Whilst driving down the coast of Croatia, I only had one job: follow the coast to Split.
Of course I fucked up within a couple of kilometers.
Don’t get me wrong: I religiously followed the signs to Split, not realizing that there was an inland highway that would probably be much quicker than the scenic coastal road. Being the dumbass that I am, I just drove deep into the mountain range, and didn’t even once question my path. Suddenly we found ourselves on an inland agricultural plain, surrounded by mountains. The plain itself was rather ugly and boring and the mountains were hard to see, as a haze of wood-fired chimney smoke filled up the bowl-shaped area and killed potentially splendid views all around. We passed countless campsites and RV lots, but I couldn’t find their raison d’etre. Meh, not for me… I felt stupid for taking the mountain detour.
Then Heike found some information about a cave park in Perusic. Apparently they didn’t mind campers on their (pretty isolated) parking lot. I like caves, and Perusic was located towards a more hilly end of the plain. Things were starting to look brighter suddenly. Thirty minutes later we arrived at an empty place that was pretty beautiful, and where we certainly were unlikely to bother anyone. We only wildcamp if we are certain that no one will be bothered in any possible way. If there’s a chance of locals not appreciating, I’d rather drive to the nearest RV lot. But this time it was fine. We had a great night’s rest.
This morning I opened my high-roof window blind, and woke up to a hazy sunrise that was hard to capture.
After breakfast, we followed a short trail called the Flora trail. It was interesting finding the signposts sometimes, but my son greatly enjoyed that. Not much botanically interesting going on here (yet). Due to higher altitude, the plants were still mostly dormant. Some Potentilla and Helleborus were flowering, but that was about it. I think this will be a Valhalla for botanists in a month or two. Maybe we should come back someday. What was interesting though, was the series of caves that was located along the trail. I didn’t expect to be able to descend into one, as the park was officially closed, but there were no signs telling us otherwise (whereas this was the case for one other cave), and there was an inviting stairway down ‘into the earth‘, as my son Rafa kept saying. The cave had beautiful rock formations, nature’s prettiest art. I loved it. To make the picture perfect, they also completely filled the bottom chamber with teddy bears. There’s probably some explanation, but it mostly creeped me out.
Just after lunch, we were packing up to leave, when a converted old German fire brigade van parked next to us. A Canadian family of four rolled out and started a conversation. They had sold their belongings, bought the van in Germany, then just left and had been underway for six months. It’s interesting how easy you meet like-minded folks on the road (not our first encounter with travel families on this trip). It’s also sad that you have to say goodbye soon after. I guess that’s the life of a nomad. Meeting other weirdos makes travel memorable.
We drove about two hours through landscapes that made me tremendously grateful for my dumb deviation from the main path. The road through Gospic and onwards to Karlobag (with a K!) was worth a couple of kilometers extra. I only stopped once in a safe spot to take some pictures. The rest of the road was even more breathtaking…
We parked for the night in Starigrad, where we hope to visit Paklenica national park. We’re parked in a sad place with a horrible view. Let’s hope the park’s worth all of this… (Vipera ursinii and Zamenis situla occur here!!!)