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  • Polaris Overland

Croatian Wonderland

So we left Montenegro and headed to Croatia.

But first we had to drive around the remainder of the sea loch passing through Kotor and following the road as it runs all round the coast line with steep cliffs towering above. This loch really does have a feel of a Norwegian Fjord except warmer. We took our time stopping off to get more pictures and wishing we could have spent more time in Montenegro.

But Dave’s daughter Ellie is coming to stay with him in Dubrovnik whilst Angela is back in the UK for her daughter Jodie’s graduation from University. So we needed to get moving and try and scope out a nice campsite and see what is on offer.

The arrival at the Montenegro side of the border crossing was fairly quick and easy but arriving at the Croatian side were long queues. After sitting and queuing for about an hour and a half they finally open extra booths to clear the backlog.

No additional insurance needed as we had our Green Card so we sailed though the process.

We followed the coast road enjoying the lovely blue sky and blue green seas with small rocky coves and many boats all bobbing around and heading to the islands.

Our chosen campsite was on the other side of Dubrovnik. The views of the old town of Dubrovnik are breathtaking as we drove past heading to Trsteno and our camp.

The camp is run by Nikolai a lovely chap, who despite having had 4 strokes is still running his business. The site was clean and well maintained with pitches on terraces with lots of trees for shade from the very hot sun. It was also very quiet, which was fine for us but not so sure for Ellie and also Jodie who is coming out for a week when Angela returns from the UK.

We got ourselves set up and then headed out to look at other sites in the area. Pretty much they were certainly no better and in most cases worse than where we were. In Dubrovnik itself is a campsite called Solitudo selling itself as the only campsite in Dubrovnik and offering numerous facilities so we decided to head over and take a look. The site is huge but the beach it advertises is just the public beach and most of the entertainment on offer is at neighbouring hotels. Even so we thought this might be the better option for the girls but the cost in excess of 75 Euros per day to camp was not worth the money and we decided it was better to spend the money on activities with the girls than waste it on a tent pitch.

So Trsteno is where we will be staying. We got the Oztent set up and hammocks out and prepped everything for Angela leaving and Ellie arriving. We picked up shopping so we were stocked up and the decision is Ellie will be in the roof tent and Dave is moved down into the Oztent.

Next day we did a bit more exploring, heading further away from Dubrovnik to check out some beaches and restaurants. We had lunch by the water and then back to Trsteno to get the laundry done and then head down top Trsteno beach. Nikolai had said the beach was 5 minutes down the hill. It certainly was not 5 minutes down and felt like a Himalayan climb on the way back up. The beach was not a beach but rocky outcrops with sunbathing platforms. This we were to find out is the norm for this part of Croatia.

To help with recovery from the walk up the hill we sat and had a cold beer with Nikolai. We finished the day snoozing in the hammocks then Angela updating the journal.

Next day Dave had to repair the swing away spare wheel carrier before we headed in to visit Dubrovnik old town. This was our first excursion into Dubrovnik and parking can only be described as a bit of a nightmare, finally finding a car park but being charged 75 Kuna (€10) an hour.

We left Wilson and headed down the steps to the old town. Crowds of people were filing in through the gates but we persevered and wandered around the town admiring the old buildings. Sadly most of the shops were selling the usual tourist tat so we opted for an ice cream and then left. Outside we found a shop and bought a Sim Card. We then had some lunch outside the old town but it took so long to bring out the food we were just over the next hour of the parking. As we were paying a small ransom we decided to wander around a little more and get our monies worth.

Before returning we went to see if we could find shopping malls etc, which are always a winner with the girls. Sadly there were not many choices and what they did have was very poor with little to offer.

Day 96 and we decide to drive out to the Orebic Peninsular to check out more campsites in the area. This was about a 2 hour drive from Trsteno and although it had more to offer but like the Solitudo Campsite wanted silly money. That coupled with about a 3 hour drive from Dubrovnik Airport the decision was made to stay at Trsteno.

Later back at camp Angela did her packing for going to the UK and we went for dinner in the only local restaurant in Trsteno.

Flight day today. Angela was leaving on the flight that Ellie flew in on from Edinburgh. For Angela it’s a chance to be proud mum for Jodie’s graduation and a chance to catch up with all her family, as she will be away 12 days. For Dave its dad and daughter time and a chance to enjoy time together and no doubt annoy the hell out of each other as usual.

Dave and Ellie spent the 12 days exploring Dubrovnik and Croatia, getting sunburnt and on sea kayaking trips and an off road buggy trip. Dave thoroughly enjoyed it and the 12 days passed too quick with neither of them falling out.

Angela returned with Jodie after 12 days and for a week it was 4 of us at Trsteno. We spent the week sunbathing, sea kayaking (again for Dave and Ellie) barbequing and chilling out.

All too soon it was over and we took the girls to the airport for them to head back to Scotland. We said our goodbyes and then waved them off. It’s always sad to see them go.

