We drove into Croatia at night after a long day of freeloading wifi and power at the Bled tourist office, as jess has work, its only fair to say how good the office is and the information we received from the staff was above and beyond all other tourism offices we have use on this trip, the grumpy lady in Cortina could learn a lesson from these guys on how’s it’s done! That night we slept at a motorway service station, so luxurious!
We headed straight for Rijeka, which had the closest climbing shop to the border. At the Iglu shop we wanted to just buy the book, instead we were treated to and hour or so beta and recommendations from the shop owner/manager. He was happy to share all his local knowledge so we climbed at the best places for our grade, again this service was above and beyond the call of duty and again, I would massively recommend this shop to anyone driving into Croatia and needing a guidebook or any climbing gear.
We headed to a crag called Kompanj, where there was a small amount of climbs in our grade and had some descent parking for vans. There was a descent hoard of climbers and vans already there and we squeezed in the middle. It was a little weird being in the middle of a busy crag after a few weeks of relative solitude on every climb and area we have visited. I reckon we climbed well and although I was a bit of a pussy on the first day, I still climbed well.
After our second day at the crag we decided to move on, and get some wifi as again jess had work. We headed to Rovinj, as there was two crags near, and ended up at a bar for a few hours, I had forgot what it was like to be in a bar full of smokers, by the time we left we smelt disgusting. We decided to drive to the car park of the next crag and this started what was to be the longest pointless drive in the history of trying to find a place to sleep!
We drove to where the crag was and ended up driving down a dirt track that seemed to lead nowhere, and in the end this was true. We had placed the gps coordinates in the sat nav and a looong way down this dirt road it wanted us to drive through some trees and go off road, as if we weren’t off road enough!!! We turned around and tried in vain to locate the car parks of the other crag sectors using a mixture of map reading from the guidebook and gps. Eventually one of the coordinates took us miles out of the way and ‘again’, down another dirt road, and ‘again’, part way down this it wanted us to drive off road ‘again’, as if we weren’t already, although this time it was only up a steep slope of scree and wasteland. You guessed it, we turned around and headed back towards civilisation.
As you might imagine I was pretty fuming by now, raging might be a more adept description, over an hours driving and we were no closer to a place to sleep. I have never driven so long and seen not one place to pop the van for the night!! I tried to navigate back to the town we started from, and aimed for a crag on the other side of the town, this time the gps coordinates gave us a location in the south of Italy, as you might imagine I found this jolly funny (insert sarcasm here), I could have eaten the sat nav there and then I was so fucking mad! All I wanted was a car park, lay by, anywhere to park the van that did not have no parking sign on it?? In the end I drove back to where we started, literally. Around the corner from here, there was a gravel lay by, less than a minute drive from where we started, and after over two hours of driving I finally stopped, it was near midnight and we had not eaten, I literally collapsed in the back of van and slept!
One great thing about this drive was the nature we happened across, we saw wild boar, dear, foxes and a couple of hedgehogs. One of which had a lucky escape, as I thought I saw a large leaf move on the floor, however as we got closer it continued to move so I anchored on the brakes and slid over the gravel to a stop. Plumes of dust flowed upwards from the front of the van, I reversed, wondering if I had just killed an animal, only to see a hedgehog unroll itself and casually stroll to the bush as the side of the road, I wonder if it realised how close it had came to being a pancake?
The next day, I went for a walk to find some water, looking not to dissimilar to a homeless man, I roamed about the local area with my plastic bags full of empty bottles. I finally found some, and although it was paid for, there was some left from the previous user. I tried to fill bottles as best as I could, but the tap mouth was massive and the water flowed like a rapid! It seemed to go everywhere but in the bottles! On the way back I saw tourism coach full of old people exiting to visit a cemetery, a bit of a random place to visit on holiday I thought and I laughed to myself as I imagined them visiting the cemetery so they could pick out their own spots, a little sick, but also a little funny!
That night after another trip to town we gained a third trooper in the van, a little cat who i called Tigs! He followed us from the harbour to the van, every time I thought he fell behind, he would sway in and out of my feet in an attempt to trip me up! Once at the van, I gave him a tin of tuna that was mixed with peas? I don’t know why? But that’s just what the Italians must like??? Either way, after this a mutual trust was created and he came inside the van! All was sweet until he jumped on the bed and had shit all over his bum, in a panic we tried to scoop him up and stop him wiping his pooey bum all over the bed! Once he was outside we realised that if you have poo on your bum, in fact anywhere on you, you are not welcome in the van, and no sooner had it started, our relationship with Tigs was over!
After this we tried to climb at a local crag, unfortunately fate was against us and just was we reached the foot of the crag the heavens opened and we walked back to the van for an afternoon of showers and that evening made our way towards Pula. The next day surprised us and the weather was good for once, the only local crag was a quarry, but it would certainly be better than not climbing. As usual the eight figure grid reference did not drop us within 10 minutes of the car park, and instead took us down another gravel road, it seems my new sat nav has an affinity for off-road driving over hookers!
To start the climbing was polished and not much fun! Although after some lunch I headed to another wall, and overhanging wall that looked intimidating to someone of my ability. After a corner climb, that was in all honesty very dirty and not great fun, I hit the face after sizing it up for around half an hour. This was justified once on the wall, at 6b I was climbing above my recreational grade and found the going tough! I stopped at pretty much every bolt and took a couple of falls, however eventually I topped out and felt pumped to the max! It’s a good wall, and I would have had another go the day after, however the weather seems to be determined to ruin Croatia! That evening we popped into Pula and had a look at its Roman ruins that are scattered around, although again the rain interrupted and stopped play! It’s interesting to know we climbed during the day where the stone was excavated to build the amazing Roman buildings seen in town.
Apart from the really annoying drive to nowhere and patchy weather, Croatia has been great, and its been a nice introduction to the country and climbing. This trip has now entered a mass of sport climbing, and hopefully we will get stronger and better with time! As always climbing opens up the opportunity to see the world and travel and I look forward to seeing more of Croatia. I have my goals to reach, and by working hard I will hopefully get to put a seven grade in my logbook! Here’s to hoping!