Monday marked the beginning of phase 5 of my #epicsummer14 – my solo return by motorbike from Split to London. My travel buddy on the way to Split (Peter) being already back at work and enjoying the frustrations of public transport once more. My return journey will be a bit more sedate than the journey here and I am purposely planning a few things that will not only be about the road (although I suspect there might be one or two more road related posts before I’m done ……..). Having wearily staggered into the apartment at 05:30 am after dancing manically to Steve Aoki’s closing set of the 3 day Ultra Music festival, I was glad when the alarm went off 3hrs later that Monday’s destination was only a 4 hour ride away and not the 8 or 9 hours that Peter and I were normally in the saddle.

After a hurried breakfast I discovered that my bike’s battery had gone completely flat! This led to an interesting “bump start” experience through pedestrianised cobbled streets, scattering children, dogs and holiday makers in all directions while narrowly missing an obviously deaf octogenarian who didn’t hear the ear splitting roar of the twin 800cc engine that finally sparked about 2 meters from her!! Frantic packing followed as wife and daughters kept an eye on the bike as I wasn’t about to turn the engine off again until I had a decent hill to run it down – at least a slightly less crowded hill would be a start.

My destination for the night – the Plitvice lakes national park – an area that we had raced through at about 80 miles an hour on the way down and Peter mentioned during a rest stop that I might enjoy spending a day there. A quick Google Image search yielded jaw dropping results (some heavily photoshopped) and I was sold – it became a “must do” on my return, even though it would mean retracing my route for part of the way (although Lucy of course made sure that we had some interesting roads ……….more on that in a later post).

Now my memory is not what it used to be and to be honest it was never great in the first place – so I love to take photos wherever I go and on my return they get added to the huge collection that then displays on a screen in the main thoroughfare in our house. It’s not uncommon for a family member to come through and say “hey, I’ve just seen that pic we took there – remember how we loved that place” and memories will be stirred. My only regret on a trip like this therefore is not taking enough photos so far! I have frequently raced past something to think “wow, that would be a great image to capture that just sums up this place” and by that time I’m half a mile down the road with a speeding car on my tail.

But I had an even bigger regret yesterday while walking around the park – that I didn’t have a decent enough camera on hand to capture the unbelievable beauty that lay before me! Now my mate Phil loves to point out to people that the best camera to have is the one you have with you ……….and in my case that’s my 2 year old Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone that I use whenever I travel. So I apologise in advance to Mother Nature at my inability to share her regal glory with you through the hopelessly inadequate images below!

The area covers 114 square miles (nearly 300 square km for my metric audience) and is a system of lakes that are interconnected by rivers and a myriad of waterfalls. Multiple walking trails have been sympathetically carved out of the surrounding forests while rough hewn wooden walkways meander lazily over and around the water and compliment the ecology as opposed to intruding on it. The tranquil forests are filled only with the muted sounds of nature (and the occasional bloody tourist that can’t keep it down) as the thick carpet of leaves and moss suck the sound right out of the air.

But it’s the water that people come here for. The dolomite and limestone lake beds combined with particular bacteria and algae render the water a stunning cobalt blue near the surface, darkening to a deep azure and emerald green as the depth increases. The crystal clear pools are teaming with trout and many other varieties of fish which you can clearly see 15 to 20 feet down, staying safely away from the well fed ducks that prowl on the surface. And of course the waterfalls. Bursting through the landscape like the very veins of Mother Earth. Tumbling down at every turn in increments ranging from 2 to 200 feet bringing life and vitality to what would otherwise be simple pools of water.

My words fail to describe the scenes I witnessed on my 4 hour hike around the area and my photos likewise don’t do it justice – so I commit to return to this place in the future – armed with a better camera, more memory cards, and an increased vocabulary 🙂