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OPWT2 DIARY - DAYS 18 - 20

OPWT2 DIARY - DAYS 18 - 20

DAY 18 – Rogoznica to Dobrovnik

I have no idea why but just looking at the shape of the word ‘Dubrovnik’ makes me think of Peter Ustinov.  I’ve just checked and the two of them have absolutely no discernible connection so where that notion comes from is a complete mystery. Dubrovnik (also known in my head as Ustinov) is one of those places I’ve read about, heard about but never seriously thought I’d visit let alone ride there all the way from the UK on a couple of motorbikes.

The ride down from Rogoznica took us down more of the coastal highway that hugs the coast before taking you to the Nevrata Delta – a flat, agricultural plain where olives and, famously, mandarins are grown – it looks like a sea of paddy fields with channels of water interspersing plots of land like a gigantic chessboard of various allotment size pieces of land with trees and crops of various types in various stages of cultivation.

We see a sign for a Winery and Olivery (made up word but you get the idea) right before the amazingly beautiful and elegant Pelješac Bridge which provides a link from south eastern Croatia to the rest of the country while bypassing the need to cross the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina who have a tiny strip of the coast just here. The bridge really is a wonderful piece of engineering and towers high above the straights below.  Overlooking this is the Terra Madre winery which, when all is said and done, is a truly spectacular place to have anything – let alone a winery. Put a dentist, smear test centre or even an income tax investigation office in the same place and they would be the most voluntarily frequented and visited examples of their type anywhere in the world. Awesome.

We rode down a 2km gravel track that runs across a ridge leading to the Winery Building – the track offers glimpses of the bridge, channel, sea and delights to come and arriving at the winery itself is like being given the chance to visit the lair of a highly sophisticated James Bond villain with a first class combined honours degree in architecture and interior design.  We wafted up the stairs onto the terrace and simply gawped – two dusty bikers, massively out of place in a place where surely only the rich, famous, fabulously beautiful or plug ugly (and possibly all four at once) would dare to show their faces and tread the hallowed boards.

After a good five minute gawp we headed into the bar, deserted apart for an achingly cool sound track of some sort of Croatian/Ibizan/Lounge mix gently massaging the chandeliers and oozing like the smell of oud around you loosening the wallet with every bar. This felt like it was going to be expensive. If you haven’t smelt oud, it’s basically the smell of Dubai where, I’m sure, they rip up $50 dollar bills doused in oud and throw them into the air conditioning so the whole place stinks of money. Officially, Oud is described as “Warm and earthy, oud is known for its signature woody profile. These scents are home to rich, leathery notes coupled with a subtle smokey accent – and, much like musk or amber fragrances, oud fragrances are treasured for their aromatic intensity.” In other words – Money. Lots of Money. So much you could bathe in it which is what this Winery was doing in spades.

We called a gentle, “Hallooo… two dusty bikers from England here – anyone there?” The loveliest, most charming, welcoming and handsome chap appeared and could not have been more charming, handsome, welcoming or lovely – it was like he was oud personified and made real. He was completely alone in the place as today was the very first day they had been open for the season and they really weren’t expecting anyone to make the journey down the track. His name was Marko Markota, 28, with a Masters Degree in Organic Agriculture and not in the slightest bit 007 villanous. We told him of our quest to talk to farmers and growers about climate change and he apologised and said there was no one there to talk to us but if we emailed he was sure they would be delighted to contribute. 

Instead, he told us his story of where he and his family farmed down on the Nevrata Delta – Olives and Mandarins – and we went through our five questions with him and you can read his poignant and detailed answers elsewhere. He was the highlight of our day and we rode on towards Dubrovnik feeling we had met someone with real insight, understanding and knowledge about the situation in the region and elsewhere.

Later, that following morning, having arrived in Ustinov (Dubrovnik) we emailed the contact he had given us at the winery as follows:

Good Morning
We called in to your wonderful winery yesterday as we were passing on way to Dubrovnik.  We are on a 90 day research trip around Europe investigating how the changes to climate are affecting the harvests of various crops – mainly olives but vines also.

We met Marko who was charming and extremely helpful – apparently, yesterday was your first day open for the season and Marko said we were the first people to call in.

I’d be very grateful if you could help us with some answers to the questions we are asking as many growers, farmers, producers and people we meet as possible to get an accurate picture of how people on the ground feel about climate and the future. 

I have attached a brief outlining who we are and why we are doing this
We did ask Marko the same questions and he gave us answers more pertaining to his own experience with his family’s olives and mandarins which was very useful but we would really like your perspective from the vineyards point of view.

Anyhow, I do hope you can help and I look forward to hearing from you.
Very best wishes and kind regards

Giles & Annie etc.

After a follow up email as we didn’t get a response first time around, we got this response which we’ve decided to publish in full as it does add to the overall picture. Here it is exactly as received:

Hello there and thanks for Your visit yesterday.

We are not here to discuss the climate problems so we would prefer not to answer since we can not have an affect on it. We think You should discuss that with people that are involved in this area of interest, 

We are here to serve wine, show our production and make You feel fabulous at our winery, we would be happy to have You again here.



