Days: 483 (21 October 2015)
Total distance travelled: 128,210.3 kilometres (79,633.7 miles)
Back in the summer of 2013 we made a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Plitvice Lakes National Park.
Ever since that day we’d been itching to return…
As luck would have it, our path would take us again through Zagreb, and given how close we were, there was no chance we weren’t going to grab this opportunity for a second visit!
Where our previous excursion was a mid-Summer affair, this we’d be several months later in the year and well into the Autumn/Fall months, something that had done little, but help build the anticipation.
The chance to see the place bathed in autumnal colours had us pretty damn excited it must be said!
Our plan was a mirror of our previous visit.
An early bus (admittedly not as early as our 2013 excursion) from Zagreb, then just walk as much of the park as we possibly could.
We knew the day wouldn’t be as long (given that we were getting closer to winter, we doubted we’d have as much daylight), but hoped that we’d still be able to manage a schedule somewhat similar.
After all, this time we at least knew what we were doing!
Back at the park, first impressions were just as good this time as they were last…
The key difference?
Sure, we had lovely blue skies, but that didn’t stop the morning being fucking cold!
On a morning such as this, patches of shade that hid the Sun, truly felt like the enemy.
For our last visit, the mercury was somewhere in the thirties (celcius), whilst this morning was still clinging to single figures!
The water level, it was also considerably higher as well.
After tip-toeing our way past these slightly flooded boardwalks and copping a face full of spray for getting a little too close to the first waterfall of the day, we made our ascent of the nearby rock wall thanks to an at times slick stairway.
Our reward for our efforts?
Beautiful views of the falls below and a lovely trail to follow through the Autumn coloured woods.
It was in fact the same way we’d explored the park on our first visit, so it was largely familiar terrain, now on display with a completely fresh palette.
The path gave way to an access road at one point, which we followed keeping the lakes on our left side before eventually getting ourselves back down by the shore where the met a ferry dock and a small store.
At this point, most people simply take advantage of the free ferries that zig zag back and forth across the lake, but we knew that there was a rarely used path that could also be taken, however it would take a hell of a lot longer.
We made use of the bathroom facilities, admired the huge schools of fish that could be seen in the crystal clear waters, then got on our way.
Well, we got about fifty metres along the small path which hugged the shoreline… before the path disappeared beneath the swollen waters of the lake… and we weren’t really equipped to be wading through something that looked to be close to knee deep in parts!
That’s how minutes later we were waiting on the dock for the next ferry, having missed by seconds the previous one to depart!
We weren’t waiting for long before the next vessel arrived and deposited its few passengers ashore, we took our seats and not a moment too soon.
Suddenly we were surrounded by a large Asian tour group, a couple of whom we began to start chatting with.
Turns out it wasn’t one group, but several (mostly Chinese), with the ladies with whom we chatted in fact Thai.
Pretty quickly we were floating our way across the lake to explore another section of the park.
It may come as little surprise that here, one of the more popular boardwalked areas due to its proximity to some of the beautiful cascades (the paths take you around, under and almost through them), the way ahead was also flooded, although some effort had been made to make navigation a little dryer for park patrons.
This warren like series of paths, truly forms one of our favourite little areas of the park, where you’re almost floating across incredibly clear pools, and marveling at beautiful rainbows as the magic that is light refraction formed wonderful arcs of colour.
Away from this collection of waterfalls, the waters were a picture of calm, with little breeze, most of the ripples across the water the result of its resident fish (of which there were many).
Soon we were traversing our last boardwalk for a little while, the path now taking us back on dry land and into the scattered light of the semi bare woods.
It truly is amazing how some trees will be completely bare, whilst others still hoard green foliage.
The rest, well insert a myriad of hues from Red to Yellow and it really was a stunning place to wander.
Not a bad place for a picnic lunch either, so that’s exactly what we did (we’d brought some salami, cheese and crackers with us for just that purpose).
As we dined, we had the joy of watching karma in action, as two tourists who’d wandered off the clearly defined path, had a ridiculously long tumble down a hill above, one of whom hobbling off afterwards clutching a muddied and sore arse!
With our efforts to complete a circuit of the lake thwarted earlier thanks to that flooded path, we now found ourselves flushed with time (the lake path would have consumed a couple of hours), meaning we had the luxury of a slow walk back towards the park entrance.
Another short ferry ride had us back on the right side of the waters, a point where we’d once indulged in ice-creams to beat the heat, but not today.
Instead we decided to take another shore hugging trail, another direction seemingly unpopular with the others we’d passed within the park.
Soon it too was proving a damp affair, but at least this time we were able to navigate our way beyond, even if the going was slow.
Overcome it we did, and soon found ourselves back atop a ridge savouring the view for which Plitvice is most famously known… only we had no other tourists we had to jostle with this time!
With the late afternoon starting to cool rapidly, we weren’t really in the mood for a cold post trek beer, instead content to wait in the bus shelter with a few other random folk as we waited for a ride back to the capital.
The random gaggle of people of which we were a part, must have looked like an irresistible opportunity for the local taxi drivers, as it wasn’t long before the first mini-van pulled up offering to ferry people back to the capital at 140.00 Kuna per person (quite the mark up on the bus fare, this was politely refused).
Persistence is their forte, and very soon the next vehicle pulled up offering a fare of 110.00 apiece.
There were three takers this time, but he couldn’t see my logic in lowering the price to 90.00 Kuna and filling his whole vehicle and therefore making more cash…
Observations in business acumen complete, the bus did eventually arrive, where confusingly, we were forced to pay a slightly more expensive fare than we had on the journey down.
The joys of being strange people in a foreign land!
* Our bus from Zagreb to the Plitvice Lakes cost us 92.00 Kuna per person.
* Entrance into the Plitvice Lakes National Park set us back 110.00 Kuna apiece.
* The return bus to Zagreb cost us 99.00 Kuna per person (yes, it was a different price to the outbound journey).