(written by Nancy)
We finally dragged ourselves out of Zadar today, well rested from our 2 days off. We have changed our plans multiple times over the last few days, but finally decided we would head up the eastern side of the Veiebitski Canal (that bit of the Adriatic Sea that goes north into Croatia) on the mainland, hop a ferry to Rab Island, ride along it for a bit and then hop a couple of ferries to get over to Cres Island, ride along it for a bit and then hop one final ferry across to the western side of the mainland. Lots of choices in this area, particularly with all of the islands, but that is what we ended up with for a plan.
So, today’s plan was to have a relatively short day to get to Paklenica National Park where we knew there was a campground. We were off by just after 8am, already sweating in the heat. The first 20k or so were not very pleasant as the road was very narrow with little if any shoulder most of the way. The road is the main route to get to the motorway so there was a decent amount of traffic on it – not a great way to start the day. Thankfully, once we passed the entrance to the motorway the traffic diminished substantially so the lack of a shoulder wasn’t too much of a problem. The bad section of the road was marked as scenic on our map – it was not scenic even if it had been traffic free. Not sure how they do the ratings here.
We stopped for a break at the Stari Most Naslenicn bridge, a pretty impressive bridge across a gorge that links the Novigradsko lake to the Adriatic Sea. There were signs for bungee jumping and even some equipment on the bridge but thankfully no one was about so Dave couldn’t suggest it as a morning diversion. While we are not quite sure of the translation, a plaque on the bridge indicated it was originally built in 1961, was demolished in 1991 (we think in the Balkan War) and then rebuilt in 2005.
After another quick stop at a roadside fruit stand for some delicious peaches and nectarines we continued along Hwy 8, stopping again to watch a fellow out working his mussel beds. He would maneuver his boat between the floats that were connected by rope, pull the rope up over the bow of his boat and strip all of the mussels off the rope – interesting to watch. We arrived at Starigrad, the location of the National Park, before noon. There are lots of signs for private campgrounds and rooms for rent along the road but we kept riding until we got to the campground for the National Park, as we had read in other journals that it was a nice place. Well, it was right on the beach but it was a very small campground and was already very full – there wasn’t really any nice place for us to put up the tent so we decided to keep riding and take off some of the miles from our planned longer ride (95k) tomorrow.
The road along this side is actually quite nice, not much traffic and so far not too hilly. There are many small little groups of houses, all trying to take advantage of the nice views out to the water. And it was a pretty view. We could see all the way across to Pag Island, one of the other islands we considered riding up directly from Zadar. It looks a bit desolate from this side – not much vegetation though there are a few settlements that we saw along the way.
We finally came upon a decent looking campground and decided to check it out. Kamp Sibuljina was only another 10k or so up the road but we thought it would be nice for a day sitting by the sea. We are camped under some big pine trees so have some shade and hopefully they will not drip too much sap on the tent. It was pretty hot even in the shade – Dave took a nap in the tent but it was too hot for me so I hung out in the tent vestibule trying to catch a breeze. Our site is right on the water, probably one of the best camp site locations we’ve had, ever; at least has to be top 10.
There appear to be lots of regulars at this campground – many people seem to know each other even though most of the cars have foreign license plates. We have gotten a few funny looks at our site, as though we might be interlopers on some other regular’s site, but hey – this is where the camp host told us to set up. Actually, I think they are just looking at us funny because they can’t figure out who would be crazy enough to carry all this stuff and ride in the heat.
Lots of the usual sunbathers in little bikinis here and Dave quickly spotted the additional topless sunbathers that seem to frequent this place. So much burnt skin, it makes me cringe!
Given that we are camped right on the sea we did have to get our swimsuits on and go for a bit of a paddle. Actually, the water is so salty that it isn’t really very easy to swim – you mostly just float. It was a nice way to cool down though, if you could keep your head out of the water to avoid all the salt in your eyes and mouth. I wore my one piece swimsuit, not a one piece (bottoms only ) bikini like many of the women near us, but my actual one piece full coverage suit.
We cooked up some pasta and canned ham for dinner (not as bad as it sounds) and will hopefully have an early (and cooler) night so that we can be fresh for the 85k tomorrow to get us to Rab town on the island of Rab.