croatia · europe · Travel

Croatia 2016: Exploring Krka National Park

We finally wake up to glorious weather in Zadar.  Our trusty weather app(s) suggest that the weather will be marvellous for the rest of our trip, with the temperatures rising throughout the week.  Good job we didn’t pack waterproofs and long sleeves… they would just weigh us down on the latter part of our trip!   We eat our breakfast of purloined bread from Restaurant Groppo and pack up for the final time.  Tonight we’re staying in a little guesthouse in deepest darkest rural Croatia but first…more waterfalls!

If Plitvice was a “maybe” on the itinerary, Krka was always a definite.  It’s barely out of the way of our coastal trip, it looks stunningly beautiful in  the photos – and you can swim in the lake at the bottom of the falls.  What’s not to love?  And when I spotted Agrotourism Kalpic online and I knew we could stay so close, it was like a sign from up above.

Unlike Plitvice, I had done some research with regards to routes, entrances and where best to park.  However, despite the free parking at Lozovac, I direct Mr Fletche towards Skradin once we’re on the E65.  And despite knowing that there is official Krka parking at Skradin, we blindly follow the woman waving her arms at us and guiding us into her campsite car park.  Oh well, best laid plans and all that.  Its 5 euro for the day parking, and other people have parked there too so we pass over our money and unload the car.  I fear we have now parked about 10 mile away from the falls, but our fears are unfounded as it’s a short and pleasant stroll through the lovely town of Skradin.  Skradin is geared up for catering to tourists, but many tourists probably just park up in the official car park, and go straight to the boat headed for the falls.  They’re missing out on a lovely little town.  We’re in no particular rush, although by the time we stroll towards the waterfront and the Krka Information Centre we have just missed the 11am boat.  The next one is at 12 noon according to the schedule.

We settle down for a coffee in the shade but before we can order “dvije kave“ the next boat has arrived!  It’s not that it was particularly slow service at the cafe (although it was) more that the powers that be had clearly decided to put additional boats on.  We gather our things together and join the queue for the boat.  We’re not entirely sure if this is the boat we need, but we join the queue anyway.  We’re English.  We’ll queue for anything.  Turns out that it is indeed the correct boat, and we settle downstairs in the shade for the 25 minute journey.  Our seat companions keep us amused by dressing their baby in a cool selection of hats and sunglasses. 

You can buy Krka tickets once you get to the entrance, but we purchased ours at the Information Centre so we’re straight through.  And unlike Plitvice, they don’t make you wait for the waterfall pay-off.  Just five minutes walk and there is “that“ scene straight from the postcard, of Skradinski Buk cascading into a pool below.  There are people swimming in this natural pool.  We will later learn that “swimming“ is a loose term for the activity.  It is more fumbling around in freezing cold water, trying to get a foothold on the slippy rocks and then trying not to be swept away by what is a surprisingly strong current.  But more about that later. 

That picture-postcard view
A picture-postcard view

We take the wooden walkway to the right of the falls, and take an anti-clockwise route through the lower falls.  It just gets more beautiful with every turn.  Clear blue waters, rushing falls, shady tree canopies.  There’s a few steps and slopes to handle, but nothing like the snaking steep route we took at Plitvice.  For a beautiful, sunny Saturday, there are surprisingly few people around.  Certainly not as many as were at Plitvce – and even that wasn’t as crowded as expected.  It takes us about an hour to circumnavigate the trail, taking into account multiple stoppages for impromptu photo shoots. 

The falls from above
The falls from above
An amazing panorama
An amazing panorama

After an hour’s hot and sweaty walk, I can’t wait to plunge into those crystal clear waters.  As we’re travelling on from here to our next destination, we have all our valuables with us – passports, money, car keys, multiple cameras and phones – so we decide to go in one at a time.  Literally “testing the waters“ Mr Fletche goes first.  Possessions safely ensconced under a shady tree, I watch as he tentatively navigates the rocky descent into the waters.  It looks cold.  Mr Fletche may or may not be turning blue.  I’m enjoying the sunshine up on the rocks, and if this wasn’t a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’d probably stay where I was.  But I greet Mr Fletche with a rather grubby dust-covered beach towel and prepare for my turn.

