As I write this in my tent my breath is blowing steam. I have three thermal tops on, a neck-warmer, beanie, gloves, my bottom riding gear that I never removed (tights, leggings, undies, shoes), plus thermal long johns and travel pants. I am also wearing every pair of socks I’m carrying, five in all. Obviously, I’m camping.

Cold is a formidable enemy. It’s uncaring and unforgiving. I really learned today that being super cold all day results in a short temper. The cold was really getting to me until I went through a tunnel. I felt like I was in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, stepping into another world. The world on the new side of the tunnel was completely covered in snow, whereas there had been no snow on the side from where I’d come.

From the tunnel onward I was in an incredible wonderland. And suddenly the cold didn’t feel so bad. I don’t think I could ever get sick of the sight of snow. If I must die from cold, let me be surrounded by snow! My overall pace slowed as I couldn’t help stopping to take pictures. My desire to live in this country only strengthened. It wasn’t until later that I remembered the words of the owner of the hostel in Mostar – he had told me the snow would start after 40km and he was precisely right.

During the ride my feet suffered badly. I ended up stopping so I could put on some thick merino wool socks underneath my waterproof pair. Although the sky was clear and the sun provided a tiny amount of warmth, as soon as I was in the shade cast by the mountains, the temperature dropped instantly. Despite the cold, I still felt like camping, as it’s been a while since I’ve slept in my tent. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any suitable structure to hide in and I didn’t want to set up in the snow, for fear of freezing.

As I entered Prozor I decided to check the price of the only accommodation offering in town. I waited in the reception for a few minutes before a guy from the adjoining restaurant came through. He told me that they were full. I knew that they couldn’t possibly be full (there was no one around), so I suspected that the business must be closed. Whatever the case, I was denied entry. It was close to dark by this time and I was left on the street wondering what to do. I stopped in at the police station and asked if there was a place to camp. The officer couldn’t speak English. He rang someone and after a chat he suggested I try the motel. I explained that they had told me I couldn’t stay there. I asked if I could sleep in the station and he said no. Next stop was the local mosque. It was open and had a downstairs area, perfect for a night’s sleep. Only trouble was there was absolutely no one around. I stopped in at the shop opposite to ask about the mosque but no one there spoke English. Again the motel was suggested.

At this point I made the decision to return to the place I’d checked out on my way into the village. This was two buildings and a carpark on the edge of the village. One of the buildings was a Konzum supermarket and I couldn’t tell what the other one was for. When I’d ridden past earlier I’d noted that worst comes to worst I might be able to camp somewhere in the shop’s entry porch. On my approach a lady appeared in the window of the second floor, so I decided to forget this option. The other building had a sheltered doorway at its rear. This became my one and only option. I hastily sent up my tent and got inside so I could be out of sight. I haven’t bothered cooking, just ate some lunch supplies instead. I have left my riding clothes on because I couldn’t bear the thought of getting naked in the cold and I want to be able to get away quickly in the morning – the supermarket doors are about 30m away and it opens at 7am which is first light. Not wanting to leave the alcove and invite attention from anyone around, I pissed in a bottle. I was visited by a pack of five dogs during the night, but they stayed silent as they sniffed around my tent before moving on.

Cold but beautiful

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 81.73km
Average cycling speed 13.7kph
Total distance ridden 28,040km