Once the girls were gone we got ourselves organised and back into the just us routine. We had to fit a new cover on the tent so decided to sleep in the Oztent. Additionally we had spotted a cracked weld on the trailer rack that we needed to get fixed before we headed off again. We struggled to find anyone to do it but finally a tyre mechanic called a welder who agreed to do it for us Saturday. We weren’t confident that he would call but we had no other alternatives.

Sure enough Saturday came and no phone call in the morning so we headed to Lidl near the airport for supplies. Whilst there the welder called so we had to head back and collect the trailer. Dave headed off to meet up with the welder and Angela headed to the beach.

The welder turned out to just be some guy who borrowed a welding machine and did a rough job but it should hold ok.

Our last evening we enjoyed a BBQ and chilled out.

After 26 days in total for Dave at Trsteno it was time to move out. We said our goodbyes to Nikolai and headed north to Split. But first we had to cross the border into Bosnia and then again back into Croatia as Dubrovnik is like a small enclave separated from the main part of Croatia by Bosnia. As my Croatian friend once said, we had to give them a beach!

Our next stop was Camp Seget in Trogir close to Split. It’s a lovely camp right on the beach but very busy. Here we felt a bit like animals at a zoo with many people walking past staring at our set up, no doubt wondering what on earth we were doing in amongst all the white boxes of campervans and caravans.

We went for a wander in the evening before heading back to camp for a cold beer. A few people finally actually spoke to us asking where we had been and how long we had been travelling. We are always happy to chat to people, hear where they have been etc and any good places to visit.

Next morning we headed into the old town of Trogir. It’s a walk along the waterside with marinas and yachts constantly sailing by. Trogir itself is very medieval and “olde worlde” looking with an old castle that we visited and we sought shade and coffee in the tight small lanes of the old town.

Later we headed back to the campsite and Dave chilled at the tent whilst Angela headed down to the beach to top up the tan.

Day 120 of our trip and today we were heading for Krka National Park. Great drive and a bonus was the campsite had a swimming pool.

So after setting up the tent we headed for the pool followed by a few cold beers at the bar.

Dinner was a simple affair as BBQ’s were not permitted due to the chances of wild fires, something we would see soon enough.

Next day it was hot at over 40 degs C and certainly not comfortable to be in. We headed to Krka early and looking at the queues it was a good move. We caught the boat up to Skradinski Buk where lovely waterfalls cascade down in layers and you could swim in the cool water.

We took a circular route through this part of the park, taking photos and visiting the watermills and visitor exhibitions including Tesla’s Hydro Electric Centre.

Plenty fish to be seen in the lakes and Dave wished he had brought his fishing rod as even he should be able to catch something here.

After a few hours we decided to catch the boat back and jump into the car to head to another part of the Krka NP at Roski Slap.

Krka NP is not one centre and requires either a car or joining a tour to get round all the lakes and sights.

On the way to Roski Slap we saw a huge wild fire in the distance with plane after plane flying in and dropping water to try and control it. It was only when we arrived at Roski Slap that we realized just how big the fire really was and it was on the escarpment above Roski Slap.

We parked up and firstly walked another circular route through the upper waterways and falls before heading to Roski Slap proper where we could dip our feet in the water and enjoy a cold drink in the restaurants.

Here one of the restaurants had tables in the water and a waterfall you could stand under if you needed to cool down.

Once we had enough here we needed to get some supplies so headed to Lidl’s on the return back to camp and then another dip in the swimming pool, shower followed by cold beer and a meal in the restaurant. Afterwards we sat enjoying a few drinks and were joined by 2 young Polish girls who brought over a traditional drink that we sat drinking together and enjoyed chatting into the early hours. Both really nice girls full of life and enjoying an adventure. We still keep in touch now on social media.

Next morning we both woke up with a bit of a headache. We decided to put it down to the heat and dehydration rather than the alcohol consumed the night before. Our plan for today was to visit the Roman ruins of Salona near Split. Although we had seen much better Roman ruins this was the first that had a fully circular amphitheatre except for the Coliseum we had seen in Rome a good few years ago and long before we started this adventure.

On our way back we headed into Sibenik and found a shopping Mall with MacDonald’s for a change of diet. We spent a short time wandering around the shops fully appreciating the air conditioning and with Dave telling Angela she was not allowed to buy anything. Just teasing her lol.

Back at the campsite it was now routine with a cool dip in the pool, showered the chilled on our hammocks.

Another day and it was time to move on. We headed for Plitvice National Park camping in a huge campsite called Korona. It was a very busy site but there was plenty of space and shaded areas, hollows to camp in and the cleanest facilities.

We found a nice spot under some trees where we got set up and hung out the hammocks. The guide had mentioned a river to swim in but sadly it was as dry as a bone.

As we had arrived reasonably early we headed to visit Barac Caves. We weren’t really sure what to expect. On arrival it was explained that it was a 45 minute tour costing 75 Kuna. We were advised it was only 9 degrees in the caves and we should take jumpers. Dave said we are from Scotland to which the guide replied he should take his shirt off then, as he would be too hot.

