Vanlife in Croatia

 

Yep, I get it, my organisation could do with some work. It’s been almost 2 months since we returned from our Euro Trip and here I am finally getting around to writing about Croatia. Not that I expect anyone has been hanging onto the end of my last blog post by their fingertips, demanding more. (Somehow I don’t think ‘6 Common Car Problems’ was that much of a riveting read.)

We hopped onto the 11-hour overnight ferry from Ancona, Italy, after booking directly with the SNAV ferry service in order to cut out the middle man fees of ‘Direct Ferries’. After receiving our confirmation email in dense Italian, I was beginning to worry, and was anticipating having to have a broken conversation in Italinglish with an impatient terminal guard standing unimpressed as I attempted my best Marlon Brando accent, but this wasn’t the case, we arrived at the ferry port safe and sound (suprising, after driving through Italy) and queued up ready to board the rather large vessel looming before us.

I’m not going to dress it up for you, maybe it’s because Titanic has left me with some serious emotional damage, maybe its because I had read some grim reviews about cabins being ‘buried down low in the bowels of the ship’ or maybe it’s because I was doubting my overall swimming abilities should I need to suddenly put them into use in the middle of the Adriatic, but I was seriously apprehensive at the thought of spending the next 11 hours on a boat with absolutely no control over what would happen to my sky blue baby down in the parking garages. Needless to say, everything went swimmingly. (No pun intended). Even the internal cabin (which means you don’t have a sea view or window) exceeded our expectations, with the only risk being me attempting midnight amateur-acrobatics down the bunk-bed ladder.

Arriving into Croatia felt like something out of a dream, I set my alarm for 5am, to be sure to watch the sunrise. We headed out on to the deck and were greeted by bracing sea air that had been warmed by the sunlight, a gentle breeze playing with my hair. All of a sudden, I was 10-years-old again, seeing France for the first time with my parents, a long hot holiday ahead of us. The boat effortlessly glided through the verdant archipelago of islands that hug the coast of Croatia, the waters were hues of sapphire and the sun was a low-slung orb of golden light.

No sooner than we had disembarked in Split harbour, were we boarding the short ferry to Brac island. Taking just over an hour, we drove off into what I will always regard as my own personal heaven. A quiet slice of paradise where the roads roll over rocky, craggy coastline and traffic is at it’s minimum. We drove from Supetar over to Bol, where we stayed on a campsite called Camping Aloa.

Possibly my favourite campsite of the entire trip, Camping Aloa was a sea-facing sanctuary staggered in levels down to the crystalline waters. Wispy pine trees gave some shade over generous pitches and a watersports school is ran from the waters’ edge. It was all so scenic until I got the van stuck.

Perfectly placed between a steep drop off and a cliff edge, I thought we were royally f*cked. After about half an hour of desperate revving in dusty gravel I was ready to sit on a rock and cry, praying for a miracle, like Jesus arriving on a tractor. And then he arrived. He wasn’t quite Jesus, and he wasn’t on a tractor, rather he was a small Croatian man in overalls driving a Citroen. Shaking his head in doubt, he proceeded to mumble in excited tones and hop about, wedging rocks beneath the front tires and gesturing enthusiastically. One huge push from us as Harry reversed sent a rock flying into the centre of my shin, which added to my emotional affairs, but nevertheless we were free, and I passionately hugged our new Croatian friend on the verge of sobs.

Getting the van stuck is almost a rite of passage on road trips, and the kindness of strangers is always an overwhelming surprise that inevitably comes with the vulnerability of living in a van.

The next day we hired some paddleboards from the watersports centre and enjoyed an hour of gliding across turquoise waters, or rather I enjoyed watching my 6’3 boyfriend attempt to maintain a low centre of gravity on a floating object. Endless fun.

After the island of Brac we headed back to the mainland towards Sibenik, where we would stay for the night at Uljara Laca, a campsite just outside of the fairytale Skradin, which is the gateway to Krka National Park. We were lucky enough to meet the incredibly hospitable owner, and drink coffee in her kitchen, where she communicated with us through broken English and animated facial expressions. After buying some homemade liquer from her, we settled into the van for the night and got chatting to the French-Tunisian couple beside us, Raffaelle and Ines, who inspired us with their 6-month-work/6-month-vanlife lifestyle and poured us a glass of their French red.

Krka National Park is accessible in 2 ways, you can park in Skradin and get the boat into the park with the masses, or you can drive directly up to the entrance, take advantage of the abundant free parking and enter as soon as it opens. We did this, and had about 20 minutes of precious quiet time among the stunning foliage of the park, and left at just after 11 when it was almost full to the brim.

 

The park itself was paradise, how I could only imagine the garden of Eden to be with a wooden boardwalk running the entire length and with an abundance of sparkling, tempting pools culminating in the overwhelming beauty of the main falls and swimming area.

The final journey through Croatia was arguably my favourite. The E65 road snakes up along the coast of the country, with an array of islands to the left of it as you drive upwards towards Slovenia. You don’t drive for any longer than 40-minutes without seeing an autocamp on the side of the road, overlooking the serene sea and the distant, dreamy islands. We stopped several times to dip our hot, exhausted and van-accustomed bodies into the cooling sea, or to simply admire the view. Our final night in Croatia was spent at one of these places, watching as the sun descended into a hazy hue of pinks and purples.

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