A Journey

Basil & Tracy's Travels Abroad

Thursday, July 05, 2007

South for the Summer

We say goodbye to our friendly alpine campsite and head back along the valley to the motorway and then south past Ljubljana. Leaving the motorway at Postojna we see signs for Grotta and make a spontaneous decision to visit. The extensive 20km network of caves is one of the largest in the world and has been a tourist attraction for nearly 200 years. We board a miniature electric train and travel at speed through 5km of tunnels and caverns arriving at the "Big Mountain" in an amazing cathedral-like cave.

Postogna Cave

We then begin the tour on foot passing every kind of stalactite and stalagmite formation imaginable, translucent curtains, frozen waterfalls, thin spaghetti and on and on, ending at the "Concert Hall" a cave that can accommodate an audience of thousands (great place for a gig!).

Stalactite Fantasy

After taking the train back through the tunnels again we emerge blinking into the sunshine. We truck on and cross the border into Croatia, soon glimpsing the sparkling blue of the Adriatic. After a short drive down the coast we decide on a campsite which turns out to have been built in communist era concrete style complete with informative signs in the shower block.

Don't Wash your Baby in the Sink

The next day we follow the newly upgraded but still very tortuous coast road south before joining the new motorway for the last leg to Trogir.

Adriatic Coast Road

We find a very friendly and shady campsite in Kastel Stari close to the marina where we are due to start our sailing trip. Saturday comes and the rest of the crew arrive by plane from England. Simon has chartered two yachts for the week and we set out on Sunday morning with captain Simon, Basil's brother Richard, Sally and Andy on our boat.

Andy, Tracy, Simon, Richard and Sally

Mike, Barry, Garnett, John and Amanda make up the other crew. We spend a fabulous week cruising around the islands of Hvar, Vis, Brac and Solta. The weather is kind, not too hot and enough wind for some good sails. The nights are spent moored in picturesque fishing harbours

Komiza - Island of Vis

or quiet little bays that are only accessible by boat.

Palmizana Bay - Pakleni Islands

Highlights of the week include a visit to Palmizana which we realise we have visited once before, when we first came to Yugoslavia on a flotilla holiday with Basil's Mum and Dad and our two boys in the late 80's when our friend Stan was flotilla skipper. The eccentric restaurant is run by an Austrian family who have been here for generations and houses bizarre art pieces and ancient amphora from the sea bed. We also pay a visit to Scedro island the site of a dramatic night-time storm and stranding on a previous trip by Simon and the others. Leaving Scedro Richard puts out a line and to everyone's amazement catches three fish in quick succession which we later enjoy for dinner.

Richard with Catch

Hvar town is still beautiful with its hilltop fort overlooking the harbour, but it has become the "St Tropez" of the Adriatic with the rich and chic frequenting the bars and cafes.

Hvar Harbour

The week passes too quickly and before we know it we are saying goodbye at the airport to all apart from Sally who is staying on for an extra week with us.

Lakes, Waterfalls and Mountain Streams

Now with Sally and back in our van we decide to head for Krka national park, so we follow the coast road to Sibenik and then cut in land. We find ourselves on a large scrubby plain, Basil suggests that one of the tracks leading off the road might make a good place to camp, then we see the signs, "Danger Mines!". This is soon followed by the bombed and burnt-out shells of houses. We later discover that this area was a Serb stronghold during the recent war. The bleak and haunted landscape continues until suddenly the road leads down into a spectacular canyon valley with a lake.

Road to Roski Slap (photo Sally)

Krka Lake

 At the bottom we negotiate a very narrow bridge across several waterways, on through a small village and the road turns into a stony track which winds up the other side of the valley, "where are we going?". Finally we arrive at:

Camp Europa

not at all what we had imagined but a small friendly place run by Nina and Josep.

