Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Reason for No Free Camping in Croatia


Day 339
Rastovaca to Gospic
Time: 4:39:00
Distance: 70.3 kilometers
Avg Speed: 15.1
Terrain: Remote Hills
Location: 44˚ 33’ 9.5” N, 15˚ 22’ 26.8” E

Today we rode through the most remote part of Croatia yet. At the end of the day we found out why.

After some route planning last evening we decided to stick to the major highway system and head south to Gospic. After the off-road adventure we had a few days ago and the mountain range that lay ahead, we figured that it would be easier to deal with some traffic rather than endless kilometers of unpaved roads.
The first 20 km or so continued through the peaceful forests surrounding Plitvicke National Park. It was a great way to start the day. We pedaled a gradual uphill for most of the distance and then had a short descent into the town of Korenica. There we stopped for the best cheap cappuccino I’ve ever had. For $1 I got a real cup of coffee, different than the other cups I’ve had for the same price. They usually come out of a machine labeled “Nescafe”.
After the much needed caffeination, we started up the big climb of the day. Our map labeled the pass at 980 meters – we were starting at 650. By the time we stopped for lunch we had completed a very steady climb, but nothing too hard. Chris pulled over at a concrete structure and I reminded him of the landmine threat. He said that the floor was entirely concrete and that it was actually a well with a collection gallery behind it. We had a little picnic and enjoyed the solitude. The ride from Korenica had been very quiet – hardly any traffic and we encountered little development along the way. Most of the structures we passed were abandoned or suffered some destruction (probably from the Balkan conflict).
We reached the town of Gospic just about an hour and a half later. We passed a few more landmine warning signs, similar to the one we saw a few days ago. We found the town center and go acquainted with a nearby ATM machine and the town map. I also found another map – this one stopped me in my tracks. It was a map of the landmine zones of the region. As I studied further, I realized that we had traveled through dangerous territory for the entire day. In fact, we had essentially been sitting in the middle of a landmine area while eating our lunch.
As soon as we checked into our hotel and got the computer up and running, I quickly went to work researching the landmine dangers of Croatia. What I found gave me chills.
Between 1.5 and 2 million landmines were laid on the front lines by both sides of the Balkan conflict. 8% of Croatia’s land area has been affected by these destructive weapons. We have been traveling through this region for four days now – we’ve only seen three signs along our route. As I read later, the lack of signs may be due to the quest for balance between providing information and developing successful tourism. Thankfully the universe directed to the safest pee spots and photo viewpoints. Others, almost all Croatians, have not been so lucky. Over 400 people have died and another 1,300+ were wounded between 1998 and 2006. The Croatian government has been dedicated to demining, but doesn’t expect the country to be “mine-safe” until 2009. For more information on the landmine issues see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minefields_in_Croatia

On a lighter note: Chris and I have secured the most interesting hotel room of the trip. The highlight is the shower with a built-in radio. Chris got to sing the 80’s hit from Top Gun, “Take My Breath Away” while I belted out a slew of classic alternative tracks. Good thing we had unlimited hot water…

Thankful for my place in the universe,
LK

1 comment:

Zoran Marijanović said...

You've had a very interesting experience traveling trough Croatia... :) I'm planing to go camping in Croatia and looking for some campsites camping adria!