Friday, October 4, 2013

Croatia: Round Two

To finish up our time in the Balkans we made our way back to Croatia, which, when I booked the flight, was actually the only place that I thought we were going!
The first thing we did was grab a boat from Dubrovnik to Mljet. There was very little planning involved in this, it was simply the furthest north we could go by sea from Dubrovnik, and we knew that ultimately we were heading north.
You can't really see but this boat inexplicably has an NZ flag. Also, the picture was pretty so I included it. This is not our ferry. It was much more utilitarian. 

This is our ferry, but only the view. 
 By the time we got to Mljet it was dark. We really hadn't planned it so we asked about some camping spots and jumped on a bus that dropped us off at a campground. We also didn't have a tent. No problems there though - we set out our bed rolls and tucked ourselves up in our sleeping bags much to the amusement of some nearby campers. We were actually quite lucky with the weather, we lay under a pine tree watching distant lightning for hours but never got spattered with rain.
 In the morning we considered going to a national park on the island but wanted to make our way to Plitvice which is quite far, so decided to head back to the mainland. However, we did explore a bit first. The camp guy advised us to check out Ulysses cave - legend has it that when he landed here the sorceress Circe turned his men into swine and Ulysses had to free them. He then hung around for a year basically partying with her. We saw no evidence of the cave's exciting history but we did have a poke around.

This is a pretty terrible shot of the cave. Possibly because I have a terrible camera. The waves were that really vibrant blue which gets blinding highlights from the sun on its crests. In the picture, you can see that as the white patch in the top right.

Who wouldn't want to stay at Hotel Penelopa?

After taking a quick dip - E refused fairly as the sea was pretty rough, I'm starting to question my risk assessment abilities - we hiked 20 minutes back up the track and hitched to the port. From there we caught a ferry to Ston, back on the mainland.

We cooled our heels for a little while here, and heard that there was an overnight bus to Zadar at 10pm - perfect! From Zadar we could easily get to Plitvice. We wandered around the town a little, bought snacks for our impending journey and largely sat at a bar buying just enough drinks to not get kicked out. Also, we weren't actually in the bar, we were in a swinging seat outside - way cooler.

One of the few beers I've really liked - it's very lemony and not very beery which is probably why. 

Very excited about this giant spoon. 

The vapour trail from the plane was lit up by the sunset in a cool way. 
We went to the busstop at the assigned time, the bus came and... it was full. We were not allowed on. So, we trudged back to the bar and asked a barkeep if he knew somewhere we could stay. He put us in touch with one of those apartment girls I talked about in the Montenegro post and we found ourselves tucked up in bed before too long. Good thing too as it absolutely poured that night!
The next day we hitched to Zaton Doli to catch a bus to Split, figuring we didn't have time for Plitvice anymore so we'd just cut our losses and hang out in Split until our ferry the next evening. This did not go as planned, though we did end up in Split. First, we had a hard time hitching out of Ston despite a lot of traffic. Second, when we did get a ride, their GPS led them astray and they had to double back to drop us off at Zaton Doli (which was actually only 8km from where we'd got the ride). Third, once we got to what we established was the bus stop, the bus didn't show up. For 2 hours. Here our luck started turning around. We still had snacks from our failed bus trip the night before and we were standing near a petrol station. After 2 hours we saw three beat up campervans pull in trailing NZ flags behind them. Well, All Blacks flags to be honest but it's essentially the same thing.
E knows the most about rugby so was quickly dispatched to run up and charm them into giving us a ride. She's brilliant and we were promptly on our way.
They were some of the most quintessentially kiwi Kiwis I'd seen in a long time and I basically just soaked up their stubbies, wife beaters, beer and slang for a while.
They also had some interesting paint jobs.

Our bags under their rightful flag. 
We did get stopped at the border for about an hour while they (understandably, I mean, did you see the paint job??) searched one of the vans for drugs (not ours). They also had a bunch of rules of the road, the penalties for which were largely press ups. I fail at games like this and ended up doing about 60 press ups on the floor of our van, made more interesting every time we braked or accelerated! We did eventually arrive in Split and camped with the Kiwis for a night - they even lent us a tent!
The next day we paid to ditch our bags and spent the day exploring Split and using up the last of our Croatian money (they haven't quite adjusted to Euros yet).

This guy's point is pretty cool. Mine is not. Though I challenge anyone to pull of that finger contortion!

E and I had a little ceremony as we swapped Major Barbara for The Help. We went to three hostels expressly to find book exchanges. This is what happen when you leave us alone together. 

Attempted artistic shot of scenery in E's reflective shades.
Then it was time for our 11 hour overnight ferry back to Italy. We picked a spot of floor and made ourselves comfortable, read for a few hours, napped, occasionally went outside to enjoy the breeze. We were largely antisocial and it was lovely!
These are our 'look what I've been lugging around for months' shots. Well, months, in E's case, not so much mine.
I also have less stuff...

Our stead

I call this one "pregnant E takes in the sea air"

This I can't explain but it was obviously hilarious and deserved photos.

Our last shot of Croatia! I am now safely back in Italy and settled at school, though I have been on a few more adventures that I have yet to fill you in about.

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