Travels through Italy, Croatia and Slovenia

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wong & Gem's European Vacation - Diary Update 14
Italy, Croatia and Slovenia

Day 240 - Wednesday 25th October -Stuck in Rome
Got to see a doctor today who said Gem has to rest for a further 8 days and also wants a
CT scan of her back and gave her more pain relief drugs ! Spent the rest of the day trying
To organise getting the doctors letter to the travel insurance company to see if they will pay for the scan. Frustrating !!! When we went back this afternoon we got off the train and had a young couple ask us if we were Aussies !! They were Aussies and are in the same motor home spot and are parked next to us and had been taking bets as to whether it was us on the tram or not!! We spent the night talking with Chris and Natalie from Sydney who have been traveling around in a Citreon camper "Boris" since July. They had taken the opposite route to us and had already been to Sicily and Croatia etc so it was good to be able to swap some tips on where to see with each other.

Day 241- Thursday 26th October- Stuck in Rome
Had to get up early to get to the doctors so Gem could get a few more tests done. Not a very exciting day... basically spent waiting around and going back and forth between doctors. Managed to get some Pizza eating in and a bit of internet and that was it. Gem had to rest for the remainder of the day so Wong entertained himself playing computer games !! Spent tonight talking with Chris and Natalie again which was great to have some company to talk to.

Day 242- Friday 27th October- Leaving Rome yeah !! Caserta to Pompei
Gem got up early again to have one last physio session while Wong played his role as house husband and cleaned Misty inside and out at the special washing station here... it was good to be able to have the right equipment to wash Misty properly like a high water pressure hose and a massive movable ladder to get up high and on the roof. Misty was sparkling clean by the end of it! We took the motor way to Caserta about 220kms. Tried to find the Palazzo Villa - apparently the only thing worth seeing there and was also used in Star wars episode 1 the last menace as the queens palace. We drove round and round these tiny 1 way streets trying to find it. Considering it's on 80 acres and has 1200 rooms we were quite surprised that we couldn't find it. At one stage while doing one of our many u turns we stopped to ask some removalists for directions. It's amazing what you can communicate when neither party speak the same language. They told us that when they finished loading up if we followed them they would take us there. So we followed them, Wong was very happy as we where behind a truck with air horns blasting away through the tiny streets. He took us there and it turns out we had driven right by it but the signage was wrong when we had driven past it... it said it was another castle... just like Italy there is either no signs or they are wrong !!. DOH. Well by the time we got there it was 5.50 and closing, so were a little disappointed that we could not see it but decided keep driving on 60kms to Pompeii. We drove through Naples.... The traffic, the litter and filth, the smog and the drivers where all horrific and the whole place was looked over by Mount Vesuvius! Chris and Natalie had told us which camping ground to stay at which was Camping Sparticus and it was cheaper than the motor home spot and had fantastic modern and clean amenities. It was also just across from the entrance to the Pompeii ruins so also very handy!!

Day 243- Saturday 28th October-Pompei
Today we had a nice little sleep in which was well needed as Gem is quite sore and had been sick all night from the pain medication making her stomach do cart wheels !! We made our way across the road to Pompeii at lunch time and Gem was very excited because from the age of 9 after she saw the Pompeii exhibition in Brisbane she has always wanted to come here... and the fact that it was the 24th August (her birthday) 79BC that the volcano erupted covering Pompeii. Well what can we say about Pompeii...absolutely amazing! The place was also huge so it took us 5 hours to walk around and see everything. It is also filled with many stray dogs that just hang around and sleep in the streets and in the ruins... funny given that one of the things Pompei is famous for is the mosaics of dogs and the dog that was found in the ashes. Some of the buildings were so well preserved and we also learnt about how they managed to make the plaster casts of the humans that were caught and died in the eruption. We hired some audio guides which gave us a fantastic account of all the different things within the ruins. Tonight we went to a local bar and had some Pizza for dinner and then watched a DVD and tried to have an early night!!

