I was on the road at the end of July 2017. I left Zagreb for Dubrovnik. It took me 2:30 to get to the highway’s junction Bosiljevo, which takes usually 1:00, because of the touristic traffic jam – this was in the era BC (Before Corona) when the traffic jams existed. Outside, the sun hit with more than 30 degrees Celsius. Even with the air condition in the car, I was already well cooked.
I went south at last entering in the mountains of the Lika region. The radio announced a traffic jam of 12 kilometers at the tunnel Sveti Rok, that marks the end of the plateau and the entrance in the coastal region of Dalmatia. I was at the level of Otočac, a town that I know being nearby the national park of Velebit mountain range.
I took the exit almost instinctively, as called by nature. I was eager for freshness, to get out of this metallic oven on wheels, which I am closed in, in the same position, for hours. My original plan was to have a walk then continue the trip to Dubrovnik, when the heats went down, and the road was cleared.
The park is well indicated from the exit of the highway, so my plan seemed to be achievable without hitches. Only the road became more and more narrow as I drove on it. Nevertheless, it crossed small, picturesque villages with mountain houses. I was not Switzerland with perfect sceneries, but the authenticity, the simplicity that flew from them offered a refreshing contrast. I crossed mountain passes opening on majestic valleys while the Velebit mountain range came closer… but slower than I expected. I thought it was closer. Or it was the road with serpentines that gave this impression to me.
I reached the entrance of the Velebit national park, paid the ticket and the ranger informed me that I should still drive on a road without asphalt to get to the parking at the beginning point. What an adventure, here I am doing a Rallye in the forest! When I stopped, all my body was shaking for 5 more minutes. However, the pure air abashed me right away.
I walked on the renowned track of the forestry engineer Premužić, the great attraction of the park. I first crossed nice forests. I breathed deeply. But when I entered in the stony context, I was so fascinated, that I lost control. It was so beautiful that I could not stop trekking on the track. It passed around dolmens which surfaces were carved by water. Around me, forest covered mountains spread to the horizon. The path is a human achievement, snaking between the rocks. The rocky summits caught my sight, playing with the sea and the islands of the Kvarner Bay. I was on high mountains and admired maritime landscapes, fantastic! Everything was so wonderful that I could not cease to go farther to discover more of this savage landscape. I was feeling one with nature.
I finally came to the wooden hut Rossieva Koliba, fully equipped for overnight. Two young men from the coastal city of Senj got ready to sleep in it. I had a talk with them, and they gave me a little water. By luck, because I moved on the tack with no equipment and begun to be quite thirsty.
Up to this point, I still stuck to my plan: I thought to take the road for Dubrovnik in the night. The young men informed me however, that there were one or two pensions in the Krasno village at the foot of the Velebit, that I crossed coming here. I could get food and accommodation. One of them told me that their cheeses are excellent. The word echoed deeply in my ears and my stomach. I realized that as I was thirsty, I was also hungry. I totally forgot myself, transported by the beauty.
I returned on this magnificent track. I did more distance than I thought. Night was falling when I reached the car. Again, the off-road part to the exit that finished me. I felt the assaults of weariness. While I was thinking that I was no more in shape to carry on with a 6 hours drive (in normal time), a doe crossed the road just in front off me, forcing me to brake suddenly. My heart beating, I decided to stay in the village if I found an accommodation.
In the village, the first inn recalled to the Yugoslavia times that got old without investment. They could give a meal to me but had no rooms for overnight. However, a little bit farther, there is the Jure pension.
The family that welcomed me in the Jure pension was charming. They had a bed for me and no problem for eating. It is the grandma that cooks and the has a specialty: burger filled with local cheese. When this one landed in front of me: it took all the plate. The French fries were on a tray on the side. As for the Velebit, it was gorgeous, and I could not stop the “degustation”. I ordered another one, entering in the home legend. Since then, I get a double portion every time I get back there.
After having a belly full of food and drink, I spent one of the best nights since a long time ago, rocked by the deep silence and the restorative freshness.
From then on, I come back regularly in the Velebit mountain range to connect to wild nature, far away from everything. Each season has a particular magic. From the flowers covered mountains after the melting of the snow at the end of April – beginning of May…
… to the explosions of colors of the forest in autumn.