17th Sept 2022
So I am writing this sitting under the awning in Dubrovnik during heavy rain and a thunderstorm..! At least it is warm and YES.. we have achieved our target City of Dubrovnik. This is the first serious rainfall for any weeks which gives us some admin and blog time rather than lounging lazily on the beach..!
When last we spoke we were leaving Ljubljana in Slovenia and heading over into Croatia. Well this was an interesting start… 30th August and our plan was to visit the Plitvice Lakes which are renowned for the crystal clear water and wonderful waterfalls. The campsite chosen was the relatively new Big Bear site which was in fact a little further away than we thought but it looked ideal, with great reviews and cheap at only 175 Kuna per night (£21). Trouble is… after a three hour drive and only 15km to go… a Road Closure sign appeared. The route to this side of the national park was simply closed. Barrier across and a Croatian ‘Diversion’ sign. Bugger. Well our amazing navigator managed to get the shortest route right around the park. Just another hour and a half and 50km…! And not the best quality of roads neither. Well this was about 3pm so as we eventually arrived at the Big Bear (along freshly laid tarmac). It appears that this whole stretch past the campsite was shut for 6 weeks from 8am-4pm to resurface the whole thing. If we had arrived at the ‘Diversion’ sign an hour later it would all have been open.. Damnit. This wasn’t the end of the story either. After watching other vehicles pass along this road the next day we decided that they must all be going through the roadworks as none turned back and there were very limited side roads.. so we decided to give it a go and try to drive through the roadworks. Wrong… after 5 km we came across the road builders who were decidedly excitable ‘There are huge signs’ he gesticulated ‘Road is closed’ as he rolled his eyes. However they gave us details of a small road half way back to the Big Bear. ‘It is big enough for the lorries’ he assures us. Well… we really did give it a go. It was like driving up a gravel track with Ruby grazing the greenery along both sides when we were met by a couple of Austrians in a car coming in the opposite direction. They stopped after we squeezed past and returned saying ‘Don’t do it’- ‘We have had to turn around’ ‘You will not do it in that’– Well hell. Thanks. That was the end of that then. Managed to conduct a twelve-point turn and returned back to the Big Bear for a day off and a nice meal in the restaurant.
The next day we decided to leave at 7am and beat the road closure in order to get to the Plitvice Lakes. – Perhaps we should have done that in the first place..!
As mentioned the site was new, immaculately clean and just lacking in character (and customers) as it was so new. Managed to get tons of washing done on the rest day too.. There were however dozens of chalets behind us containing Ukrainian Refugees. They were all families that were provided good quality temporary chalets and fed three times a day in the site restaurant. Very generous of the Croatians.
We did manage to meet up with another rare British couple in a camper van. From Leeds. Wahey. We then watched as they stole a couple of white towels from the laundry room destined for the Ukrainians. Boooo. Typical. !
So eventually getting to Plitvice Lakes was worth the effort. There is lots to see and even though it is basically lakes and waterfalls it is a most interesting and beautiful several hours spent. Not cheap at 300Kn (£35) each and very, very, busy despite the weather being overcast. There are several ‘watering holes’ for basic food and drink though surprisingly many were closed. There was train (truck) transport around the outside and boat trips across the lake to add to the enjoyment, included in the price. A very worthwhile day out.
Interestingly in all our travels we have not come across any exciting creatures/birds other than occasional newts (chitchats). Everywhere has pigeons, rooks, sparrows, seagulls and the odd buzzard or heron. The most exotic bird on our trip was the parakeets in Kent..!
This was quite a funny moment prior to going into the Plitvice Lakes park. We had to pop into a nearby shop for milk and eggs on the way and whilst I was waiting in the road outside some local Croatian bloke approached and asked in immaculate English if we could exchange 40 Croation Kuna for the £5 in British Coins he held out in his hand. ….Ok…. Strange….. Anyway after a short chat it turns out that every day people throw coins into one area of the lakes and Make a Wish. Yes…you got it…. the next morning at 7am he goes in and fishes all the coins out.! Cheeky Bugger. As we were one of only a few Brits around he took the opportunity to exchange his long-held grubby British coins. Brilliant. We even gave him a tip…!
The 2nd September and we were wild camping at a lake near Lovinac. Place called Sveti Rock. We were joined by a young French couple in this large picnic area next to the lake. Free. Despite the fact we were told many times that this is not possible. It was a quiet night and next morning we awoke to a most wonderful of view of the mist hanging over the lake causing terrific silhouettes and shadows. This cleared quickly giving us a peaceful breakfast cuppa on the wooden jetty looking across to the mountains. Wonderful.
