8th-9th May…….Plitvic Lakes
We left Pula and had a superb drive over to the Plitvice Lakes. We helped Thomas, a young German lad who was touring on his own in a Volkswagen campervan and staying on the site in El Campello. He had left his washing out to dry and after he had been out for some time the heavens opened so we took his washing in to help him out. Just before he left he gave us a bottle of the German wine and showed us pictures on his laptop and said we must visit “Plitvicka Jezera” the oldest country park in Croatia which is now a World Heritage Site. So now we were on our way.
We drove up the other side of the Istrian Peninsula over some hills until the road came down to the coast and the road followed the coast all the way round, passed Rijeka and from there the road hugged the coast for miles. There are many islands all the way down the west coast of Croatia and some of the islands are miles long. As we drove along it felt that we were following a very wide river as the many islands appeared to merge into one. It was all very picturesque, what with the vivid greens and blue of the sea and the many pretty coastal towns and villages.
We got down to Senj on the coastal road and this is where the fun really started. From here we started to drive inland and we started to climb. We were heading towards The Mala Kapela mountain range and the roads got steeper and steeper. If you ever drive in Croatia and are going up or down a mountain watch out for a triangular warning sign that says “Serpentina”. It means that you are going to come across a second gear bend which is as tight as can be and turns 180 degrees back upon itself. We passed countless of these signs as we made our way up and it really was quite an ear popping experience.
Wild camping is not allowed anywhere in Croatia so we found we had a choice of three campsites in the vicinity of the national park. We chose a very small place just down the road from the entrances to the park. The bathroom facilities are a bit quaint and it is as if you are parked in their back yard but it has all the facilities we need. However Zeljko (that’s his name) is so helpful……he takes it as his role to run his customers to the park and to pick them up after their tour around the park. When we got there we parked next to a French couple and they told us which they thought was the best gate to start at.
We set the alarm for 7-30 and we were up and ready to leave by 8-30. We are not used to getting up this early but as soon as we walked down to the house Zeljko came out and ran us straight there. We paid the entrance fee which came to 220 kuna (about £24 for both of us) and the ticket was also the map. The park covers an area of around 178 square miles and there are lakes of all different sizes coming down the hills and the water from each one flows into the one below sometimes by huge waterfalls and in other places by torrents of white foaming water running over the rocks.
Everywhere you can hear the power of the water and it is has all naturally developed into the most fantastic place to see. Footpaths and wooden walkways run all over the park and if you have the energy and the health then you can follow these paths to see every waterfall and round every lake.
There are boats to take you from one end of a long lake to the other end or you can take the hiking trail over the hills.There are land trains that you can take to cut out some of the walking and there are wooden benches everywhere for when the walking gets too much. We took the advice of the French couple and donned our walking boots as they said some places were a little bit wet and muddy.
So we set off and soon caught up with coach parties with their guides. As early as it was, this popular tourist attraction was busy from the moment Elaine and I started our tour. Cameras were out everywhere and the dreaded selfie sticks were in use everywhere you looked. There are hundreds of fabulous places to take pictures……why on earth would you want yourself on every photo with the waterfalls just as backdrops. Then I caught Elaine with her mobile phone held up taking just such a photo. Anyone know where I can buy a selfie stick for her?
We walked around for six hours and I alone took photo after photo. We did take the boat but we spurned the land train even for the last part of our tour when our bodies were saying “sit down and rest” but our eyes, just wanted us to go on and on. The only way to demonstrate what a feast of a day we had is just to leave you with some pictures to look at which I hope in just a small way will demonstrate the splendour of the Plitvice Lakes.
It was a superb day but very tiring. When we got back we got chatting with another Aussie couple that were parked beside us. Later on they came into our van and it was quite fascinating to hear about their exploits during their travels and about their life in Australia. We will leave tomorrow and head south and get down to the coast again.