Hajji's Adventures from August 31st to September 4th The Hajji returns to the Balkans - Slovenia to Croatia to Bosnia and back!
Marcus and Ben and Lauren Reunited in Trieste, Italy! (Only Marcus and Ben pictured.)
After the weekend apart (Ben in Codroipo and Marcus and Lauren in Venice, see previous posts!), the Mother and two Fathers of Hajji reunited in Trieste to continue the journey. Our peculiar traveling family made its way East, back to the purpose of our search, the paradise we sought, the Balkans again. Our first trip through the Balkans took us through Serbia and Macedonia to Greece and back up through Bulgaria and Romania, and we missed many of the ex-Yugoslavian countries, which still lay in wait for us to discover. Our first stop, the most affluent of the bunch and a country we had just visited a week before: Slovenia.
Nice little forest campsite, Lauren and Ben preparing for a BBQ in the countryside of Slovenia
Having spent time at both Lake Bled and the capital, Ljubljana (see previous posts!), the Hajji did a quick travel through the country, with enough time to visit the Skocjan caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see in Slovenia (according to our trusty Lonely Planet book). The caves were magnificent; we walked nearly 2km through the winding tunnels and then got tired and went to the Hajji.
Inside Skocjan Caves
Boo and Cous in the Caves
After the caves we headed south to Croatia, another new country and without a clue where we were actually headed. Driving in this country was certainly one of the nicest drives we have found in the 3 months the Hajji has been rolling. The coastal road snakes around every natural nook and cranny that the coast holds, dipping in and out of small picturesque villages. We arrived in Croatia and went straight to Rijeka for an afternoon dip.
Coastal shot of Croatia, the driving was amazing!
Our itinerary had always had places we had to be, or people we had to meet, and suddenly we had none of this. Where to go? According to our guide book, there was good white water rafting in Bihac, just a couple hundred kilometers away in Bosnia. Why not? Lets go! The Hajji crew arrived late into Bosnia (another flawless border crossing) and rolled into a farmers field under the watchful gaze of a thousand million twinkling stars. Beers and cards ensued, our nightly ritual.
Camping in a field outside of Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Upon awakening, trouble was afoot. The Hajji had been having trouble starting for the past month, but always did what she needed to do after enough buhbuh-bouncing of the engine (see video below for an impression!). But it was not to be this morning, she wouldn't start, our beloved sat cooking in the sun with no fire in her belly. Lock and key, bikes off the back, and our beautiful maiden Lauren set out into the town to find assistance. In mere minutes she was back with a scruffy looking fellow who seemed eager to help us. Jumper cables would not work, it wasn't our battery causing the trouble, the Hajji would just not start. Buh-buh-bounce-buh-buh-bounce, the song continued, but without the celebratory explosion of white smoke and rumble from within. With some elbow grease from its crew, we pushed the Hajji enough and were able to get her started this way. In the process, the shifter came out of place, trouble trouble trouble. We went straight to a mechanic to diagnose our problems....
Mechanic tinkering with Hajji's Engine
We found a friendly man, with beautiful eyes, 5 minutes from where we had slept. We explained our problems in a Charades-like-manner (a common form of communication when English doesn't suffice) and he got to work. The shifter was fixed in 5 minutes, the engine opened up next, after some troubleshooting he determined our problem - broken glow plugs (a diesel engine's version of spark plugs we later learned). He had some in stock! 15 minutes later the engine was fixed, rumbling with the spirit we all know so well. Our muffler was also loose and had been rattling for weeks, a couple cranks and it was fixed. After checking our fluids, the kind and gentle-man gave us the thumbs up, and asked a mere 20euros in exchange for his service. We were happy to say the least!
Ben and Marcus with the cause of our problems - broken glow plugs!
With a healthy and happy Hajji, we scurried into town to see if we could get off on a rafting trip that day. And we did (of course!). Driving 10 minutes outside of town, we met a nice Bosnian family who ran the company, and soon we were rumbling through the countryside en route to our rafting destination, the Una river. It was a blast! The river coiled through the countryside like a snake, with Croatia on one side and Bosnia on the other. The rafting started with a 15m cliff which our guide threw the boat off and then jumped off himself, it was huge! We rafted over huge 5m waterfalls and through rapids for a couple hours, doing some of the rapids in our wet suit. Rain's camera was out of batteries, but luckily we got some of these gems before the trip....
Ben Marcus and Lauren in their Rafting Safety Gear
Prepared to give the river everything we had!
Ren in front of one of the beautiful waterfalls
After rafting we headed back to Croatia and spent a day in Zadar and Trogir, slowly making our way south down the coast. Croatia, with all its beauty and proximity to Western Europe has been firmly gripped by the grasp of tourism. In Zadar you could scarcely escape tours of aging Brits during the day, which made us queasy. But they were there for a reason, Croatia was glamorous indeed. Our days and nights in this coastal towns were spent cruising around, drinking beer, playing cards, laughing at and with people, and frequently visited by hitchhikers we picked up along the way. Here's a picture of one beaut we picked up on the way to Trogir.
Ben, Hrvoje Ivancio (he had to write that down...) and Marcus Drinking in Trogir.
An evening and a night in the lovely coastal town of Trogir, and we once again made haste for Bosnia...next destination: Sarajevo!