Friday, 24.05.19, NP Paklenica – NP Una – Bihac – Zengg

Day 32 for the records. You cannot imagine what an eventful day this one would become. I was up early at the camp side and had an extended morning prayer. That is a great start into the day. Found my destination only in Google Maps, not in Garmin, it was the waterfalls of the river Una being the border between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. From the coast to the back country you always must conquer some mountain passes which always need attention and always are picturesque. I think I reached over 1.000 m altitude once more.

Google Maps mentioned that partly there would be terrible road conditions towards the Una river. They did not overstate. But if you know beforehand it is half as bad. Recorded a short video clip and had actually good fun. My expectations were that at the river would be quite some tourism structure and busyness. The closer I came the narrower the road became. Just to change into a sand one and later to forest pathway. The road clearance was only as wide as to allow me to turn around if necessary. When the road led downhill and had sharp bends I became a little nervous but carried on. It was now too late for any U-turn. Suddenly I saw a sign board with a display of the waterfalls. I did not think anything would come my way. A few meters later I was near the river and found a small parking area of about 100 m2. At this spot was no tourism structure or anything similar.
Remember traveling means to compare our imagination with reality.
What a day.

I parked my friend pointing towards the way back, took my camera and all important documents into the back bag an started to walk along the foot path, crossed thorough the railway tunnel and only then saw the river. From here it was a beautifully maintained garden like area very pleasant for the eye. Just nobody around. I recognized a CCTV surveillance system installed and carried on. It was now obvious that I was upstream of the waterfalls and my excitement grew slowly the closer I came to the edge.

Already at this point in time I observed a much better infrastructure on the other side of the river in Bosnia Herzegovina. They had various wooden foot bridges and paths along the river and the falls for a surely much better view. And later when I carried on to the town of Bihac it became clear it was only a matter of crossing the border and drive max. 20 km upstream. Maybe Google Maps could suggest this as an alternative route in the future. It kept me on the Croatian side.

Needless to say that words cannot describe the beauty of the falls. There are two main cascades and one coming from the side across splitting into many little streams and falls. A view for the gods producing a lot of endorphins in my body and soul.
Actually there was a small hut like house exactly at the edge of the falls. Nobody to be seen still. I climbed the path upwards to catch photos from all possible angels including to walk a short distance on the rail tracks. Soon I headed back to the motor home.

Surprise visit

I was about to start the engine when two police cars rushed down from the forest road stopping next to me. Ups, funny feeling but I remained quite calm. One of the second car first spoke to one from the first car and then came over to me. I had my passport and car and insurance papers already in my hand and got out of the car. What do you do here? Visiting the falls and taking pictures. Aha. Do you mind that I check your car? Not at all, please come in. OK. Do you know why we check you? No. Because of all the refugee movements. Ah, all clear. Did you like what you saw? Yes, VERY MUCH. Smile. Save journey. Thank you. The drive back up the forest road needed lots of attention, but less than the situation with the police.

Garmin led me to the nearby border posts and it was a smooth process again. Just on the Bosnian side I nearly fainted. Approaching the passage on the right side of the small building I hear a nasty scratching noise above my head. And I saw to customs officials looking up quite concerned. Immediately I imagined my upper side wall to be pierced or punctured or fractured and was short of a heart attack. I reversed away from the building with the two officials not looking less concerned. Then I went out to check. First I handed over my passport and looked at the gutter and found three brackets moved and the front closing plate broken with a big gap. Then looked at my car. Nothing to see. Hmm. I started apologizing and said I will have to pay for this. What followed was so funny that I lough my head off still today. The two had some conversion in their language. Then the one said: Camper OK. The other one came with a long broom stick and fiddled at the gutter which did not move. I said again, hmm, it is a big problem. The first one said, big problem? No problem and handed the passport back to me. I said again, I am very sorry. The second one answered, we are happy, that you are sorry. And all the three of us laughed heartily. What do you say? Can you imagine the worst case scenario?

Bihac was only a few kilometers away and I found a small parking lot near the main bridge over the river Una. To fit the motor home into the space was a peace of art with a little help from my friends (a student passing by). Had the coins for the meter and opted for a snack at the terrasse restaurant across the small street.

I realized soon that Bihac was only interesting in the vicinity of the bridge. Walking around lasted about 25 minutes and it was mid afternoon. Thought to look for the camping ground and relax for the rest of the day. Then I found out that relaxing I can do when I am old and decided to move back to the Croatian coast. I had not appetite yet to drive north west towards Austria.

Of course it is repetitive to write about driving back another two passes with stunning views before reaching the coast. Just at the first roundabout was the sign to the camping ground in Zengg. Moved into the passage, stopped because it seemed very narrow ahead. A couple in the distance waved that I can make it. They were from Australia and had hired a camper in Munich. They also were not excited about the many Germans in the camping ground.
I found my spot in the second row back to the wall. In the first row at the sea side was such a bright reflection from the sinking sun that it was more disturbing than romantic.

