Michael (or at least his well-signposted ‘auto-camp’) beckoned us in off the dusty Croatian road for our night’s travelling stop-over, with Germany still clearly dominating the semi-transitory population of this small, tree-shaded, sea-edged site. So much so that our host simply greeted us in a monologue of rapid-fire German, sadly none of which (being English) did we understand any better or any worse than any similar welcome delivered in Croatian.
We were quickly allocated a tiered pitch, looking down on what appeared to be a slightly disgruntled German-couple-mit-hund, and set about our one-night-only campsite deployment duties, to avail of a tree-restricted view of a small patch of sea, wherein The Navigating Rune Reader quickly immersed herself by way of journey’s-end refreshment.
Our chance arrival at Michael’s had been happily preceded by totting up yet more mileage on our south-bound trajectory, having travelled an almost deserted and sweetly-surfaced road which hugged every topographical crease, dimple, curve and hairpin-bended inlet of the mid-Croatian coast. Views out to sea along the route were limited by the continuing low-lying presence of arid-looking offshore islands comprising bare limestone slopes which our limited research suggested were called ‘karst landscapes’ – where ‘karst’ – in some slightly onomatopoeic way – seemed as apt a description as is necessary.
On our left, huge domineering grey folded limestone mountains rose up immediately from the very edge of the road which had been carved into them, each peak climbing behind another to impossible heights, some of which even on this bright-skied and sunny day, had snagged a few passing clouds and clung onto them, seemingly to retain welcome shade for their balding, sun-bleached peaks.
Tiny hamlets of stone cottages, each topped with bright-orange pan-tiled rooves, littered each precarious inlet we circumnavigated, where a muddled collection of one-man wooden fishing boats bobbed like flotsam or rode out the gentle swell tucked against tiny stone-built quays. Each inlet boasted what the paint-manufacturers might describe as a Relaxable Turquoise colour-scheme, with rapidly Shallowing Water emerging from Obscure Obsidian and Deep Water Dark through a stepped range of Adriatic Azure right up to Paddly-Daddly as Gentle Waves lapped onto narrow and erratic strips of Gravelly Beach. (And all of this while I was supposed to be keeping my eyes on the road, I thank you.)
Onwards, ever-onwards, with our trusty not-so-low-mileage-anymore-Knumptywagen issuing not one single audible squeak, moan of lassitude or cough of uncertainty as it climbed steep inclines, only to free-wheel in a high-pitched low-geared whine down any number of other-sides – continually consuming still-empty, sun-baked roads.
Michael (a local mountaineer, judging by the photos adorning the walls of his small bar-cum-site-office) had chosen the location of his site wisely, as it saved us from travelling too far and accidentally stumbling into Zadar (which subsequently turned out to be in our favour.) With a little of the afternoon left for our (and the van’s) well-deserved relaxations, we brewed tea (you can take the English out of England . . . ); we lolled around a bit while being passively entertained by a local Small-Lizards-Dashing-Busily-About Show – performed exclusively for us on the border stones of our pitch; one of us swam in the sea (obviously not the Van and even more obviously, not your favourite author) and then we took a short walk along a straggling seaside footpath to the larger village of what we think was called Starigrad, (but subsequently believe this may just mean ‘Old Town’, as road-signage bearing this name seems to be popping up with frequent regularity.) Old Town or not, a modern snorkel-and-mask were here procured -and then tested on the return leg, to be excitedly pronounced acceptable.
We dined in-van and under-awning with the delightful smell of hot pine trees adding spice and aroma to our culinary efforts – producing a supper involving much delightful local salad produce, bolstered by a sensibly-sized chunk of smoked filet-mignon steak, previously procured.
Finally, the day’s heat refused to dissipate even as the sun went down, so we spent our first uncomfortably hot night in our over-cab bed with no refreshing breeze at all to be had through our widely open, mosquito-netted windows.