1075km so far.
We were pretty happy in the campground Borje, so we got up lazily and slowly and did our morning ritual: coffee, breakfast, dress, tear down the tent, pack. By the late hour of 10am, we were on the road. Good thing we were only going 17 km to Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Scents Of Nature
Riding a bike, you are much more connected to your surroundings than in the car. The slow speed helps, but also, instead of just seeing the scenery go by, your other senses activate. I’ve been tuning in to the scents around me as we ride, breathing deeply through my nose to smell our surroundings.
As we entered the park, the scent of the pine trees took over. There was also an underlying waft of humus (no, not hummus – look it up) from the damp forest floor. So different from the baked sage and sweet rosemary of the hotter coastal regions.
Deep breathing in forested areas works for me, but for Stephen, it was pollen hell. By the time we reached the park, his throat was swollen, his eyes were itchy, and he would have laid down in the parking lot and thrown a major tantrum if he could have. As it was, we dug out some Ibuprofen, he ripped out his contacts, and grinned and bore it.
Natural Wonders Amongst The Hordes
It was surprising to find a most unhelpful and surly set of staff both in the ticket office and the information booth, since generally Croatians are a cheery and extremely helpful bunch.
We ventured into the park. I have seen a lot of natural beauty in my life, but nothing quite like this. It is a mesmerising landscape. Here’s some evidence.
The park is remarkably well organised and preserved. You can get to the interior of the park on foot, and almost every pathway is made of hand-cut split logs. Really. We saw some men building one.
Having said that, tourists really ruin everything, don’t they? For instance, look at these two goofballs.
This was by far the most crowded place we’ve been since we left LA, with swarms of tour groups going hither and yon, with no awareness of where they are, where you are, or where the edge of the hand-cut split log pathway ends and the cold lake begins.
Droves of people must get inadvertently pushed in every high season.
National Restaurant Of Surly Servers
We visited the one restaurant that looked like it might serve palatable food, after checking out the “self-service” restaurants and finding some limp cheese and ham sandwiches on offer. The surly waitress in the “National Restaurant” as it was called, refused to serve us as they were “full with tour buses today”. Stephen insisted. The surly waitress consulted the surly manager and together they surly-ily agreed to seat us.
I’m pretty sure only a surly chef could make pasta with tomato sauce so sickly looking that I wondered if there was any tomato in it at all.
Way to represent yourselves at the country’s biggest tourist attraction, National “Surly” Restaurant!
After our lunch of spaghetti, fries, and bread we didn’t order but were charged quite handsomely for, we got on a little boat to see the other side of the park and promptly both fell asleep. Ten minutes later we pulled up at the dock, not feeling exactly refreshed, but at least able to walk around some more.
Same Shoes, Different Campsite
Now seems like a good time to give a shout-out to our shoes. They are high on our list of favourite pieces of gear. Trying to find waterproof, comfortable, lightweight, vegan hiking shoes was no easy task, but thanks to my friend Kris, we found out about Salomon. Ours are the XA Pro 3D Ultra 2s, and they are perfect. We’ve put them through hell so far, and our feet have come out clean, dry, and comfy every time.
We walked away from the droves on a little road through the forest to get back to the parking lot where we’d left our bikes, wondering what it was like a couple of decades ago when two opposing sides were trying to capture this area with tanks and guns. Very difficult to imagine, after having seen people from dozens of nations capturing it with their cameras today. ♥