A Rocky Paradise
25.08.2012 - 30.08.2012 35 °C
Odometer Check: 11,059 kms
Overnight Stays: Prosika; Plitvice; Sibinj; Stara Baška (2 nights)
DW - Two (2) weeks in Croatia just isn't enough, well at least not for us. And there isn't a day goes by (nearly a month on) that I don't miss it, and want to return to its amazingness.
With one (1) of the best weeks of our life, sailing, under our belt, and a hard-earned week of pure relaxation in Hvar, it was time to start making ground and see some more of this amazing country. Our first stop, once off the boat in Split, was Prosika, somewhere between Split and Zadar...
The Adriatic Coastline of Croatia is marked on our Europe map-book as nothing but scenic. The book highlights roads as marked the colour green if they're scenic (not sure who judges it, but it's been pretty well spot-on to-date), and our goal was to see as much of it as possible in the coming week, before having to be in Milan for a flight to the Amalfi Coast (such a tough life). So we did, and we drove along the most rugged and harsh coastline we've seen for some time; on our left, rocky mountain islands, grey, untouched, surprisingly beautiful. Flowing ever so elegantly between us and these rocky humps, my favourite of all seas, The Adriatic. Never in my life have I seen water so calm and clear, it almost brings me to tears thinking about it (not really). Clear water is such a simple concept but it's a rare day that you get to see so much with so little, and this part of the world is an exception; like nowhere I've been in the world.
Camping along this amazing coastline is also like nowhere else in the world (that we've seen anyway). Among the stoney edges, barely flat, you find campsites, on the side of the road, falling into The Adriatic, cheap, beautiful, the best. After passing several we pulled in at Prosika, to a camp, hardly seen from the road apart from a rusted old sign (let's call it vintage). As we entered, a random shirtless guy who spoke broken English approached us and told us to park anywhere we like, and pay the old guy who's walking around aimlessly, brilliant. So we settled, for a ridiculous price that I didn't write down (something like €10-20 for the both of us for a night) and found the old dude, paying whatever we owed in Croatian Kunas. It was scorching hot, so we had a dip and strolled up to the makeshift bar of the park. Couple of beers over the water and we ordered some grub for dinner. Loz ordered fish and just afterwards we saw workers from the park gutting the fish in the water, about 15 metres from us, love this country, you can't get much fresher than that!
Skeptical about leaving the amazing coastline for a short while, we bit the bullet and made our way the next day towards Plitvice National Park, a few hours inland. I remember when we first arrived in London in late April last year, and we were super-eager to book a holiday for the upcoming long-weekend: we'd heard great things about Croatia from my sister Kirra, so that was first on our list. When we looked at Croatian destinations, images of Plitvice National Park blew our mind as they appeared on the screen, and since we ended up going elsewhere on that weekend, I was keen to check it out, and see if the real thing stacked up. It did!
The drive over hills, inland, without a GPS (Fes only works in Western Europe, bugger paying £100 for Eastern European maps when we were only visiting Croatia and Slovenia) is difficult with two (2) directionally challenged pelicans (i.e Team W). And so we took far longer than we should to arrive, but we eventually made it, and settled into a rainy (sigh) camp nearby, ready for the sunshine tomorrow and lots of waterfalls. This was the first night we spent in Europe, completely inside Betsy, as we didn't bother setting up a cover outside. So we sat, ate, shat (not really, there was a toilet nearby), and slept inside for a fairly non-eventful night, after a few cheeky ones at the very sophisticated park bar.
Plitvice National Park is one (1) of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, and I wake up next to Loz everyday. It's an absolute must-do in Croatia, without question. You can walk or take buses/boats throughout the park, but whatever it's seen from, it doesn't fail to amaze. The colour of the water is this freaky green, but clear, surround by pristine tranquil rainforest. The park is made up of a series of lakes, of which waterfalls fall in-between, more than the hands can count. And we're talking every shape and size of waterfall, from a few metres high, to something like 100 metres for the big bad-boy. We spent five (5) hours walking, bussing, and boating, seeing all we possibly could, and couldn't blink for beauty, it was just breathtaking. Do it!
With the day closing to an end, blown away, we jump back in Betsy and she sailed us back to the coast and the heat. As we arrived into Senj, we spotted a sign for a mechanic and decided we'd run the gauntlet long enough, time to get Betsy's busted bonnet better, boom! I'll mention that the only Croatian word we have 'learnt' is 'Bog', not sure if that's how it's spelt, but something like that is meant to mean 'hello'. But being the shitty travellers that we are, we learnt stuff-all of the language and relied on others to speak English, which a majority of Croatians on the tourist spots speak very well. But we were now in not-so-touristy spots, where the second language (if any) was Italian, uh oh.