Day 244- Sunday 29th October- Pompeii and Almalfi Coast
Gem had decided that she could not handle another hair rising episode of trying to drive the Amalfi coast line as we had heard that it is very winding and not recommend in a motor home. So we caught the train to Sorrento and had a lovely time walking through all the market ally ways and trying to find the ferry so we could catch a boat to Positano and Amalfi. Well we walked right past correct marina and onto another one further on where obviously not many tourists venture. It was a great spot and we found a fantastic restaurant built over the water. Well we had not breakfast and we were glad because while the food took a while it was fantastic. We talked to the waiter and he said that Mama was in the kitchen and that's why the food is best. Compliments to Mama and the big mama bar lady!! We found our way back to the ferry marina and were disappointed to find that the boats to Amalfi had been cancelled as it was not tourist season any more!! These guys are crazy it is stinking hot and there are tourists everywhere so they could still be making money!! So we found our way back to the train station and hoped on a bus to Amalfi and endured the winding hot stuffy bus with people vomiting because of the motion sickness. The coast line was very beautiful and Amalfi was pretty, with the cathedral in the middle of the square being quite stunning and the houses being built into the cliffs and the crystal clear water. The shops are full of lemon products like lemoncello and also the ceramics here are quite beautiful. However, it is not a place that we would rave about compared to the beauty of Porto Venere as it does look very old and tired and is exceptionally overpriced. We went and priced the cost of a one hour water taxi ride back to Sorrento as we did not want to catch the bus but it was 350 euro.... We told them they were dreaming!! On the bus ride back we had Michael Schumacher as a bus driver who knew how to handle the roads and just bullied everyone else out of the way with his air horns!! Wayne said he could have loved to have driven this road but the air horns would have been necessary!!!

Day 245- Monday 30th October- Pompeii to Matera - Italy
Well we woke up bright and early to start our trip to Matera, but then we got side tracked by some Americans, Ed and Sally who had seen that we were from Australia and wanted to talk. We ended up chatting with them for about 2.5 hours and they were nice, he collects VW campers and ships them over to Europe and has a few stored in different countries as well as his big motor home he stores in Italy. He has 3 VW campers and said that if we wanted to come to Florida we could borrow one and take it all around USA, Canada and Mexico if we wanted to. Ed was an architect and designed and developed retirement homes so he and Wayne also had a great chat about that. Then it was off to the shopping centre and to try and fill up with gas. Wayne told me to Gem to go and find the cash machine while he tried to get somewhere to fill up the gas bottles..... well Gem soon found out that she could get a job quite easily in Italy .... As a hooker!!! She walked up the main street and was dressed well in a nice skirt and top and sandals and within about 5 minutes had been harassed by 4 different men. The first one was beeping in a big truck on the opposite side of the road and she did not realize what he wanted and just thought it was a typical Italian beeping in traffic but then he did a big U-turn and came up and started hassling her... Gem told him to go away but them he jumped out and tried to grasp her arm so she screamed at him she was not a Italian whore (as she soon realized what he wanted) and he took off, then decided to walk the 500 meters back to where Wayne was and in the mean time got another 3 offers with guys driving up in their cars next to the walkway, the last guy was quite young and really good looking and very persistent and would not go away until she started yelling at him that she was not an Italian whore.... Thankfully Wayne was just across the road and came and rescued her once he realized she was upset about something. We had read that Pompeii was quite seedy at night (and hence we did not go out whilst here) and we had seen one prostitute up and down the street, but these guys were obviously after some "Siesta time servicing" and obviously did not mind Gem even though she calls herself a porker!! We don't know where the real working girls were but they could have been making a fair bit of money at lunch time if they were there. We think the area Gem was walking was the main street and must have been the main strip for hookers but Gem was not even dressed anywhere like the pros in their short skirts and boots!! We were going to go to the super market but Gem was a bit shook up after her ordeal so we took off out of there and away from sleazy Italians. Rest of the day was spent driving the 250 kms to Matera. We noticed that the scenery changes more in Southern Italy and becomes a bit more desolate. We finally arrived in Matera at 7.00 and found the motor home parking spot. By this time the weather had changed quite considerably as we are on top of a hill in front of an ancient castle and it is cold and windy!!

