30 July 2014
Knowing that we would be wandering around outside all day and that Plitvice Lakes is best seen with sunshine, we had checked the weather almost every day for the last week and unfortunately knew the odds that we would have a rain free day were not in our favor. However we have lost a lot of faith in both weather.com and the weather app on the iPhone during our travels as they have predicted days of sunshine where we experienced rain and days of rain with 60-100% chance of rain throughout the day where we only saw a few clouds.
When our 7am alarm went off I peeked out the window and saw a cloud filled sky with one or two small patches of blue sky. While most of the clouds were a light gray I was highly optimistic, plus the weather app was only showing a 60% chance of rain which would start later in the afternoon. Just after 9 we arrived at the ticket booth and bought our tickets and wouldn’t you know it a light drizzle began, once on the tram to the top about half way up the downpour began. As we made it off the packed bus trying to quickly make it by the crowds to cover, our plan was to wait out the rain. So we bought an espresso and took a seat to wait it out. After about 30 minutes we realized it probably was not going to clear and this rain was here to stay. We did have our umbrella and dressed appropriately unlikely many of the people we saw walk by in shorts and tank tops, did they not look outside? Or does 18 feel like a warm summer day to so many but us?
The rain while slightly annoying didn’t take much away from these beauty lakes. As we walked down the well-established path there were a few respites from the heavy downpour including a few seconds when the rain actually stopped. It did make it a slight challenge to take photos as I had to take on the role of umbrella holder over the camera which led to me getting wet, but it wasn’t so bad, at first. When we arrived at the first main lake, today’s rain plus the rain of the last week or so, began to blur the line between the path and the lake.
Just some random flooding, nothing to worry about here
After walking along the slippery, narrow, rocky boarder created between the lake and the path, I decided it was much safer to stomp thru the ankle deep water on what was once a path than fall into the lake. I thought it might only be for a few meters of having to walk in ankle deep water, but we realized that a good portion of the trails around the big lakes were completely flooded. However here and there the park had set up some temporary raised platforms which provided a good laugh as you would walk through a good distance of ankle deep water to reach a raised platform which went on for a short distance before you stepped off again into the water.
See, it’s just long enough to allow the water to drain out of your shoes before you have to hop back in.
Good luck keeping your feet dry
As we neared the section of the of the park where we were to catch the ferry to station three, the skies really decided to unleash, and the thunder I heard in the distance was getting a little too close, I could now see lighting, and holding a nice lighting rod known as my umbrella was not making me feel any better. All I could think about was playing lacrosse in high school and learning that when you hear thunder you drop your stick and run for cover. But nope, not today, here we were still taking the last few photos, before the rain became too much and we started to power walk to make it to the ferry.
The last bit of calm before the hours long downpour
I am not sure if everyone else knew that I was in a hurry but it sure felt like everyone else on the path decided to walk slower and three or four across, I felt like it was the start of a race and I was weaving thru the crowd. I didn’t even care that Adam had the umbrella and was behind me, I could now feel water running down my back as my water resistant jacket isn’t water proof and my pants were soaked. And even though we were walking under the cover of a very dense tree canopy, there was so much rain that it no longer provided any protection. We made it to the ferry dock just as it was approaching and made it on. As we sat on the ferry for the 25 minute ride we were beginning to contemplate whether or not we should just leave. We have just power walked a section of the park and it really wasn’t fun anymore. At this point the novelty of rain had completely worn off and I was over it. We decided we should just get lunch and wait it out before we made any decisions. It was about 12:15 when we got lunch at hung out inside the restaurant until 1:41, the mythical time Adam had predicted the rain would stop. Well it didn’t but freezing cold, as there was no heater, we saw a fire pit across the way and headed over to warm up. The rain started to let up and we stopped into the gift shop to buy some ponchos. If we were going to stay, they were a must as we had barely dried off. Maybe we had lost or minds or we had just really embraced the rain, but it was once again fun walking along the path.
