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Monday, April 24, 2006

Deep in the magical forests of Plitvice

Honeymoon in Croatia: Plitvice

(And today's shots are all HERE)

We slept a bit later on Friday, enjoyed another bread and cereal breakfast (with some tea, of course) and set off inland for Plitvice. Our first challenge of the day was trying to find the highway. A highway isn't something you'd expect to be difficult to find, however there's the little matter of a mountain range separating Trogir from the inland highway, so we spent a good 45 minutes negotiating what could have been mistaken for tarred goat trails crossing the mountains. In retrospect it would probably have made more sense to backtrack to Split and get on the highway from there. In the end we made it onto the highway intact, and what a highway! Croatia has apparently been on a massive infrastructure construction spree over the last five years, and that includes massive six-lane highways connecting most of the country's major cities and points of interest. There are automatic boomed ticket booths at every onramp, which present you with a ticket to be handed over at a toll booth when you get off the highway. It turns out the government is recouping a fair amount of their construction cost with tolls, a trip on the highway from Dubrovnik to Zagreb would cost in excess of R300!

Thanks to the highway, most of the drive to Plitvice was a pleasure, cruising along at just over 130km/h most of the way. When we did finally get off the highway, the little roads through the country were far less pleasant to traverse. Once again we spent some time climbing and descending winding little goat trails, and at some points these roads ran through ghost towns obviously evacuated in the war in the 90's. Homes and church walls alike were riddled with bullet holes and damaged from fire and combat. This was a very somber and saddening experience, and can only be likened to walking through catacombs or mass graves-very sad.

Of course it wasn't all doom and gloom; we made it to the park and to our hotel, Jezera. There was obviously something very important happening there, as we drove past countless military and police vehicles parked along the road, and the hotel itself was full of uniformed men, mostly very senior looking. We never did figure out what was going on. We checked in, dropped off our stuff in our room and, after a quick lunch at the bar, headed into the park. We decided to take the ferry down to the lower parts of the series of lakes, and walk from there.

The park was so quiet (being out of season) that we had the ferry all to ourselves, which was great. It was quite nippy and there was a chilly wind blowing as well, so we were bundled up as warmly as we could be, watching the scenery go by as we munched on Kras chocolate. We arrived at the drop off point, which I remembered from my previous visit to Plitvice (though this time it was deserted-no vendors or visitors) and set off on foot. As luck would have it, the viewing point route which Natalie suggested we take led us up to the top of a canyon headed by the largest waterfall in the park: Veliku Slap (literally 'Big Waterfall'). The walk along the top of the canyon and then down into it by the waterfall was magical, as was crossing over the too-blue water to the other side and climbing up through a water-carved cave. While the trees were mostly bare, the first flowers of spring were poking up all over the place, and the forests are wonderfully peaceful. The waterfalls and lakes are indescribable, it's astonishing how much water there is flowing through that area, and when one is near the waterfalls the air is so full of mist that it's as if you're walking through a cloud! A bit further on we found ourselves at a bus pickup point and waited for a group of German old fogies also waiting for a lift. the hike had taken us a good 3 hours or so.

After a quick visit to our room to 're-supply' we headed back out to the park to enjoy a bit more of it before sunset. We were treated to a bit of snow-well, ice by that stage actually-and froze our hands making snowballs and generally acting like little kids! As the sun started to set over the trees we headed back. A shower and general 'guss-up' was followed by a delicious meal of stuffed salmon for me and chicken breasts for Natalie at the hotel restaurant. After our too-short visit to one of the most beautiful parks in the world, it was bedtime again.

Next update: Benici house!

In other news..

Well, there isn't really any worth mentioning. The SNO has warned people not to 'expect miracles' and insisted that it has 'no intention to start a price war with Telkom', so it looks like we're in for the same-old same-old on the telecoms side of things, despite the much anticipated 'competition' in the country.

Gaming-wise, i got hold of "Worms" for the PSP, and it's as great as it's predecessors. I'll put a mini-review up on Desconocido sometime soon. I'm still being wishful about the Xbox 360, and keeping my eye out for a good deal on one, though I'm slowly starting to accept that there's no way I'll get away with less than R4000 for a Premium pack, and the Core just isn't worth it!



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