After 2 days long transit through Czechia and Austria to central Croatia, we were finally heading to the Adriatic Highway across the Mala Kapela and Velebit mountains to find our first wild camping by the Adriatic Sea. This were almost 370 km of boiling hot, but enjoyable ride rich in picturesque views.
Morning at the Drava River
Just after 7AM the sun wouldn’t let us sleep. The tent interior just became painfully stifling. So there was no other option than to surrender to this typical Croatian weather and to jump into the swimming suits. You could already feel that the temperature is rising with every minute and will stop maybe at 30℃, but not earlier.
Albeit we didn’t know if the river’s water is really clean. You could see the rocky bottom through it, but you never know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We’ve got more convinced by the idea of bathing when we saw some Croatian guy swimming carefree.
So we’ve finally got into the water and even had some chat with our role model :P
When we were about to make ourselves some food as the night before we were too tired for any cooking, a party began!
Some Croatians joined us on the beach with beer and loud Balkan music :P
Well, we couldn’t follow on, no alcohol today as we got some road to ride as we wanted to reach the Adriatic Highway.
We prepared for boiling in our motorcycle suits and bathed a bit more in the cold Drava.
I must say this was one of better wild camping spots – peaceful and with tons of sweet water. So it would be easy to stay there longer.
But, of course, we had to go. Other places were waiting!
From Northern Croatia to Kvarner
Our tour started with a little offroad, of course, as we had to crawl back to civilization.
Then we searched for a shop as we wanted to supplement our drinking reserves before entering the highway, where there aren’t as many stores. So we’ve visited Varazdin and then hit the E65.
Most of the transit consisted of swimming in our own sweat as the temperature reached 34℃.
We were quite regularly stopping at the gas stations to wet ourselves with water under the jackets – a really nice trick for securing from overheating during the ride, albeit people seem to look disturbed sometimes when they see this process ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Near Zagreb we encountered a quite big traffic jam.
Well, big for the four-wheeled vehicles :P We tried our best to somehow wade between the cars. Otherwise we would really boil ourselves in the sun heat. The trick with wetting the clothes works only as long as the air streams through the jacket’s vents during riding.
In the end it turned out the machine handing over motorway tickets was not working and the tickets were handed manually.
Although far away from Zagreb we also encountered a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t even figure out why would be there any…?
Beside traffic jams, of course, Croatia has one of prettiest motorways (｡◕‿‿◕｡)
You can enjoy driving through small canyons, sooth your eyes with vast landscapes with mountains arising on the horizon or ride long tunnels running through the mountains heart.
Actually, on E71, by which you can get easily to Senj on the coast, is the longest Croatian tunnel between Modrus and Jezerane. 5821 meters long underground passage pierces through the Mala Kapela mountain range at the height of about 550 m a. s. l. A weird, kind of claustrophobic experience if you ask me :D Usually you can see the tunnel end, but here – not at all.
The Mala Kapela mountains range itself is a lower massif than the Velebit Mountains, which stretch along the Adriatic Sea coastline – from Krk to Zadar. The biggest Mala Kapela mountain top, Seliski Vrh, reaches 1279 m a. s. l., while the Velebit highest mountain Vaganski Vrh – 1757 m a. s. l.
Maybe also the Mala Kapela relief isn’t as picturesque as this of the Velebit Mountains. But it makes an eye-catching prelude for the Adriatic Highway.
The first glimpse of the Adriatic Sea
We left the E71 highway at the level of Zuta Lokva, so we would get to the Adriatic coastline at Senj by the road 23.
The road 23 can become quite twisty, when you pass Vratnik. So it’s quite fun. But you can forget about passing by other cars most of the time :D
Though it’s not so bad if you will look around ;) Now the mountains are not only smoldering on the horizon nor are humping shyly and calmly along the road. They rise up wildly building up rocky walls or show contorting slopes bristling with huge stones.
From the top of the road 23 serpentines you can also notice the first glimpse of the Adriatic Sea.
Just few more kilometers and the sea starts to spill on the skyline.
Just at the road 23 exit, where it meets the road E65, the Adriatic Sea vastness reveals itself fully. The sight of the huge blue tile of water felt like landing on different planet after hours of meandering between the mountains grudgingly hiding the horizon.
And there was also an awesome parking with the full view on the sea right at the exit too! :D
We had a little stop there.
The Adriatic Highway – from Senj to Prizna
After the rest in Senj our E65 Adriatic Highway tour began.