Deserved quiet night in Zengg

Tuesday, 21.05.19, Sarajevo – Split

Day 29 for the records. Took it easy after the late arrival yesterday and the shorter night. Used the Wifi to catch up some recording and left for town about 11:00 am. After one larger circle found parking near old town for 5 Mark / hour = 2,5 Euro. Paid then 7,5 Mark. Walked to the Bazaar and passed a chess game in the park and the usual pedestrian zone scenery. Asked for direction to “The Bridge” (another one if you check yesterday). But the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo is hiding tons of tragedy. On or around it Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in 1914. The resulting events are all too well known.

I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the inner city very much, took my time to stroll around and found (again) a posh coffee restaurant with excellent Wifi and did some work. I re-visited some alternative sites for the way back home and made some changes to the routing (again). Instead of country roads in Bosnien Herzegowina to Bihac I voted to do country roads, but back to the coast first, to Split. Then to National Park Paklenica and after that to National Park Una. Only then to Bihac, Zagreb, Graz and Haag.

Paklenica is supposed to host magic caves an Una waterfalls and gorges. As I had to pass the National Park in Rumania I thought I can catch up with some hiking.

The drive to Split led back to Jablanica along a big dam-lake with stunning scenery. And then into the gorge of the river which feeds into the dam. I reached 1.250 m altitude later. And anywhere up there was another lake which had a very curvy shore line, islands and villages around. Even in dull weather, it was a feast for the eyes. Up there I put 100.000 km on the clock of my motorhome and took the pics and video. Filled up diesel short of the border back to Kroatia and had a very quick passing. Just the customs lady, who spoke with accent free English (maybe her husband is an expat somewhere around), asked whether I carry food with me. Tricky for a motorhome driver. She settled with my promise that the amount of cheese I have, is REALLY SMALL 🙂

Recording the 100.000 km odometer was hard work on a small and winding road.
Stopped nearby to catch the curvy shoreline

Towards the end of a stage I usually switch the navigation to Google because faithful Garmin has very little camping sites on record. Google’s one do not always exist, but if, the guidance is perfect. Found a very professional setup near Split and work in the restaurant on my records.

He is working hard that day.

Monday, 20.05.19, Dubrovnik – Mostar – Sarajevo

Day 28 for the records. We left our apartment around 09:00 am and headed towards the airport. In Google Maps I located a bistro near a beach on the way. We found parking and walked 15 minutes to it. First guests, best service, had great omelette breakfast, great coffee.

Time to say good buy at the airport. Ingrid’s capacity for motorhome living was exhausted.

I moved on north bound to Mostar. At a traffic light stopping behind a car I realized that my right headlight does not work. So I stopped high up on a hill at a side bay and started the procedure. User manual, tools, spare bulbs. Took me about 20 minutes, all done. Is a much better feeling to have your house in order.

First little hiccup

Simple border passing, arrived in Mostar around 15:30 pm. A bit tricky to find parking, payed the famous 5 Euros for 24 hours 2 km from the old bridge. Used it only for 2 hours, but so what. Walked over, found the Japanese Tourists en masse, took the same photos as them. The special ones are from down at the river up to the old bridge. All around but not too many are the usual stalls with souvenirs. I liked the copper works.

Then Google Maps disappointed me. The camping site was under development and on the other side of the river, no bridge, and suggested to walk the last stretch??? Drove to a fuel station, consolidated my position, decided to buy some snacks and drive on to Sarajevo. Can reach it in daylight. Which worked out just, not at least for the very good road condition. I trusted Maps again and also this time it was a challenge to hang in on the long uphill road above Sarajevo. A simple but clean set up made me feel at home immediately.

Reached Sarajevo late but safe.

Thursday, 16.05.19, Skopje – Pristina – Tirana

Day 24 for the records. During the night Ingrid woke me up, she heard a noise. I did not, but I climbed down the bunk bed and shouted “hey!”. No reaction, silence. I did not leave the vehicle. You never know. Could not sleep for some time. Felt a definite shaking of the motorhome about half an hour later. Thought must have been a wind gust. Did not hear any wind. Thought all will be well….

In the morning I had to look for the bicycle immediately after waking up. Bad news, it was gone. Looked to the rack and found the wire lock cut precisely but fixing straps were opened carefully and not damaged at all. Gentlemen thieves. Ingrid might have heard the cut, I must have disturbed them and they came back later to lift the bike off when I felt the swing. Went to reception, they were apologetic and pointed me to the next police station 12 km to the south. As we were heading north to Pristiana it was a short discussion, but we decided to report the incidence.

Nasty surprise, Mountain Bike stolen during the night.

We had to wait about 45 min until the administration started office but then were treated with Turkish coffee and a rather swift procedure.
Back to pass Skopje with mixed feelings now towards Pristina in the Kosovo.

Pristina did not reveal its charming side…

Weather rainy and NO = ZERO chance to find parking near an old town. Tried hard settled for a few shots from the car, looked for a fuel station, had some coffee there before turning south.

WE had our camping guide and Google Maps agreeing to the position of our choice. But the approach road was more than adventurous. We had to ask and still had our doubts. But we made it.