Bears, Bikes and Beer

Day 15 – 14th July 2020 – Split to Draganic and Plitvice, Croatia

I am due to return the hire car by 8am, but first I text Sandra at the recovery company to ask what is the plan this morning, she rings me and we have a conversation agreeing that I will travel in the van with the driver and bike. Her husband will come and pick me up from the Car Rental office at the port in Split… the same man as drove me to Šibenik on Saturday. Ok, great.

I drive over to the office dreading meeting Mr Angry and having a row about the lack of ‘paper’. I fully expect to be billed for the damage, I just hope it isn’t going to be too horrendous. To my mind the rear cover on the wing mirror and the plastic wheel arch guard can simply be replaced so there should not be too much cost involved, parts and maybe an hours labour at most, I’m thinking £500 or less, so I’ll just have to swallow it, I mean it is my own fault after all. I did take out the full damage waiver, but the lack of a police report probably means I am going to be stung… oh well.

I arrive at the port and can see the office, but there is nowhere to pull up and I haven’t been given any instructions regarding where exactly to put the car. The road is dual carriageway, but only one way with the right lane becoming the queue for the ferries. I go round again, looking for somewhere to pull up… nope nothing, but there seems to be a car park near the office so round again then a right filter into the car park.

I walk over to the office and a young chap comes out to meet me. He asks where is the car, so I tell him. He instructs me to bring the car to him and pull over on the dual carriageway, across the road from his office, he will meet me there. So, I go back to the car and, of course, have to pay the car parking ticket… 30HK for the 10 minutes I was there… about £2.50. I park up and the young chap comes and inspects the car… takes a few photos; ‘Is this the only damage?’ ‘Yes, that’s all’. I start unloading my numerous bags and the heavy harness to carry across the road to his office, he very kindly gives me a hand.

In his office he hands me a piece of paper, ‘sign please, here and here’, I start to read the paper, ‘Just sign here and here’, ‘Yes, I will I just want to read it first’, ‘It just confirms you have returned the car’, ‘Oh, what about the damage?’ ‘It is nothing, it is done’… I am confused by this… ‘You mean it is ok? Is it covered by the damage waiver?’, ‘Yes, yes no problem it is all done, it is ok’. ‘Oh, well thank you’…

I mean I cannot get out if there quick enough in case Mr Angry turns up and does one, so I sign the paper and scarper.

I start moving my mountain of stuff out of his office to a cafe table just next door, another chap comes out and helps me… so grateful. The relief is palpable, I can feel my black mood lifting away totally, I can now start looking forward again, such a relief I can tell you.

I order a coffee and settle to wait for the recovery van to pick me up. About 10 minutes later I receive a text from Sandra asking where I am, to please get the address… ‘ask someone’.. I google my position and send the name of the cafe and the road, she responds, driver will pick up half an hour… ok please ask him to text me when 5 minutes away as I will pay my bill, there’s no parking here.

This means I have time for a spot of brekkie… good.

As good as her word the van turns up about half an hour later, but no warning. Tomo comes and starts picking up my stuff, he is with another man, they both start taking my things over to the van and loading it up while I pay my bill. The van is quite small and it is going to be a bit of a tight fit in the front with the three of us, a long 4-5 hour trip I guess.

We get in the van and are soon underway. I ask Tomo how is his car, he looks at me blankly… ‘Your tyre, it is all fixed?’ He says ‘One kilometer and I leave’ and then turns and starts talking to the driver. We pull over and Tomo gets out without even a goodbye… oh well.

Then we get going out of Split, the driver speaks pretty good English, I ask him how long it will take and he says 4 maybe 4 1/2 hours.. we will stop for lunch. I ask if I can get my laptop out, I’m thinking I can catch up the blog while we are travelling. He says we will stop soon, he wants to get the windscreen cleaned… lots of squashed creatures.

As we go along he tells me little bits of information about things of interest along the route. Apparently he used to be a tour guide, but COVID has put paid to that so he is happy to have this job. He seems to enjoy it and gives me detailed accounts of his many journeys… I am secretly hoping we will stop soon so I can get my laptop out. I find out that his name is Robert and he is a very nice chap, but a little bit too talkative.

We soon stop at a petrol station where he has the screen cleaned while I get my laptop, buy a drink (I offer to buy him one, but he says no), and the loo, then we are back on the road.

After a while he asks if I’m hungry.. I am ok at the moment thank you.

We pass Plitvice National Park and he tells me it’s a great place to visit. I think it sounds great and once the bike is back on the road I would like to go there.

I try to take some photos as we go along..

I have been in touch with Cheryl and made tentative plans to visit with her a couple of days near Zadar so will pass by Plitvice on the way, a good stop off point perhaps, but let’s get this bike fixed first.

About 40 minutes later I am starting to feel a bit peckish so mention this. Robert says we will stop for lunch soon. He tells me they have bears! You mean in cages, I say horrified… no, no in a compound. I’m still not sure I like the sound of it. This part of the world does have bears and other wild creatures of course, but I have fleeting visions of bear baiting etc.

We soon pull in to the restaurant stop. We just grab a drink and a sandwich in an effort to quickly get back on the road, but I do want to see these bears. Inside the cafe they have this display:

Right then, Brothers and Sisters, it’s time for industrial action… them Bears is getting all the attention!

