Finally we hit Croatia, this has been one hell of a journey round and K’s clocking up super fast on The Green Machine it was finally time to chill out and give the beast a rest. We approach the border with a somewhat heavier presence of police, we wait our turn to hand over the passports. Once passports taken in we look around and there must be close to 10 police officers milling around and checking peoples cars, mostly from Albania. There’s one man, staunch as and stone cold looking he meant business, typical sort taking his uniform for power and I caught his glance while tending another vehicle. Back of my mind he wants to check this, so mean while the other officers quite cheerful and a few wry smiles looking at the van. Passports back and we get clearance to drive through, so Mr staunch has a little glance again as we drive off, still trying to sort other vehicles. “ah no checks! ” I say, ready to see Karen’s parents and to hit the beach. Well pretty much straight after leaving the barrier we had a copper on our ass just following me, take it slow he will soon over take. He’d been following for 10 minutes and finally puts his siran on. We pull over and he directs us to drive in more off the road with another cop car pulling in behind us, “shit what is this? ” now we know for sure they are checking our van, 3 other officers walk around the van and guess who, Mr staunch insist on searching the van. First officer who pulled me over asked for passports, said my name and ask me to empty my pockets, then here’s the next thing. I thought he said put my hands on the chair…. Excuse my language but I thought shit! This guys gonna do a cavity search! Snap of his gloves just like you see on the movies I was shitting myself… “theres nothing up there! ” saying in my head.
Well turns out he didn’t want me to do that, he was just getting ready to pat me down, phew. Talk about freaking out! So they search away in the van, ever so carefully going through every single item and placing it so carefully back, Mr Staunch holds up a sachet looking at me with a stern look like he just wants to throw me in jail, “what’s this? ” seriously I felt like telling him its Crystilized Meth, honestly just sniff if. It came out of a little red bag with instructions on how to make mulled wine! What are we waiting for lets light up! So Karen explains it’s a drink… He gets the drift. I wanted him to taste it so he could get a mad sugar rush, bad ass. So still looking around he’s looking really pissy and knows he ain’t going to find anything. Now what! pulls out my pot not the sort your thinking, this is a pot I use to dry my hearing aids they have two little pots inside with dehydrating crystals. Holds it up and questions again, I just felt like saying yip mate you got me, it’s Methamphetamine, got some coke over there too! So explaining I wear hearing aids and those pots dry them out he starts to look quite stupid. Open the boot and they go into the drawers, above the drawers he’s tapping away at a plastic bag with a sack of charcoal in it, “what’s this? ” seriously dude open it up and look for yourself, its bloody charcoal…. You know for a BBQ? so I explain it’s for a BBQ and he just looks really pissed he’s not found anything, without saying anything they just walk away… “That it?” I say “You go now” he says as they trudge back to their cars. Me and Karen just looked at each other with such stunned faces, “ready for the beach?” Karen looking at me in agreement, what a way to enter Croatia. We were only 10 km away from Karens parents, so nearly there.
So after that not so brief encounter with the force where my butt clenches of thoughts where no finger had been before, we head to Cavtat. Here we meet Karen’s parents at an apartment they booked for us, top balcony with stunning views and a pool at the bottom, you couldn’t ask for much more! So we had a surprise for Ian and Maureen, we had collected beers, wines and chocolates on our way through every country we had visited, reds white wines and a vast array of different beers. Putting the stash on the table made me and Karen look quite stumped how much we collected! Lets just say the lot got cleared before Ian and Maureen departed 5 days later!
Cavtat is an old town built on a little peninsula over looking both harbours, south of Dubrovnik it is one of many touristy spots coming and going on boats between Dubrovnik. Bars and restaurants along side the ports where mini cruises or launches docked with money to spend, crystal clear waters with abundance of small little fish swimming around. Hotels sprawlled everywhere with stunning views over the Adriatic sea and tourist stalls line the streets selling snorkels and bikinis, here we will be based for 3 days. Swimming, snorkeling soaking up sun rays, it was a very chilled out fun time BBQ’ing, games and bombs! Just to note got Ian with a peach of a bomb near the wharf, classic day good fun.
Clearing the van and the back seat belts are out, we are ready for them to sit in the back and take a ride in the famous Green Machine to Dubrovnik, campsite booked the only one in town we look to venture into Dubrovnik old town.