The 9 degrees sounded wonderful compared with the 40 degrees outside and it really was refreshing. The tour was actually really enjoyable and something a bit different but we would definitely recommend it if you are close by and want a change from the Lakes.

Afterwards we headed back to camp for Fajitas and cold beer.

Next morning we headed out early to visit the Plitvice Lakes. Arriving before 0900 the queues were already huge and after queuing for nearly an hour we bought a two day pass (280 Kuna Each). This meant for today we could enjoy the lower lakes at our leisure and then head up to the upper lakes tomorrow. This proved to be a good plan as the NP is large and involves lots of walking and standing. And as we had the two day pass we would not have to queue up tomorrow and could just walk straight in.

The NP was absolutely beautiful with cascading waterfalls, stunning blue and clear water where you could not fail to be impressed and all the lakes were brimming with fish. The walkways were mostly under shaded trees but could become congested due to the sheer numbers of people visiting and for us this was the only downside. Included in the price are the boat trips up the lakes the road trains around the park but for us we preferred top walk mostly except where a boat was necessary to get to the next area.

By mid afternoon we had walked enough, were more than hot enough and headed back to camp and enjoyed a nap on the hammocks.

Later as usual some cold beer and we had dinner from the bar.

Couple of beers and quick tea at the bar. Headed back and cooked bolognaise for tomorrows tea.

Day 2 of the Plitvice NP and as already mentioned we could just walk straight in as we had the two day pass so today was the upper reaches of the NP and again the lakes and waterfalls were stunning but for us spoiled once again by the number of people visiting.

We enjoyed lunch in a quiet spot escaping the crowds and by a lake taking in the stunning views and waterfalls crashing into the lakes. It would have been so nice to jump in and go for a swim but where at Krka NP swimming is permitted at Plitvice NP it is not.

Walking in the excessive heat takes its toll and again by mid afternoon we were ready to head back to camp to chill out in the hammocks and of course the obligatory cold beers.

That night we had thunder, lightning and very heavy rain. For us in our Roof Tent it was not a problem unlike other campers. In the morning we were in no rush to get going, as we wanted to give the tent a chance to dry out a little before we packed up.

Once packed up we were heading to Rijeka where Dave’s friend from his offshore life lives with his family. We had also arranged to get a few things delivered to Goran that we needed for the Landy.

The weather improved and the sun was shining when we arrived at Opatija Campsite on the outskirts of Rijeka. Not exactly the most warming welcome from the reception but we headed in and found a spot for ourselves. Just as we were setting up we heard a loud crash and saw telegraph poles bouncing and swinging. A huge branch had fallen off a tree onto the power lines just missing a caravan and causing the poles to bounce around. We had picked a spot under the power lines so decided to move out from under them. Last thing we wanted was the poles falling and the wires hitting our tent or us.

Once set up we got some cleaning and tidying done to the trailer and Landy, and then Dave looked up requirements for the next countries we would be visiting.

Next day Goran and his daughter Mia arrived to take us out on a bit of a tour of the area. As Goran was driving Dave got to be a passenger for the first time in a while. First stop was a viewing platform at the top of the mountain behind our campsite with 360 degree views of Croatia and islands. Stunning views.

Next we visited Hum, known according to The Guinness Book of Records as the smallest town in the world.

We wandered around and upon entering what we thought was a church door opened up into the town with cobbled streets, nice restaurants selling their own produce. We enjoyed a huge traditional Croatian lunch of cold meats, sausages and a type of sauerkraut with Goran and Mia before we were dropped back at camp to chill out and get ready to go out again that night.

At 1930 Goran and his wife Melinda picked us up.

They took us up to the old town of Rijeka to Trsat Castle to enjoy the views of Rijeka. The castle is now a restaurant and really unique full of character and a great atmosphere. Sadly it was full so we could not stop for a beer or dinner.

After the castle we headed on a tour of the rest of Rijeka with both Goran and Melinda explaining the history and geography of this part of Croatia and both clearly proud to show off their part of Croatia with its Venetian styles which Angela loved. It really is a beautiful city to visit full of history and certainly brought to life by Goran and Melinda.

We finally found a bar with boudoir tables and grandma doily covers where we had a beer and wine. Many of the bars in Rijeka are quaint, tasteful and full of character unlike the more modern bars you see elsewhere. Afterwards we headed for the seaside and walked along the prom at Opatija, taking in the trendy bars, colonial hotels and finished off with a nightcap beer. By now it was 0200 and it was time to head back to camp. We had a lovely time with Goran, Melinda and Mia and it would have been nice to have longer. They had been perfect hosts, welcoming us, spending time with us and sharing their city and its history.

This was the end of Croatia for us. We had spent more time in Croatia than any other country visited but David wanted to reach Nordkapp before the weather changed and we were still hoping to make the Morocco Raid 2017 trip so we needed to get moving.

So by 1000 we were on the road and heading for Slovenia.

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