The bus journey from Split to Sibenik was long and hot. There was no air-con or toilets and the coach seemed to stop every two minutes. The views of the Trogir Coast from the window and its glittering turquoise sea were a good enough distraction for a while as we sped our way to Krka. After some time, Josh read his book while I slept on his shoulder.
I find it so easy to sleep on transport, as soon as the hum of the engine and motion of the wheels begins, I’m nodding off. The best thing about being so small by far as that you can curl yourself up into nooks and crannies and snooze away like a little kitten. I eventually woke up to find that we had reached Sibenik, our first stop on the long journey to Krka.
At the bus station, I guarded our incredible plethora of luggage – I have no idea why Josh needed two large backpacks for himself, he clearly lacks any ability to pack light. Meanwhile, Josh bought tickets from inside the station for our next leg of the trip. The next bus was to Skradin and we only had to wait 10 minutes from our arrival in Sibenik before it departed. This journey wasn’t too long and on arrival we found Skradin to be quite a cute little Croatian town.
There were quite a few restaurants and some market stalls but it was nowhere near as touristy as Split, with most of its tourism focused on its accessible location to Krka National Park, with adverts for ferry trips to the park dotted around.
In the middle of town there was a large grassy area next to a river bank where locals were all swimming and lounging about in the sun. We decided to join them, set up a little spot with our towels and made ourselves a lunch out of our ingredients bought from Split that morning. After Josh took a short dip in the river, we followed the sounds of live jazz playing from down the dusty street. It took a little while searching before we realised that the music was coming from a secluded bar across the river, so we decided to sit in a bar nearby instead and appreciate it from afar as it danced across River Krka.
The bar we settled for was located in a little square, where each building was a different colour: bright yellow, pastel pink and dark brown. The houses were typically mediterranean, with balconies and wooden shutters. From down in the bar, sipping on orange juice and iced coffee, we watched a man standing on his balcony overlooking the town silently and wondered what he was watching or waiting for, or thinking about. I remarked that it seemed to be a predominantly male past-time to overlook the street from a window, or balcony- I had spotted various men doing it over the past couple of days already. Strange…
We finally got a taxi from Skradin to our campsite, a short 10 minutes ride away. The journey took us quite high up into the hills overlooking and looping round the town. I got a spectacular view of the sun setting over Skradin and the river from the window and frantically tapped josh to show him.
The taxi ride was extortionately priced, as taxis generally are, but we were relieved when we finally arrived at our campsite after a long day’s travelling. The campsite was quite small, it boasted a pool and a restaurant near the road, but there was limited space that was suitable to set up camp. The owner -an old, quirky woman- approached us as we hesitantly wandered into the campsite. She was evidently quite drunk, chatting away in half-Croatian and in high humours, taking us to a tiny spot surrounded by other tents to set up our tent.
After she left, we chatted to a Dutch couple who lounged about on their air mattress outside their tent, drinking beer and laughing. I was significantly jealous of both their air mattress and their beer. They told us that they had been on a long road-trip around Europe but had to leave their rented car at the Italian border as most rental companies don’t allow their cars to be taken into Eastern Europe due to high crime rates, which was interesting to find out. We soon had to leave them as there wasn’t enough room to set up our giant three-man tent in the space next to them.
We eventually found a place to set up right next to the fence that separated the campsite from the farm behind it. The ground was incredibly rocky and it was near impossible to hammer the metal nails in. We managed after a lot of struggling and soon we were eating a camp-stove cooked dinner of pasta cross-legged outside out tent on the stone floor, listening to the group of French guys camped next to us joke around and play guitar.
As I got up to shower, Josh told me that he was going to see if he could play some guitar with the Italian guys next to us. “The French guys, you mean?” “No, they’re Italian, their license plate is Italian, duh.” Being quite advanced in the French language I was pretty adamant that they were French unless I had suddenly been gifted with the miraculous pentecostal powers of understanding all languages. But in typical male fashion, my boyfriend didn’t believe me until the French themselves confirmed that they were indeed French. And thus I teased him about it for the rest of the trip.
When back from my shower, the sun had completely set and it was pitch black outside apart from random scatters of light around the campsite from people’s torches and lanterns. We fell asleep pretty soon to the sound of acoustic guitar being played outside our tent and I thought about how much I loved camping.
In the middle of the night my opinions regarding camping drastically changed as Josh had taken the whole sleeping bag for himself and I was left on the cold tent ground with no cover. However, a few minutes of violence resolved the issue and I swiftly took back rightful ownership of the sleeping bag.
We were woken by the sounds of the rooster in the nearby farm screaming ‘cockle-doodle-doo’ in the early morning, a billion times in a row. I couldn’t stop laughing at how similar it sounded to cartoon roosters on TV shows. Cats and dogs only seem to vaguely make ‘meow’ and ‘woof’ noises but roosters genuinely sound like they’re screaming ‘cockle-doodle-doo’ and sleep deprived me found this utterly hilarious in the ungodly hours of the morning. Unfortunately, despite the rooster’s best efforts -and try he did- we fell back asleep and didn’t rewake until 10am.