That and the waterfalls from lake to lake were becoming even more impressive. The load roar of the water and some sections was almost deafening and there were now some rouge waterfalls along the raised wooden platforms and the dirty pathways.
And just as we were making our way to the big waterfall the rain finally stopped. It was almost 3:30 and since 9:30 we had been out in the rain. You would have thought we won the lotto with how excited we were to see blue skies and not feel and constant barrage of rain drops. While I had thought we had seen some amazing shades of blue in the waters all day, the sun really provided the jaw dropping shades of blue. Plus it highlighted all of the grasses under the various shades of teals and blues. At the big waterfall it once again felt like it was raining as the massive waterfalls created their own weather patterns.
Still wearing the poncho even though it stopped raining
We then started our walk back up the hill towards the main road. At this point I think a few tour buses had arrived as we started to see more and more perfectly dry people which led us to declare that there was no way they were able to appreciate it as much as we were as we had just suffered through some 6 hours of water torture to appreciate the beautiful views.
The teal-blue water
Earlier in the day all I could think of was a nice hot shower and just staying the night again here in Plitvice, but now that we were drier and knew that if we stayed we would just have a much longer travel day tomorrow, we checked the bus schedule at the park entrance and noticed there were just two more buses leaving town tonight and we had to book it to try to catch the second to last one. It was perfectly sunny now and the walk from the park to the guesthouse to thru the forested path was even more beautiful. Earlier it was foggy and beautiful in its own way, but now the sun was making its way thru the leaves creating some of the most perfect lighting. Too bad we couldn’t stop to snap pictures and enjoy it longer.
We got back to the guesthouse just before 5:30 to pick up our bags and say a quick goodbye to the owner. We had a good laugh as I had to make a joke about rain in July in Croatia and he gave a now standard response we have heard from so many, “It’s not usually like this.” But he did add, “well I guess everything is changing,” which could not be more appropriate.
We waited patiently for the bus but soon worried that maybe we had missed the last bus somehow.
Waiting to flag down the bus
It was 6:30 and the last bus was scheduled to arrive at 6:05. Having been at the bus stop since about 5:45 I didn’t think we would have missed a bus, but maybe not all of these buses make a stop at this stop. But when I saw a bus finally appear from around the curve I threw my hand up like I was hailing a cab and we were on our way. At the next stop we had one of the best laughs. We could hear from outside the bus a girl, who sounded American, complain that the 5:45 bus was almost an hour late. We could only shake our heads and laugh that someone most likely on vacation even cared that the bus was late. Afterall it was raining all day and I am sure traffic was awful, but I guess some people really like to complain even it if the person they are complaining to have no control over the situation. Once everyone was on board those of us who had just got on had to pay the fare, that included the very upset passenger, who at this point I guess did not want to pay. So within a few minutes the guy collecting payment shouted something up to the driver and we were pulling over and the girl was walking off the bus. I thought I have seen lots of crazy stuff on public transportation, but this takes the cake. I guess that girl will now be very late to wherever she had to go and hopefully that 6:05 bus would show up.
The scenic bus ride was a nice distraction from my still wet feet. The endless views of corn fields with small villages scattered about almost made it feel like I was back on the road driving between Madison and Milwaukee; it was just the rolling foothills and old stone buildings that you clearly knew you weren’t in Kansas. After a 3 hour ride or so we arrived in the capital of Croatia Zagreb. We hopped on the tram to get downtown and wandered around to a few hostels and hotels to find somewhere that had availability and wasn’t overly expensive. We soon found a youth hostel, grabbed a private room and settled in for the night.
Today’s Travel: From our hotel we took the path across the street just behind the ski resort to the second park entrance for Plitvice Lakes. After our day at the lakes we hopped on the bus from the Mukinje stop to Zagreb. Once in Zagreb we took the tram to the train station, and then walked up the block to find a room.
Accommodations: YHA Zegrab. We needed a place to sleep and take a hot shower for the night and this hostel fit the bill. We did attempt to get a room at the Best Western next door but they want 84 Euro for the night for a single!