Croatia – The country of a thousand Islands

On Dec 19th, 2013

With 1 Comment

Week 19 – Great kindness, the Croatian coast road starts, a desert feel and a taste of mountains…

Opatija

Leaving Opatija

Rijeka-02

Rijeka

Rijeka

Leaving Rijeka

Big big roads outta town
Warm – so back to shorts at last.
It felt like being at the seaside. Trousers went straight back into Tote – a great relief
Into the tunnels
Not too scary these tunnels- built for pedestrians – but still very loud.
The wrong roads
All roads led to the Autoroutes and I turned around and backtracked on a detour through the suburbs
Doubling back and looping round to get to the roads out of town. The roads then dropped into a dark grey suburbia and then under the auto routes and a few miles later I was on the other side of the valley photographing the sunset and looking back at where I had been an hour before. Sobering. The villages were very utilitarian, a strong nautical feel, with dinghys and boats in the front garden, but a soft atmosphere. The people were all waving back, a good sign and the most wavy so far.

All different
The light went lower and lower and we dropped and climbed. The villages were different, the signs, the people, the smells were different to Italy or France. Not poor or cliché Eastern Europe but different.

A march in the dark
Head torch and tail light all on.
Cross main roads – all roads still lead to the Auto route

I’m not SAS
A curious, but not insane looking, fella at the roadside stopped me and asked if I was a soldier. He seemed impressed by the route so far and suggested I was ‘sass’, which I finally translated to S.A.S. Perhaps it was the black look, black pants top and baseball cap in the dark. A sense of purposeful stride and a head down. Who knows but he made me smile. Interestingly, the SAS survival guide, was the Desert Island Discs read chosen by Ellen McArthur on the iPod I had listened too earlier in the day as I did the motorway detour. Good choice lady. Still my hero(ine).

Bivi site
Half a mile or less after the distraction of being suspected of being an elite soldier, I found a small road leading into some small trees. An excellent and quiet bivi. No more encouragement was needed. Sleeeeep.
Entertainment:
iPod: Started listening to Nelson Mandela’s autobiography. Something I, like a huge number of people I am sure, have been meaning to do for a very long time. It seems appropriate to fully understand this man’s pedigree. Being part of the current zeitgeist when it is a world icon, has got to be a good thing.
The book so far, 10 chapters in is a thoroughly good book. It is considerably engaging than I thought it would be and is in a style that works on many levels. Starting not dissimilar to the bible with a list of relationships and ‘begats’.
I had put off reading the book as it looked so long. I now realize that was a mistake and wish I had read it so long ago.

DAY 138 – SUNDAY – 15-12-2013 – CROATIAN COAST

Bivvy start, unprecedented kindness for breakfast and a sunny day down to the sea.

Bivvy out of Krasica to Praputnjak to Krizisce to just west of Jadranova to Crikvenika to Novi Vinodolski
Total miles = 19.56 miles

Watching the nearly full moon and stars most of the night, quiet, even the dogs went to sleep
Bivi was dry, sleeping bag was dry and all in all a great bivi
Set off without food, just a swig of water. I had a litre. What was I trying to prove. Madness.

Soundtrack of the journey
has been the same for France, most of Italy and now Croatia.
Barking Dogs, thankfully nearly always behind fences.
Left bivi site at 8:30am? (check GPS watch recordings)

Breakfast without Precedent

Walking into a restaurant early in the morning, you would expect to be told where to go. Not these lovely people…

Coffee x 2 Latte, Water x 2 glasses ( seriously required today ). Sandwich appeared of local Proscuittio and Cheese, delicious even though a day old.
We talked about their sons who were sailors and it was their restaurant and they were away.
We tried some Croatian words.
I had a glass of their own home brew made with ‘Herbe’ grass. It was delicious and tasted like a Scotch with a small herb taste too. But mostly a single malt, pretty refined really and delicious with coffee at breakfast.
They absolutely wanted to treat me for free. and refused to take money.
To top it all…I had a packed lunch in a ‘TwoHearts’ bag ‘Due Couri’ whuich she had thought apt when she was making me the stuff to take. She struggled with ‘ for your travels’ which was so mumsy and so kind.
I left seriously humbled and feeling special. I shook their hands sincerely, double handedly and was a little choked. Such wonderful people. And I don’t know their names. The address is…
U.O. ‘Mejanka’ , PraputNjak 32/A  Tel: 800-303, Mob: 092/185-9542

Praputnjak_Pizza_Restaurant

Spontaneous act of kindness

 I’m an Uncle
Good news – My brother Ben and his partner Shelley have had a baby girl! Wow. 6lbs and cute. Julian, my other brother had emailed me a picture. Aaarh! Sweet.

