We were staying for the night at Rakovica, a small Croatian village about 8 kilometres from the gates of Plitvice National Park, or Plitvicke Jezerre as it is locally called, an UNESCO World Heritage site in Croatia. Driving down from Lake Bled in Slovenia, crossing over into Croatia with a multi-entry Schengen visa, we had reached the Apartments Marija the previous evening. It was our daughter Titir’s Birthday too, and the hosts laid out an impromptu Birthday party for her. We were touched. They had offered us home made Blueberry and Pear brandy which really scorched our throats. The apartment was fantastic, rated over 9 at Booking.com and we had a good night’s sleep. Today is to be the day at Plitvice : A day of cascading waterfalls !!
The next morning was bright and sunny, temperatures were down to about 11 degrees in Celcius, and we found that the hosts had already left for the day. We had a good hearty breakfast of bread, eggs, juices and sausages, prepared over the kitchenette of our first floor apartment. Around 10.30 we started on our days adventure. There are two Entrances to the Plitvice National Park and our hosts had suggested us to stick to Entrance One, the Rastovaca Entrance.
We got delayed and reached the entrance a bit late than when we should have. The clock ticked 11.30by the time we had parked our car and there was a quiet a queue around the gates. The entrance has shops for some snacks, souvenirs and a currency exchange. It also has rest rooms and a large waiting area. September was coming to an end, and crowds were still present in good numbers every day. The rainy season has already boosted the water levels for the falls inside the park we were told, and we were ready for a great day of hiking. We purchased our tickets from the counter and queued in.
The Rastovoca entrance we found were the base for the lower lakes. The lower lakes are called Donja Jezerra where the Big waterfall is located. We hiked up over light wooden bridges, steps over small trickles of water, planks to cross large splashes, enjoying the sound of water gushing all around. Fishes swam in the pools, colours
reflecting on the crystal clear water, toads scampered along the muddy ridges, birds hopped and flew around in search of food. Bit anywhere you go, the sound of water is pervading.
Once we got a hang of the place we proceeded to view the Big waterfall. Wooden planks and boardwalks took us from one end of a pool to another, water dripping from one inlet to another, aquamarine pools of serenity around this lower part of the lakes.
The Big waterfall is about 78 metres in height, water gushing out of the falls down a cliff and is a major point of attraction for visitors and travellers. As you go close to the falls, the water is moist with the spray bouncing back from the rocks and the stone-walks become slippery, so one needs to watch one’s step. The mountains and the canyons of the Korana river rise from lake Sastavci which now falls towards your back.
A little bit of a breather and a smoke later we retraced our steps to move to other sides of the falls. The pathways were a bit unsafe at times children, but we saw many a few of them enjoying this lap of nature. The smooth sound of gurgling or trickling water , permeates your senses and lifts your psyche. And specially for people like us, living off the desert it felt like rejuvenation. The sound and moist mist from waterfalls streams and rivulets engulfs you every place you go.
A couple of hours of hiking over walkways, ledges, mountainous lanes, above streams and rapids, we reached an area denoted as P3. This is where the cascading upper lakes meet the lower lakes forming the Jezerro Kozjak, and is the largest lake in the whole park. Here there are quite a few food outlets spread around a central open-air dining area.
Burgers, coffee, tea, sodas, hot chocolates, local fishes, fried chicken legs, potato fries, chips and steak are availablehere but albeit a higher price. Though we were a team of six including two children, in between we had unknowingly split into smaller units as we were hiking around the last hour and a half. Here is where we met again, and we all needed respite to our calves. One desperately needs a bit of rest after these two long hours.had our lunch here and spent half an hour to regenerate the energy .
From P3 there is an electric boat service which transports visitors to the other side of the lake to a point marked as P2. There is no extra cost for this service and is included in the ticket. The boat ride takes a cool 20 minutes or so and one can enjoy the distant canoes or the falls at different corners of the parks which are visible from the route.
This is the base of the upper lakes and you will face a steep walk or literally a climb through a flight of wooden stairs once you reach here. The upper lakes are a collection of 8 interconnected lakes of which Proscansko Jezerra is the largest are called Goronza Jazeera. Water is everywhere, trees and vegetation is dense, foliage of every conceivable colour surrounds you in ampleness. The moist smell of the earth coupled with smell of wet foliage and wood delighted me. It was the longest day-hike I have done in the last 15 years, a hike of about 13 kms that day. We walked , alone or at time in groups, watching the streams and the waterfalls from far and near, some literally spraying you with mist , some just a trickle on the further mountain walls. Near and far, wherever you look, water trickles ad cascades, the rapids and waterfalls never leave you.
The rapids, falls and the lakes will mesmerize you, with its sound and sights, with its smell and spray, with its pools of serenity and tranquillity. And as you push your legs to take you from one wooden walkway into another, climb up few steps, jump over pools of water, dip your hand in a flushing stream, pure nature will exhilarate you.
We walked, hiked, trotted and trudges up the pathways, walkways, wooden stairs, boardwalks and mountain ridges all day. My twelve year daughter also did never complain though I understood her energy and strengths was seeping away. It had been a mammoth seven hours of walk ,and none of us were accustomed to this. Around 6.30 in the evening we ultimately reached Gate 3 near Carbovac. From here there is a regular National Park bus service every 15 minutes which takes you close to Entrance 1. In front of the Bus Stop are washrooms and a small kiosk for coffee, sodas and beverages and is a very welcome sight.
Our hike stopped here and we were drained of our energy for the day. Picked up some coffee and biscuits from the kiosk, and waited for the Bus. The bus brought us close to Entrance 1 and from there it was about 10 minutes of walk to the gate. Light was falling, the sun had set by then and the crowds have thinned out. We started walking the mountainous lane back to the main entrance from where we started. But hey, stop a moment. It is from here that you really have a very scenic view of the cascading lakes. So it is here, that you need to stop a while, and lift the camera t your eyes once again !!.
In case you are really hooked to hiking here is a link to a site with more details about the Seven Hiking Trails at Plitvice National Park
By the time we had paid for the parking and picked up our car we were hardly able to walk. As e drove back to our apartment we stopped at a small grocers in one of the villages underway and picked up some pizza juices and breads and eggs . A very quick supper, since we were more interested at looking at the pictures that we had captured. A glass of Slovenian wine and a couple of smokes later it was time to call it aday. A day very well spent at Plitvice National Parks.
Tomorrow is another long drive to Piran in Slovenia.