Day 246- Tuesday 31st October - Matera to Alberobello - Italy
Well half way through the night Gem woke up and though that we were on a very odd lean and thought we must have a flat tire.... Yep she was right. So after we had some breaky Wayne got to the task of changing Misty's tire and rolling around in the dirt trying to get the spare from underneath... lucky it happened here and not on the side of a road!!. Half way through the parking guy turned up so we paid him his 10 euro and he and his wife were very helpful and started making phone calls to see where we could get our tire fixed. These guys really restored our faith in the Italian people as they piled us in their car (and laughed at us when we went to put on seat belts and said no no!) and whipped us down the road to a tire place where the guy pulled a massive stick of steel out of the tire then repaired the puncture straight away for only $10 euro. While we were waiting the lady had to go and pick up her mama, so when she returned we all piled back into the car and they took us back to Misty. We were so grateful as it took over an hour and there was no way we would have found the place ourselves as it had no signs (typical Italy) so we piled them up with presents from Australia. Then it was off to see the Sassi... but first Wayne had to get wired on coffee so we stepped into a fancy bar... the waiter laughed at us when we tried to talk Italian and said no no we could speak English because he had practiced a lot and wanted to talk ! He was also very nice. Then as we were walking down the road we got harassed by some tour guides but when they found out we were from Australia they just start yelling Oh Sydney Sydney!! and we so no Brisbane !! Then they told us that they were all extras in Mel Gibson's movie "Passion of the Christ" which was filmed in the sassi in Mater... which is true!! The sassi are stone houses carved out of and into the twin ravines that slice through the town and they tell a tale of poverty that existed right up until the 1950's. People and animals slept together in these small cave buildings and there was not running water, sewage or electricity. It is a now an Unsesco World Heritage site and it was absolutely amazing!! We walked and walked and also entered some of the churches where convents once were and also go to a museum which was a refurnished sassis that showed how the occupants lived... it was fascinating. We finally made our way back to Misty this afternoon and then took off to Alberobello which took a bit longer than expected as the roads were bad and the signage terrible and Navman did not want to work either!! We finally arrived and found the motor home spot and then went for a walk into town and into some of the trulli and also watched kids run around in Halloween costumes!! The weather today is strange it has dropped from about 26 degrees in Pompeii down to 12 degrees during the day and at night it is about 6 degrees!!

Day 247- Wednesday 1st November - Alberobello to Bari - Italy
This morning we explored more of the Trulli Villages which we think are Trulli Trulli beautiful ha ha!! Basically they are little houses that have cone shaped roofs and were built without mortar as it was the only method permissible at the time of misery and feudal bondage, it was also done so that when the tax man came around they did not have to pay tax as they could completely dismantle their homes. To us they look like the "Smurf Village" houses and are very cute. This afternoon we set of to find Bari where we arrived at about 4.00. We were wondering why the towns we had driven through were like "Ghost towns" and we later read in our book that the 1st November is a public holiday for "All Saints Day". We got booked onto the ferry and paid an absolute fortune for a cabin (170 euro) as we decided that Gem would probably need one so she could vomit from sea sickness in private. Well for that price we wanted 5 star but of course being Italian the cabin was like a hoe box and basic, but we are glad we got it because Gem got sick pretty much straight away and even Wong felt nauseous when the boat got hit by a storm in the middle of the night. Before we went to sleep (or rather passed out from being sick) we met an Australian family who had been living in Prague with their two daughters for the last 7 years. We had a great chat.

Day 248- Thursday 2nd November - Dubrovnik - Croatia
We finally arrived at 7.00am this morning and we were thankful that the boat eventually stopped rocking when we got into port. Gem was too sick to even consider the breakfast that was provided. As soon as we got off the boat the weather was wickedly windy and it was very cold. We made our way to the camp site to find that it closed yesterday... so the next hour was spent going for a scenic drive trying to find some camp grounds on the South side of town... there was heaps but they were also all closed...we found one where we could fill up with water and then went back to the original one near the city and where some other motor homes were free camped. We had a nice little sleep to recover from the ferry trip. This afternoon we ventured into the old town of Dubrovnik which is surrounded by beautiful walls and sits right on the coast line. The streets are all paved in white marble and the buildings are stunning and it is so clean!! It was a really beautiful town and it would be stunning in summer as it has amazing little coves and beaches all the way around it with crystal clear water ... to bad it was freezing cold. We had some people in a massive motor home pull up behind us today which we were glad about as all the other motor homes had moved on so it was good to have someone else to free camp with and even better was that they were English. Well the night was spent talking and drinking with Mike and Caroline from Great Britain... oh and Cassey the black lab gave us our Ruphus fix for a while. We got on great with these guys who were in their early 40's and had been motor homing since September last year... we were also really freaked out about the number of similarities we had, these guys lived in Sandgate in South of England, (we live in Sandgate), Caroline is a real estate agent and they both renovate property (we own a real estate company and renovate property), they have been together for 7 years (we have been married for 7 years), we are both on extended trips in Europe in our motor homes that we both bought of old men that had died !!! It was freaking us out!! We had an awesome night talking and laughing and comparing stories and travel tips... after we polished off some red wine... Mike and Wayne got rather drunk on a bottle of Scotch Whiskey!!

