Just as we passed the halfway point of the trip, I had a thought about these van life reality posts and how I may not have much to say from here on in, as it all becomes the same old problems, just in a different light. However that evening was the night of the creep and all was not well in the van life world!
First I shall set the scene, we have been wild camping in our van around Split in Croatia for a few days, doing a bit of climbing and a bit of waiting for the bad weather to pass. We have found a few good places in and around The Marjan crag where we can park off season and have not been disturbed on previous visits. We were parked in a car park where we had spent the last couple of night undisturbed, and with plenty of other vehicles around it’s a good place to stealth camp and blend in. The night was like any other, we had been to the library using the wifi and power, sorting out work and personal admin, and we did not get back to the van till about seven. As was becoming the norm, the fridge ran constantly and so I had to go and turn over the engine to make sure we did not loose too much power. We cooked, ate, watched a film on the iPad, and finally went to bed, so all pretty normal so far.
It was a windy night with sporadic rain, at occasions you can feel the van sway from side to side as gusts of wind hit you. I was suddenly awoken when I felt an abnormal sway in the van, back and forth as though it was being pushed. It might sound weird but after months of living in the van, you know what a gust of wind feels like, it does not rock the van continuously, it will rock and then there is a gap as the next gust blows, so this was different and it shook me from my slumber. I was pretty much awake in an instant, which I think I have years in the army to thank for, and shuffled to the end of the bed and started to look outside.
I did the two side windows first and saw nothing, just peering through the gaps, as we are wild camping I was trying to be stealth if anyone was out there. I then peered out through the curtains at the front, and there was a man stood there facing the van. He was stood there in a dark jacket, hood up, looking tense, the weather was horrific, harsh wind and rain, and yet he was stood directly at the front of the van staring in. He was smoking, and I think he had something in his other hand? I turned to jess and told her what was going on. By the time she got to the curtain he was gone.
I sat at the foot of the bed and wondered why he was stood there? Was he waiting for someone? Having a cigarette before/after getting in the car? Just curious of the number plate, being that it is foreign and looks vastly different to anything local? The van seems to be a beacon of attention at times so this could be plausible, even at the hour.
I saw some lights pull in, park and then leave, I kept an eye on this, hoping to see the guy get in the car, however the visibility was poor through the condensation and all I could see were the lights. Once the car left, I was about to sit again and I saw him again a couple of cars to my left, still facing my van? I thought this is getting weird! This time I turned to jess and she had another look and again he was stood at the front of the van, I think this well and truly freaked her out and also confirmed to me that this was abnormal.
I was automatically playing scenarios through my head, the best weapon at hand etc… he then moved to right of the van and started knocking on the side panel. Now, we have been bothered by police in the night a couple of times and they would follow a knock with something, “police, policia, securitat” and so on, but nothing? I shouted yeah, but got nothing in reply… I thought what to do next? He knocked again. As he made his way back to the front of the van I thought to myself, fuck the stealth, I’m opening the curtain, letting him know I’m in here and shouted ‘yeah, what?’ again to no reply. This was beginning to feel like I stepped into a bloody horror film!
I then made the decision to get out of here, rather than going outside, I thought it safer to jump the kitchen counter and get the fuck out of there! He had disappeared off to the left again, stood two cars down, but still looking at us? I grabbed the keys and climbed over the counter, once in the driver seat I looked around and couldn’t see anyone, great I thought he could be anywhere! I turned the lights on and nothing, as soon as the engine turned over I was off, looking in the mirrors to see anything, but there was no one. Once we were a couple of minutes down the road, I pulled over and jess got out of the back and into the front.
Once out of the ‘danger zone’ we headed to the other side of town, where we had parked a couple of weeks before, and after a long chat to settle down, we finally got some sleep. We needed to be near town the next day and so set an alarm so we could drive near to where we had been harassed. We decided not to park in the same place, and to park just down the road near a small beach. I tried to get a couple of hours extra sleep, however we were soon interrupted by vehicles moving around, a look outside and there was police cars and tape across the road? We asked what was going on and they asked us to move down the road as they were working? There English was not good enough to get anymore from them, and my Croatian is non existent. Again we have parked here before and had no trouble, I’m not sure what was going on, but it seems a weird coincidence that the police are all over the area the morning after the creep? We tried to find out more by to no avail.
Who knows we might have just avoided major disaster by our actions and wits to act on them? Either way, I’m sure that this night shows one of the potential darkest sides to the vanlife lifestyle. I know that jess has thought of this scenario and worse before, she worries about these things more than me, however I’m still surprised that something like this has happened to us. Although this whole episode was scary, I hope that this post does not put anyone off the lifestyle, this is a one in a million event and the outcome was fine for us, just a poor nights sleep. That said it’s always better to be safe and make sure, as we do, to lock all the doors and look after yourselves!