Anyway, we pulled into the mechanic, about to close, where three (3) blokes and a lady were sitting on school-chairs, facing the workshop. It appeared they'd been there all day without budging, maybe that's what they do all day to pass the time, just sit and wait for stuff to happen; stress free if you ask me. We parked and no one moved, oh dear, until eventually the eldest of the sitters muttered something to us in Croatian, no idea what he said. As he rose, I tried to indicate that the bonnet wouldn't open, and wouldn't you know it, after not opening once in the past couple of months, it shot up like a teenager's bits on a school trip, first time! Shit! How am I meant to explain what the problem is now, when the thing that was the problem, clearly isn't?! The confused Croatian watched on as I shut the lid again, and tried to open it a second time, hooray, it didn't open (why I'm cheering for it not to open I don't know). Then, just to try and get my message across, I repeated the exercise until he realised what the problem was, or so I thought...
He returned to his seat, clearly confused, and another of the sitters approached us, speaking probably 10% English, about as good as my Spanish I reckon (so probably more like 1%, not 10%!). I continued to try and open the bonnet, emphasizing my movements to prove that it wasn't working, until he spluttered something, and went inside the workshop, out-of-sight, to make some noise with some machinery. Every now and then, he'd pop out and jiggle the bonnet lever, while we, accidentally using our Italian (not Croatian) phrase book, tried to explain what the problem was.
After a lot of to-and-frow, voilla, perfection, Betsy's bonnet was fixed, good as new, better than new, winning! We paid the man the equivalent of about $25AUD and waved our way out, making sure the three (3) remaining sitters were still awake and doing whatever they do. So now, we had access to our spare tyre and things were great. The mechanic also checked Betsy's vitals which were spot-on, just a light top-up of oil, which is to be expected after over 11,000kms of driving, love Betsy, what a trooper.
Just north of Sinj we found a small park, again on the water, with simplicity at its' core, and checked in after buying some essentials and dinner from the supermarket. Speaking of which, we bought fish to cook for dinner, fresh as a daisy, and it looked like the stuff we'd eaten a couple of times in Croatia before, don't ask me what type of fish it is, I have no idea. With both of us trying our guts out to enjoy fish, we forced ourselves to buy it, and enjoy it, which we did. While I'm talking of guts out, we bought (without realising) the fish whole, heads, guts and all, with absolutely no experience or idea of how to gut a fish, deary me. Using our best knife, a worn blunt, basically a butter-knife, we casually coasted to the water and tried to gut these things with the bluntest of all knives. It took a little while but we were fairly stoked with the outcome, now I can maybe say I know how to gut a fish? Perhaps it's not hard at all, but I'd like to say that watching Muz kill and gut several beasts, roos, deer, and anything else I can imagine, I tried to mimic what I'd seen him do, which seemed to work.
The fish was outstanding, and from that moment on, I have no qualms with eating fish, and I've even managed to step it up a notch since then and try foods I'd never thought I would, and enjoy them, wow, what's happening to me? The sunset over the water was gorgeous and it's moments like that that we really realised low lucky we were to be on a such a long and amazing trip. So we sat for hours under the still sky, over bottles of wine, enjoying, savouring.
Back on the road the next day, we continued north towards Rijeka, with no real plan on where to go or stay. All we knew was that we loved the coastline and the drive, and of course the company. We made the last-minute decision to drive across to Krk Island, Croatia's largest (I think), without knowing much about what to expect. Whilst searching for the perfect campsite we pulled into a camp that looked promising, without realising it was a nudist camp, ouch. So we screeched out of there quick-smart and continued, until we got the very south of the island, at Stara Baška, nearly due-west from where we'd spent the previous night. The park was packed, but we managed to snake a spot just back from the water, and with no trees in the park, it was bloody hot.
Rock beers and some of the most amazing (sunset) photos we've ever snapped, above the clear, calm, contented water, cold (the beers) in our esky stacked with ice, mmm. Couple of t-bones ($5AUD for two, win) for dinner cooked by the amazing Loz, and we were in heaven, better stay another night.
And so we did, spending the following day in the sun, baking, perfecting my smuggler tan, and swimming like it was going out of fashion. It was so damn hot you just couldn't lie in the sun any longer than 20 minutes without profusely sweating all over yourself, messy. At one (1) time I actually had a puddle of sweat in my belly-button, yummo!
Shagged from the sun we had an early night, ready (but not) to shift on the next day, and see what Slovenia had to offer.
What we didn't know then was that a cloud was forming over the whole of Italy, and sprawling into the coast of Slovenia, not planning to go away for quite some time...