 “Is it cold?“ I ask

“Yes”

“Is it slippy?“

“Yes“

“Will I cry?“

“Probably“

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Time for a dip!
Mr Fletche tests the temperature.
Mr Fletche tests the temperature

Mr Fletche is the master of the understatement.  It is so cold that I literally cannot breathe.  Nothing on this earth would force me to plunge into these Arctic waters.  Apart from getting my foot stuck between two rocks, losing my balance and plunging headfirst into those Arctic waters.  I do not cry, but its a close thing.  Now I’ve acclimatised (i.e. the rest of my body is now as cold as my feet  and slowly turning into a 5’3“ icicle) I set about making my way further into the lake.  The base of the lake is rocky and very very slippy so I make my way very very slowly until the water is deep enough to swim and I’m away from those pesky rocks.  The moment my feet leave the floor though, I am swept along by a surprisingly strong current – luckily in the direction I intended to go.  I’m  soon back at those pesky rocks again, and my naked tummy is grazing the rocky surface below me.  I may have lost a layer of skin during this dip.  I finally come to a stop, and Mr Fletche is on the shore, proffering that same rather grubby dust-covered beach towel (we foolishly only brought one with us).  But to get to Mr Fletche, I have to haul myself onto the rocks, bringing my short stubby legs up to waist height before I can get a foothold.  I use the tiniest ounce of upper body arm strength I have to pull myself out of the water.  At that point I notice the blood pouring down my leg.  My tummy surprisingly escaped unscathed, but I cannot say the same for my knee.  I’ll live.  No medical assistance is required as I clean myself up with bottled water and a tissue. 

pretending I'm not freezing cold...
Pretending I’m not freezing cold…

Deciding that only ice cream will help stem the bleeding (eating it, not applying it to the wound), I lay our grubby dust-covered beach towel on the grass to dry off in the sunshine.  Mr Fletche is all for a second walk around the trail, but I just can’t make myself move from this spot.  Mr Fletche leaves me, ice cream in one hand, Kindle in the other.  We each spend an hour doing what we like doing best:  Mr Fletche is back to nature with his camera; I am snoozing in the sunshine.  Bliss.  Eventually Mr Fletche has returned and its time to pack up our grubby dust-covered beach towel and head back to the boat.  We retrace our steps through Skradin and we’re happy to see that our car is still there in its unoffical car park spot and still in one piece.

Our GPS appears to have lost any recollection of the route to our guesthouse so we’re left winging it, blindly driving around rural Croatia.  Luckily once we’re in the right area, Agrotourism Kalpic itself is signposted.  Otherwise we’d still be driving around rural Croatia now.  We’re greeted at the gates by cats, dogs and chickens.  Oh, and a very lovely lady who shows us to our room, makes sure we’re comfortable and explains that a traditional home-cooked meal is available for 20 euro each.  This little farm-stay is in the middle of nowhere, but we immediately regret not spending more than one night here, especially when we discover the small swimming pool and hammocks.  This would be the perfect place to stay longer and unwind. 

But we’re here for just one night, so we freshen up and make our way down for dinner.  The food is amazing – bruschetta starter, grilled meats and potatoes cooked under a traditional Croatian bell over, and a white chocolate and cherry dessert.  The wine is also locally made, and we have homemade schnapps to complete the meal.  Lovely food and drink, beautiful setting, cute cats and dogs that want lots of fuss – oh, and one of the couples staying at Kalpic have a little girl who looks like childhood favourite Bod so we while away the hours recalling other retro children’s TV programmes until the fresh air and wine takes its toll and it’s time to say goodnight…

Bod
Bod. May or may not have been staying at our guesthouse.
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