Day 9: Neum, Bosnia to Split, Croatia

Day 9: Neum, Bosnia to Split, Croatia

"...I never would have believed that the four of us would have completed the 92 miles together today, all arriving in our own power, but we did."

by Donald Hess

We got off to a later start than planned. Although not mentioned explicitly in Patrick's last post, we still had lingering GI illnesses that actually worsened overnight, hitting me and Justin a second time. I had to leave our dinner early, and, when it became apparent that I was becoming very sick, Patrick recommended azithromycin, which I started. Patrick had packed a wide variety of medications for the trip, which was now coming in handy. 

In the morning, Patrick was feeling fine so he ran errands, first to the market for more water, juice, and toilet paper (we had run out!), then the pharmacy, where he talked (actually mimed) his way into a new supply of azithromycin. Before he could leave, the pharmacist insisted that he take probiotics, oral rehydration solution, and Paracetamol. Justin woke up feverish, so Motrin and Paracetamol helped, but it was becoming apparent that he was getting worse, so Justin started antibiotics too. From what Patrick could hear through the relatively thin bathroom door, we (especially I) were losing a lot of fluids, so he supervised us as we drank the rehydration solution. We also ate bananas and melon and slowly came back to life. 

We left our dystopian apartment complex and were on the road a little after 8.

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

We thought we would cross the border and take stock of how we felt once in Croatia. It was nice to be outside. The cool morning breeze, as we cycled, helped evaporate the sweat from the fevers. We were quickly at the border and things seemed to be OK. We had a 90-mile ride with 8000 total feet of climbing ahead, but, as you can see, nothing too terrible. 

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

We hadn't been able to fill our tires for a few days and we all felt that our tire pressures were getting low, so we planned to stop at a gas station in the morning.

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jerseys

Although we had purchased an adaptor for the gas station air pumps while in Greece, it didn't work in Croatia. While stopped, we saw a market across the street and thought it would be a good place to get breakfast. While riding across the United States, we did breakfasts very well. Every small town had a diner, and we were able to get eggs, pancakes, coffee, and ham almost every day. This is not the case in the Balkans. There seem to be no restaurants open early and certainly nothing like a diner. Also, markets are often just convenience stores, as was this one this morning, and this was our breakfast.

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

It was at this point that we noticed Justin was not looking good, but he assured us he was fine to ride. We continued on until there was a scenic overview in the town of Gradac and pulled off the road for pictures as the pressure of the blog was weighing on me. Usually, Justin is good for pictures from the road, but as he was not feeling well, I could see he was not taking any. 

The views here are the views the entire day were spectacular. We had granite peaks to our right and the Adriatic with the islands of Hvar and Baci in the distance.

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

After taking this picture, Justin took a turn for the worse, apologized to us, and told us he was too sick to ride. He did not look good and none of us could imagine him riding another 60 miles to Split. We biked a little bit until we saw what appeared to be a bus station across from a gas station. The gas station attendant spoke English and said the bus to Split should be coming soon. We bought more drinks and waited at the bus station. While waiting, Justin also tried to hitchhike, although we thought it would be unlikely with a bike, and no one responded. When the bus finally came, it was cash only and they did not accept euros, which we had, but wanted Croatian Kuna. We tried to be persuasive and the driver relented, but when we tried to put the bike under the bus, there was not enough room on either side. The luggage compartments closed, the door closed, and the bus pulled away. 

Feeling defeated, we regrouped. By this time, Justin felt slightly better and we set our sights on Makarska, 40 km further along, where there would be direct buses to Split. Just was game to try. Dave continued to lead in a slow but steady pace, and miles began to click by. 

Despite the group's illnesses, the cycling today as unanimously excellent. There were great climbs of only a modest grade with a terrific payback on the downhills. The roads curved, gently hugging the sides of the mountains, and very often you could see the road many miles in the distance, often across a bay, which gave us confidence in our speeds.

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9 Pactimo Custom Cycling Jersey

When we reached Makarska, Justin was feeling a little better and we were hungry, but to better control what we ate, we bought lunch from a supermarket as we had done almost every day on S2B. We bought sliced turkey and Swiss with a loaf of bread for sandwiches, oranges, chocolate milk, and chocolate soy milk. We were able to use a table at the adjoining bar that seemed part of the supermarket. The idea of this seemed strange, but we saw an older man enter the store, buy lettuce and then sit down, drink a beer, and smoke a cigarette before heading home.

After lunch, we only had about 40 miles to go and at a restrained pace, Justin felt he could do it. 

We took one more break half way to replenish fluids and was talked into what we were told all Corations drink, Cedevita.

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

Even though it was basically Kool-aid with the sheen of healthiness (Fresh Dose of 9 Vitamines!), we each had two and were happy for the fluids. 

Dave led us into Split, where we were accompanied by some kids on bikes doing tricks. 

When we finally made it to the apartments (beautiful choice, Command Central!), I would never have believed that the four of us would have completed the 92 miles together today, all arriving on our own power, but we did. 

We all showered. Justin went immediately to bed, and Dave, Patrick, and I went to explore the old city before dinner. Split is gorgeous, famous for Diocletian's Palace, erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century. 

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

We walked along the Riva, which was bustling. 

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

The architecture was so beautiful that Dave and Patrick couldn't help trying to take the perfect shot. 

Athens to Amsterdam Day 9

We brought back pizza fro Just as well as food for the morning (Siggi's yogurt!) and got ready for bed. 

Reflecting on the day, it was the length of the ride, less than a century, and the gentle climbs, no greater than a few hundred feet, that made us able to complete it, despite not being at our best.

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Athens to Amsterdam - Donald HessDonald is a minimally invasive surgeon at Boston University and is the director of the surgery residency program. He first became interested in distance athletics when he was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. It was there that he was introduced to triathlons, completed his first marathon, and went on to do a full ironman (Ironman California 2000). He has lived in Boston for the past 19 years where he has completed over 15 marathons including 6 Boston marathons, many half-ironman distance triathlons and countless adventure races. He first thought of attempting a cross country bike ride after participating in the 148-mile Harpoon Brewery to Brewery ride in 2008, and rode across the U.S. in 2014 from Seattle to Boston with Dave and Justin.