Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Camp Nevio (Nathanial)

The day after our visit to Dubrovnik we drove north with no particular place to be, at this point we are just pointing ourselves in the direction of home and driving. We thought we were only stopping over at the next camp site as a stop break but it turned out to be so nice we stayed for almost a week.

I think I'll land here
Too cool to take his shades off!

It was another campsite with a short walk to a beach belonging to paradise, and to top it off it had a small swimming pool which the lads just couldn't get enough of. At 7 years of age, Tom has discovered the skill of sunbathing! He is now a lovely bronze colour.

Turn me over when I've cooked
The view from our camp site

Whilst here we had a great electric storm where the lightening came shooting out of the sky striking the earth. This was the first electric storm the boys had seen, it was very dramatic.

Adding a cherry to the top of the perfectly iced camp site's cake, we met two lovely people 'Ian & Jaqueline' who we shared a couple of nights eating, drinking and swapping stories with, managing to upset a grumpy Dutchman in the process. Ian and Jacqui are also taking a break from life and have been travelling around Europe in their lovely T5 since last September. It's great when life throws these unexpected bonuses at you.

After our spell of spending far too long sunbathing by the pool we needed to head for a big town to buy a new laptop. Alfie decided we weren't being challenged enough by our budget so spilled a glass of apple juice over the 'old' one (which you may recall we bought in January to replace one of the two pinched in Alicante) subsequently killing it. Thankfully the hard drive could be saved, so we haven't lost any data.

We had already decided to take the ferry back across to the mainland (Camp Nevio is on a 'finger peninsular') to avoid having to travel across the twenty kilometres where Bosnia Herzegovina extends through Croatia along the Adriatic coast. Whilst trying to find out where to buy tickets for the ferry, I went over to ask a chap with a British reg plate. Beth walked over to us and recognized the driver as being Van Dog Traveller, a blog we had read bits of from early in our planning stage. Mike has been travelling for over a year now on a budget much tighter than ours, so hats off to him.

We headed for a town called Split and managed to find a laptop. With this mission over with, our next task was to head off to see some water falls.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Dubrovnik (Nathanial)

After having what felt like the whole of Greece to ourselves, and with Albania and Montenegro being so very free of tourists, it came as quite a surprise when we entered Croatia. Once we crossed the border, we were  only a few miles in when we came across a number of motor homes, a few of them even having GB on their number plates! It'd been quite nice being away from westerners for a while. I don't know why I feel this way, maybe I was just expecting more of the same from Croatia and not quite so many people. Suddenly there were loads of cars on the road again which I had enjoyed a break from........

Roads I've been used to
Then this happened 

We have been travelling through hundreds of miles of beautiful coasts with surreal turquoise seas, and occasionally through mountain forests which I have only seen the likes of on TV programmes with David Attenborough in. Croatia was carrying this on with even more stunning scenery along with little islands scattered all around the coast; it felt like we were travelling through a film set.

Feeling envious of the locals below whilst driving in the baking heat

And then, strangely enough, we did. As we came around a corner we were treated to an amazing birds eye few of Dubrovnik old town, which just happens to stand in as 'Kings Landing' in Game Of Thrones. I am a huge fan of the programme so couldn't wait to explore the city the following day.

Kings Landing Sorry, Dubrovnik Old Town

We found our campsite, which unfortunately wasn't great, but we did have a great view of the sea with a huge blue/orange sky and islands breaking up the Adriatic ocean in the distance. Plus it was only a short walk to a small secluded beach too, bonus.

View from the camp site, I can live with that
A room with a view

The next day we caught the local bus to Dubrovnic Old Town; the weather was stupidly hot though. The town itself is absolutely amazing and I could recognise 'Kings Landing' straight away. It is another town with a Venetian feel to it and is completely built with huge white stones.

Apart from big white stones, there's birds too
Someone's feeling nervous 

We spent most of the day walking round and covered the town in the baking heat. We bought our fridge magnet as proof of our visit and decided to call it a day.

