Milan and Stipe, two enthusiasts from Otočac last fall finished their new cycling adventure – a trip from Otočac to Balaton in Hungary. We had a chat with these two inspirational and experienced young adventurers for our printed issue. We asked them a lot of questions to learn about all their impressions and what encouraged them to depart on this adventure and to find out why cycling trips are special.
How did you decide to undertake this adventure? Did your hosts in Balaton know what you were planning?
Milan: I have to admit that Stipe had this idea first, and he suggested we do something like this. I never doubted for a second, I agreed immediately. The more we discussed it and planned the route, the more ideas we got. Adrenaline, a trip into the unknown, and promoting Gacka and other locations were my main reasons for this adventure. We didn’t want to tell anyone what our plan was until we departed, so nobody in Hungary knew we were coming.
Stipe: We decided to go on this adventure because that’s what we love, we crave adventure, promote healthy living, and also to encourage others to take up cycling, as well as companies and other organisations to possibly support us in making even grander projects and expeditions. We didn’t let our hosts in Balaton know we were coming, but for next time it might be a good idea to encourage some kind of cooperation between our town and our destination.
Have you had similar adventures in the past?
Milan: My other adventures mostly included mountain climbing and alpinism in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Slovenia, so this cycling trip was my first such adventure that included a very long distance in a very short time.
Stipe: In addition to mountaineering, climbing and alpinism on mountains across Europe, I went on some similar adventure by bike too. I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Bihać, passed through the Una canyon. The trip lasted two days, and last year I went to the border with Italy by bike.
Did you have any problems along the way?
Milan: Good organisation and planning can prevent many problems, so we made sure to plan the trip as well as we possibly could in the short available time. We didn’t have any significant problems and we didn’t have any situations that could significantly affect the goal, which was to reach Lake Balaton by bike. A lesser problem we had was to find a safe place to sleep in bags outside, so as a rule we always slept out of town in forests. We were lucky twice because we found a wooden shed. The first night in Draganić the shed shielded us from rain, and the third night in Lenti the shed protected us from the wind. On the second day we had rain for most of the trip so we had to stop for a bit several times. That day we only got to Krapinske Toplice, and we planned to reach Varaždin.
Stipe: We didn’t have any issues, I have to note that there weren’t any flat tires, but there was a rainy day with the temperature around 5 degrees Celsius, so it was very cold in the rain, we were chilly.
What was your favourite part of the trip?
Milan: Each metre of the journey was special to me, different, and inspired me. Because of the natural diversity the trip wasn’t monotonous and it’s impossible for me to emphasise one part that was particularly beautiful. Gacka has its own beauty. Kapela, the hills in Zagorje, Varaždin and Čakovec with their historical beauty, then the well-maintained forests and huge agricultural fields in Hungary. Everything was very nice. The easiest part of the trip was from Varaždin to Lenti because that area has many cycling trails.
Stipe: My favourite part of the journey was the final leg because you’re driving along the last bit towards your goal and because of the beautiful nature in Hungary.
Can you share some anecdotes and what you remember the most?
Milan: I remember the third night when we stayed in Lenti in Hungary. We came there at night and after a long while we found a shed in the forest where we could sleep. During the night we heard squirrels and martens scratching the bags on our bikes looking for food.
Stipe: While we were sleeping in Lenti, squirrels and martens dug all night around our bags looking for food so we didn’t get much sleep.
What’s the most important message you can share and do these kinds of adventures positively affect people? Would you recommend them to those who might be having second thoughts?
Milan: I would recommend this adventure to any cycling enthusiast, as well as to those who don’t do cycling. You obviously need to be in reasonable shape, but the most difficult part of this journey isn’t the trip, it’s taking the first step and going. As soon as we were on our way, I started noticing a lot more details in places where I previously only drove through by car.
Stipe: The message is that it doesn’t take much for a man to be happy and content, that you can live and enjoy life without material things. Yes, the influence is definitely positive, because while you’re pedalling all day you have time to think about everything and realize that people have lost the truly important things in life – kindness, fairness and true friendship.
What makes cycling special?
Milan: The best way to get to know an area is by bike, you can get anywhere fast enough, while also getting there slow enough to see everything.
Stipe: It’s different because you’re traveling at a speed that lets you see everything, because you are relaxed, you can enjoy the nature and environment, because, in addition to walking, it’s the cheapest way to travel. And of course, because you start to appreciate the small things and how much a little bit of water can mean.
Would you do something like this again and are you maybe already planning something?
Milan: I would definitely like to do something like this again, and I will definitely do it because the adrenaline and these extreme adventures are what I enjoy. We recently talked about how we might plan another trip, but this time in a different direction with a new goal, and definitely longer. But we’ll keep it a secret until we’re ready to go.
Stipe: Of course I’d do it again, and I definitely will because it’s my way of life. Another trip is in the works maybe even next year. We’ll let the public know when the time comes. It’s a big project and the only thing I can tell you is that it’s a 30-day trip spanning several thousand kilometres.