There was not a soul who thought it possible when we left our shores. Not a soul thought we would make it beyond a week, let alone 4 weeks, 4 days, 20 hours and 51 minutes. But we did. It began with quiet flicking sounds on a taught canvas, almost minutes apart so as to be indiscernible to the now very much untrained ear.
The celestial contractions, however, began to get closer and closer in time until it became impossible to ignore what this was. I rolled over and shook Francesca (gently, of course):
“Our attempt….It’s over.”
“The world record-breaking attempt to circumnavigate the entire globe on bicycle without a drop of rain falling on our heads…… its over”.
“Oh…… Go back to sleep now.”
And so it was that our world-record attempt came to an end. And in fine fashion too. The rains came and lashed not only our brave tent but also us, and our bikes, throughout the following 13 hours of cycling through the Slovenian Borderlands and southward yet to the clutches of Zagreb and the Croatian heartland.
We are not in the least bit troubled by this. In fact, the extraordinary luck of passing through almost 5 weeks of wintery Europe without a drop of liquid precipitation kissing us, is just that: extraordinary luck. This does not happen in England. In February.
There is a dark side of me that reveled in it. Rain drops streaking competitively down my glasses. As I say, this did not trouble me. It caused some concern to Francesca, who thought this may, however, be impairing my ability to read 60 foot high (and 50 feet wide) road signs that clearly (without rain-soaked glasses, at least) indicated that taking the left fork in the road would entail an adventurous jaunt down the E59 motorway into Zagreb. My stubbornness (and mistake) was properly turned on its head 250m further on with Francesca’s calm but firm words:
“Enough. Stop. This is not the right way. 130km/hr roads are not for us”.
I wiped my glasses and duly made an about turn.
I had promised that this blog entry would include at least some mention of the Austrian Alps, the Sound of Music (Salzburg) and skiing in a little detail but already the newest part of the our adventure is distracting me. We are in the Balkans and fascinated by the lands (currently Croatia) we are passing through and the people we have met, and are continuing to meet.
So, what of Fraulein Maria? I confess to be less enthused by the Sound of Mucus than Francesca. The hills were, however, lovely and alive with wonderful backdrops for our gradual progress down valleys and over passes to lead us to Schladming for a couple of days of skiing. How our bottoms rejoiced at the respite and once neglected muscles enjoyed the outing on the slopes. Francesca was as graceful on the precipitous alpine slopes as she is on her bike and sashayed her way downwards, politely awaiting my tardy and ungainly arrival on a snowboard.
But Western Europe is receding fast now and the Dalmatian Coast is looming large on the horizon. We had thought to jaunt merrily across Bosnia and Hercegovina but enough Croats have laughed at me to know that a coastal route to Greece is much the more sensible course. Bosnia is phenomenally hilly, just look on GoogleEarth if you do not believe me.
The sheer joy of the open road burns ever more intensely for us both as the organized bike-lanes of Holland, Germany and Austria fade in the rear view mirror. Concerns about the arrival of a little rain also seem slight.