Day 8. Route

It was a Sunday, and we had been warned that Slovenia was shut on Sundays and the petrol stations had never heard of plastic, so the plan was to drive straight through and head for Croatia. We stopped at a self-service petrol station just inside the Italian border where our damp crumpled lira caused no end of trouble to the machine. We all got a tankfull eventually and set off. Jeremy promised a hairpin free day as we were all, by this time, hairpinned out. It was not to be so, Marvin took us the wrong way out of Tarviso and we ended up going to Slovenia by the wrong pass. It was a bit wet undertyre and our hearts sank as we arrived at the foot of the Passo di Predil as the sign clearly labelled the bend as turn 41. Fortunately it turned out that they numbered them up and down, so only 20 odd bends later we arrived at the border.
Suddenly it was foreign, the other countries had all merged into each other seamlessly, and on many cases had dispensed with any sign of a border at all. Not so here. Unexpectedly we got through with no trouble, although when Mike got his passport stamped with a visa there was a minor hold-up as lots of other people decided they wanted theirs done too. Ian went looking for insurance as we had been unable to sort any out in the UK for Slovenia, Croatia or Romania. He was informed that it was only available at the larger border crossing, the one we had bypassed. There was a brief discussion and we decided to ignore the problem and hope for the best.
Down the other side we found the other 20 or so hairpins, which, for some perverted reason, were cobbled round the tight bits. From the point of view of traffic not ripping the road to bits it makes sense, but on heavily laden bikes in wet weather it wasn't much fun. Jim managed to overheat his back brake to the point of complete fade, but it came back eventually once the descent was finished. We then got a bit lost, and had to rely on the GPSs to get us back on track. We stopped at a petrol station as the plan to get through Slovenia without stopping had been scuppered by the scenic entry to the country. It turned out to be new, well equipped and quite happy to take any currency at all. The price was astonishingly cheap too. Bravo for the "Petrol" chain of petrol stations say I.
Slovenia proved to be a beautifully scenic country, certainly as nice as Austria. We were surprised that nearly every car we saw seemed almost brand new, either Slovenia is on the up or it was a Sunday driver effect. The fields all had interesting hay drying racks, like a tall clothes horse with more slats. It seems that one of the real differences between countries is how they deal with grass. It looks like Slovenia gets lots of sunshine but rain too, so big flat racks with little roofs work well. We were also surprised to see a small river running down a scenic valley and steaming as if very hot. We didn't find out if it was really warm (a hot spring perhaps?) or just a freak of atmospheric conditions. We got on the main road (number 1) and blasted through into Croatia. It was agreed later that this was a mistake, Slovenia deserved better.
The countryside had become significantly flatter by this stage, which made for good progress but wasn't too interesting. Eventually we arrived in Zagreb and were riding up the (very wide) main street in to town when a couple of bikers wearing cut-offs and "Hollister MC Zagreb" colours overhauled us. One of them turned off, but the other, on a cosmetically challenged bike with "Scarface" written on the fairing overtook us all and started hassling Jeremy, our gallant leader. I was rather concerned that we had stumbled in to some sort of biker gang problem, the 'MC' initials were somewhat worrying as back home anyone wearing "Hollister MC" on a cut-off had better be able to defend themselves against the HA. After a few minutes conversation as we rode along Jeremy signalled that we were to follow the biker in question, and we were led through various steadily more salubrious bits of Zagreb, and right through them into rather less salubrious bits.
Eventually we went down a side road where the biker turned off and parked on the pavement in front of an empty office building, across the road from a bar with an upstairs window missing between a building well on the way to falling down, in apparent emulation of the one the other side which had almost finished the process. I was beginning to get somewhat concerned by this stage, though felt a little better when the biker removed her helmet, revealing an unexpectedly female  gender and a face apparently free of obvious scars. She then got on her cellphone, rounding up other members of the club and the bar manager, in order to open the bar for us. In dribs and drabs other bikes turned up, all seemingly owned by shorn headed chaps with goatee beards and cell phones. Soon they outnumbered us, and opened the bar.
The woman who had originally brought us there was indicating that we might be able to stay there, and we were suggesting that we might prefer a campsite. Refusing unwanted hospitality seems to be one of the difficulties of travel. Not wanting to appear ungrateful I had a beer, as did some others, though most opted for coke. My anxiousness returned slightly on noticing just how many pictures on the walls were of torched bikes, as I was rather counting on mine to get me home. Just as I had got used to the idea that it would be cool to stay there, drink with the Hollister, and crash out out back (it was certainly going to take some alcohol to get us loosened up enough to talk to each other, the Bikers were sat on the grass over the road) they found us a campsite and one of them offered to take us to it.
We left for the campsite no doubt leaving the impression that Brit. bikers are a puffy and effete bunch of coke drinkers. The campsite seemed to be a converted military installation cum motorway services, and was very hot and infested with mosquitoes (which were quite happy to eat through clothes). The Hollister MC bod negotiated a price for us and left. Pity we couldn't work out what to do with each other really. After pitching my tent and showering I was unable to find the others, they were not in the Motel, nor the restaurant (which was full of a gypsy wedding, and we weren't allowed in). Eventually they were located in the service station buffet, where a deeply uncheerful serving woman doled out very unappetising food, until she got bored and went home, about half way through the group. Beer was served all night though, so marvin wasn't as disgruntled about missing out on 'sausage in soup' or 'gristle on potatoes' as he might have otherwise been.

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