24 March - long climb to Plitvika
The steep climb inland up the mountains seems to take forever,
especially at the very slow speeds we are willing to travel with our new
engine. At one stage we are in a tunnel for at least 15 minutes.
I pull into an emergency shoulder inside the tunnel to let the backlog
of cars pass us, and it takes several minutes for them all to go by!
We get out the other end and there's snow everywhere! It
reminds me of New England. More climbing still...
Finally we get to the top of the world and have a picnic in the
Plitvika car park, where it is sunny and not too cold, despite the snow
all around. Tickets are inexpensive (kids free) and part of the
park (wth the big waterfalls) is open. Cal comes too.
Plitvika National Park
We start at a height above and in front of the large waterfall, with
views also to rapids and other smaller falls nearby. There is a
winding path down to an icy river with wooden paths right at the water
level, in some cases with the rapids bubbling right through it! We get
across and spot a small bat circling over the water continuously, coming
very close to us each time.
There is a little climb right on top of the rapids and then we are at
Splat Veliko (big falls). Raincoats on quickly and we walk through
the exhilarating heavy mist. Two policemen appear and take turns walking
under the falls too.
From there we double back past the bat and then head towards rapids
where Sammy spots a "bear cave" above. I joke that we should go
sneak up on the bear but then it seems there are steps up and we all go
in. The cave climb goes quickly and we reach the top where there
is an exit. We climb out and look down, surprised to see how high
we have just climbed back up without much effort, it seems magical, and
we find magic fairy flowers at the top as if to verify this.
We are on a high path which reconnects with our starting point; we
stop for a snack and drink and then found a perfect place for a snowman.
One is constructed quickly and during the photo session is accidentally
Walking back someone (I think Suzie) starts a snowball fight.
Leaving, the kids make snow angels at the entrance and we head back to
Descent to Senj
The descent back to the coast takes longer than we expect.
Getting into Senj town late we see a spaghetteria / chipper sort of
place and decide to eat there, as we have no gas or food and it's late.
We get steaks, chips and Suzie has shark; despite the pictures of
wonderful ice creams around the room, none is available! We ring
the campsite that might be open and Suzie manages, in Italian, to get
them to let us stay despite their being closed.
The entrance to the
campsite is steep downhill with sharp turns at a height with no guard
rails. We get down the hill into a big field, it's dark with no
sign of people and we wonder (1) is this the right place and (2) will we
be able to drive back out? Setting up is slow and not fun as it is
raining and there's no tent up to store things.
25 Mar - Krk
In the morning we're surprised to discover another car there, and
it's a UK plate! Finn eventually discovers there are people inside
and spends some time jumping up at them with his spiderman costume.
They are a Welsh and Slovenian couple, English teachers, who have
recently moved to Slovenia.
I take Finn to the pebble beach which is right in front of us, and we
go "fishing" and watch the little silver fish in the still, clear
shallow water. We have a breakfast of sorts (no milk for the
cereal!) and push everything back into the van to get to Krk island.
At Krk we drive through the rain from North (more developed) to Krk
town in the South, where we drop our washing at a laundrymat, buy some
food supplies and check into an almost entirely German occupied
campsite, walking distance to the town. We do a full camp setup in
the rain, cook some nice food from the shops (we found gas at a petrol
station) and watch a DVD before bed.
Still mizzling this morning. Our main plan is to wait for good
weather. I cycle down to pick up our laundry and get to the Internet
Later I change the car's oil, which is overdue, and find tiny bits of
metal when I clean out the oil screen. This is normal for a new
engine so I'm glad I finally got it done.
Suzie cycles the older guys to the Cathedral for Easter Sunday mass
and I follow on foot with the little guys, but don't bring them in.
Weather is nice after all that rain and we take kids to playground and
then head back, but the rain starts again, yuck!
Rain eases off finally and we move our tent and everything over to a
gravel site where we can go in and out without going through piles of
I check valves on the engine before moving Newbie and mostly
fine, one intake slightly tight.
The tourist office told us about a
concert on a little island nearby where there is a Franciscan Monastery,
so that's where we go. A water taxi takes us over and as soon as
we are on the island I feel relaxed, like I've felt walking into a
Camphill Community. We all walk up from the jetty to the church
which is packed, and manage to get standing room off at the side, but
then I have to take the little guys out again because they aren't able
to sit still. We walk around the side and back of the church where
it is woods with paths down to the sea. As we reach the back of
the church I hear the choir music coming out a back window, which is
like listening to angels in the peaceful wood.
The boys and I look out
at the sea and then walk along a bit and head back in along another
path, listening and watching birds singing to each other in the trees.
As we near the church Suzie appears and offers to swap with me so I
manage to wiggle my way through the crowd back to the big guys, and
listen to a full choir briefly and then we are all treated to drinks and
some fried donut holes and sweet fried pasta and all sorts of alcoholic
drinks. Grape brandy is my favourite. The members of the choir
strike up a few more songs in the reception room while we are eating.
We leave the island by a smaller water taxi, hearing one last song by
the women's choir on the dock. The kids love the boat; our captain
has a little race with the other water taxi as we near the shore.
We arrive back and it is threatening rain again so we take down the
big tent and stow things away. Luckily it doesn't end up being
more than a little shower.
Packing day. We take it slow and relaxed and luckily it's good
weather. Just as we are finishing up the man we had met on the
water taxi yesterday shows up with his wife, gives us a present of wine
and homemade fig jam, and invites us all over for tea! He is from
Krk but they have lived in Germany the past 35 years. He is
retiring back to Croatia at the end of this year.
Ferry to Cres, campground.
Steep drive (up and down) along narrow strip of land to Vulture
centre with donkey, lambs (which our guys get to feed), cat, dog and of
course the huge vultures. Picnic there and chat to one of the
volunteers - Spanish but with perfect English.
Tear ourselves away from the relaxing warm afternoon because we know
we have a long drive ahead of us. We head to the Ferry but when we
get there just in time, we learn that the Cres to Istria Ferry isn't
running because of a ramp problem, and they tell us we need to go back
to Krk and the mainland and drive all the way around! Instead we
hang around an hour and it is working enough to let us all on, by
backing into the boat.
We go to the San Pol (near Bale) campground recommended by our
Spanish friend at the vulture centre, which turns out to be directly on
the water with the beautiful white stone beach, with rock pools,
We pull Newbie right up to the beach. Facilities are cold running
water and squat toilets, no office. The tents and caravans each
have a spot which is partitioned off with poles and tape; it has the
feeling of people on the edge of civilization. We all explore the
rock pools. Eli and Suzie fish off a point, I gather periwinkles
to have with my pasta. The water is cold and clear and the evening
lasts past sunset when we have a campfire on the beach.
In the morning all activity is on the beach again, more fishing,
watching a fisherman pull in and then re-set his nets (he didn't catch
much). Our last camping in Croatia has been perfect. A man
at the campground tells us we should register at the office back at the
cafe bar, so on the way back I call in, and when she learns we've only
been 1 day she doesn't charge us anything.
Our drive back on the main but not so big road to Trieste is quieter
than I expect, with little traffic. At the border I have to dig
amongst the kids stuff for our passports. Then we're in Slovenia
for a very short time and then back in Italia.