So on my last full day in Zagreb a touring cyclist, Steven, who has travelled from Sweden, found me from my blog and met up with me in the city for some beer and rakija so we could share our cycling experiences. It turns out we were both leaving the next day and so he decided to come with me for a while.
In the morning the next day we left heading South passing through Karlovac along quiet, smooth and flat roads in contrast to what we would experience over the next couple of days. A great cycle apart from a puncture on Steven’s back tyre. We took a slight detour to meet a friend, who wasn’t in but we really weren’t bothered because we had stumbled upon a paradise. What we expected to be a burn with a couple of trees was an epic river with rapids and barely any people. The locals welcomed us to their little hidden oasis and showed us a nice spot to wild camp by the river. The water was great for swimming; as clear as the sky had been all day. We slept out in our sleeping bags under the stars.
The following day required heroic amounts of willpower to pack up and leave. We didn’t actually get away from the small village untill after 2pm and still had 90km to kill. The next few hours were fairly hilly as we passed through Kordun and it’s many rivers. We passed a few abandoned villages with bullet holes providing evidence of the not so long ago Croatian War of Independence. At least some of the way, both sides of the road were essentially a minefield. No wild camping here.
At least the road was nice and scenic. It was short lived however, as the only road we could find South to Plitvice was a main road, with seemingly endless busses, trucks and lorries squeezing past us. We were quick to learn that if the lorry 200 metres behind you starts frantically beeping the horn, they are not going to move for you. They will just squash you unless you pull over. We found our way to within 8km of Plitvice lakes, and pulled up at a campsite. There were no spaces left but the guy there helped us out and phoned his friend, who turned up in their car and we followed her back to her picturesque countryside house and got a room for the night.
The following day we cycled up the hill to Plitvice. It’s basically a bunch of super clear, glowing blue and green lakes in a valley surrounded by forest. It’s hard to believe it’s all natural.
The main attraction is the creatively named ‘The Big Waterfall’ but I have to say in summer it’s not all that spectacular: because it hardly rains here – there’s no water. The rest of the park was amazing though. The lakes are separated by moss and algae – this is why its not just a river flowing down the valley. There are 16 lakes in total and the water flows from the top lakes down creating waterfalls and eroding the landscape as it goes. Only downside is you can’t swim here. At least legally.
At the lakes Steven and I noticed how tame the fish were. There were literaly thousands of them. It must be because nobody fishes here (it’s banned) that they have grown accustomed to being fed by the tourists and hanging around the paths waiting for food. Let’s just say we were hungry and used a rock to our advantage.
The following day we left for the coast. One of the hardest days I’ve cycled. It was only about 100km but some of the hills were insanely steep and went on for miles. It was a nice feeling to pass over two different mountain ranges in one day (not for my legs though). The best part was undoubtedly reaching the top of the Velebit range at the coast.
You could see for miles across several islands, the glare from the hot sun wiping out the horizon. The next 15km were to be amazing. Cycling from mountain to coast through a collection of cliffs and trees, all downhill along wide and twisting roads, the wind in our faces keeping us cool as we cruised effortlessly amongst the sporadic traffic. The day ended with some hard earned steak munching at the beach and a swim in the sea.
It’s been a great few days cycling with Steven. This morning he left our coast-side campground for his flight back to California. And I’m just about to leave for Zadar further South. Here goes!