Hoggin’ the display… she’d look good on my Harley!

Goldilocks or Baby Bear? Discuss

Outside is a fenced off area where they keep the live ones so I take a walk around. Can’t see any bears at all… maybe they have stuffed them all!!

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Then I spot this magnificent creature, all alone and clearly depressed in my view… aww what a shame

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Am about to leave when a family arrives for a look see and a man goes into the compound to feed Mr Sad Bear who gets up and trundles slowly across to the feeding trough, very upsetting I must say, I really feel for him.

When I get back to the van, I notice this structure, it looks like a telescope.

Robert is sitting waiting to go. I say, is that a telescope? ‘Yes’.

I also say; only one Bear… poor thing… I think they stuffed all his mates. No response… guess that was lost in translation a bit.

After another hour or so we arrive at the motorcycle place… it is a multi marque store; Suzuki, Triumph.. no RE logo or anything so am dubious this is the right place. Robert gets out to check and yes this is it.

Several guys help Robert off load the bike and my stuff… I then pile it up on the ground nearby.  The guy who seems to be the Service Manager asks me some questions so I reel off all the things I have already tried, the mechanic is there and he nods at all the tests I have done.  I tell them about the switchgear and that I think it is that end causing the problem, but Mr Mechanic says they do not have a switch at the clutch lever so it isn’t that.  They then wheel the bike into the workshop.  Meanwhile I collar Service Manager man and ask if they could please adjust the chain, it is very loose and also it is due a 9000 miles service soon so is it possible to do that to.  He says we close at 4, but will do the chain.  Ok thanks.

They have quite a big store so I go in for a look, well it would be rude not to wouldn’t it.  They have a tiny RE section with just a couple of bikes on display, a Himmie and a Continental and not much else really either.  I have a look in the sales section, I am running out of clean clothing so pick up a reduced tee shirt, the cheapest size S I can find.  I also pick up some oil to do an oil change and ask if these can be put together with my service bill so I don’t need to get my card out twice.  That is no problem.

I then wander to the workshop to see how they are getting on.  They show me this…

Looks like I was about to lose the top box… completely snapped.  I ask them if there is a welder locally who can repair if for me.  Mr Mechanic says they can weld it, but it won’t be pretty… Oh don’t worry about that, yes please do weld it up for me.  Ok, but you need to reduce the weight in the top box.

I then get a lecture about my oiler unit, it is fitted in the wrong place.  Mr M explains it needs to drip onto the outside of the chain not the middle, my chain was actually rusty so this needs to be moved but they don’t have time to do it, but he does show me where it should go.  They have adjusted and greased the chain so I now need to get some chain lube as the oiler unit isn’t doing the job.

Now regarding the cutting out problem, they think it is the extras on the bikes, like the additional lights etc.  Most of this was put on by the previous owner who has wrapped all the wiring up tightly in black electrical tape and Mr M is reluctant to undo it all.  He thinks it is the relay feeding the auxilliary lights and unplugs it to test if the bike will run in gear… it does, a couple of times then cuts out.  Mr M would like to leave that relay unplugged anyway so I say ok I don’t think I will need the extra lights.

I go back into the shop for another wander around and pick up a can of chain lube.  I also see a disc lock and I have forgotten to bring one so add that to the pile and a cargo net… that’s enough!

Back to the workshop and they are in the middle of an oil change, they are not able to do the full 9000 service, but are changing the oil and filter.  Mr M tells me that they think they have found the problem, one of the other relays is not making a good connection. Unfortunately they do not have a replacement in stock but they have made a small modification to improve the connection so that should be fine now.

I have also asked if the bike can be lowered a little bit, thinking this might help with the getting on and off, Mr M says they have reduced the preload to zero as it was at factory setting… nooo I just had that adjusted, the front end will just bounce around again because of the weight on the back.  I am told I should re-distribute the weight and put some on the front… oh really, where???  I ask them to return the pre-load setting to where I already had it.  I was thinking to shorten the linkage at the bottom of the shock to lower the bike, not reduce the pre-load, but anyway that is something I will have to do at home.

At 4pm they roll the bike out and it’s time to pay my bill, I put the oil back on the shelf as I don’t need it now. All done so it’s time to pack the bike up again and finally get back on the road. It takes a while to get everything back on and secure so one member of staff stays behind to wait for me and then they can lock the outer gate.

I must say it is brilliant to be back in the bike. I make my way towards Plitvice and when almost there I get out booking.com to find my accommodation for the night. I find something nearby one of the entrances to the park so ride there.

When I arrive I see the parking is all gravel and a significant slope, nope not parking there. I park in the road and go to check in. As I approach the main door I am greeted by a youngish woman who shows me the room etc. She is very friendly and invites me to join them for a beer in the garden later. I thank her but need to get unloaded, eat and go to bed, I am shattered after all the drama of the last few days. I ask if it’s ok to park on the road, she says we have a big car park here to use. I explain the bike is too heavy for me to handle on the slope and gravel. She then suggests I pull it onto their path, it will be better there. So I do.

Next door is a restaurant… another Pizzeria… ok so guess what… it’s Pizza again but this time with a beer. Beer seems to be a very big part of the culture here, so when in Rome… it is very nice too.

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