(from the journal, August 31st) Poorer European countries get the cast-offs. Old, somewhat refurbished German and Austrian buses get a second chance in countries like Croatia, where I assume they are then driven another couple hundred thousand miles into the ground. Our bus is one such bus, with its German warning stickers adorning windows and doors. It rumbles down the road, ever closer to Plitvice Lakes, ever farther from Split.
At times, we are surely breaking the speed limit, drafting and then passing semi-trucks on winding mountain roads. At times, we creep through towns and villages, gridlocked behind delivery trucks and military convoys.
I’m a little bit bus sick the entire way. Will I actually want to endure a ten hour bus ride over a mountain to northern Thailand or across the border into Laos next year? With twelve people on top of the bus, one in the hold rifling through my luggage and a chicken resting in my lap?
We have some nice snacks from the Bio store. Ali Sun is really great at taking care of our bodies while we travel, while I take care of getting said bodies from point A to point B. We sip just enough water, not knowing when the next bathroom break occurs. Five hours we travel, the last twenty kilometers marked by room-for-rent signs and 24-hour restaurants.
Dropped on the side of the highway. I carry our bags up many stairs, across the pedestrian bridge and down many stairs. Our hotel has been renovated, our room is a huge suite with two bathrooms, one bidet, a forest view off the balcony and a tiny TV in the middle of the room, quickly covered by Ali Sun’s tapestry. We can hear the roar of the Plitvice waterfalls, nestled into the forest beyond.
Three hundred meters to the park entrance, then down a hundred steps, then a boat across a lake. The hike is gentle, we walk for two hours, seeing the bluest of lakes, mighty waterfalls, raised split-beam paths and a virgin forest. Once we escape the teeming hordes on the upper train, the experience is magical.
Past crystal clear waters filled with fish and ducks and ancient tree carcasses. The sun peeks out briefly. We take a tram back, look at the large map, plan our visit to the great waterfall in the morning, then a bus on to Zagreb.