We had a very early start today. After a quick breakfast we were ready to go. The coach as always was on time. Our destination was a national park in Central Croatia. The Plitvice lakes is one of the oldest and largest of the National parks and is also on the register of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. More than half the landscape of Croatia is made up of karst topography. This causes dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone and dolomite which then creates underground caves and sinkholes. These areas can be quite dry and so to find an area like this with lakes and waterfalls is very special.
Our journey takes four hours and we have a short break in between. As we travel along the motorway, the wild countryside creates a lovely scenic route for us to admire. Part of this was burnt down as a result of bushfires and is now growing back slowly. As we reach the mountainous areas, the guide shows us a point where part of the mountains caved in leaving a deep canyon. It is all pretty spectacular. There are brown bears, wolves and lynx in the Croatian mountains and very few inhabitants.
We pass through the city of Karlovac, which is situated not far from Zagreb. I saw damaged buildings, abandoned houses and also a park with damaged military aircrafts and equipments. The guide then pointed out a couple of houses bearing bullet holes and scars left behind from the days of the war. The city has been restored since then but some people who fled never came back. Istria escaped the war damage, but like the rest of the country was affected economically.
By midday we reach the valley where the park is situated. After collecting our packed lunches we follow our guide around the lakes. There are about sixteen lakes in total, all interconnected and receiving water from the mountains. The park is huge and it is not possible to cover most of the trails and so the guide takes us around the most beautiful parts.
Wooden stairs lead us around the trail. It is built in such a way as to not intrude, but just blend in with nature. As we walk around, water flows underneath the steps and the speed varies with the force with which the water comes down the mountains. There are waterfalls dotted around the area and as we walk past everyone stops to take selfies and photos. The water in the first lakes was a shade of emerald green and the plants around it enhanced and added colour to it. It was difficult to imagine that this was a garden all shaped and preened to perfection by nature itself. The wild flowers and orchids added a touch of colour where it was needed in shades of red, yellow, purple and white. The water was crystal clear and you could see the bottom of the lake even though the day was overcast and the sun refused to come out till almost the last minute before we left. The sound of the waterfalls and the bird songs in quieter areas, all added to the magical appeal of the place. As we walked past one of the waterfalls the breeze gently blew the spray onto us. Even on a cool day like today, it was one of those moments you wanted to capture and remember for a very long time.
Next was a boat ride to the picnic area. The most spectacular part of the trip came after lunch.
We resumed our walk around the lakes after lunch. This time the water appeared a deep shade of blue. The water was clear again and you could see fish swimming in it as you would in an aquarium. The guide told me that the water gets its colour from the surrounding dolomite rocks. We follow the trail and walk around a few more lakes and waterfalls as the trail winds around and slowly takes us to the top of the hill from where we can see the waterfalls from it’s best vantage point.
We have another long drive back to the hotel and most of the group were fast asleep as soon as the bus started moving. We have had another wonderful day. Earlier on there was a point when we wondered whether an eight hour journey to see the park was worth it, but after seeing the cyan blue lake, I think it definitely was.
On the coach back home, I sit back, listen to my favourite songs and watch the sun play hide and seek behind the dark clouds. At first it looked like the sun had had enough and was about to call it quits and stay hidden. The wilderness looked as if bedtime was beckoning and in the next minute the sun came out and was grinning cheekily. The long shadows it created seemed to confuse the landscape.
As I watch these scenes, our guide made an announcement and brought me back to reality. He reminded us that we have a free day tomorrow. The plan is to visit the old town in Porec and maybe do a bit of swimming in the sea if the weather holds.