Dubrovnik to give you a little insight on what to expect here and how I can best describe the place. Dubrovnik old town is built between 8th and 16th century surrounded by city walls of which in some places reach to 25 metres high. Lanes verring off in all directions this seems to be right on the water, if living next to the wall with the ocean on the other side you wouldn’t even notice, walk ontop of the wall and the deep blue waters crash against the walls all day long. Inside the walls is a buzzing town of restaurants, bars and shops. We took a walk around the perimeter on top of the wall itself and quickly notice how compact it is in there, washing lines strung out on pulley ropes out the window, well cared for gardens in the back yard next to the medieval walls and countless little cafes down in the lanes and in open courtyards. Walking from the main entrance into the old town we take a walk and the first thing you notice is the Onfrio’s Great Fountain constructed in 1520 after a serious earthquake opposite this is the Franciscan Monastery which holds the oldest pharmacy in Europe in 1317. With so much history here I won’t get into it too much. We caught up with Ian & Maureen and proceed to find a place to have a wine and some beers, located deep down an alleyway it served to be quite the ideal spot for how Dubrovnik portrayed itself. Typical Croatian wine and craft beer it served for a good end to the day of visiting old town Dubrovnik.
A lazy Sunday ensued on the beach at the northern end of the bay in Dubrovnik soaking up the rays and swimming in the salty waters, all the way along the coast from Greece to here thus far we have notice the salt content getting stronger in the sea. We head back and head into a bar to watch some football a few drinks had and a not so interesting score to finish on… Bloody Arsenal! Walking around the bay you see the many various steps that lead to the shoreline with little docking points or a slab of rock to dangle your feet in personally bombs would be better! We find ourselves at a bar to have our last drink out before we see them off in the morning, trying some local brandy, which has a hell of a kick to it. We toast to a fantastic 5 days with Ian and Maureen.
We set off up north to an area we thought would be better for the Green Machine to rest up and we could get our island fix without having to take our campervan over. First stop is Orebić a small sleepy town with gorgeous veiws on white pebble beach with such clear turquoise ocean. We stop at a campsite that offers a pitch right next to the ocean, here we plan to stay a few days get the wheel bearings replaced on The Green Machine, visit the island of Korčula, copious amounts of swimming and soaking up the rays and most importantly bombs!
We visit Korčula island with the old town much the same as Dubrovnik surrounded by fortified walls with the town itself rising up to the Cathedral in the middle which would date back to 15th century. Walking around the outer perimeter of the wall we make our way into the old town up the main steps through the archway, it looks very old and the narrow streets I talk of in Dubrovnik are even more narrow here. It’s a buzzing little place with lots of little shops selling jewellery and touristy bits and pieces, we decide it’s time for beach and snorkling and head our way over to Lumbarda. Here we stop at a cafe on the beach for some kebabs and chips before chilling in the sun and snorkel the surrounding area, not alot of fish found unfortunately! We make our way back on the ferry from the old town back to Orebić.
The area from Orebić and Korčula Island and south of Ston is top quality Vino region, there are lots of little local winerys everywhere. With constant cycle tours of people trying and tasting or I reckon just getting on the piss! The wine here is top drawer and if you come here do try it, it’s cheap and doesn’t come with the snobby aura that big wineries have. The Green Machine wheel bearings are done with much anticipation on how quick it would take being the only mechanic in the area for a long way, parts arriving from Zagreb. I’d like to think it arrived on a boat! It’s a long way to drive with only a day delivery. We set off for Ston.
Upon arrival to Ston we stop off at one of many miniture wineries to try their local vino and Karen to try some rose, rose and a red purchased. Strong and full of flavour with the percentages quite high. We stay at a campsite near Ston and drive in noticing a Westfalia just like ours but a beige colour, driving closer they soon smile to realise our camper is similar and we acknowledged each other and pull up to pitch next to them. Their Westfalia Joker is of same style and even had the trademark joker sign on the front doors, their one was a water cooled engine ours being air. They coming from Germany and travelling for a few weeks, they take a look at how our inside is all equipped. Had a friendly chat and upon them leaving the next day offered their contact to come and say hello when we head into Munich for the beerfest. Heading into Ston is a slightly different fortified wall set up to what you generally come accustomed to in Croatia, connected with Mali Ston with the walls it borders the steep hill side with impressive views of the surrounding bays. We still look at the set up with confusion as the walls trail up the mountain across then back down, for why they built it like this we do not know. We took a walk to the top and around the bend with the view of Mali Ston, seen the town and we set off for Makarska. The journey being a little more eventful than we wanted, this little switch is causing havoc. On the motoway the immobilizer is switching itself off, having to re-adjust the switch 4 times in total it’s become quite apparent this thing is buggered, on a brighter note the horn works again!
