On Monday we spent a long hot day traipsing through Plitvice National Park.
It’s full of lakes and we spent a lot of time walking over rather uneven, rickety board walks that took us past and over waterfalls, crystal clear pools containing ducks and fish, and fast moving streams.
It’s all very beautiful, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, but it was hot and, as per usual for our family, things didnt go exactly to plan.
The information board at the entrance advised us that the shortest walk we could do would take ‘2-3’ hours.
This made me nervous. My dodgy knee can just about 3 hours of walking if everything is on the level. Add stairs and/or slopes to the walk and it’s much less.
And DD2 and DS are both hypermoble, so they struggle with walking more than a couple of hours too.
It was a recipe for disaster really, especially when we realised that we had to walk 20 minutes just to catch the bus-train that would take us up into the mountains.
The girls kept asking how long the walk would take and I’m afraid we were not entirely honest with them about the expected time scale. Once they’d finished grilling us, they were rather under the impression that we’d be walking for oh, around 30-40 minutes.
All went ok for the first 2 hours. We strolled between the trees on the wide, well-marked paths. We enjoyed the exquisite scenery and the way the light struck the water at different angles.
The kids loved watching the fish and we sat beside a couple of inquisitive ducks to eat our sandwiches.
There were lots of little waterfalls and a handful of big, very impressive ones. I can only imagine what they are like in the spring time.
There was also a no swimming rule, which was understandable, but the water looked so, so inviting sometimes. Remarkably we didn’t see anyone flouting this rule; from what we’ve seen, people in this area of Europe do not seem to be that hot on following rules.
But there were rather a lot of stairs and slopes, and after two hours, my knee was not happy. I took an ibuprofen and asked DH if he thought it would be another hour or longer.
There were some signs pointing the way you should go if you wanted to take a particular route but there was no indication of times. Just as well, as DD2 heard my question and she was not impressed at the prospect of walking for another hour or so.
In fact she threw a pretty impressive tantrum at the thought of having to walk perhaps another hour.
Despite the very warm weather, it seemed that everyone in Croatia was up for a wander around the Lakes. The path was crowded with people who obviously found the sight of a tweenager throwing a strop quite entertaining.
Finally we got DD moving again, but it was too late. My knee decided enough was enough, DS’s legs got sore and DD3 fell down a bank while looking for a ‘walking’ stick. DD2 discovered she had blisters and became hysterical again.
DD1 helpfully started talking about the wolves and bears in the park, then stabbed my foot while holding my walking pole for me. I swore profusely and DH, quite understandably, suffered a complete sense of humour failure.
There were tears. We found a vacant bench, sat down and had something to drink, applied plasters and psyched ourselves up for the final push.
Finally, we could see something promising through the trees. It didn’t look that far, as the crow flew, but the path seemed to curve away from what we could see, so DH volunteered to go ahead.
He was back less than 10 minutes later with good news. The boat that would take us across the lower lake, so we could make our way up to the car park, was within touching distance.
Unfortunately for me, there were steps involved but I hobbled down them and soon we were on the boat, crossing the lake.
I spoke to the man who was in charge of loading and unloading the boat and asked him how far to the car park from where the boat let us off.
He assured me it was very close; ‘no more than 10 minutes.’
Maybe 10 minutes would be the case if you were a mountain goat, but it took us at least half an hour.
We had an ice cream break first and childishly amused ourselves but urging each other to try unfortunately named products.
Then we resumed the whining and complaining while we staggered up more stairs and slopes and uneven board walks, back to our car.
4 hours after we set out, we sunk down into our seats and switched on the A/C.
We were glad we’d done the Plitvice National Park, but it had been a bit much for some of us.