Komarna9, 20356 Komarna-Klek


I guess that told us. Not everyone, it seems, wants to engage, which, in itself, is as telling as anything else we’re discovering.


DAY 19 – Dubrovnik

Having managed to actually ride all the way to this iconic city, we couldn’t just stay the night and move on so we’re staying put for a day to go and see inside this ancient walled city that had seen off the Ottomans in the 1400s but had suffered so much during the 1991 siege.

Two things about Dubrovnik, the walled city is very much down at sea level, the rest of it isn’t. Our digs were around 300 feet up clinging to the hillside with not one but two main roads above our heads. We plunged down an endless flight of stairs and ended up on one of the arterial roads carrying us ancient city wards. We followed the buttressed walls until we got to Pile Gate and, strolling through the city walls we thought we might have the place more or less to ourselves as this is nowhere near the start of even the lowliest of the low seasons. Not only were we slightly misplaced in our thinking we were about as far out as Thomas Watson, President of IBM was when he said, in 1943, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

The place was rammed, from one wall to another – barely enough space to slip a rizla between the shoulders of, what turned out to be, a massive influx of Viking Cruise passengers, “Having Dubrovnik Done To Them”. The guides have around 20-30 in each flock or gaggle – all following a dark red paddle held aloft by the never silent guide with the number of their particular gaggle. We saw Viking Star Paddle numbers 15,18,19, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 35, 73 and ever onwards up to 7 gazzilion it seemed.  All Bluetooth ear-pieced into the guide who would speak in one language and it instantly be broadcast in the language of choice directly in the ears of the following flock like some weird babel fish – every single one of them slack jawed and mesmerised as if brainwashed by the constant dribble of “stuff” from the babel fish earpieces. No one listened to the actual guide speaking actual words. Why would you when you had your choice of Korean, Japanese, Gaelic, Welsh, Icelandic, Norwegian, Norse or Australian drummelled into your brain with no time to think or absorb before being washed along to the next “bit” of the tour. A couple of times we stood a little too still for a moment and got swept up by a group moving with the same inexorable motion that the tides or Severn Bore has – you can’t fight it, you just have to try to swim diagonally across it to a distant shore and hope that you’ll be washed into a side street while the rest of the wave moves on. Tuesday Dubrovnik. Wednesday X, Thursday Y. Which is probably what the inhabitants feel when they see another 9 or 10 story behemoth hove into view to disgorge another bunch of babel fish. Why?

Not a fan of cruises and what they seem to do to places.

Anyhow, Dubrovnik is a wonderful place and an interesting city to simply get lost in.  It is not a place for the faint of wallet. Damn, is it expensive – everything costs. A lot. We needed lunch but had been warned that prices were way, way over anything else anywhere in Croatia. I had spied a restaurant situated in the old Armoury of the town which looked lovely but pricey. 

Someone once advised that it is always good practice to waltz into a place like you own it and have a god given right not just to be there but be the one there like you is ‘the man’ (and lady man, obvs). So we sashayed through the place with a Stayin’ Alive swagger and strut that felt gooood but probably looked like we’d got a nasty rash somewhere sweaty. However, an immaculately groomed and dressed waiter glided over to us without seemingly moving his legs – it was like he was on some sort of monorail – he just arrived and slid to a halt with an ever so slight, ‘click’, however, his momentum carried him forward to a sway of 30 degrees off vertical  before returning to the upright, asked, in the nicest of tones, “Lunch? Sir and Madaaaaarrruuum?”

“Well, that’s a jolly nice idea,” said us, “We were looking on your website last night and thinking this would be a lovely place for dinner so thought we’d pop in and see how it looked.” Brazen.

“Of course, let me summon, Arrrndreaaaa, our Front of House Reservational Operations  Manager to see what we have.” A flick of the fingers and Andrea’s head swivelled like an owl through 180 degrees, gave us the swift up and down before the rest of her body, clearly having  decided we might be worth pursuing what her eyes had seen, caught up with the swivel and the monorail delivered her to us – crisp white shirt ironed with creases so sharp you could carve a chicken with them.

“Let me see what we have,” she said, in honeyed tones, never once apparently digesting or even observing the clothes we were clearly not wearing, but the ones we were – jeans, trainers and a fair amount of stubble (me, not Annie).

“If you come back at 6, I can fit you in – second row only. Not front to sea.” Ah, so she had seen the attire. She stopped before the obviously thought, “You too fugly for front row to sea.” Way too polite and very, very good at her job.

“Well,” said we, “it’s a possibility.” We said with a degree of calibrated chutzpah.

At which point, Andrea’s hand slipped into a pocket we hadn’t noticed in her very well tailored and close fitting dark trousers and out came a discreetly offered and palmed, with lowered honey tones and a conspiratorial nod to the trainers, “Discount card. Big money off.” She then mounted the monorail and slid off to greet some good lookers at the other entrance.

We departed like we owned the joint – rash disappeared and strut back in place and, having given it a decent interval of at least 15 minutes, went back and had a really lovely lunch (second row to sea) but with big money off. Result. We like Dubrovnik. We like Andrea.