Day 249 - Friday 3rd November - Dubrovnik - Croatia
Well it was bloody freezing again this morning, about 3 degrees and then high Bora winds on top of that !! We had a very relaxing day.... We meant to get going but ended up talking with Mike and Caroline for the entire day and also went out for dinner tonight to a lovely restaurant where the boys stuffed themselves full of sea food !! We have motor home envy of Mike and Caroline, their motor home is beautiful and huge (about 9.1 meters) and they have every gadget possible (generator, vacuum cleaner, plus much more) as well as canoes and a motorbike !! Mike is an engineer and also had spi cameras so he can see outside the van !! They are thinking about shipping it out to Australia to travel and make some money on it... which we think is an awesome idea... we would like to ship ours but it is left hand drive. Mike was so set up he also gave Gem a portable TENS machine which is a pain machine the physio's use... she was in heaven zapping away at her back pain !!

Day 250- Saturday 4th November - Dubrovnik to Ston to Korcula - Croatia
We were sad to say goodbye to Mike and Caroline but they have invited us to visit them in Sandgate in February when we have to go back to re-register Misty and said that they would be happy to help us with getting the MOT and rego done... so that is great. We set off for the drive to the next Island and had a lunch stop on top of a cliff looking down at a magnificent crystal clear beach with white stones. We drove onto the peninsula and through the town of Ston which is famous for its muscles and oysters... Wayne wanted to stop and get some but they were shut. Above the town of Ston was a massive mountain with a wall that went around it that looked like the Great Wall of China... Wayne and I were laughing saying that it was to keep out all the rabbits!! Next we got to Orebic where we were just in time to catch the ferry over to the next Island and to the Island of Korcula which is one of the largest Islands in an archipelago of 48 islets. . Korcula town was another gorgeous Dalmatian town with round defensive towers and red roofed houses where the streets are lined with white marble. Well this place is like a ghost town this time of year and it felt like we had it all too ourselves, we could even park on the marina. Korcula town is famous for the adventurer "Marco Polo" and you can also see the house here where he grew up. We stopped into the shopping centre to get something for dinner and we met up with some New Zealanders who are half Croatian and had a house on the island. Peter Senior and Vinca (were both born in Croatia and left at 17 years old) and their son Peter Junior and his wife Rebecca and their baby Carlos. We got chatting with them and they told us a few good roads to take and a few spots to park on the water. Well after a bit more sight seeing we took off to find a spot for the night, there was a bit of a traffic jam as we winded our way around the road and we pulled over to let the cars past and next minute the New Zealanders were beside us hanging out the car and invited us to park in their driveway for the night. Tonight we got to talk with these guys and Vinca cooked us all a wonderful home made meal and we spent the rest of the night chatting (oh and Gem was happy because she got to do all the clothes washing).

Day 251- Sunday 5th November - Korcula, Bosnia (for 15kms) to Jelsa - Croatia
We got up bright and early and had coffee with Peter and Rebecca and then we all spent the morning chatting about property as Peter also does property development in New Zealand. We said our goodbyes and Peter had found out for us that the ferry we wanted to catch to Hvar was not operating on Sunday so we had to catch the ferry back to Orebic and drive back along the coast line where we had to pass through Bosnia for 15 kms.... There were border crossings to get into Bosnia and we slowed down thinking they would want our passports but they just waved us through. We caught another ferry from Drvenik over to the Island of Hvar where we drove from Sucuraj into Jelsa. It is getting dark now at 5.00pm and we were trying to find somewhere to stop before dark but we could not outdrive the sun and ended up having to drive a fair distance in the dark... however the roads are fantastic compared to Italy and we got to see one of the most spectacular sunsets ever... so beautiful it looked fake... the sun was setting in one direction and their was a full moon in the other direction. We pulled into the little harbor town of Jelsa where we found a park for the night and then went to explore the town. Again it was gorgeous with a harbor and a big main square where everything is lined with marble. We found a great little restaurant for dinner and even better the town provided free wireless internets... bargain!!

