Once I had left my friends at Ljubljana airport I was back alone again. The contrast to being around people and being alone is more marked when living in a confined space like a motorhome and the change can sometimes take a day or two to get used to. I decided to drive to Trieste again where I had previously stayed at a free Sosta. The sosta was not the most scenic but was ideal in many ways since it was a decent sized city, had a large supermarket within walking distance and was close to the Slovenian border.
During the Slovenian trip my most commonly used camera lens, a Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 had stopped zooming properly so I had to look for a replacement. A little research revealed possible lenses by Canon, Sigma and Tamron and some now had image stabilisation. The problem however was that I ideally wanted a lens with a 67mm filter thread so that I would not have to buy another expensive polariser. One lens had this filter thread and so I purchased the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8. Whilst in Trieste I also recharged my TIM sim card to allow me to access the internet. In total I spent 3 nights in Trieste before I got the urge to move on again.
On Thursday 12th August I crossed the border back into Slovenia and headed for Piran, a picturesque Slovenian seaside town. Slovenia has very little coastline which makes Piran very busy and after spending a few minutes trying to find a parking space for the motorhome I gave up and continued heading south to Croatia. Unlike most borders in Europe, the Slovenian / Croatian border seemed a more serious affair. It was staffed for a start and I was stopped, asked where I was heading, my purpose for visiting Croatia and how long I intended to stay. The official also poked his head inside my driver’s window and looked around inside.
Once across the border I headed for Rovinj and Pula to see if the campsites I intended to use needed to be booked. Both advised that no booking was required for short stays and so I decided to continue on to Plitvice National Park where I spent 2 nights at Camp Korana. My first day in Croatia had left me with the impression that it was an expensive country. Eating out and drinking was quite cheap but campsites seemed to be more expensive than other places I had visited and the tolls on the motorways could also add up quickly, especially if you used one of the tunnels as I had done in getting to Plitvice. Camp Korana had free wifi which was good and a small supermarket, a restaurant and a bar. It was not all good news though as there were often queues for the showers at peak times and long queues for checking out.
On Saturday 14th August I left Camp Korana without visiting the famous National Park. I would visit the following week with Luke and Elaine who were due to fly in on the 17th August. My destination that Saturday was Omis, just south of Split and I selected a route that avoided using the motorway tolls. My guidebook talked about the strong winds that the site experienced from the Cetine Canyon but they were absent during my 2 night stay when the motorhome felt like an oven. Autocamp Galeb had been the most expensive campsite to date and even the pretty girls working on reception could not persuade me to stay another night.
So on Monday I left Omis and visited Split for two hours, taking photos of the Dioletian’s Palace and gathering some leaflets from the tourist information centre. I could not help but notice how many attractive girls there were in Split, almost as many as in Krakow. In both cases the women were not just attractive with good figures; they seemed to have that extra quality…….femininity. That comment will probably land me in trouble back home but I’m sure many men will instantly recognise what I’m saying. Whether it’s the way they dress, the wiggle in their walk, the attention to hair and make-up, girls in Split and Krakow just seem to flaunt their femininity in a way most women don’t these days.
With the day drawing to an end I headed for the airport to make sure I could park the motorhome the following day. As luck would have it I noticed a sign for Autocamp Adria which was only 5 minutes walk from the airport and decided to spend the night. The campsite was a complete contrast to Autocamp Galeb, a positive one I might add. Family owned, there were no corporate pretty girls on reception. A much smaller site, I still had more space than I had at Galeb and a welcome breeze made sleeping at night much easier. I also had a pitch with a sea view for much less money than Galeb. The campsite restored my faith in Croatia, it was possible to camp for a reasonable price if you looked around.
Another benefit of Autocamp Adria was that the other campers were much friendlier. A guy from San Marino helped to fix my awning winder with some tools he had in his garage. He had Iron Maiden and Isle of Man TT stickers on his motorhome and was wearing a Joey Dunlop T-shirt. A German from WEST Berlin (he was keen to point out that he was no Communist) then noticed that my habitation door would not stay locked in the open position and tried to fix it for me. Also on the site were a couple of guys from the UK who I got chatting to. Both were VW Camper owners and one made a decent income from buying and selling campers as well as selling advertising from his VW Camper websites. The other had decided to sell his house and had bought a Dutch barge. It seemed we had a great deal in common in that we all felt Britain was in terminal decline and we wanted to escape the rat race.
