Day 13: SLAP
The day began at 7:15am when we awoke. Once again, I didn’t heed the 6:30am alarm but my intention was to beat the tour groups and at least enjoy the waterfalls with an hour or so of peace before the chaos ensues. Another thing was that I looked out the window and saw partly cloudy skies with pockets of blue. That was already better than the conditions we had to deal with yesterday so perhaps we might catch a glimpse of some of the color in the water when the sun does show itself.
After an initial wrong turn and walking past the toilets, we backtracked and followed a large tour group that went onto the boardwalk, which I believe was path H. The first thing we noticed while going this way was there were loud sounds being made in unison somewhere in the reeds we were walking by. At first I thought they were ducks, but as we got closer, there weren’t any ducks to be seen, and I could only imagine that they were frogs making those sounds – and lots of them!
The walk pretty much followed the top of the waterfalls separating Proscansko Jezero and Ciginovac at the top with Okrugljak at the bottom. It wasn’t the peaceful experience we were hoping for because a couple of the folks in the large group in front of us were smoking and spewing out second-hand smoke. One guy couldn’t stop smoking his stogie.
At least the weather was good and we did see some shades of green in the lakes thanks to the sun. The track continued following the east side of several lakes before descending, passing over a network of waterfalls separating a multitude of small lakes, then follow the west bank of Galovac.
Galovac Jezero (Galovac Lake) was said to be the most beautiful lake in the park in a waterfall sense, and we agree that there were some photogenic waterfalls compared with those near stop 4. However, I’m not so sure about this being the most beautiful lake.
Then again, perhaps we were being a bit harsh with the claim of “beautiful lake” because after having seen Jiuzhaigou in China, anyone making claims has a tall order to even be on par with China’s treasure.
The next major network of boardwalks and waterfalls involved crossing over the mouth of Galovac Jezero passing above Galovacki Buk, Mali Prstavac, and Veliki Prstavac before going right in front of them in reverse order as we headed back to the west bank. All this was near stop 3, and we took mental notes to ourselves to come back here tomorrow morning first and foremost.
This was probably the most impressive stretch of waterfalls and ponds with Jiuzhaigou-like qualities. Here, we saw submerged trees in the clear greenish waters (as opposed to the deep blue we saw at Jiuzhaigou), but the key here was that Plitvice definitely trumped Jiuzhaigou in the waterfall factor.
By the time we made it to this part, we were inundated with super large tour groups coming in from both sides (the top and the bottom). It was a little tricky to take photos or even pass people since the walkways were exposed and it was very easy to fall into the water if not careful. This was especially true when the walkways had stair steps where you couldn’t really tell where the steps were if you weren’t paying attention. Julie and I wondered how many people have managed to fall down because of the optical illusions imposed by the wooden logs being placed one after another.
I guess the tour groups did have perks because amidst the chaos, a handful of people spotted a snake resting on the reeds. That little reptile provided quite a photo op for many of us, including yours truly.
So it was this experience that made us hope that tomorrow’s weather would be kind of like today’s except that we’d come here first thing before the tours arrive. We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed on that.
Once we made it back to the intersection not far from stop 3, we continued to descend the west bank of Gradinsko towards the lower series of waterfalls. After having seen the last series of waterfalls separating Galovac and Gradinsko, this set seemed less impressive by comparison.
Eventually, we made it to the P2 boat stop where we took a boat back to P1 and walked up the stairs back to the vicinity of our hotel. We had ourselves a cafeteria-style lunch before returning back to our roomat 1:10pm to take a break.
Julie napped until about 2:15pm when we finally left the hotel for our second wind at 2:30pm. Unfortunately, it seemed like the clouds were becoming a little more persistent as the afternoon wore on. I began to wonder if we closed the window of photo-making opportunities today by an hour or so due to our little siesta.
It didn’t take long before we returned back down to the P1 boat stop where we caught a boat to the P2 boat stop just in time to catch an awaiting boat headed over to the P3 stop across the long Jezero Kozjak.
By 3:10pm, we finally landed and started walking.
This time, we were determined to catch one of the signature photos of the park, which featured on our map and on another brochure. The key (according to an info booth worker) was to follow path A all the way to a viewpoint beyond the top of the Veliki Slap (The Big Waterfall), which we saw yesterday.
It turned out that this lesser-used relatively peaceful path also yielded a handful of other overlooks of the Lower Lakes with some waterfalls (like the Milanovacki Slapovi) before getting back to the top of Veliki Slap. I think at one of the viewpoints near there, we could hear thunder cracking and the ominous dark clouds approaching.
While the afternoon light was still to the right of us and behind, there were shadows being cast by the cliffs to the right. Thus, the waters didn’t produce the nice colors we might have seen in the literature. Nonetheless, this was definitely the money shot we were looking for, and we tried all sorts of angles and exposures to ensure that we didn’t take anything for granted while we were here.
When we had our fill of this money shot spot, we then went back to the familiar top down look across the Veliki Slap. There were lots of photographers here with SLRs and tripods. But we snuck in our quick shot somewhat against the sun where the falls didn’t quite seem to have the same vigor as it did yesterday.
However, we did stop for top down photos of the Sastavci where we saw an afternoon rainbow in the mist below. We also heard more thunder from the dark ominous clouds that have gotten even closer.
Then, we continued on the same walk alongside the Lower Lakes that we didn’t quite finish yesterday. But this time, we intended to complete the loop by going by the east bank of Kaluderovac, Gavanovac, and Milanovac along with all their accompanying waterfalls. We even finally got a closer look at the Milanovacki Slapovi, but by then the thunderclouds had overtaken us and it was raining.
At 5pm, after crossing the Milanovacki Slapovi just minutes before in the rain, we had just missed a boat leaving back for P2. So Julie and I killed some time waiting for the next boat in a half-hour where we watched the weather get even worse.
This unsettled weather this late into Spring and close to Summer is really making us worried about how the weather will be like in Switzerland next week. For we had heard about the record rains in Poland, and we had seen satellite images of long cloud bands throughout much of central and northern Europe. We’ll just have to hope for the best in the mountains of Switzerland.
Finally at 5:30pm, we boarded the boat (the guy actually checked tickets which was the first time since we got into the park that someone actually checked). Then, a large group of unruly kids boarded the boat with us and there went all the tranquility.
At 6pm, we were finally back at the hotel. Fortunately, the boat didn’t stop at the P2 stop and went straight for the P1 stop instead. That at least meant we didn’t have to deal with the kids waiting for another boat.
And so ended yet another eventful day at Plitvice Lakes.
Tomorrow, we have a day at leisure to see just the best of what we think the park has to offer. However, given the turn in the weather in the late afternoon, we are a bit worried about tomorrow’s intended sightseeing being compromised. We’ll have to see about that…