Day 252 - Monday 6th November - Jelsa to Milna to Hvar - Croatia
This morning we went back into town to get a few warm drinks... the hot chocolate in Croatia is more like melted chocolate and you eat it with a spoon. We drove into the next town of Stari Grad to find out when the ferries would go to the next Island of Brac... however there are no ferries going now so we will have to go straight to Split. As we have been driving we have noticed that it is Olive picking time as the fields are full of heavily laden olive trees and there are lots of people out picking all the olives... Peter told us that they all make their own olive oil with it. Wayne tried to get me to eat an olive off the tree but I already knew from trying one in Italy that they taste awful as they have to be picked...he took a bite to try and get me to also do it but he ended up spitting it everywhere it was so bitter. We kept driving and found the tiny sea side village of Milna where we had been given a recommendation by Jarred and Lisa (who we met in July in Prague) to camp... well the campsite (Camp Milna) was stunning and right on the beach but it was closed and again felt abandoned. We had some breakfast (an apple) on the beach and then went for a walk around the campsite... we were excited to find the shower blocks open etc and looked forward to the idea of coming back tonight to a nice shower (not that showering in Misty is not nice !!). We then kept driving on this spectacular coast line over looking heaps of tiny little islands and headed into the medieval town of Hvar which again was gorgeous and is nestled between pine covered slopes overlooking the very crystal clear Adriatic Sea. We could both see the Venetian influence very much in the town in the architecture and the tiny streets. We walked around exploring some alley ways (dam it all the shops are closed) and then found a great little restaurant for lunch where Wayne had his favorite sea food risotto again. We decided to burn off the calories from lunch and walk up the hillside to the 16th century Venetian fortress to take some pictures overlooking the town. As we were walking back along the harbor we ran into an Australian couple and their teenage daughter from Melbourne and got chatting... they offered to give us a book on Slovenia that someone had given them as they were running out of time to go there... so they invited us back to their unit for drinks and nibblies. We had a great couple of hours chatting with Ian, Claire and Rose and before we knew it, it was cold and dark again so we said our goodbyes and headed back to Misty so that we could get back to the camp site... we got back in one piece and were a little bit disappointed to find that all the shower blocks had been closed... so it was showers again in Misty. We are parked in a magic spot right on the water with boats putting past and it's just us, as we have not seen any other motor homes on this island... Gem is trying not to freak out as we have been told over and over again the Croatia and Slovenia are probably two of the most safest countries in Europe... the people we have met so far have been exceptionally friendly and helpful so we hope it is true and we survive the night.

Day 253 - Tuesday 7th November - Milna to Split - Croatia
Well we survived the night and woke up bright and early and were pleased to see that the weather had warmed up so that we could go for a swim on the beach... Wayne of course got into the spirit of nudist camping in Croatia and went skinny (or should that be fat) dipping!! We could not decide if we wanted to leave this beautiful spot as we both fancied spending a day here in the sun relaxing... but we were not sure if the ferry went tomorrow so we packed up and headed back towards Stari Grad. Well the ferries did go tomorrow but we made a split minute decision to get on it and cruise over to Split. The journey took one and a half hours and we could not sit in the main lounge area as it was a smoke pit with everyone puffing away. So we went up top out in the open where we admired the coastal view ...lucky for Gem it was dead flat and she did not get sea sick. We got chatting to a couple from Austria and played with their gorgeous dog (French sheep dog) who was a bigger version of Ruphus and very sooky... he kept putting his paw on Gem so she could stroke it and when she stopped he nudged her to keep going!!! The view coming into Split was very beautiful and it looked like another stunning town. Our mission as soon as we got of the boat was to find somewhere to fill up our gas bottles as we think we only have about 2 days worth left... well this took up the next hour as we drove around in circles, got directions from a Croatian Arnold Schwarzenegger who playfully punched Wayne in the arm to say goodbye and nearly sent him flying... then drove around in more circles until we finally found the gas (Plin in Croatian) company that would fill our German gas bottles. Then it was back to Split to explore the town. We were excited to find a market in the middle of town and proceeded to buy some items and a gift for Will and some nuts (pistachios are so cheap here!!). Well the old town of Split was again very gorgeous and very clean as most of Croatia is. Then it was off to try and find the camp site before dark but that did not happen and we ended up driving around in the dark. We decided to head to Auto Camp Sirena about 27 kms from Split as Mike and Caroline had told us that this place was magic!! We finally found it and it was so dark we could not see where we were going and ended up going down a very steep hill towards the harbor and I managed to get Wayne to stop before we went any further and could not get back up the hill!!! It was so steep and I thought we were going to plummet over the edge!! Well Wayne did a spectacular 10 point turn and we headed back up to the top and found that we were supposed to go down the other side as we could see some motor homes further down. We got settled and then had a great dinner at the restaurant up the top!!

