The West Side of the Velika Paklenica Valley
My previous articles on the Paklenica National Park in Croatia, which I visited in the winter of 2015 to 2016, described my travels in the Velika Paklenica river gorge and valley and the east side of the valley.
This third and last story describes two explorations of the west side, firstly a walk to the Manita Peć cave and secondly a walk to the Njive Doline area and Paklenica hut. As previously I used the Leica X Vario on both outings.
As was my practice, I parked by the river, having bought my day ticket, and walked up the gorge, passing back and forth across the river. Usually, I was alone along this trail but on occasion came across other walkers. I was always glad to reach the bench and water pipe at the head of the gorge where I could rest before heading up the valley itself.
The trail up the gorge
The trail to the Manita Peć cave can be found a little further up the valley from the trail eastwards to Grabove Doline. The cave entrance is at an altitude of 570m, high above the valley, which I found surprising. The trail offered lovely views of the valley, both to the north and south, and the walk up was well worth it although I knew the cave itself would be closed during the winter months. The trail continued further up but as it required scaling ladders bolted into the side of the mountain I decided to descend to the valley.
On my way down, I startled a chamois which, after quickly examining me, put some distance between us. Although I had seen one of these territorial animals in the gorge on another occasion, possibly the same one, I enjoyed seeing it so clearly. The 28-70mm zoom on the X Vario helped capture the moment before the animal was off again and enabled me to frame it without too much cropping.
A few days later I returned and took another trail which zigzagged up the west side of the valley to the Njive Doline area of the plateau above. I enjoyed seeing the route I’d taken previously on the other side of the valley. On reaching the top, and having a look at the farmhouses set in the rocky landscape, I saw a snow shower rapidly approaching. As I hastily layered up with a waterproof jacket, hat and gloves, I was surprised by how quickly the temperature had dropped and the wind had risen. I started to head back down to the valley but the shower passed as quickly as it had arrived. So I walked back up and continued on my route as planned.
Keeping in touch
Having had a look at the map and seen how remote the trail became when I bought my day ticket, I decided to ask one of the park rangers what he thought of my going on alone. He didn’t think it would be a problem, which reassured me. But he did say that I could always call on my mobile phone if I were in trouble. In my experience, people are generally over-optimistic about cell mast coverage, so I worked on the assumption that there would be none, as was the case.
The trail north from Njive Doline soon became less distinct as it crossed the loose scree on the mountainside and I was glad to be wearing supportive mountain boots. It was not a good place to twist an ankle and, being alone, I took particular care of where I placed my feet. Ten minutes after the picture above was taken another snow shower approached over the Velebit mountains ahead and the woods and hills appeared layered, each becoming less distinct as the shower enveloped it. The sight reminded me of an oriental painting.
After the snow shower passed, the sun shone and the temperature rose and I was able to enjoy the views back down the valley. As a point of reference, the trail I described in the second article passed between the mountains on the left.
No tea today
The trail to the Paklenica hut dropped down the mountainside and through the woods, eventually reaching the hut and passing its wood pile and vegetable patch. Unfortunately, on that day there was no one at the hut so I had to forego the tea I had looked forward to and instead start the long walk back down the valley to the car, enjoying the evening light.
Since this is the last article in the series, I thought I would end it with another view of the sunset, which I had enjoyed so much, over the mussel pots at Seline just up the road from Starigrad and the entrance to the park.
With luck, it will not be too long before I can return to Paklenica.