From Pula to Cres

From Pula we cycled eastward towards Labin.  We were heading for the island of Cres but needed to stay the night on the mainland before catching the ferry.  We decided to take the roads and try to make good time rather than look for cycle paths and coastal roads.  It turned out to be a good choice because the roads were good, easy to cycle and not too busy.  
One of the villages we passed through. I think it was Glavani.
We stopped in Barban for lunch and I had grilled pork and Blitvic.  The waitress spoke Italian but not English and Enzo couldn’t remember the English word for the vegetable, so knowing only that it was a green I thought I couldn’t go too far wrong.  It turned out to be cooked spinach, or something similar, served with lots of garlic.  It was a really good lunch and terrific value at around £7. 

As we departed it began to rain so we donned our wet weather gear and carried on to Labin.  From Barban we took a long downhill which was exhilarating, but followed by a hard slog uphill to Labin.  The last section to Labin old town was excruciating, and required I get off and push.  In the rain.  We took refuge in a café and looked at our accommodation options.  Feeling cold and miserable I ordered a hot chocolate and was pleasantly surprised to find it was one of the one’s like you used to get as Scopa in Wellington, thick and chocolatey.  I considered it good payment for the gruelling climb.  There was a room nearby but it was 60 Euro for the night and we didn’t really want to pay that much.  Fortunately, at the last minute Terry got a reply from a couchsurfing host in a village nearby.  So we packed up and headed out.  

Unfortunately it was still raining and getting dark very quickly.  I had to cycle between Enzo and Terry to see where I was going.  Terry lent me a head lamp but between the rain on my glasses, oncoming car lights, flashing rear lights and cars from behind I struggled to see anything.  This was the worst piece of cycling I have done so far, and I hope not to repeat it.  When we reached our destination I found that my little front light had filled with water and couldn’t be opened to drain, nor could we turn it off when it turned itself on later in the evening, and I had to abandon it in Krsan.

We arrived in the village of Krsan and followed the directions of our host, Vinco, which basically consisted of find the market and ask for me, everyone knows me and they’ll tell you where to go.  We did eventually find his house, after being invited to shelter under a verandah by two random strangers.  Vinco was a great host and showed us where we could put all our wet things and dry off before taking us to the supermarket in his car so we wouldn’t have to get any wetter.  We got back and Terry again made a lovely risotto while I got out of my cold wet shoes and had a shower.  We had a nice dinner and waited for Vinco to come down and join us for an Istrian beer, but he never came down and at 10pm, exhausted, we went to bed.  It turned out in the morning that he had been waiting for us to come up to him.

The next morning we had breakfast and I dried my shoes and gloves with a hair dryer, then we headed off to catch the 1.30 ferry from Brestova.  Vinco said the ride from Krsan to Brestova wasn’t too bad, mostly flat but with a steep downhill at the end.  I think he was a little too optimistic.  It started raining again as we left and very shortly after my shoes were soaked through again.  We made it to the ferry with about 15 minutes to spare.  There were very few people on the ferry, and we ordered a hot drink and sat down and tried to dry off.
The guys in their styley wet weather gear.
The trip was quite short, only about 20 minutes, and we were on the island of Cres.  We donned out wet wet-weather gear again and started up the hill.  It took about an hour and a half to get about quarter of the way to Cres town since it was pretty much all uphill in the lowest gear.  After that it did improve a little, but by then my feet were freezing, I was cold, and the crosswinds were in danger of blowing me off my bike, so I found it very difficult to admire the striking views of the steely grey sea and stormy sky.  After we reached 500m altitude it was back down to sea level to Cres town.
Half way up the hill.  Smiling through gritted teeth.
There we were met by our Airbnb host, an Italian guy named Nicola, who lead us to his house in the old part of town.  It was very much like Venice in that the houses were very close together and there were no road to speak of, just the spaces between the buildings.  The house was the second oldest house in the town and the rooms had wooden shutters on the outsides of the windows that you needed to use to block out the light overnight.  
My room was the third floor on the left.
Unfortunately, for some reason despite my repeated requests for three beds we were presented with two doubles.  They guys were very courteous and agreed to sleep in one room, leaving me with a room to myself.  The house was very tall and narrow with two small rooms on each floor and the kitchen on the ground floor.  Our host was very friendly and chatty in the evening and recommended a restaurant we should go to that he and his friend were also going to that night.  So we showered and headed out.

The restaurant was a small little place just across the other side of the town, about a 5 minute walk away.  The guys ordered calamari, and I ordered chicken after a process of elimination when my first two choices were not available.  The food was good and we had a couple of shots of local liquers afterwards, one of honey and one of pear.  At £1.10 a glass I almost wished I had a day to spend hungover!


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