Day 254 - Wednesday 8th November - Olmis - Croatia
We woke up this morning to the most spectacular view out over the Adriatic Ocean, the Island of Brac and the mountains in the background... this campsite is unbelievable!! We met Milan the owner and he was amazingly friendly and happy and took Wayne up the road to the shops to get bread, then told us he would cook traditional Croatian food for us and showed us the his spare car that we could use to go into town if we wanted to. He has excavated this site himself and it zig zags itself into the side of a cliff and has its own private beaches and beach bars. He showed us a fantastic spot at the very bottom of the site that is very private and has its own beach. So after having a chat with our German neighbors we headed down to the bottom of the cliff and had a lovely morning swimming on our private beach in the crystal clear water with the fish...we are so grateful that the weather turned sunny today and we could enjoy this stunning location. Wayne proceeded to do some work for Go Gecko, Gem did more washing and cleaning then spent a lovely time in the water, sun baking and watching the fisherman in their little wooden boats put past our front door!! This place is stunning now but would just go off in Summer... we would love to come back here in June/July. Tonight we had another great dinner at the restaurant but Wayne felt a bit sick after eating his calamari as they don't take the ink sacks out and he had too much black ink... hopefully he won't chuck...we have the bucket ready just in case!! This place is so beautiful we won't want to leave tomorrow.

Day 255 - Thursday 9th November -Trogir to Otocac - Croatia
Well Wongster managed not to chuck in the middle of the night but this morning his insides were stained black and he had to spend a heap of time on the loo!! The owner of the campsite Milan delivered us breakfast and we said our goodbyes...he was such a beautiful happy person and said that he felt so complimented for people to visit his country and his campsite.

Well we just have to mention this next bit as it has provided us many laughs since... as we were leaving we ran into the nice German couple again and got talking about where we were heading next. They were also heading in a similar direction and told us that there was a camp site open called the "Nazi Camping"....Wayne and I were looking at each other going "Did we hear that right?", so we asked them to repeat it and the man said in his very strong German accent "The Nazi Camping Ground"...Gem realized what he was trying to say and was laughing at Wayne because he was saying "Nazi ??" and thinking "Should I say Nazi to a German ? and I am not sure if we want to go to a Nazi camping ground because while a lot of people may go there not all may come back!!!".... anyway Gem could stand it no longer and finally said to Wayne that what the German man was saying was the "North Sea" camping ground... accents are funny things sometimes!!!

Well today is a good day for driving as it is quite overcast Next we drove to the town of Trogir which was a lovely medieval town on the coast that again reminded us very much of Venice with the tiny narrow streets and similar architecture. Wayne stopped in the food markets on the outside of the old town and proceeded to get scammed by the old women selling the fruit and vegetables. On the way back to Misty we came across a beautiful black dog lying in the gutter (probably a stray) and realized that it had broken it's front leg as it could barely move. We were both so sad and wanted to just try and help it so we did the only thing we could... we gave it roast chicken, milk and water... and he nearly took Wayne's hand of he was so hungry. We were both nearly in tears as we knew we could not do anything else for it and the people in the town just kept waling past and did not seem to care. We had to drag ourselves away from this poor dog, but we made sure he had heaps of water before we left...it made us so sad for the rest of the day. We decided to get onto the main highway which is a toll road and head towards to Plitvice Lakes and National Park...it was a long drive and we decided to stop in one of the towns, Otocac, instead of driving any further in the dark.

