music and everything. It’s good for the economy, but I somehow felt that it had lost its charm as a post-war city. The war museum and mosques which were free to enter last time were now not free anymore. Everything had its price. The only thing remained the same was the very green Neretva River.

During my time here, both Menk and I managed to visit some old mosques and we climbed up a minaret to enjoy the view of the old city. From above, we could see that the right side of the old city belonged to the Christian Croat community and the left side belonged to the Muslim Bosnian community. They had a long complicated history with each other but now they lived in peace. They learnt well from the unpleasant bitter past. We also walked from cemeteries to cemeteries. Graveyards were the norm here. Effects of war could be seen everywhere. Mostarians preserved the war proof as they didn’t want to forget what had happened here in 1993, and during the previous wars. Bosnia went through three major wars in the past hundred years. The First World War in the early 1900’s, Second World War in the mid 1900’s and Bosnian War in 1993.

After 5 hours walking and chatting, it was time for Menk to go back to Sarajevo. We were not aware of the time as we had so much fun talking to each other as if we had been friends for a long time. I felt at ease with this young man who is a funny guy, yet mature and wise despite his young age. I guessed traveling made him into such a man, as traveling has moulded me in becoming who I am today. Goodbye Menk. Good luck in all your future business + travel plans you have in mind. I hope to meet you again someday. The next day, I left Mostar and rode to the Bosnia – Montenegro border. It was a fun ride with lovely views, the green Neretva River, sheep, some twisties and some straights.

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