The Coast of Closed Campgrounds
The next morning we took it easy and left just before lunch time. We headed south along roads and some tracks of the Parenzana (link) a cycle route along an abandoned railway line from Trieste to Pula. We passed through the salt flats of Secoveljiske where they have been collecting salt for centuries, and then on to the border of Slovenia and Croatia. This was the first real inland border crossing I have been through. We had our passports checked (and mine stamped) in Slovenia, then cycled 100m across no man’s land to have them checked again in Croatia. Very cool.
|Looking down on the salt flats.|
|The Croatian border.|
Disliking the busy main roads we tried to find cycle paths and quiet roads as often as possible. We met another cyclist at a lookout point where we stopped for lunch who recommended the Parenzana route, so we decided to follow that to Umag as far as we could. After a while it became apparent that this route was mostly gravel paths unsuitable for my bike with it’s thin tyres and top-heavy load. Terry was navigating using his tablet and Open Street Map so we were able to find alternative routes, but it wasn’t always so clear what the conditions of the road were like. We took the next possible exit on to sealed road and then took the internal roads through the myriad camping resorts along the coast down to Umag.
|Terry and Enzo.|
While the campsites in Europe that I had been to so far seemed excessively large and about as far away from ‘back to nature’ as you can get, these resorts in Croatia were even bigger and with more facilities. The problem, or blessing depending on your point of view, is that like the Italians all the campsites close at the end of October. I can see why, given the need for large numbers to support all the facilities, but it makes it difficult for people like us to find somewhere to stay. I couldn’t help but think surely with a place so huge they wouldn’t notice a couple of little tents in the far corner…
We made it to Umag and then kept cycling south looking for an open campsite. It wasn’t till Novigrad that we found one that was open. We’d found one who’s website said it was open, but we were turned away at the gate. Fortunately there was one open about 3km down the road. By this time it was dark and as I had never planned on cycling in the dark I didn’t have any suitable lights so when the streetlights ran out I was cycling by moon and the glow of the other guys’ lights. Not fun. It turned out that this campsite was only open for another few days, so we counted ourselves lucky as we were directed to the tiny area set aside for tents, which was really no more than an area under the trees that hadn’t been gravelled. Only one of the toilet blocks was open, the others having been mothballed for the season, but they were very clean and user-friendly.
In the morning I was awoken by voices I the carpark next to us and the slamming of doors and noise of machinery, so I gave up trying to sleep and went and had a shower and did some laundry in the sink. I had breakfast sitting on the sea wall thinking I could understand why people would come here for weeks in their mobile homes. Eventually Terry and Enzo joined me and by this time is was getting very warm in the sun, making me wonder again why they were closing the campsites when it was still so warm.
|Breakfast on the beach.|
From Novigrad we cycled to Vrsar where we had been told there was another campsite open. We took a lot of back roads and campsite roads along the coast which makes what looks like a short journey actually take most of the day. We reached our campsite at dusk and set up on a sloping site a little way back from the beach. Enzo found a trestle table nearby that we used for dinner.
It was Enzo’s 40th birthday, so Terry had decided to cook him a curry for dinner, and we’d bought a supermarket cake to mark the occasion. We used all our cooking stoves and all our pots and pans to cook a yummy eggplant and lentil curry with coconut rice. It was difficult to find curry ingredients in Croatia, even in the ‘international food’ section there’s only Japanese and Mexican, so Terry made it from a dubious spice mix he’d found and a tin of tomatoes and a tin of coconut milk. Despite that it was delicious!
Terry presented Enzo with a couple of presents too, some limoncello and a packet of 24 plastic spoons. Enzo had lost his cup and spoon at some point on his journey so we intended to replace them, but the supermarket didn’t have anything better than disposable ones. It also turned out that Enzo had lost his watch and as a nice surprise what Terry had thought was the security tag on the limoncello was actually a lemon coloured watch. Bonus!
The next morning was another glorious sunny day, and as I walked to the showers I went and dipped my foot in the sea. It was surprisingly warm, so I thought I should take the opportunity to go for a swim. Quickly heading back to the tent to get my jandals and shampoo, before I changed my mind, I met Terry who was also contemplating the same thing. When I got in it was indeed warmer than the last few beaches I’ve swum at, but it was still quite cold, so I only stayed in long enough for Terry to join me and to make a short swim up and down the beach.
We left just before lunch and headed inland to circle around the fjord north of Rovinj. While a nice downhill ride on one side, we soon had to make the hard slog back up hill again on the other side. We stopped at the viewing platform at the end to have a look, and I couldn’t help thinking if this is renowned for being one of the most beautiful places in this area, and it’s just hills covered in trees down to the water’s edge, then I can see why people keep going on about how beautiful New Zealand is.
|We cycled down one side and back up the other.|
That night we stayed with Ifo in Kokuletovica, a small village inland from Rovinj. He had given instructions to wait for him at the public telephone box. After half an hour we started wondering where he was, and then a girl in a car came up to ask us if we were staying at Ifo’s. She then told us to follow her to his place. When we got there we were greeted by a dog and two puppies, but no people. In a short while Ifo arrived and welcomed us to his place. He directed us to set up our tents in the garden and come inside. It turned out Ifo was a very active couchsurfing host and also had another guest staying with him, Rihana a girl from Germany. He was very hospitable and welcomed us to the red wine a friend of his had made. We left the boring supermarket bottle of wine we had brought on the bench...