A perfect film location

Beth nearly had a heart attack walking back for the bus and decided to collapse in the van with Alfie when we got back. Me and Tom were having none of that, we spent the evening snorkeling. After sweating buckets walking round all day, it would have been rude not to have had a dip in the sea.

This one just can't get enough
Cooling off after a hot day exploring

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Montenegro (Beth)

Having had troubles at the Albanian border with the insurance issue, we tried to read up a little about the crossing into Montenegro, albeit without much luck. What I read told us that certain items should not be brought in (food, milk, alcohol) and some might be liable to taxation.

We had purposely run our food stocks down but were less keen on guzzling three litres of wine and and large bottle of Baileys in quick succession. I suggested stashing them but Nathanial thought we might get searched and be in trouble for doing so.

Setting off for the border with some trepidation, we steeled ourselves for a long wait and perhaps a fine to pay. In the event, the border was really quiet and the atmosphere was completely different from the entry point. We exited Albania successfully and quickly then made our way over to the Montenegran barriers.

A guard asked us if we had anything to declare and we played the dumb card and asked what sort of things? We opened up the doors and asked the guards if they would like to look in but, seeing the kids we were waved on.

When the documents were checked, we were asked for our Green Card (the insurance that we don't have with our UK policy). I said that we didn't have one and could we buy it here? The guard nodded and pointed me over to a side office, where ten minutes and €18 later we were all legal.

All legal and ready for country # 6

All told, the crossing from Albania to Montenegro took less than fifteen minutes and, driving down the road of another new country, we were filled with relief. Truthfully, it had been a bit scary being in Albania without proper insurance, especially given the state of some of the roads and the driving style (and vehicular choice) of some of it's citizens. Although the Green Card would only meet basic third-party requirements it was good to be legal and with this in place we decided that instead of driving straight through to Croatia as planned, we would spend a night in Montenegro and have a drive up to Durmitor National Park to visit the Tara Canyon.

Montenegro is quite a small country and we easily made the journey from the Albanian border on the south coast to the National Park which lies up in the north, near to the Serbian border.

The roads and views were spectacular and definitely felt very different to Albania. Montenegro is predominantly mountainous and we had soon climbed above a thousand metres along more of my favourite twisty roads.

Still not watching the road, and he wonders why I'm nervous

We reached our destination within a few hours and were immediately glad to have made the decision to visit. Durmitor National Park was worth a look by itself, lots of sweeping views and really pretty houses. It must be even more impressive in the winter, covered in snow.

All of the houses were pretty but these were a bit special, much better than Albanian buildings!

A few tight hairpins later, we found what we had come to see. Apparently the Tara Canyon is the second deepest gorge in the world. It was certainly an impressive sight.

You'd better not look over here Mum

It really was this blue

That's close enough lads

After deciding not to take a trip across it on a zip wire (because of costs reasons mainly, we all wanted to do it) we went and had dinner at a hotel restaurant overlooking the canyon. Needing a place to stay for the night, we also viewed one of the hotel family rooms, but lack of either wifi, a double bed or a bath tub made the van the winning choice. We had seen a campsite on our way to the canyon, so after dinner we made our way back along the road, arriving at Camp Jatak just as dusk was falling.

We were the sole residents that night and were shown into a beautiful meadow to park up. The temperature up in the mountain was far chillier than those we have been used to, it dropped by about twenty degrees from coast to mountain top with the temperature reading only 11 degrees first thing in the morning. We have long since discarded Alfie's duvet, so he felt the chill the most, but as the sun came out the temperature quickly soared back into the late twenties.

Lessons au meadow

This one prefers to be indoors!

Descending from the mountains, the road twisted around the coast once more and after a final scenic journey we arrived at the Croatian border, where we could once again enjoy the benefits of having a fully-comp insurance policy and  breakdown cover!

Safely back in the E.U, we reflected that, tense though it had been at times, we had made a good decision to travel through Albania and Montenegro, rather than sticking to our previous plan of 'going around' through Bulgaria and Romania. We got to experience a different flavour of life (hopefully the boys took some of it in) and it has also enabled us to visit Croatia, as recommended to us by so many.