Starigrad, Zadar, Paklenica National Park, Croatia

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Sunday afternoon, J and I arrived in Starigrad, Croatia in the middle of a windy downpour. Wearing a poncho, J ran around the building to find the apartment host.

We checked in early. The host was very friendly, and she offered us conversation and shots of home-brewed rakia. The doors to the bayside balcony had blown open during the storm, so she suggested we get lunch while she mopped the floors.

Since we hadn’t eaten anything yet, this sounded heavenly. We walked down the public pedestrian pathway along the water, passing small stone docks, swimming platforms, little sandy beaches, and ancient ruins.

Our dinner involved lots of meat at reasonable prices. The chicken didn’t suck. In fact, it was succulent.

All the “supermarkets” were closed. We walked home and watched the sun set through the clouds.

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Islands on the drive.
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Another island view.
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Sunset over Starigrad bay.

Monday, we drove to Zadar city. We parked in a free spot near the pedestrian bridge, then walked across to the old town.

Unlike a lot of the old city centers, Zadar had a lot of dreary and utilitarian buildings mixed in.

Our menu lunch was cheap and delicious: salad, bread, fish and meat dishes, with cake for dessert.

Immediately after eating, water poured from the sky. We ran out of the restaurant and under covered walkways.

The rain reduced to a drizzle and we walked across the main square to look at one of the old stone churches.

It started pouring on us, and we hustled to under the nearest cloth awning. Lots of other tourists did the same.

But the awning barely kept us dry. As a pond formed in the plaza, water splashed on us from the ground and the walls. Our pants and shoes got soaked and the mist was working its way through the rest of our clothes.

We made a break for it and ran across the plaza to a better overhang. But we were still getting wet. We followed the eaves to the nearest colonnade and waited out the rest of the rain.

Along the promenade, a large wave organ’s haunting chords scored the drizzly afternoon.

We left Zadar, and drove north along the coast to find a less crowded spot to watch the sunset.

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Morning fishermen.
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Just build the church on Roman ruins.
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Moments before the second deluge.
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Seeking shelter.
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This is the part where I break through.
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Sadness hallway.
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Near the wave organ.
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Wave organ hole.
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Strays.
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Sad carnival.
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Temporary tracks.
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So much water.
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Colorful markings.
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Sunset trees.
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Cloudy with a chance of sunsets.

It was 9PM when we started looking for groceries, and all the stores were closed for the day.

Tuesday, we drove the short distance into Paklenica National Park.

After waiting for a bus to descend the one lane road, we drove up to the second parking lot and began our hike.

Our path went up the big canyon alongside the river. There were numerous falls along the way, and the water was clear. The stone path went past lots of epic rock climbing routes, up switchbacks, through tree tunnels, by old mill buildings. The sound of water was constant.

We stopped for a beer at a little cabin near the steam, then ascended to a confusing convergence of trails that the map marked as spot 10.

It started raining again, so we hid inside a sooty wood-fire shed. We ate our lunch and decided to loop back via a route on the other side of the canyon.

Our trail was rustic, narrow, and protected by spiders. We climbed the now hot and humid canyon and stopped for a panoramic view from an outcropping of sharp rocks.

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Figs over whitewater.
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Climber.
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Flintstone phone.
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Dog island.
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Crap cave.
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Climbers on the wall.
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Can you take me higher?
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Waterfall.
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Path marker.
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Canyon view.
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Route marker.
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Trees in the canyon.
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Tree path.
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Tunneling along a river.
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Getting rocky.
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Old mill.
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The river.
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Crossing a side river.
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View voguing.
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Looking towards town.

For the return, the trail was vague. Inside the woods, it passed through a muddy valley, and I slipped and landed on my butt. Lots of grasshoppers scattered as we walked, and J and I took turns knocking spider webs away.

Eventually the path followed the high edge of the canyon. It was rocky with lots of wildflowers, bees, and a sweeping view of the valley to our left.

It started raining before we reconnected with the main trail. Our descent on the rocks and mud was a battle against slipping.

The main path was flooded with water and rain still fell steadily through the trees. We did our best to dodge puddles.

We were alone on the return, except for two enormous toads that shared the trail.

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Shady humid.
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The woods.
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Narrow path.
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Rocky and flowery.
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Moments before rain.

That evening, the strong gusts of bora rattled the apartment and made it hard to sleep. It felt like we were inside a tornado.

But the wind brought us good weather. On Wednesday, we relaxed at the apartment, washed clothes and hung them in the sun, then went for a walk to see the sun set.

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Our balcony.
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The path behind the house.
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Garlic flower.
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Sunken rail.
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Ropes.
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Sorry Sonic. We’ll always have Green Hills Zone.
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J and the massive asparagus-looking freak.
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Bay view.
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Sunset clouds.

Thursday, we drove up a narrow back road to the northern edge of Paklenica. We parked on the last patch of pavement, then hiked up a gravel road.

The scenery was beautiful with views of the green mountains, islands and the sea. Lots of wildflowers attracted bees, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles.

After an hour or two of hiking, we stopped to eat lunch on a rock overlooking the road we had climbed. It would have been a great spot for a nap had the rocks not been so sharp.

We hiked back down the road and found a small grassy meadow to rest in. I looked up at the trees rustling in the breeze and felt content with the world. A large beetle walked by and gave me a thumbs-up.

On the drive down the mountain, the right front brake started smoking.

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A view of the road we took to the hike.
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Our hiking road.
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Looking back.
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Moth and thistle.
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Safety first.
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Islands and water.
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J and the rocks.
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Traversing the jagged rocks to our lunch overlook.
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View while eating.
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Another moth view.
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The meadow.
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J leads the way.
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Nectar lover.

On Friday morning, we packed up the car and hit the road. We waved goodbye to our host, the park, and the large snake I almost stepped on trying to get a photo of the mussel farms in the bay.

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