Today went amazingly well. I braced myself for a difficult day and in my mind had allocated the entire day to get to Banja Luka. I woke before any sign of daylight. When it came and I peeked outside, my expectations were confirmed when I saw tree branches being thrown about wildly. Based on weather predictions, today was going to be one blustery day, with winds up to 40km/h expected. Ready for battle, I rode out into the early morning and quickly had to strip down a little. It seems I am so accustomed to the cold now that a 15 degree day is positively warm. As I left the town, I decided that Jajce is a strange little place. It wasn’t altogether welcoming and some of the crude development takes away from what could be a perfectly charming place. Granted, one night is not enough to form a solid opinion, but based on what I felt while being there…

It wasn’t long before I was moving at a fairly rapid pace away from the town. Following the flow of Vrbas River meant I generally had a very gentle downhill. The wind was ever present, but more often than not it was blowing from behind, so it didn’t prove to be a negative factor. What this meant is that I was riding in dry and warm conditions without being impeded by wind – given the weather conditions of late, this felt like absolute heaven. I continued riding all the way to Banja Luka with my only stops being photo opportunities. Thus, I rode 73km without a proper break. This distance took me to a bike shop at around 11.15am. I had first ridden to one location marked on as a bike shop – after seeing me wander around with a confused look on my face, a friendly bystander informed me that the bike shop that used to be there has moved. He told me where the next closest one was. There, I purchased two new tubes. I now feel much better about my ability to deal with punctures.

Opposite the bike shop was a big park, so I wheeled myself over to a park bench and had lunch. I probably shouldn’t have sat where I was (under a tree) as all around me and across the whole park were broken branches that the wind had obviously brought down. There were even three completely uprooted trees lying nearby. At first I kept my helmet on for warmth, but I decided it was a good idea I kept it on in case of falling debris. As I ate my lunch, I contemplated my situation. I hadn’t expected to reach Banja Luka this early, so the opportunity to make it even further presented itself. I could either use the rest of the day for rest, or make the most of the good riding conditions and push myself as far as I can. In the end I decided to push on while the going is good. I also thought I’d likely need to camp, so I purchased some milk to go with the cereal I was already carrying. Then it back on the road.

A change in direction (now heading northwest as opposed to north) meant I suffered a little more from the wind, but it generally hit me as a direct crosswind which didn’t really slow me down too much. I rode with the comforting thought that I had everything I needed to camp whenever I got tired, wherever that might me, but all the while I considered riding all the way into Prijedor and staying in a motel. I decided that if I came across a perfect place to camp at the right time (around 3pm, which is about 1.25 hours before dark) then I would take it, but if not then I would resort to a motel. As I got closer to the town I also got closer to a black sky that promised an almighty storm. About 15km out of town the storm started spitting at me. I slowly realised it would be difficult to find a place to camp. I didn’t want to sleep in the open in a raging storm and there were very few empty buildings around, the main road being relatively well built up with lots of people around.

I had given up hope when suddenly I passed a promising option – an old building crumbling to bits about 50m off the road, surrounded by tall grass and almost blocked from view of the road by a leaf-less tree. Spindly bushes surrounded the building and the lack of tracks suggested no one accesses it. I waited on the road until no cars were nearby, then made a mad dash to get inside the building. I had to push through the branches of tree. I am pretty sure I got inside without anyone noticing. I explored the building a little. It is two storey and completely in ruin. I have set up camp in a big room that is missing its internal ceiling so the high roof is what protects me from the rain. The windows have long been gone. The ground is covered in a pleasantly soft layer of moss. It’s super creepy but I feel fine here. I set up my tent in a position that should limit any rain blowing in on it, and that hides me from the view of two houses – one on the same side of the road, and one on the other side of the road. Only the keenest eyes would be able to see in and spot me and as it was getting dark, I became even more sure that the inside of the building appears completely dark from the outside. I worked quietly as I set up home and prepared dinner.

The temperature is dropping but it is still relatively warm compared to previous days. It got completely dark by 4.30pm and now at 5.30pm I am ready to settle in for the night. My alarm is set for 5.45am (about 1.5 hours before sunrise), so I am in for a long rest. Previous experience tells me that I will have several sleeping ‘shifts’ to get through the night, interspersed with reading and general thinking time.

A moment or two to appreciate the view

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 120.05km
Average cycling speed 20.5kph
Total distance ridden 28,249km