Josep and Nina

They are quick to welcome us and their home grown wine is soon flowing with much encouragement to "Party, Party". They speak little English so we manage with bits of German and sign language. Soon the outdoor olive-wood grill is lit and fresh fish is cooking to be dressed with olive oil, parsley and garlic. Some friends arrive and we are seated at a large open air table with a feast of local produce in front of us. The best we can offer in return is some watermelon and chocolate. When the next day we suggest that we should pay for the meal they will have none of it. This is Croatian food and hospitality at its best. We spend the next couple of days here walking down into the valley to visit Roski Slap, an unusual and beautiful set of wide gentle waterfalls teaming with frogs, damsel flies and lizards.

Roski Slap

Lizard - Roski Slap  

Frog - Roski Slap

Sluice - Roski Slap

We also take a boat trip with a local on the lake to view the waterfalls and gorge.

Waterfall - Roski Slap

Krka Gorge

Here we see turtles and wild mountain goats perched on the cliffs and swim in the beautiful clear water.

Lake Turtles

Spot the Goat

We leave reluctantly, heading north to Paklenica National Park and basing ourselves in a small campsite right beside the sea, perfect apart from the evening infestation of mosquitoes. Tracy spots a tourist using a novel way to cool off.

Cooling Off

One morning an old couple pass by with their scythe and mule on their way to collect animal fodder, they seem like ghosts from the past, part of a way and pace of life that is disappearing fast.

Ghosts from the Past

Two bikes between three leads to some fun acrobatics.

Bicycle for Two (photo Sally)

Paklenica park is another beautiful place much favoured by mountaineers with an easy trail into the mountains following the old mule track trading route.

Mountain Trail - Paklenica

A mountain stream runs alongside the path for most of the way and there are numerous pools and waterfalls to stop at for a swim.

Swimming Pool - Paklenica

Waterfall and Pool

As we get higher the wooded slopes turn into beech forest and we arrive at the alpine hut where you can stay overnight if you want to venture further into the mountains.

Beech Forest - Paklenica

Old Watermill

The only thing that spoils this Eden for Tracy and Sally is the alarming frequency with which we see snakes slithering away into the undergrowth.


Sadly our week with Sally has come to an end, so we head back to Split, spending a last couple of hours on the beach before she catches her plane.

On the Beach

We return to our campsite in Kastela to check emails and chillout for a couple of days. An English couple in their campervan are still there and invite us for a barbecue. Jonathan and Sarah have sold up back home and have bought an old stone house and an apartment locally both of which are being completely renovated. They are over for a few months to oversee the work and encourage things to happen and are staying in the campsite until the apartment is ready. They mention a more secluded spot for swimming across the bay on the island of Ciovo so we decide to investigate.

Past a sleepy fishing village the road turns into a track and leads to a series of pebble beaches and coves. Pine trees growing on abandoned stone walled terraces provide some good shade an essential commodity as the weather is now much hotter.

Van on the Beach - Ciovo

View from the Van  

The place gets busy with locals at weekends but is quiet in the week and we have it to ourselves in the early morning and evening.

Sunset from the Beach

Tracy has a sudden influx of editing work so we decide to settle here for a while. A perfect spot for us, we later discover that the local fire brigade charge a £1 a day parking in the season for which they maintain the track and collect the rubbish so we make a contribution to their fund.

Days are spent swimming to stay cool, Tracy editing on her laptop and Basil making bike trips to Trogir to download/upload the work and buy provisions in the market.

Blenny Peeping

We find that when the van is parked in the shade the solar panels on the roof are also shaded so Basil buys some extra cable and makes some stands from an old pallet to allow them to be deployed in the sun.

Panels out to Graze

Jonathan and Sarah visit with their dogs every couple of days for a swim and kindly refill our water container to keep us supplied with fresh water.

Visit from Jonathan, Sarah, Lucy and Magic

All in all a very happy existence and before we know it a couple of weeks have passed. On the last day before we move on we go for our usual night-time swim, but unusually we take masks and snorkels. Diving in we are amazed to find ourselves covered in flickering stardust, it is a dark night and with a mask the natural phosphorescence becomes clearly visible. A truly amazing experience we frolic about in the sparkling sea like a pair of kids.

 Evening Sun .


  • At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lovely place! I can see why you stayed. Not sure about the snakes though..



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