The ferry ride was notable only for the fact that I slept out on deck. What with the wind and the motion and the engine noise I didn’t get much sleep, but it was a treat to watch Ancona disappearing into the distance, the lights of the little fishing boats, a storm on the horizon, day breaking, the Croatian coast getting closer and other ferries sailing past in the dark.

James hadn’t had a whole lot of sleep either so the first thing we did on arriving into Zadar was load up on coffee and delicious pastries, and it was a good job we did or one of us might have lost their temper when we discovered that the next ferry to where we wanted to go was only sailing in 3 days and we were stuck. So we checked into our Airbnb, had a snooze and went out to have a look around our gilded cage.

Truth be told there are worse places to be stuck for 3 days. Sure it’s a bit touristy, but Zadar is a laid back, funky little seaside town with plenty of bars and restaurants serving amazing fresh fish and (delicious) Croatian wine. So we dug in and made the most of our enforced rest days.

The ferry trip to Mali Losinj was long, but we had good food and wine, and company in the shape of a friendly Croatian bike tourist, and the sea was an extremely blue shade of blue and the islands we stopped off at along the way were paradisaical. We arrived some time after lunch, had a quick swim and then rode 35 kilometers uphill into a savage headwind.

Headwinds, as any bike tourist from the weekend river-side dilettante to the round the world hardcore hero will tell you, is a bitch. Unless you get your head right it saps all the energy and good humour out of you and leaves you cranky and cantankerous. It was getting late and I was definitely heading towards cranky when we rode past a little restaurant with a cute shady terrace and a pig rotating invitingly on a spit outside. Five minutes later we were sat at a table with a large beer each happily awaiting spit roasted pig flesh. Damn it was good.

After dinner we found a splendid spot to camp, and after pitching my tent I sat in my little folding chair and smoked a cigar as the sky went pink and the light faded, and all was well with the world.

The next day, more wind, more hills, but we stopped for a breakfast of pastries and ice cream in the cute little port village of Cres then took it slow, and learned that if you don’t fight the wind by trying to go at a normal speed life becomes much more bearable. Plus the islands of Croatia are uncommonly pleasing to look at, and the roads were empty, so all in all, not too shabby.

The roads were empty that is until we got to within about 5 kilometres of the little ferry port, whereupon every car that passed us on the small windy road was hurrying so as not to miss the next ferry, and a constant stream of vehicles from the ferry that had just arrived going the other way. It was dangerous and stressful and completely unnecessary given that the ferry service was basically a shuttle that went back and forth, so if you missed one you took the next.

When we arrived all the fuckers that had squeezed past us were sat in a queue waiting. We bowled up and glided straight onto the waiting ferry which sailed away and left them all behind. Karma.

Waiting for us back on the mainland was an almighty bastard of a hill – 11% plus gradient – which went on forever. Needless to say it was blisteringly hot. The beer we drank in a little cafe once we finally reached the top was the best thing I have ever put into my body.

Heat, hills, wind and a very long day conspired to cause James and I to hit the wall at more or less the same time and since we were on the outskirts of Rijeka wild camping was not an option and there were no campsites anywhere close, so we checked into the nearest hotel, showered, rested and went to a restaurant we’d been recommended where we ate an abundance of grilled meat, drank an abundance of wine and had an abundance of fun watching Croatia play Nigeria in their first game of the 2018 World Cup with some very drunken Russians who had decided they were part Croatian (I think – it was hard to work out quite what the fuck was going on).

The next morning we woke up stupidly early, cycled into Rijeka and caught a coach to Trieste.

Italy, again