Friday 27th June, 2014
I have booked myself on the noon bus to Plitvice to allow a little bit longer in Split. I get up at 7.30am and for the first time on my trip, set out in running gear with the intention of running. Petar has advised a nearby grassy hill with a good view of the city. Of course, being the day that I am leaving, it’s a sunny one and even at 8am it is hot outside. If we were in NZ or Australia, the waterfront would be filled with runners at this time (I’m thinking of Oriental Parade in Wellington particularly) but no, here in the Mediterranean they are not early risers. Getting in the zone I completely run past the entrance to the hill, probably in my eagerness to stay as close to the water as possible. Taking that as a sure fire sign I’m not meant to be running while on holiday I walk back the way I’ve come and find the steps which I half run half walk. I arrive at the open balcony of a restaurant for the money shot. But alas my phone that I carried for this very purpose has run out of battery. So instead I stay extra long in effort to engrain the view of the sea, the boats and the old town in the morning light.
Like all other bus rides I’ve done on the Mediterranean coast, the one to Plitvice is beautiful. Pity I sleep for most of the first chunk because that’s the beautiful part. But I wake and still have at least an hour of blue water, dotted islands and terracotta towns.
Unexpectedly, all the settlements look modern with the buildings all made from that smooth off-white sandstone with bright orange roofs. Maybe there’s no hostels here. That’s the only reason I can think of that would go someway in explaining why no one has told me to come here. Albeit there’s probably not much to do, but you would have a beautiful beach nearly to yourself, there’s kayaking, fishing if you’re into that and the chance to sample authentic local flavours. My kind of travel.
It only strikes me at this moment that this is the last time I will be seeing the ocean for a month. The realisation is a surprisingly daunting one. Growing up down under I have never been more than an hours drive from open water. The only time I have been far away from the salty sanctuary was during a five month stint on a Canadian ski slope. There I had a snowy mountain and a lake nearby which nearly appeased my aqua needs. For me the ocean represents so many things that I think can be boiled down to joy, freedom and safety. Along their shores I have cried, laughed, danced, made love, ridden motorbikes. Every time the bus made a turn I was asking myself, will this be the last time I see the sea?
That said, I couldn’t have been more happy with my situation at Plitvice Backpackers. Green green green. Grass grass grass. The bus spits me out in the middle of nowhere and just as I’m getting my bearings a voice from a just pulled over car says, “Romilly?” Meet Leo, the hostel owner who I didn’t ask to pick me up but did anyway. Legend. He has only just opened up this hostel after closing the doors on eight years of hostelling in Zagreb. It’s a gorgeous wooden A Frame with no other houses within a stones throw. Me and my new Taiwanese friend Jessica make the “20 minute walk” that’s at least half an hour to the only market in town. The only bad thing about being in the middle of nowhere is that there’s no footpaths so we had to walk along the main highway to the disgruntled toots of motorists. We have no real desire to make the same trek back with tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch in our carry bags so after hearing some success stories from Jessica we stick out our thumbs on the main road. We wait about 15 minutes before three Asians pull over in a small sedan. A middle aged couple are in the front so me and Jessica jump in the back with gran. I’m glad that Jessica can chat away in their native tongue and have no doubt that her appearance is probably a key factor in getting picked up in the first place.
Within ten minutes we are home and dinner is on the barbie. I have a lovely night watching the sunset and the fireflies come out. It is marred only by the boisterous flirtations of hormonal backpackers that get louder with each beer. God I’m old.