Dramalj

Dramalj – reaching the coast road ‘8’ by the coast

Crikvenica

Crikvenika from a huge flyover…

Novi Vinodolski

Novi Vinodolski – it starts to get beautiful…

Nikola_Novi Vinodolski

Nikola at Novi Vinodolski digs

Novi Vinodolski_02

leaving Novi Vinodolski in the morning… it’s well… just take a look…

Senj_01

Senj

Senj_02

Sunset in Senj – father teaching daughter to fish.

DAY 140 – TUESDAY – 17-12-2013 – SENJ TO HILLTOP BIVI – WK 20 START
Sunny, writing at lunch to break the day up, a march back up the hills to probably the perfect hilltop view over the Islands in the Mediterranean.
Senj to (passed dive centre at) Ujca to  Sv. Juraj to Zmovica to  Bivi in hills at Klada overlooking Island of Rab.

Very much a desert environment.
A few evergreen, miniature dwarf pines, a few bushes still sporting their yellow or golden brown miniature leaves but mostly 99% or more dry thorny trees, thin grey trunks and leafless thin branches. With the sun behind them they were interesting and had good texture to study. There were a few cactuses, but a lot of white-grey, limestone looking rock formations. Some resembling Malham Cove’s limestone pavement of groughs and dykes. A beautiful but harsh National Park.

Prizna

Prizna – and so to the mountains…

Out of season
There are many advantages to traveling out of season, it is quiet, you get clear views and are untroubled by the insensitivities of other more traditional tourism.
Prices are considerably reduced, as much as half the price a lot of the time so far. You don’t pay a premium in bars and restaurants. It’s generally a better experience But, most bars, hotels, activities and supporting architecture for the hordes, are closed. Locked fully shut.
You can’t have it all.
The road carried on and everything indeed was closed and quiet, vindicating my expensive lunch. That whole ghost town tumble weed thing like France and Italy at Midday!
Dotty
Dorothy’s closing words to me when she left me still haunt me.
Leaving with Arnie (our border collie) looking out of the car’s back window, down the drive and away all packed up.
‘Simon you will never be happy’ she had said. What she meant, now I have had 20 years to think about it, was I am sure, I was miserable in the moment and never appreciated what I had there and then.
At least that has always been my greatest weakness until recently.

There was no doubt today, I had been in the moment. I had had the best new landscape views of the trip so far, the first real mountain time and the peace and solitude here gave me time to reflect on the whole hapiness of a life thing. We can never thank our ex’s for their contribution to our lives. Most relationships close off and we move on. It’s always different for every relationship, but we all certainly think back and rehearse what we would say were things different and we could. Thanks Dot.

gromit_Islands

Sublime – Gromit overlooking the Islands.

The all night photo session
The moon lit everything up. No torch was necessary. Incredible clear views across all the islands. The stars and the moon.
I tried many hand held photographs at 1 and even 2 seconds which came out  It’s amazing how steady you can be when you haven’t drunk 10 cups of coffee in a day.
Rather than open Gromit and get my DLSR or tripod out I lazily tried everything with the Canon G12, selfies, the panorama and the moon. You have to guess the horizon, as the viewfinder doesn’t really lend enough light. I stayed in bed choosing warmth over photographic excellence. So bad. I figure there will be other sky shots later! More and more bivis less and less light pollution on the journey east. But you should never assume.
Ate biscuits all night.

I Heart Croatia

At home in the mountains

Comments

  1. Dan Boys

    February 23, 2014 (8:33 am)

    Hello Si, I’ve spent the last few hours catching up on your increasingly amazing journey, and feeling guilty for not staying up to date. We would have been reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiog at the same time – a truly inspirational read! Likewise Si, your adventure is filling me with a great desire to get up and away, although as you know, my ‘gromit’ is in the shape of the T5 (which I guess would be an elephant to your trusty dog!). I don’t envy the sore feet and shin splints but I do wish I could absorb that scenery and heritage in the flesh. Stay safe and keep smiling!

    Reply

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