Find another pitch and we base ourselves at Makarska for a few days, the weather is not to flash so we wait for the blue skies to reappear to move onto some nice beaches. Here is a top tourist attraction with many cruise boats entering the harbour, we take a look around the town and buy some new snorkeling goggles to update our old ones, an underwater disposable camera and a 12 Volt fan to connect to our ceiling of the camper to make sleeping up top bearable In the hot summer nights, lately reaching to around 29°C quite the sauna! Before setting off to Brela we check into a mechanic to the advice of the last mechanic fitting the wheel bearings to get them re-adjusted if needed around 200km and also fix this bloody useless immobilizer switch that keeps going off while we drive! Bearings good as gold and the mechanic call in a sparky and he ends up replacing with a more sound switch than what we had, it looked as if the old switch got hot and blew itself.
Next stop Brela we planned on staying here but the lack of campsites here means that is highly unlikely, we head into Lokva Rogoznica not far from Omis. Here we stay at a campsite and have a pitch right on the edge looking over the sea, a local man in his mid 50’s who works here enthusiastically told us it’s a fish party tonight and first time women come to campsite have to dance on the table to traditional Croatian music. That’s our night set and done, enjoying local beverages of white and red wine with a free complimentary drink of cherry liquer from the man himself, he was quite the character! We know what he means by fish party, baby octopus deep fried, squid rings, fresh anchovies none of that jar stuff that is too strong to eat, this stuff was just right! All sorts of fish just kept coming out and I couldn’t tell you what it was but it was top notch, buffet style it was really cool evening to be a part of. Karen and another lady having to dance on the table to two guys playing a guitar one with a typical small Ukulele singing local Croatian songs, and that summed up our evening.
Next day we make most of sunshine and get our new snorkels out, the reef around the side is host to alot of fish. Hopefully the underwater camera will do it justice when we get it developed. Followed by some wine and pork tenderloin on the bbq to the view. The night would prove to turn out for the worst as a NE whips up a frenzy along the coast, just about every camper had to put away tents and awnings the wind was that strong, having the camper to the side of the wind made for an interesting nights sleep 2 am and we had to put ours down due to the gail force winds. Next day we are off to Omis for some Flying fox or as you Brits call it Zip line!
Karen stumbled on information about Zip wire across the canyon in Omis, we decided to do this though the following day proved to be a near cancel from us, as the winds along the coast had got really bad. We decide to do the Zip line and pay at the office with them reasurring that wind won’t be a problem. The highest point of the first zip line was 350 metres with yourself in the harness flying across 150 metres away from the side of the valley. 8 all up and I tell you what, everyone always remembers those times as kids flying on those things, well childhood came flooding back and these things just kick ass! Pictures and hopefully a movie I will upload will show you how awesome this was.
After abit of thrill to our early start to the day we make our way over to Split, the second largest city in Croatia and it was just that. We took a look into town and ventured into the main square and witnessed the Cathedral of St Domnius just before you reach the church there’s a small square that is surrouded by the Romanesque pillars and the Palace at the forefront. We took a look inside the church and walked down into the crypt under the church. With the old walls connected to alot of the new buildings in some cases the restaurants and bars are built into the spaces of the old walls, we walk around town and along the water front. For our liking it wasn’t a place that grabbed our attention, heaving with tourist this obviously a top spot with cruizes coming and going with Hvar island one of the popular places to go being not far away from here. Our time was quicker than first thought and we decided to head earlier up the coast to Krka National park.
Krka National park region and we find a campsite with a pool! But no bombs allowed……The following day we head to the park and pay the entrance fee that includes a bus to the area, sun shining hot temperatures it’s an absolute schorcher. Walking in you see the amount of water and streams all fast flowing from different directions with little catchments everywhere it’s the opposite to swamplands, vast array of fish seen everywhere with snakes, lizards, otters, turtles and turtoise just to name a few it’s buzzing with wildlife.
What is a tad disappointing whether lack of research on our part or simply not enough information is that the park itself is huge but the walking proximity is only 2.5 Km the rest of the area is to get there by boat, so conveniently having to pay more dollars to get out further. It’s a shame to not be able to walk freely or even that walking for 5 or so hours, we have no problem doing that but to make money on that is abit of a bummer. We opted not to do this and just see the waterfall at the main part. Stunning it was and to walk around with all the waterflow through the trees in such blue water, tonnes of fish swimming around to the sound of frogs ribberting.
The waterfall itself was spectacular again so blue and clear all around, this place luckily for ourselves was not as busy, it’s a huge tourist attraction and at the heat of summer you would be really disappointed being crowded in such serenic nature. If your wanting to pay extra to go on the boat it takes you to another waterfall and some old ruins. And that is Krka National park hopefully the photo’s do it justice.
This concludes part one of Croatia on what has been an extremely varied experience, great to catch up with Karens parents along with a not so fun experience with the force to enjoying swimming in the Adriatic sea, it is a fantastic country and glad it’s not over just yet!