While that loveliness remained soon the surroundings had taken on a more rural outlook as I left behind the busy surrounds of Dubrovnik and it's neighboring touristy towns and entered Croatia's southern hinterland, Konavle.
The heat was blistering as it had been constantly since entering the Balkans and despite an early start in the relative morning cool I found myself running low on water as I left the main highway near Cavtat. I hold it to be a truth self-evident that as soon as water runs low you will be unable to think of anything else and a previously perfectly comfortable throat will become desperately dry and scratchy.
So afflicted I began to look around for water points or a shop but after 25k of cycling I had found exactly nothing meeting that description. Of a sudden I heard the strains of classic 80's pop drifting towards me
"girls just want to have fun, girls just want to have fuuuuun"
Guessing that this might be an ex-pat washing his or her car I set of to investigate and beg for water. Instead I found a gruff but friendly old Croat watering his plants with his yapping dog. Momentarily taken aback it was all I could do to point at my water bottle and look pleadingly, in response he happily ushered me into the house. Now bear in mind it is now no later than 09:45 but what emerged from the fridge was not water but a bottle of something obviously home made and as he poured me out a large tumbler of this lethal smelling concoction I knew I was in trouble. To his credit he did join me with a small glass and then proceeded to fill up all my water bottles sending me off on my way with a cheery wave.
Along the same road I ran into two other English cycle tourers who were making there way from Split to Kotor. I mentioned that there was a Warmshowers host a few kilometers down the road with whom I'd exchanged emails where I was sure they could refill their water bottles etc and so we cycled together to the grandly named Mikulici Nature Park.
With it's eclectic mix of old motors and other paraphernalia in the midst of renovation alongside accompanying curios Marko's place made quite an impression. Marko himself was out and so we looked around for a water tap and finding only a jury rigged outdoor shower proceeded to fill their bottles from there. Both seemed a touch unsettled by their surrounding and went so far as to wish me luck and hoped he wasn't a "nutter" as they rolled off down the hill.
Their loss. Marko arrived a half hour later, a great big ox of a man wearing a floral all in one, speaking his excellent English perfected during his years in Canada and entertainingly peppering every other sentence with curses as he offered me a beer.
At 70 Marko has seen a lot of the world and I knew we would get on well as he launched into the story of him as a young man after the war getting on a row boat with 4 friends and leaving Croatia for Italy in search of the romantic destinations from which the sailors into his home Dubrovnik harbour had come in his childhood.
Marko in all his glory, Chuck the dog, and the drive way to Mikulici
Me and Marko headed down to the fabulously pretty bay side village of Molunat where the almost completely closed natural harbour means a still cool bath awaited. lazing the afternoon away having a Marand lunch (you go into a shop with a deli counter and they slice a whole loaf in half and fill it with everything you point at - subway eat your heart out!)
In the evening A group of Marco's friends joined us by the quayside and prepared a fine meal of various meats, onion and tomato salad plus plenty of bread plus some local made wine served from soda bottles. It was delicious. Although I did make rather a fool of myself by slipping over as I approached the harbour side sending meat and salad flying in every direction. A buffoon of Mr Bean proportions. Later my little disturbance was overshadowed by fisty cuffs between some drunk Serbs and Croats which was soon smothered by the older heads who I had eaten dinner with. Marko was to make a point of visiting each of those involved the next day to talk with them about the merits of pacificm and talked eloquently and passionately on our drive home about the dangers of Father's feuds and prejudices being passed down to the younger generations.
Molunet at sunset/The quayside where we ate dinner/the almost enclosed natural harbor
I could quite happily have stayed for longer with Marko whose fascinating life (A self made millionaire after setting up a painting company in Canada, to being the speech writer for the Albanian premier) and talent for storytelling make him the most excellent of company. Indeed he all but invited me too as we discussed the merits of his current project to get a single-guage railway built between Dubrovnik and the southern hinterlands so that day trippers from Dubrovnik could come a see the beautiful rustic charms of the region.
I think at another time in my life I might well have stayed to see what little help I could offer but with my own mission still feeling far from completed I had to get back on the saddle and leave Croatia behind.