Upon exiting the forest, we were amazed at a flower meadow just outside one of the villages. It seemed like someone here had the idea of growing a variety of flowers instead of traditional crops. We had never seen anything like it, so naturally we had to stop and take a closer look.
Lost in the woods
Returning our friends home to their apartment in Zagreb, we said our goodbyes, knowing that we’d see them again soon. Later we’d discover that the amazing evening we all had camping together in the forests of Zagreb’s outskirts would inspire them to purchase a car, source a suitable roof-tent and prepare to join the vast community of car-campers. What an incredible feeling it is knowing that you’ve inspired others to start doing something they never expected to love.
We got back on the road, armed with new information about a beautiful lake where we could most likely stop for the night. The place was called Most Keići, and it was just a 2-hour drive from Zagreb.
When we arrived however, the lake was a bit more popular than we’d have anticipated. Families using kayaks were situated across the small lake, and on top of that, several campers sat in the field just a stones throw from where we had parked. Beautiful it was, but the night was due to be a cold one, and we had every intention of starting a fire to keep ourselves warm. We hung around there for a while, scouring the map to see if there was anywhere else we could easily drive to with some more privacy. It was at that point that a local man strolled up to us and told us we’d have to leave unless we parked with the other campers.
Camping right beside others was something we didn’t embark on this trip to do. We wanted to be alone with nature, to find a spot so obscure and special, that we were the only inhabitants for that night. We duly agreed to push on for another option.
Driving through the small country roads in Karlovac county was interesting. Online maps didn’t prove useful at this point as we we kept losing signal and at one point, we ended up at a dead end were an elderly couple were living in a farmhouse. Confused by our arrival, they emerged and approached us in the car. We tried to ask them how we could reach a specific point of the Mreznica river, but the language barrier really made this difficult. With Marta attempting to speak to the couple in Polish, we didn’t get any closer to understanding what they were telling us. So the man was kind enough to draw us a map that we could follow.
We tried our best to follow the directions, but we only ended up finding ourselves even more lost. As daylight faded,we knew we were running out of time to find a good place to stop for the night; and once it was dark, it would only become even more difficult. At one point we drove into a small village hidden among the undergrowth, a place that looked abandoned and quite interesting. As we started to drive into this tiny village to take a closer look, a few vicious dogs emerged, barking and walking closer to the car. Suddenly a large topless man emerged from behind one of the abandoned houses. He took a quick glimpse at us then briskly walked back behind the houses. We looked at each other startled, and decided it was time to get out of there, fast! We weren’t about to wait and see what would happen next.
Finally we found our way out of the eerie countryside and back onto a road with other vehicles on it. Some signs of civilization arrived in the form of road signs for a town called Duga Resa.
Once we arrived at Duga Resa, we accepted defeat and decided to use an app called Park4Night to aid us in finding a spot to camp safely for the night. Park4Night is a useful community-driven app that allows you to find reviews of wild camping spots, submitted by other happy campers. We headed for a picnic spot located atop a steep hill that was said to offer stunning views of the surrounding scenery. The only trouble was, the road was more of a rocky trail and what looked like recent heavy rain had left the road in a state of disrepair. Vucko struggled up the hill for about 100 metres until we simply could not go any further. No matter how hard we tried, the tyres just wouldn’t grip the sodden, mulchy surface. And so, we had no other option than to slowly reverse the car all the way back down the hill to avoid getting completely stuck.
Running out of time, and options, we decided to give the app one more shot. This time the location was something we really wouldn’t have expected to provide safe shelter for the night – a parking area on top a hill, right beside a cemetery. We arrived there in less than 10 minutes with no problems whatsoever. In fact, it was such a serene location to spend the night. As the light finally disappeared and darkness arrived, we felt compelled to actually walk through the cemetery, drawn in by the twinkling red candlelit graves. What we expected could be a scary experience, we actually felt something so very peaceful and humbling about walking through the enormous cemetery, completely enveloped in darkness. All around us were pristine marble constructions, with fresh flowers and red lights twinkling away. That night, we had probably the best sleep of the entire trip.
The road to Plitviče Lakes
Another day, another adventure. Today was one we’d looked forward to for so long. We would make our way to the surreal landscapes of Plitviče Lakes National Park.
We brushed our teeth to the stunning, peach and pink skies of Duga Resa and got on the road so that we could have as much time at Plitviče as possible. The roads offered sensational views as the sun rose and illuminated the foliage all around us. We decided to use Route 42 as it looked like a more exciting road with sharp turns and many interesting sounding towns and villages along the way – and we weren’t wrong about that.
Not long after joining Route 42, we arrived at a lake so spotless and perfect, we just had to stop to admire it’s elegance. The lake was called Sabljak Selo, and it had water so clean and clear, you could see fish and small creatures beneath the surface in the finest detail. We parked up beside the road and unpacked some of the basics from the car, for breakfast with the most awe-inspiring view.
Croatia seems to have so many lakes that are out-of-this-world beautiful for a country that really isn’t so big. Every lake has it’s own charms and they really are kept in the most outstanding condition. So if you don’t like the idea of paying for entry to some lakes such as Plitviče, there really isn’t any need to feel left out. Simply visit one of the many other lakes situated all around the country.
With some much-needed breakfast in our tummies, and a healthy dose of sunshine on our skin, we set-off once more on a quest to reach the most enchanting place in Croatia. The excitement we felt was reaching fever pitch as we saw the kilometres pass-by. Not a minute went by on Route 42 where we didn’t see something to take our breath away. Everywhere we went, we were waved at, and greeted by locals who seemed to love the idea of roadtrippin’ the country in a old car full of character.
Stay tuned for the second part of this monumental road trip, it’s going to be quite a ride!
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