After getting dressed and a quick breakfast at the campsite restaurant of bread, bread and more bread (in order to successfully to attain our balanced diets) we set off immediately to Krka, bags full of swimsuits and towels.
The main road was dusty and rocky, not at all friendly to my flimsy sandals. Every few minutes a car or van would pass and we’d have to retreat onto the grassy verge. After a while we got sick of walking and stuck our thumbs out to hitch a ride. We were immediately picked up by a couple from Barcelona who were also headed to Krka. It took less than five minutes to drive down the same straight road to Krka’s entrance but saved us probably 30 good minutes of walking. After parking, we said our thank you’s and goodbyes to the couple and went on our way into the park. The entrance fee was reduced as we were students (remember to bring your student cards travelling with you, guys!) and a free shuttle takes all visitors from the entrance down into the depths of the national park.
The coach journey into Krka was a little hair-raising as the driver would rush round the narrow turns, breaking suddenly upon spotting another coach coming in the opposite direction. Then, the two coaches would ever so slowly inch past each other, whilst I looked down the cliff face wondering how far down it was of a drop.
We alighted safely from the shuttle bus and started the walk through the park. The route took us over waterfalls, through the forest of different trees via a little wooden raised path-way. Stopping on a bridge and looking into different pockets of shallow water, at the shoals of bright orange fish, I wondered why it was that they all faced the same way, and changed direction at the same time, like a troupe of dancers.
We finally reached the bathing spot in the park, also where the largest waterfalls are found. There was a restaurant to the right while the river bank was to the left. Every single inch of grass in front of us, up to the edge of the river was covered in towels. It was absolutely swarming with people. Well, being midday, I don’t know how we expected any less but I was a little disappointed to realise that we’d travelled all day across Croatia to visit what seemed like more of an outside swimming bars than a natural wonder.
We tried to keep our humours up, however. The waterfalls were indeed amazing. You could hear the sound of them from a mile away.
We changed into our swimsuits and hid our bag among some trees on the bank before stepping into the water. It was pretty cold and I had to inch in slowly, my shoulders tense in apprehension. The floor was made up of rocks, uneven and rough. (Bring jelly shoes when you visit!) You had to edge along gently to avoid cutting your foot on a sharp edge and as careful as you were you’d still plunge into the deep water when you stepped off a rock unknowingly. After I while I figured out it was best to float on my front and navigate the floor with my hands instead.
We swam for a while in the fresh water. It would have been nice to swim under the waterfalls but they were restricted to the public. I began to get too cold and we got out to sunbathe, successfully finding a spot on the grass by some miracle. Josh fetched me a crêpe to eat like a good boyfriend and it didn’t take long for us to both fall asleep in the sun.
Waking up, I was tired, confused and a little shivery as the sun had disappeared behind a tree. When I sat up and looked around, I was even more confused to see that the park had considerably emptied. Post-nap disorientation made me panic that the park had shut and we were stranded, but after a few minutes I realised this wasn’t the case.
We got up and packed away quickly to go for a walk through the park. Walking across the bridge and back into the forest, we had to climb quite some incline before we reached the viewpoints, but it was definitely worth it. A deserted River Krka wound its way through the dark green hills into the distance.
The further we climbed up the hill, the more waterfalls we came across. It wasn’t long before we came cross some isolated stone buildings with bright red roofs that looked adorable against the natural backdrop. They looked pretty empty and I wondered what they were used for, or once used for. I imagined a time before the Krka was a national park and a tourist attraction but merely a large green forest; the land curvy with hills, dissected with rivers and waterfalls. I imagined living in that little stone pre-Romanesque house 5 metres from a waterfall and miles from any city noise.
We were pretty hungry after a whole day with no lunch so we headed off pretty quickly, took the coach back to the entrance and began the long walk to the campsite. We passed loads of houses and a scrapyard to our right with a dog attached to a pole by a rope. After a few minutes I spotted the river Krka from afar to the right. I decided to investigate the view further and ran across the grassy verge to the edge of the hill. The dog barked at me as I walked past and seemed pretty angry that I’d dared to enter his territory. The view became more spectacular as I edged closer, to see the blue river curve round the hills, bright red foliage in the foreground. I was absolutely spellbound and took up half the memory on my camera with photos. This is why taking your time travelling is always a good decision. Slow walking allowed me to see things that I’d never see if I’d sped past in a car or bus.
I ran back to Josh -who was getting fed up with waiting- as a car pulled up next to us. An Italian guy got out and asked if the view of the park was good from where I was stood. I told him that it was and Josh took the opportunity to ask if we could get a lift back to our campsite. He agreed and said he’d take some photos before setting off. His partner, also Italian, cleared up the backseat of the car for us and we climbed in. Soon enough, the guy was back and we were on our way. The couple told us that they were on a road-trip around Croatia and would make their way to Plitvice Lakes after spending some time at Krka.
They dropped us off at the campsite by making a small detour on their route, which was lovely of them. We thanked them and wished them well for the rest of their trip before setting off back to our tent. We slept pretty early that night as our coach back to Split was due to arrive before the crack of dawn (too early for our friendly rooster)!
Read More: Check out Evan’s awesome hiking guide of Plitvice Lakes, another of Croatia’s beautiful national parks.
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