The motorway runs along the Adriatic Sea coast starting from Rijeka and ending up the Montenegro’s Kotor Bay. But we were planning only to pass the Croatian and Bosnian part as we were planning to visit Zabljak on our way to Albania. Though, the Croatian part of the Adriatic Highway is almost 650 km long, so we thought that would be already a lot to enjoy it fully ;)
The Adriatic Highway itself isn’t the kind of highway you would think of usually. Most of the time there’s only one lane and road doesn’t stretch out plainly up to the horizon. It twists and turns while traversing the steep hillsides running straight into the sea.
Sometimes, though, the motorway crosses the small canyons hollowed out through the mountains, just to disclose the sea immensity again.
Other times the landforms seemed to look like odd one out in comparison to the rest of the aggressive mountains landscape, like hills looking as they were made with mold.
There were also small gravel roads splitting off from the Highway. We of course had some interest in them :P
But we just took a break at one of those. We didn’t ride it too deep.
We thought that overall it leads to some private house right at the sea-coast.
Cruising to the Pag Island
The target of our trip today was The Stara Povljana beach. We had two route options to get there. The first option meant taking a roundabout way through the Novigrad, near Zadar, along the Adriatic Highway. The second route implied taking a cruise with a ferry from Prizna to Zigljen at the Pag Island.
We didn’t actually know when any cruise to the Pag starts, but no risk no fun.
We got down to the port at Prizna to check the departure times.
At the stand with tickets it turned out we will have to wait just about hour maybe, so we sealed the deal and got our bike lined up in the queue, which was getting bigger with every passing minute.
We waited politely, but when the time has come to get up on the ferry, we pushed to the queue start. Although there weren’t so many cars before us I think.
But we saw other bikers passing by cars, so we gave it a try too. We thought that maybe the guys from the ship will shoo us back to the line, but we got on board without any problem.
The cruise itself was a nice experience. We even got in time for the sunset.
The only cons of this trip was its length – quite short, just 30 minutes :P
Yes, there was also quite a bunch of people on board. But I think it wasn’t so overwhelming. You could easily move around the deck and take pictures without fighting with elbows :P Though, maybe we just aimed for the right time of the day to miss the crowds, it’s hard to tell.
Landing on the Pag felt a bit like landing on another planet again :D
There was almost no sign of any plant life on any visible hillock whatsoever. Wherever you looked, you just saw an arid area, full of yellowish rocks which seemed to become more orangein the setting sun.
There was no city surrounding the terminal also. At first the road led just through the empty fields of stones.
Only deeper into the island some bigger plants start to grow.
Barren as this isle is, it smells really nice :D Sometimes you can clearly smell the delicacies for which local sheeps have a taste for and because of which the Pag cheese has a characteristic taste – thyme and rosemary.
From Zigljen to Stara Povljana
It started getting darker, so we made a stop for some shopping around Novalja.
The market was nothing bad, we’ve got what we wanted. But I have to admit I felt kind of disgusted of tourists dropping litter everywhere there (ಠ_ಠ) Garbage was laying anywhere you looked, the picture above taken at the parking doesn’t even reflect it… Yuck. Don’t be THAT tourists, guys ( 。・_・。)人(。・_・。 )
The rest of our way to Stara Povljana passed in the night darkness. So we don’t have good pictures.
Though sometimes you could still spot nice views, like the view on the Pag city from the road 106 higher point.
Although you can always nag how aweful it is when you ride late in darkness and miss so much opportunities to take great photos and admire some landscapes, pictures like this always remind me how actually awesome it is to see some place in other time of the day, other circumstances, other time of the year, when the light plays differently around. All these factors can lead to new and different expieriences.
But anyway, when we finally reached Povljana and started to ride to the Stara Povljana public beach, we could barely see anything around. There were no lights. The road started to lead through the fields and meander between some high plants. I couldn’t even tell what plant was that in this darkness.
When we finally got to the beach, it seemed like no one is there. At least judging by ear. It was hard to see anything around as there were no lights. What we noticed right away in the faint moonlight was some ship anchored in the bay. The water was also betraying its presence as some voices speaking in German were carried from the ship to the beach clearly. Apart from that, there was also quite strange noise sounding like firecracker from time to time (゜-゜) But we were cool with it. Albeit someone was not cool with us – we rode a bit off the main road leading to the beach and some car parked in the bushes shied away ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Though we thought we were the ones that should be scared :D
But anyway we put our tent quite away from the main part of the beach, so we wouldn’t draw too much attention in the morning and then, finally, we jumped to the water for a while, before getting to sleep.