However it was then back to the campsites and the excitement of (at last) getting to the sea. The first time during our four weeks on the road that we could exchange lakes for salt water. We pitched up at Camp Sibuljina at Tribanj for 2 nights on 3rd Sept costing us 306 Kn (£17pn) per night. Already we were straight into the sea. Swimming in the Adriatic. Bit salty to be fair- after the lake swimming.! The water was warm and soooooo green and clear. The mask and snorkel was brought quickly into action. Fish were numerous in type and size though somewhat bland in colouring. We did however watch a truly magical squid drifting from rock to rock changing colour as it went. – Only about 30cm long I might add- The campsite was fine with a good restaurant and what with only a 50 metre walk into the sea it was just what we needed. The Croatian coast was the area we intended to spend many days/weeks.
Moving off again on 5th, we were headed off along the coast towards the Split area. We again needed provisions so planned on stopping in Sibenik for a Lidl shopping trip. Well the car park in the first one was too small for Ruby so we foolishly just followed the standard Google map (rather than the motorhome specific Aguri satnav) to find the second Lidl nearby. Well…… remember in previous blogs we mentioned how we always managed to drive anywhere without getting stuck… this time we slightly overdid it…! We headed down one rather narrow two way road when suddenly confronted by a tiny ‘no motorhome’ sign ! Well we had many cars behind and nowhere to turn so felt we had no choice to go on. Well suffice it to say that at one stage I was trying to do a twelve point turn at a junction with cars tooting from two directions, scooters squeezing past and Michelle standing behind trying to watch me back at the same time as gesticulating ‘f*** off’ to the irritated local residents of Sibenik Old Town. Ooops. ! Comments like ‘You can’t come this way’ really didn’t help. Eventually after several minutes of anguish one English speaking guy says. ‘Don’t worry, you can get through there’- Pointing straight ahead. Good. Thank God. Tell you what though… we only just got through there. Wing mirrors pushed in, skimming past heavy stone walls and staring back at the bemused locals….was… entertaining. How we laughed. Later….!
The whole of Sibenik were a miserable, frantic, unhelpful bunch to be fair. Scary place. Even the security guard at the shopping mall carried a firearm….!
So we moved off from there and pitched up at our new home for what turned out to be 9 nights. We stayed at Camp Riviera in Makarska. This is a busy tourist town and our site was again right on the sea front, though with a massive 300metres to the sea. We really enjoyed the site as it was very clean and modern and despite costing 250Kn (£29) per night it was just what we needed and hoped for. In short we spent the vast majority of the time on the pebble beaches, in 28º + of mainly bright sunny days. Evenings were very warm and sufficient to sit outside in shorts right up to midnight. Black squirrels ran around the trees fighting and playing – though one particular rebel seemed to object to our presence and after a bit of aggressive posturing he jumped onto our canopy and (I believe) deliberately wheel spun up the length of it. Putting deep scratches along the top with his claws. Little bugga.!
Snorkelling was again a thing along the rocks but a lot of our time was spent on two inflatable lilos purchased locally. We would just paddle out to the row of bouys around the bay and just hang on whilst rocking up and down in the waves. And messing about doing the ‘stand-up’ challenge and trying an impossible ‘Eskimo roll’. The lilos are so so much fun and we remember fondly doing the same during our previous trip to Croatia nine years or so ago.The weather, the sea temperature and the beach were almost perfect. Maybe a bit too busy. You know we mentioned previously about fellow holiday makers getting too close unnecessarily.? Well its just crazy. ‘Move over a bit you clown’! There was one occasion we went onto a different bay that we later called Geriatric Beach. An old (90yrs) couple arrived and put their towels within inches of Michelle- literally. There was probably 80% of open beach available but they just plonked down and soaked up the sun. This did cause the child-in-me to get them back by standing in the way of the sun, plunging her into shadow..Ha..!
The slightly isolating part of this location was the lack of Brits. We usually enjoy that bit. However following on from the sad news of The Queen’s death on 8th September there was no one around that had any concept, understanding or feelings about this major national historic announcement. We put up our English Flag at half mast but it was not significant. There were NO Brits (or even Commonwealth countrymen) on the whole 100+ pitch site at the time of her death. It was three days before we had any condolences about the loss of Our Queen. This was from a Serbian Canadian family that we sat with during our next great adventure. Sad sad days. And a great loss.
This next adventure was a trip to the islands of Hvar and Brac for the day from Makarska. An organised trip aboard the Makarski Jadran costing just 300Kn (£35 ) each for the day. This was an 8.30am to 6pm trip which included lunch (with wine !). it was really good value and a blast. We had wanted to visit the island of Brac and particularly the famous Bol beach and we had the added bonus of a visit to scenic Jelsa on the island of Hvar.
