Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Tues 26 Jul 2016. Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Mostar to Konjic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Tues 26 Jul 2016. Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Mostar to Konjic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Departed on dot of 10am, charged little less than expected with refund on difference between washer and dryer. Crossed cable-stayed bridge, past the three notable islands, followed pretty Adriatic Coast north. 

Passed defensive walls of Ston, colloquially known as "European Walls of China"; built to protect town and its wealth (the salt pans).

European Walls of China

Turned off at Slano to take narrow mountain road to Ljubinje/Bosnia, could see 6 or more fires up mountain ahead (from last night’s lightning?) Fire engines ahead, police came down to see why we were there and to say road closed. Showed them map explaining our intention, they said ahead was only border for locals - we had to go back to "international border" at Metkovic. Police went back down road, BoyRob backed down almost a kilometre until met them again at what they suggested was a turnaround point. Gulp - BoyRob completed the turn, following the policeman's hand signals to stop, but much too close to the shale edge for GirlRob's comfort.

Crossed into Bosnia and Herzegovina (or BiH on signs and literature) briefly at Neum, both Croatian and BiH officials just looked at outside of passports and at vehicle, and waved us through. Turned off coast road at Opuzen and the Neretva River heading inland towards Mostar. 8kms later crossed back into BiH (our 15th country this trip!) at Metkovik.  Here the border was more serious, computer scanned and stamped in. Formalities over, hit a long wide irrigated agricultural valley. Neat, newly constructed stalls selling fruit from boxes - not grown on their farms we think. Clean towns and rivers, no rubbish along roads, not many people out and about, but those we saw were gainfully employed including on roads and building sites. Passed 15th century ruins at Pocitelj.

15th century ruins at Pocitelj
Stone houses

Day rapidly steamed up, sun glaring down by time we got to Mostar, parked across from Franciscan church with its tall carillon, and the Door of Mercy. Walked alleyways of stalls through tourist traffic to get to Stari Most; shocked at young age of beggars. More fundamentally dressed Muslims here, more mosques.

Franciscan church and carillon
Door of Mercy

Some of the beggars are babies really

The restored Mostar stone bridge looked as in war photos; felt eerie to be standing on same scene as graphic media of fighting and deaths, and final collapse of Stari Most into Neretva River from tank shelling in 1993. Huge sign on nearby roof "Don't forget, but do Forgive, Forever". Buying a spent bullet as our Xmas tree decoration felt apt as Christmas is a time of peace on earth. 

Many older buildings had not been restored since being bullet-holed or bombed; new ones were bright or ornate. Found an abandoned house and parked in shade to make ham baguette for lunch; plenty of mosquitoes though, so didn't linger. 

Followed green flowing Neretva River (largest of Adriatic basin) into beautiful limestone mountain scenery, very pretty road indeed. 

Pulled into Kamp Oaza, Orahovica on Konjic Lake (river has been dammed); old fellow there showed us to prime site on edge of river (think there was only one other tenant, rest of vans were for hire). Amazed he only wanted 13. Jumped into lake first off to cool down, little fish jumping out of the water around us. Refreshed, made dinner of grilled seasoned chicken and green peppers, with potatoes and corn - yum! 

Watched duck trails light up as sun set, reflections on water deepening. Man in a boat rowed past quietly and stopped to drift and fish. It was so peaceful, most of the recent campgrounds we've stayed in have featured blaring music, or busloads of youths on school holidays, whose "off" buttons don't work until after midnight...

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