Written 25th april
Especially those with classic veedubs! (and also most motorhome people, especially those who own small modern auto sleepers, Bill and Brian, but sadly you guys aren't here...)
What with ferries, islands, lakes, and cheese, we had run out of money in this week's budget by late on thursday so the last couple of days have been spent mostly in carparks, laybys and cafes with accessible power sockets, in the expense-less pursuits of fettling and throttle control code re-architecturing (Will), and odessey reading and seat cover finishing (me). Productive and cheap but largely unremarkable, with weather to match.
And as such, they would have been relegated to merely a prologue paragraph of a post about more interesting things except that, we have met the most brilliant, helpful people over the last couple of days that they deserve a special mention all of their own.
We arrived in Zadar in time for a wander in the sun on Thursday and I returned to the van after a foray into town in search of the tourist office, to find Will chatting to a classic veedub owning driving instructor who, on seeing Jules by the side of the road, had instructed his pupil (in some dull modern car) to do an emergency stop and parallel park manoever just so he could hop out and chat. They had gone through the initial greeting and establishing credentials stage - swapping the vital stats of 'buses and beetles I own, have owned or would like to own', which is the accepted conversational pattern of meeting other veedub owners! - and he was busy trying to explain to Will where he could buy the carb cleaner we were looking for (needed to try and revive the lamda sensor which has become sooted up through lack of use - being fuel injected, we don't have carbs, obviously you all knew that...) when I arrived back with the map which made the explanation process much simpler. Turns out he knows Mr Buggy, the blue mustachioed slovenian with the blinging red and black splitty with flames on the doors, and may be going to the veedub meet in Isola in June - it is a small world!
Before wishing us cheerfully on our way and going back to his poor patient pupil, he also told us where we could buy the paint I need to contine the daisy project which is about three weeks behind due to lack of white paint and thinners. Excellent!
So we headed to the free carpark on the edge of the old town which the helpful tourist office lady had directed me to - she was less knowledgeable about places where we might buy things for cars or car paint but she did at least try! - and headed into town.
The sun salutation is a 22m circlular solar panel, built into the prom which harvests the sun's energy by day
and releases it by night in the form of both the normal seafront lighting and the trippy disco-floor light show that the large glass patio becomes at dusk - very cool.
finishing the evening in a comfy pavement café with the scrummiest hot chocolate - so thick that the spoon just sat on the surface - a definite rival to our swiss hot chocolate!
The next day we wandered some more, treated ourselves to the fanciest ice cream we have so far seen - extremely well presented but not quite as tasty as the gelato in the tiny town north of lake Como - and then set off on our shopping mission.
It turns out that the croatian for 'carb cleaner' is 'carb cleaner' or so it seemed from the exchange between the guy on the till who didn't understand Will and the guy behind him who did
< foreign >"what does this guy want?< /foreign >
< foreign >"oh carb cleaner obviously, right, its just here by my hand then"< /foreign >
Sadly no oil filter in stock though, which is the other thing we need, as was evident from the thick black puddles on the floor in Isola. To be fair, we have known for a while that an oil change is somewhat overdue and have been asking for filters in the various battery and gasket shops we have visited in the last month but as yet to no avail. But carb cleaner is a result.
And the lady in the paint shop - which sold an unexpectedly broad range of random things besides paint, including varnish, resin and glue for all applications from cars to houses to boats - spoke english so cheap car paint and, more surprisingly, high temperature liquid gasket - otherwise known as 48kn worth of insurance that we will not have any more failed gaskets on this trip! - was successfully purchased and off we set, southwards once more, to Sibenik.
Sibenik was recommended by the people we met in Pazin and sounded nice - harbour, typical mediaeval streets, impressive cathedral (the mostest or bestest of something, I forget what!), castle on a hill etc etc - but sadly, after a night in a backstreet on the very far out edge of town, the tourist office was less than forthcoming on things of interest to us, namely free carparking and somewhere to do laundry so we decided to give it a miss and and spent the whole day engaged in the above described useful activities - although sadly lamda sensor was found to be irrevivably dead :( - in a layby en route to Krka National Park, until a need to find somewhere discrete to park lead us north east to Drnis, and a quiet, anonymous, back street carpark beneath a block of flats.
We went out looking for a quiet café with wifi and a power socket and unwittingly ended up in a mirrored and thumping disco bar (unwittingly = as time passed, the mirroredness stayed the same but the thumpingness increased) where I reminisced over a beer about my lost youth in the defening, smokefilled student guild bar - oh happy days - whilst more prosaically Will poked his programming with only a sensible driver's lemonade for comfort. It is amazing, I am not a smoker, never have been, never will be, hate it normally, especially at close range but there is something I miss about the background ambience of a lightly smoked bar atmosphere - definitely lost youth...
Anyway, this morning, a series of chance happenings - realising too late that Krka NP has two waterfalls, heading the wrong way out of town, stopping in a hilltop layby to have breakfast and turn round and randomly finding wifi we were too far away to connect to, deciding to head back into town, seeing a bar and wifi in the same place, sucumbing to the lure of coffee and facebook until we ran out of battery, and getting blocked in so not being able to get in and drive straight off - resulted in us meeting Ivan and Teresa and their beautiful Plitvice-lake green bug.
Ivan had only come over to give us the web address of their veedub club which has a fantastic mutual assistance section with numbers of people we could call in any area of Croatia if we had problems but a combination of their joint enthusiasm and Teresa's fantastic english led to an invite to join them for coffee and tales of travels in far off lands. Turns out they too know Mr Buggy, and the Zadar driving instructor! The world gets ever smaller.
We asked about oil filters and Ivan tried to ring his mate who has a shop in town but obviously it was closed, being sunday, but not to worry, on hearing we were headed to Split next, he gave us the address and a scribbled map of the second branch there - brilliant. We thought that scrapyards or lamda sensors would be pushing our luck but no, once he had got over the confusion of why we needed one - they are not standard parts on old aircooled veedubs! - and the fact that we didn't mind what car it was from, he got on the phone again and lo and behold, another mate in town was found, who runs a small car breakers on the way out of town towards the waterfall to which we were heading anyway. They even took us out there, and Will ended up with four to choose from and a very reasonable price - fantastic!
So, new budget week and armed with maps, info, directions to all the things we need next, and most unexpectedly a lamda sensor, we are heading on our way to Roski Slap (waterfall) in the Krka national park.
Ivan, Teresa, thank you so much! If you ever make it to the UK, please get in touch :)
[EDIT] since writing this and finding somewhere to post it, the sentiments contained within have been further backed up by a lovely comment on my previous post from Kiri and the VW Kombi Forum veedub club. Thank you so much for writing to us! We are loving Croatia, you have a truly beautiful and welcoming country. We hope not to need your very kind offer of help but it is really good to know it is there if we do!