Saturday, May 23, 2015

Croatia and the Adriatic

The old man told us in broken German that the campground was closed. Looking around we found the place indeed without any campers but the gras was reasonably mowed and it looked quite a nice spot. The sign had said Eco-camping which, as we have found out in the past, can mean anything from a overpriced hippy camp where everything is broken to a modern energy efficient place where an effort was made to truly minimise environmental impact. There wasn't another campground for at least 50 km and it was getting dark soon. Besides, the next one could be closed as well. We had seen quite a few campgrounds closed earlier in the day.

Mike asked if we could pitched the tent anyway. The old man was sympathetic but said the toilets weren't working and neither were the showers. 'We can do without a shower' I offered. He looked at us for a minute and then told me to follow him. He was leaning heavily on his walking stick, which did bend alarmingly with every step he took, as he slowly moved towards his house. The little building leaning against it turned out to be the family bathroom. A true outhouse. There was no lock on the door, bare and live wires were sticking out of the wall, the bath was broken and had deep rust stains. This man clearly had no money and no-one to help him, yet he wanted to help us find a spot to stay for the night. I put my hand on his shoulder and thanked him for his hospitality. These are the places I would like to stay for a bit and help out...

The campground had a big open gazebo where we could pitch the tent. Only half an hour later he staggered towards us just to show us where the light switch was. What a kind man in a hard part of the world. Hard because despite being only 30 km from the wealthy coastal area of Croatia, poverty still prevails here. As our trusty petrol stove heated our meal, we talked about the our ride through Bosnia which' destruction and grim atmosphere had had such a big impact on us. A flock of sheep on the neighbouring farm provided the background noise. A noise which kept going all night.

The next day it was all going to be different. We rode through the Krka national park with it's stunning views and countless waterfalls. The 'commercial' entrance was on the western side but there are several entrances further the east too. We tried the western entrance as well but were greeted with touring coaches, hotels, souvenir complexes and boom-gates. Time to head for the coast and have a look at the Adriatic sea!

Croatia along the coast is very different from the hinterland. Not just in terms of landscape but perhaps even more so in wealth and people. The small farms had made way to fancy hotels and agriculture to tourism. Just about every house was either a holiday home or converted into a holiday home. We found a bewildering array of signs pointing to hotels, motels and rooms for rent.

Still, the coastline is pretty, especially between Split and Dubrovnik. Unfortunately the promised sun didn't show until the end of the day but we still had an enjoyable ride. I'm glad we weren't on Austrian plates though as a group of Austrian bikers were making themselves quite unpopular, clearly forgetting they were in fact a guest in Croatia. They were but a smut on an otherwise enjoyable day though. Even the female Bosnian border guard was all smiles and thought it great what we were doing. Bosnian border guard? Yep, a small part of the Adriatic coastline belongs to Bosnia.

At the end of the day we camped along the Adriatic, with a lady who had transformed her garden into a terraced type campground. It was a bit in hippy style and the open showers were perhaps a bit too much in 'let it all hang out' style but what the heck. It was a great place to camp with amazing views over an inlet. We decided to stay a bit longer, took a walk along the coastline and had a lazy day.

We thought about staying a day at Dubrovnik too but as we're not really city people and as we had a good look at the city from the viewpoints, we decided to continue. The Croatian border guard was so caught up in Facebook on his mobile that he didn't even see us... we rode past him, he didn't even check our passport or bike papers and so we rode into Montenegro :-)