On Tuesday afternoon I collected Elaine and Luke from the airport and showed them around the campsite. Had they not liked it I would have driven to Galeb but both seemed happy to stay at Adria and after a short visit to Split it was not long before we were swimming in the sea. We discussed the options for the coming week and agreed the head to Plitvice the next day.
Wednesday afternoon we arrived at Camp Korana. We decided it was too hot to consider cooking in the motorhome and so visited the on-site restaurant. We agreed that the food was quite good, it was a shame the same could not be said for the entertainment! The birdie song played by an old guy on a keyboard is not my idea of a fun night.
Thursday we caught the 9:00am bus from the campsite that would take us to the National Park. After gaining entry we selected one of the many routes to follow. As expected it was packed with tourists. The waterfalls are quite spectacular but I imagine the height of the summer is not the best time to visit them. It was late afternoon when we decided we had walked enough and wanted to head back. It was not clear from the bus stop whether we had missed the last bus back to Camp Korana. When a bus pulled up on the other side of the road we asked if it was going to Camp Korana and jumped on when the driver confirmed it was. The driver had not been listening properly and proceeded to take us to another campsite in the opposite direction. After a brief stalemate he finally agreed to drive us back to Camp Korana after dropping a couple of friends off.
Friday we left Camp Korana and made our way to Istria. Our destination was Pula and Camping Stoja where we would spend the next two nights. Friday evening we decided to eat at the campsite restaurant where the entertainment was a great deal better than at Camp Korana.
On Saturday we headed into Pula and visited the Roman Amphitheatre and Augustus’ Temple. We also bought snorkelling kits and discovered that later that night was Pula Night, a big annual party for the city with live music at various outside venues. We agreed we would attend Pula Night but first we wanted to head back to the campsite and try out our snorkelling kits. The ocean in Croatia is so clear which makes it ideal for diving or snorkelling. We spent a few hours exploring the marine life and Elaine managed to get a nasty sting on her leg. After showering and a change of clothes we caught the bus into Pula and enjoyed listening to various styles of music. All the shops remained open and there were also street vendors selling food and drink. By the time we were ready to leave we had missed the last bus and so caught a taxi back to the campsite.
On Sunday we left Pula. The journey back to Split would be a long one and so we agreed to make the drive over two days. First we headed for a Nature Park close to Pula called Kamenjak which we had been told would be good for snorkelling. It was an incredibly hot day and I spent most of the time trying to seek some shade. As we left Kamenjak I struck a low branch which shattered my sunroof. Damage to the motorhome was the thing I worried about the most, especially in a foreign country where you do not speak the language. In the end we spent Sunday evening at a campsite in Selce, Elaine and Luke headed straight for the ocean for more swimming time. We ate at the local restaurant and took some bottles of Ožujsko beer back to the motorhome to continue the drinking. Elaine was putting together a list of challenges and tasks that she hoped to complete before her next birthday and sought our suggestions to add to the list. The suggestions were coming thick and fast, some made it on the list, others were too ridiculous or obscene for Elaine. A couple of the tasks had already been ticked off during the holiday which was a good start.
On Monday we completed the drive back to Split, stopping at a large supermarket for more beers and food. We decided to self cater and bought a cooked roast chicken and some salad. It was good to be back at Autocamp Adria. Once we had eaten we headed to the beach and chatted and drank beer. One of the tasks on Elaine’s list was to try skinny dipping and after some hesitation we finally agreed to give it a go. The water was quite warm and we had the beach to ourselves.
Since the airport was only a 5 minute walk away there was time on Tuesday morning for Elaine and Luke to go for a final swim before their 10:15 flight back to London. I knew it would feel strange to be back on my own again but I would only have to wait a week before Joy would arrive from America. In the meantime I would stay put at Autocamp Adria and try and get the sunroof fixed.