Day 256 - Friday 10th November - Plitvice Lakes and National Park - Croatia
Wayne went and got a hair cut this morning (cause he was starting to get a pony tail and I told him there would be no mullets!!) and he came back looking like and soldier with a really short hair do... we soon realized that this town is actually full of army personal and this is probably the style that the hairdresser was most used to doing!! Then we took off towards the Plitvice Lakes...well we are glad we did not try and drive this road in the dark as it was very like a ghost town but also fascinating to drive through during the day... this area is about 30 km from the Bosnian border and it is here that you can really see the damage from the war... all the houses/villages in this area have been abandoned and are either bombed out or covered in bullet holes... the surrounding fields have big signs that say no entry as there are still active land mines, which is also why no one has returned to these areas to live... as well as the fact that so many families were murdered here. It was also very moving to see a big memorial in the middle of the fields to all the people that died in this area. The Plitvice Lakes and National Park is a 19.5 hectare of wooded hills with 16 turquoise lakes that are linked together by waterfalls and cascades and so many people had told us that they were stunning so we thought we had better come here. As we only had about 4 hours of daylight left we walked around for 3 hours which covered only about a third of the park and the "little lakes"... but what we saw was truly beautiful. The weather has turned cold again today and is about 6 to 10 degrees so we are back in our thermals and big coats and had to walk fast to keep warm!! Next we drove and drove and drove ...and we made one quick stop at a restaurant to pick up some "suckling roast pork" that Mike and Caroline had told us to try...we are glad we did as it was YUUMMYY! About 50 km out of Rijeka we found a perfect camping spot on the beach in a closed camping ground... but then Gem saw some gardeners in the area and decided to do the right thing and ask if it was alright to stay... we are sorry we did as whilst the guy could not speak a lot of English he said "no, camping was closed and it would be a problem if we stayed".... So we kept driving and as it was now dark we spent a very frustrating few hours trying to find somewhere to stop... all over campgrounds were closed and had big gates so you could not park, so we kept driving through Rijeka and on the way to the next stop of Opatja we stopped at another camp ground, but it too was closed, however it had a great parking area on the beach and a bar that was open... so that was it we had had enough for the day and stopped!! A bit later we were joined buy a heap of small mini vans and realized that they were full of young boys who were windsurfers.

Day 257 - Saturday 11th November - Opatija, Rovinj - Croatia into Piran - Slovenia
We were woken up at 6am by the lads putting together their gear for wind surfing... obviously they don't mind the cold. We headed off to the town of Opatija which again was a gorgeous little town that looked more Italian than Croatian, but it looked like all the other coastal towns we have seen so we decided not to stop. Then it was onto the town of Rovinj which the Lonely Planet books say is the best town to visit in the Province of Istria in Croatia, but again it just looked like another small fishing village .... We think out senses are getting dulled as we have just seen so much! We enjoyed our walk through the town but then we decided to keep driving into Slovenia... not before stopping at a Croatian shopping centre to spend the rest of our Croatian money. Well the border control in Slovenia is probably the toughest we have been through, they also wanted to know what happened to our number plate and if we reported it missing... we just told them that we did not know where it fell off in Italy so we did not know where to report it...they seemed happy with that and let us in to the Country. Well this part of Slovenia is quite ritzy with big resorts and hotels overlooking the waterfront and there is obvsiously a bit of wealth here as there are lots of fancy cars (Wayne has been drooling over more Ferraris). We explored the little village of Piran, which again was very much like Venice without the canals!! Wayne got more of a seafood fix, while I sat and watched him eat!! There are lots more motor homes around here so we had no problems finding some people to park with.

Day 258 - Sunday 12th November - Skocjan Caves - Slovenia
We headed off bright and early this morning at 8am (well that is early for us) to drive to the Skocjan Caves which are Slovenia's biggest natural attraction. They were rather amazing and we walked through a complex of passages, chambers and collapsed valleys and reportedly the world's largest subterranean canyon... it was awesome. We also met a New Zealand couple with their two young daughters who had been traveling throughout Europe and living in Croatia for 5 months... guess what they also do property renovation so we had a great time chatting!!! We had to catch a funicular train back up to the top but ended up waiting a while as the group that went before us got stuck midway up as the funicular stopped... Gem thought she was going to have to go out and do some Critical Incident Stress Debriefing because everyone was freaking out a bit!! Gem had to use her child psychology on the Kiwi 6 year old as she was freaking and did not want to go up the funicular ....but it got started again and got us all back up their no problems!! Rest of the day was spent driving to Ljubljana, the capital. We found a great campsite and Wayne was happy to stay as he could buy 24hour access to internet... so that is him set for the night!!
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