We’ve discovered that a four-week trip has a very different dynamic from – say – a two-week trip away in the Knumptywagen. Granted that a lot of Motorhomers set off with far-more ambitious timescales than ours – but family, stop-at-home pets (when last investigated, you couldn’t get passports for chickens and goldfish) and grass that insists on growing exponentially while you’re away – are all valid reasons for limiting our self-indulgent excesses to just four weeks.
Two weeks in, we’ve discovered that we’re beginning to relax into a slightly unreal, itinerant lifestyle where we have no pre-defined travel plan and – for the first time in four years of motorhome ownership – we really think we’ve joined the fraternity and understand a little about the true ‘freedom of the road’.
It’s also a completely different dynamic when travelling abroad. For a start, motorhomes on the ‘continent’ are almost as numerous as cars so there’s none of this (go on, admit it – tedious) waving acknowledgement of each other in which we seem to be obliged to indulge on the tiny little island we class as home. Jeez – if we waved to very motorhome we’ve passed on this trip, our arms would have been worn down to little stumps, rendering steering and gear-changes impossible and resulting in hunched immobile shoulders for weeks. Do you see car-drivers waving as they pass each other, just because they’re in similar vehicles? Nope. So let’s drop it, guys, and assume we just all like each other, OK? (We’ll then all also avoid that desolate sense of rejection when our well-meaning waves are not reciprocated – it’ll really make for far happier journeys all round, honestly.)
So, here we are, on a delightful, small (say, what, 30 pitch max?) family-run campsite just south of Rovinj in Istrian Croatia, a country where ‘wild’ camping isn’t allowed – and (we understand) can be subject to heavy fines – consolidated by the very unequivocal road-signs which slash demonic red bands through graphic depictions of motorhomes, caravans and tents – and then advertise the ‘112’ telephone number beneath, so miscreants can be immediately reported to the Police.
The downside of this is that the bit of Croatia we’ve experienced on this trip so far seems to have become homogenised into huge, sophisticated camping complexes (often incorporating a resort Hotel or two) where individual camping pitches can run into hundreds (the one we’ve just left boasted 577 separate pitches.) The occupants are nearly all German motorhomes, with a genteel smattering of Dutch caravans – and the sites boast upmarket toilet and shower blocks; bars; restaurants; exclusive sea frontages; beach-club style amenities including tennis courts and jet-ski hire – all accompanied with rates to match. We’re not complaining – having just indulged ourselves on one such site for a couple of nights. It’s just that – like so much of commerce-driven 21st century life – it’s still delightful to stumble across a site which isn’t guarded 24/7 by automatic barriers and a sun-wrinkled Security Guard in a hut .
And here we are. En route, we’ve managed to avoid similar locations in Slovenia – where two separate lakeside sites were just stuffed to absolute capacity – and as a result appeared to the casual bystander (us, on the wrong side of the barrier and the hut) to be seethingly and chaotically claustrophobic – so it can’t just be a Croatian peculiarity.
So, do we identify our ‘Best-Of-Trip-So-Far’ site, at risk of it also becoming over-run; absorbed and amalgamated to the point that we can’t find it on our next visit? Yes, we do, since we ourselves may also need to refer back to the blog at some point in the future if we want to revisit. Seemingly unpublicised, Val Vidal was just metres inland from another seemingly rammed sea-edged site – Mon Paradis, which thankfully was full when we speculatively arrived. Val Vidal instead took us in (it was getting late) and found us a spot – proving to be well-established; owner-managed; quiet; unassuming; shaded; friendly; clean and delightful, even down to the doughnut man going door-to-door in the mornings and having a genteel bar where they’d even let you set up a tab!
Despite naming the site, we may venture beyond Istria on future trips as the one major downside of the Istrian coast isn’t widely reported: almost all of the coast has no beaches. Meaning, there’s no sand – just narrow strips of pebbles and/or rocks and/or stone-built jetties so it’s not a hugely comfortable experience bedding down for the day by the sea-side. Even diligently-laid towels can’t protect pierceable flesh from sticky-out rocks – and your inflatable lilo will last minutes. So if you’ve come for sun, sea and sand – the Istrian offer isn’t quite as alliterative despite the warm, clear blue and almost non-tidal sea.