DAY 20 – Dubrovnik to Kotor (Montenegro) – 53 Miles

Somehow, riding to the border with Croatia and Montenegro feels very grown up and like the sort of thing other people do, not me and Annie on a couple of battered old bikes that have seen most of their best summers. Setting off from our eyrie in Dubrovnik it was wet and drizzly making the roads slick and greasy so we slithered our way ever upwards to meet the main road that would take us to the border.

Rain easing, roads drying, we were able to dry out a bit and begin to relish the ride and take in the scenery which, if you really want to know what it’s like, get on a bike and ride down here yourselves – you won’t regret it – its every bit as stunning as I’ve not described it.

Rounding a bend we came up behind a stationary lorry and a queue of traffic.  Being on bikes has it’s advantages so we nipped past them only to realise we were at the border already – no signage, no fanfare, no one greeting us with flags and bunting – instead we had Pulova, the non smiling border lady (don’t know her real name but she did make us pull over so it seems apt).

“Passport”. I handed over our passports. Not a glimmer from Pulova.

“Papers for Bike.” I handed over our logbooks. Still not a glimmer.

“Bayemvay?” She barked through the little square window with arched eyebrows that had been sketched on some distance above her own in some form of Balkan black tippex making her look exceedingly fierce.

Now, my language skills are not the best so I really wasn’t sure if this was the point to slip a little something into the passports and hand them back or have another go. I went with another go.

“Oprosti! Bayemvay?”

Oprosti equates to ‘Sorry’ in Serbo Croat – always wise to have the apologetic words nailed on. (another good one is: molim te prestani me udarati gumenom palicom – look it up on google translate, I’m not doing all the work here.)

 “Da. Make of Motorbike.”

 “Oh! Bay Em Vay! Yes! Da! BMW!”

I hadn’t realised the flaps on our tank bags obscured that iconic circular BMW Logo on our tanks (Useless and nerdy fact: the logo was developed in 1917 to echo the design of the chequered Bavarian Flag and BMW stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke) I lifted a flap to show her the blue and white circle and Pulova changed in an instant, beamed and became almost girlishly skittish as she merrily hammered the stamp into our passports with some seriously Balkan looking biceps and said, conspiratorially and leaning close to the window of the border cubicle,

“Bay Em Vay veeeery sexy machines. I like veeeeery much. Welcome to Montenegro!”

And with that we were pulled over no more and with a cheerful wave from Pulova before she reset the eyebrows back to the default position we’d seen on arrival of Seriously Pissed Off in readiness to welcome the waiting camper van behind us, we were through and onto the roads of Montenegro. Less than 5 minutes. Pulova was a sweetie.

Entering a new country and riding its roads for the first time is always a nervy hour or two – you have to get used to the new “enemy” and how they not only drive but view folk on two wheels and reset your own driving techniques and hazard awareness sensors. We didn’t need the full two hour acclimatisation and we very rapidly reset the sensors to Maximum: Everything Everywhere All At Once Aiming For You. Cripes but you need your wits about you in this place. Scenery, amazing I’m sure but full concentration is required as everything is literally coming at you all at once – other vehicles from both in front and behind, livestock of all species deciding it wants a piece of you, even the road surface can change from unctuously smooth tarmac like it was freshly ironed with one of those really good steam irons to rounding a bend at a reasonable, but sensible, pace to find they’d dug up the road and planted it with potatoes or some such – either way this was a challenge until we relaxed into it.

This went on for some lovely, scary, hairy miles and kilometres until we reached Herci Noveg and the entry to the Bay of Kotor – whilst that sounds a little like The Island of Fodor from Thomas the Tank Engine, this was nothing like. The mountains around this weaving and intricate bay reach almost 3,300 feet or 1000 metres above sea level where the road that we were on is. Steep and aggressive they plunge down to the waters edge where the road has been carved out making for a wonderfully scenic ride with ever opening vistas but, glancing upwards, I couldn’t help the feeling that the mountains felt very much like a group of Kong like Gorillas, squatting on their haunches and staring down at the tiny humans crawling along tiny roads on and in tiny vehicles and just waiting to be groomed.

Once saw a troop of baboons where, the dominant males would simply present themselves in a squatting position, knees up, legs splayed at ten to two, mansplaining style, with their arms held like a T Rex and just wait to be groomed by a passing lesser baboon – male or female. These mountains felt, to me, just like that. I had in my head that the gorillas were saying in a Ray Winstone, proper, full on, geezer gangster voice, “Go on then. Scratch my balls… Aaaand… Wait for it. Check me for nits and feed them to me. One by chuffing one.”

I checked with Annie to see if she saw anything similar. She didn’t. She saw lovely mountains and poppies by the roadside, sparkly, dappled waters and shore side tavernas with shady bars and tinkly glasses. I had Gorillas voiced by Ray Winstone having their bollocks scratched.

Lovely hotel – right on the water’s edge overlooked by Ray and his chums. Went to sleep and dreamt of the Fat Controller marshalling livestock at Whipsnade. Funny things, brains.


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