Croatia has completely blown me away. Take, for example, Plitvička Lakes National Park (and one shot of my camp):
Slovenia and Northern Croatia is mostly rolling hills and open plains, nice, but not stunning after a few days. Once I hit the lakes, everything South has been fantastic: greenery, interesting rock formations, strangely perfect lakes, dramatic waterfalls. This is uniquely beautiful country. The camping has been interesting as well.
I have been in a bit of a funk, maybe a bit cagey from the perceived change in culture and all the solitude. Sometimes the riding is a challenge, hard to stay motivated. I am trying not to be so effected by the weather and the scenery, working on stronger resolve, remembering myself. One strange aspect of my own internal tension is manifested by water, the obtaining of it, specifically. It is strange, while the scenery is so green and rich, there are few creeks and rivers, frequently only one a day tucked in some village in the midst of expansive rolling landscapes. I have my filter, and once or twice I have been able to fill up myself, but otherwise it necessitates entreating the good will of others or purchasing bottled waters.
In this case I liked to tell myself that I am simply trusting in providence, but this is just an excuse for my fear, and a desire for “convenience.” It is obvious that I am not taking enough initiative: my sleeping pad is flat and no fuel for my stove. Water, though, I cannot do without. I realize that I need to take control of myself, which I will need a lot of time to achieve in any sense. Not only is it difficult to recognize when one is being “taken for a ride,” but it is a challenge to break the habit of self-pity and self-centered thinking. So, I stop at the next restaurant and ask a very nice young man who spoke excellent English to fill them, and he did, of course. Silly. It is very strange to spend so much time with myself, surprising what is hidden away in here.
Funny enough, I went right across the street to camp. The road looked like it dwindled away into the forest, and I followed it back. My general strategy for finding a comfortable spot is to find a quiet spot that looks nice, and then go deeper, so you are hidden even from there. I found such a spot, and was, I will admit, congratulating myself on this unusual skill I have developed a mastery in. Of course, sometimes one is simply unlucky, but today was effortless and ideal. I laid out my clothes to dry, and was about to set up my tent, when I realized that what looked like vegetation turned out to be deer hair. Huh. I look around a bit, and find a lot of bones, and a deer skull, but they look fairly old. I am not too keen on laying my tent down on the remains, however scant, of a feeding site. I look around a bit more, trying to find a good spot for my tent, when I spot a large white object. I go over to where it is and ascertain that it is a boar skull, still stinking, covered with bugs. Okay, I am not feeling great vibes here any longer. This little spot is right on the edge of a large forest and there is some efficient predator who seems to like this place. I wander around a bit, looking for a new spot nearby that suits my criteria. I go over the hill and find a huge rutting area, what looks like the work of a whole herd of pigs, they about uprooted a small copse of trees! Geez. From nearer the road I hear a four wheeler and a gunshot. Well, that seals it- trouble on all sides, I camp right in the middle and hope for the best. It worked out.
The next day was a quiet ride through lovely uninhabited land. There is a profound sense of history here- the ample rocks are piled in terraces or walls that are impossible to date- they are old, it is all old. Not much water today either, but I did eventually run by a stream and filled up. No groceries today either, but I don’t need them. I ride a long way, and around quitting time I spot some powerline towers and follow the service road along them in search of camping. I climb way up a hill and se that it is all too rocky to camp. Oh well. I decide to eat something and lay out my tent and clothes to dry- it has been very rainy lately. I am halfway through a sandwich when I hear a grumble from behind me and turn to witness some sinister dark clouds grouping. Of course. It seems like it rains right before I camp, so the ground and myself are wet from the start. So, as soon as I stop to dry my things, and without having rained all day, it would start now. I dilly-dally a little, but I know a storm is going to break, so I pack up ahead of it, and a good thing I did, because as I was halfway down the hill I saw lightning hit the lines and disperse. I had just been leaning against that tower… then the rain hits and I am getting soaked. I spotted an abandoned house a little ways back and I gun for it. I ride up the driveway, but it is completely overgrown, and I scramble frantically trying to get to the house. I finally get up to it only half-drowned, but the place is so creepy I hesitate before entering. I am in a dark, dingy manger. The only thing I like about it is that it is dry. I look up and see a wood floor, and I look around to see if I can get up there, but there are no stairs. However, by a small window and a piece of rafter, which was a railroad tie in its past life, I am able to climb up there. It is a hay loft. There is hay in it, which is old and a little musty, but perfectly dry, for the roof is sound. I check out the house too, but it is much older, full of creepy trash, and the roof is collapsed and the beams are rotting. I end up throwing all of my gear into the hayloft and spending the night there. The hay was extremely comfortable, and I was out of the rain, which poured down all night. I was a little creeped out, but I successfully stifled my imagination.
The next day I stayed near another abandoned house, which I couldn’t believe, because it was a beautiful piece of property and the frame of a big house. It had a view of a fine lake. I have no idea why it is abandoned! I decided to camp nearby, as the weather was good.
Some pictures of Croatia. It is hard to keep up with all that happens in a week! I am in Dubrovnik right now in an excellent hostel- Hostel Rooms Ana- and the company is good- makes it very difficult to work! This may be my favorite hostel thusfar, and Dubrovnik is absolutely beautiful- pictures soon to come. I am taking a rest day after two huge days of riding along the coast. I have wanted to see Dubrovnik for a long time, and now my sights are set on Istanbul. We’ll see how long that lasts though, I foresee some surprises between here and there.