This is the first post about our road trip to Croatia. It covers the interesting facts and fun details of this journey.
TWO EXPEDITION TRUCKS
- Drivers: Moni & Holger
- Truck: DAF Leyland (°1991, UK) with FM2 Zeppelin-Shelter
- Performance improvement: 6th gear (standard only 5)
- Weight: ± 7.4 ton
- Height: ± 3m50
- Drivers: Nicole & Elmer
- Truck: STEYR 12M18 (°1986, Austria) with FM2 Zeppelin-Shelter
- Performance improvement: Larger tires – 14R20
- Weight: ± 7.1 ton (just a rough estimation; incl. 215l water tank)
- Height: ± 3m65
- Germany -> Austria -> Italy -> Slovenia -> Croatia (and back)
- Not recommended for +7.5 ton (mostly forced to drive highways, toll roads or large expressways)
- Amount of Km driven: ± 3000 (1864miles)
- Fuel economy:
- STEYR: ± 21l/100Km (min.: 19l/100Km; max.: 24l/100Km)
- DAF: ± 20l/100Km
- Number of highways, except the German Autobahn: 0
- Number of hairpin turns: above 300; we stopped counting
- Lowest driven through: 3.7m
- Lowest that definitely required a U-turn: 2.1m
- Steepest slope: 23% (Austria)
- Off-road opportunities in Croatia:
- Lots of gravel roads that are accessible for 4×4 expedition trucks. (Difficulty-rating: easy)
- Most dirt roads are only accessible for cars and SUV’s*
- *Scratch-warning: Anything larger than a regular car has to accept copious “laugh-lines”
- Number of breakdowns: 1
- Air in the fuel line of the DAF
- Time until repaired: ±6 hr (in the meantime we were productive with cleaning & soaking up the last sun)
- Number of “accidents”: 0.5
- While trying to turn the STEYR around on a narrow path, I noticed a stone fence that was no longer perpendicular. So I nudged it back up. Another version of the story might be: I missed the reverse and put the truck in 1st gear instead. I think the first version sounds a lot better, don’t you? 🙂
The biodiversity we encountered in Croatia is impressive. Along the coastline we indulged ourselves in the Mediterranean atmosphere. The crystal clear water was truly mesmerizing and a paradise for snorkeling and fishing.
On the road we were surrounded by Karst landscapes, olive trees and stone fences, rich terracotta colored soil and the smell of wild sage. But be aware when you go offroading. Many of these “innocent” looking trees are weaponed with an infinite amount of tiny sharp thorns, especially on the island Cres.
When leaving the peninsula Krk (no I did not forget a vowel) we smashed into the Bora (Croatian: Bura). We both experienced some heavy winds in our lives, but this one still took our breath away (as it did with other overlanders). Trailer-towing vehicles (caravans, horse trailers, etc.) were not allowed to cross the bridge that day and for good reasons too. Even with flooring the gas pedal we hovered between 20 and 30km/h. In return we had first row seats for its spectacle on the sea.
Next, we crossed the Dinaric Alps, via the Josephine road. Our destination was the Plitvička Lakes (Croatian: Plitvička Jezera; part of the Unesco list of World Heritage). We visited this national park with 10°C (50°F) and non-stop drizzle, and we were still in awe. We can’t think of a time of the year when this place is not worth a visit; even when its invaded by tourists (which is probably the case during summer). With its 16 lakes and too many to count waterfalls, we felt like we were roaming through the scene of a fairy tale.
Tip: If you are looking for a campsite in the area (officially you are not allowed to wild camp in Croatia), we recommend Bear Camp. Aside from being cheaper than the large camping Korona, you are welcomed with 2 self-brewed snaps. And every morning at 7:30AM the local baker drives by with fresh bread and sweat buns.
The Dinaric Alps is also a region where you can explore caves and its inhabitants like bats. So keep your eyes open for them. We recommend visiting the Postojna caves in Slovenia. A small train takes you 2km further inwards into the caves, where you are then guided trough the different halls. Especially the immense size of these halls and its stalactites is spectacular. It still baffles us that a couple of these formations are more than 800.000 years old. Better not touch them.
Wildlife we have spotted:
- Dolphins (Mali Losinj)
- Lots of fish (Croatia)
- Mantises (Croatia; Dutch: Bidsprinkhanen; German: Gottesanbeterin)
- Scorpion (luckily already dead; Beli, Cres)
- Griffon Vultures (Beli, Cres)
- Bats (Slovenia & Croatia)
- Deer (Slovenia)
Number of “Thank you”-bags collected: ± 5 (how wonderful that not too much garbage was to be found)
- Late September:
- Mix of clear sunny sky and clouds
- Temp. during day: ± 20-25°C
- Considerable drop of temperature by nightfall
- Early October:
- Fall clearly arrived
- Too much rain
- Temp. during day: ± 10-15°C
- Fog in the evenings
With the Croatian cuisine you treat yourself with a wealth of flavors. The meat is everything but bland. A wide range of cured and smoked meat or game can be found and purchased for a very good price. Almost every morning a dalmatian prosciutto breakfast was waiting for me; what a luxury is that! This was topped off with a variety of cheese, which can be bought fresh, together with olive oil, at almost any roadside vendor.
Don’t eat dairy or meat? Not a problem. With Croatian’s broad coastline you can nourish your appetite with grilled or fried octopus, mussels, perch, sea-bream, …
When you don’t feel like cooking and are in the vicinity of any of the below restaurants, they are a good place to fill your belly.
- The fish restaurant above the “harbor” in Sveti Mikula (near Rakalj, Croatia). It’s the only restaurant there, so hard to miss. We didn’t order from the menu, but just had a delicious combo plate put together by the chef.
- Restaurant Falkenau, Kočevje (Slovenia). We arrived after nightfall, hungry and in the hope we could stay overnight when we had our dinner here. Since it was rainy, cold and dark, it was not the best situation to search for a bush camp in these mountains. The owner was very friendly, even though they were probably planning to close up for the night. Aside from a group of man in their mid-50’s having an entertaining conversation and the people in the kitchen, there was nobody here. It was not until we opened the menu we realized we were in a hunter’s restaurant; with the hunters sitting right behind us. After a quick glance at the prices we knew this was the right place to taste the forest flavors. Score!
- Restaurant Gailberghöhe (Kötschach-Mauthen, Austria) and its cozy scent of an old cabin with wood burner, surprised us with its quality Austrian dishes (e.g.,Käsespätzle with Zweigelt red wine).
Hope you enjoyed this overview. More stories, pictures and videos in the following posts.
Other posts about this overland journey:
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