So we were allocated seats which is where we met the fellow Commonwealth folk. Turns out that mum and dad were originally from Serbia but moved to Toronto before the Yugoslav Wars for independence. Their adult sons were born in Canada so the four of them were Canadian citizens. Nice chatty folk with a lot of useful info about the conflict and divisions in former Yugoslavia. After two hours on calm seas (including a brief dolphin encounter) we spent an hour in Jelsa then shipped out for an hour towards Brac. We were fed at this time with a choice of either fish or chicken. Well we had watched the chef barbecue loads of fish and chicken on the huge bbq grills at the stern. We were then presented with one whole but beautifully cooked mackerel, a lump of bread and a dollop of pickled cabbage. Bit basic.. but fit for purpose and ideal for the trip. Add a couple of mouthfuls of wine and things brightened up… The seagulls alongside seemed to love the fish-heads being flung overboard in what was clearly a daily occurrence. Incidentally the weather was brilliant. Blue sky, Emerald Sea, Rugged mountains and a gentle breeze.
On arrival at Brac we had 3.5 hrs to spend as we wished. This involved a 20 min walk to the Golden Horn beach. It has the distinct advantage of having two stretches of beach facing east and west. You can pick the side that is not windy. Perfect. Well it was in fact perfect. We picked the east beach which was calm and watched the flags on the other side blowing full breeze. The sea temperature was ideal and the pebble beach cracking. Another period of swimming, lounging, swimming, lounging… There were three young lasses on the beach alongside us were dressed in red, white and blue bikinis. They just laid out for the whole three hours. So of course, for a jolly jape Michelle joined them, her red bikini exactly matching theirs. I was pretty impressed.!
Our trip back to mainland Makarska turned into a singing and dancing frenzy enhanced by the occasional drink. The fun of the hundred or so of us singing and dancing to YMCA at full blast as we docked in the harbour certainly attracted a lot of attention. Bloody good day all in all.
Now one of the downsides of this area is the critters. Not the flying mosquitos or the swarms of midges but the invisible silent stealth nibbly things that just chew away. You can feel them but see nothing so it leaves you believing all is well….but no… the little buggers just eat you night and day. So much so that one morning my ankle was running with infected secretions. ! I will spare you the photos.! (How come I always suffer with feet issues on our travels?). Anyway Mich for once managed to escape the worst of it despite being much tastier than me. A visit to the pharmacist had it sorted quickly, followed by an upgrade in our insect sprays, body sprays, room plug-ins and the lot. Its amazing that on our previous backpacking tour of Asia we didn’t use any insect repellent or sprays during two months. But we had to dig out all our resources here. Not a problem at all now…ONCE WE ARE SPRAYED..!
We loved this location in Makarska so much that we stayed for 9 days. Mainly lounging in the sun and in the sea. Lunch or Dinner out most days with a healthy beer at some stage through the day. This was the exact World of Glenn and Michelle. Right up our street. At 250Kn per night (£29) we thought that was pretty fair.
Finally now it was time to hit the road again for our final push to our Dubrovnik destination. The high quality coast road is the D8 and called the Jadranska Majistrala or the Adriatic Highway. It pretty much runs the length of Croatia and beyond and bends and curves it way along the coast for mile after beautiful mile. Average speed of a relaxed 30mph or so but not many roundabouts or junctions to impede you. The eastern side of the Adriatic has a long line of mountainous islands running the length of Croatia north to south. So as you drive you are not only looking out so sea but also to ranges of mountains ten miles or so away. Breathtaking view after breathtaking view. On more than one occasion Ruby swerved across the lanes whilst the driver was checking the view.
Another challenge along the route, which we were unaware of until Michelle put Dubrovnik into the satnav was that unfortunately someone had put Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) in the way..! You cannot drive straight into Dubrovnik as Croatia is split by B&H occupying some of the coast. The only way through is on the Neum Corridor through B&H for which we have no vehicle insurance for B&H and no EHIC insurance as it is not part of Europe. Bugger. How can no-one have told us this. ! What does everyone else do. ?? Well as it turns out… and by pure chance… the Croatians have just built the Plejesac Bridge which runs out to sea and across to a Croatian peninsula which then runs down to Dubrovnik. This was only opened six weeks prior to our trip and was a real bonus. The other option, it seems would have been to take a ferry round the tip of Bosnia and Herzegovina to stay legal.
So anyhow… we made it… 14th September and we are now at the Camping Solitude site in Dubrovnik and the weather is grim, raining and thunderstorms, overcast and windy though hot through the day and with night time temperatures of 28º! But hey. Watch this space. It is due to improve.
Did you know…
The Yugoslav Wars of independence, took place in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001.The conflict led to the breakup of Yugoslavia into six independent countries matching the six republics which previously composed Yugoslavia:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina,
- and North Macedonia (previously named Macedonia).