Away at 4.30am it was very cold and misty in these expansive plains bordering Bosnia. I had slept cold and started riding in my down jacket under my waterproof just to get warm again. While getting mobile the traffic was intense, boy these people go to work really early. 5 miles down the road a massive queue of traffic. It was then I noticed that these were cars and small trailers, each one with one skinny cow on board. They were small holders waiting to go into a market to sell their animals, farming country in a bygone age.
It seemed a simple existence here, men drove small tractors everywhere. Parked outside bars and shops the family tractor was in constant use, or rotavator, or motorised saw bench. The women all seemed to be armed with hoes, and there was plenty of just sitting around watching the world go by.
Apart from one large chemical works the villages, well ribbons of houses, just merged into one long string. One ended another started, finding some countryside for a pee was a challenge. Signs of raging gun battles still scared many buildings, an eerie feeling imagining the people I could see now being involved in shooting their neighbours. Rakes of machine gun fire along outer walls and then visible in living room plaster, while windows had been repaired, it was wrong to take pictures of this.
I needed some hot meat and a suitable fast food joint allowed some pointing to get me a burger and fries, good value here my £50 worth of Kuna was going to be hard to spend. The mid day temperature again was making it tough but progress was good.
Counting down the miles to CP3 it was looking like a 5pm arrival and despite serveral much needed liquid restocks and the odd distraction it was a plain un eventfull trip into Vukovar.
Afterwards its interesting to see the two approaches to Vukovar (well three if you count those that came South from CP4 in the wrong order) Team 190 on the Hungarian approach arrived about half an hour before me, once again as they are so much faster than me I’m happy in my route choice.
Brevet card stamped and a chat with a lady from Apidura bags and it was time to eat. The food here was fantastic and I eat well, two whole puddings and some lovely green tea.
Team 190 have to eat in their room as they wont allow them to dine in the hotel dressing gowns, shame but whilst I’m seated Team 172 arrive looking very tired and haggered. Over food we have time for better introductions Tim and Neil from London looked like it was taking it out of them, I briefly joked that the top 2 teams now faced a sleep off. Who would surface first and sneak out of the hotel under darkness…..I already new the answer to that, John and Trevor looked in much better shape and had a good routine.
The Hotel Lav looked totally out of character with the whole days experience of this part of Croatia, it looked expensive but who cared. I was booked in and it cost under £20, I could even afford to clear the mini bar but decided just the two bottles of wine as reward for my third stamp was enough. A supermarket next door was too good an opportunity to miss, I had Kuna to dispose off and purchased spare batteries and huge amounts of nuts and food to make sure I could get back on the party line pace tomorrow.
It had been a short day, but the body and clothes needed a reset. I decide on a good rest but not long enough to be distracted by breakfast. I’d arrived at 5pm and the Checkpoint magnet was weaving its spell again.
Lessons learned: Grab a really good restfull stop with both hands and don’t feel guilty about time wasted. Spare clothes are a luxury every rider should carry, 400 grams wont kill you.
The Party Line (187/day for Fri finish): The 143 mile day has now dropped the average down to 190, the line is slowly gaining, the buffer has gone. A fresh start tomorrow has to be grabbed, no sleeping in.
TCR Continued Day 9