overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

If you go down to the woods…. & why bush camping is risky business in Croatia..!

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 26 August 2005.

Croatia & BONUS country Bosnia, Country 5 & 6, Diary entry 13-18th Aug 2005, Total distance in Croatia: 1216 KM, Bosnia: 10 KM

You may be forgiven for thinking that only two of us actually left on this adventure as my diary updates have been somewhat lacking. I’d been advised by others that had done similar such trips before that the first couple of weeks is where you want to relax and chill out after the mad panic prior to departure. Somehow this concept hasn’t quite fit into our itinerary and it feels like we have been running to stand still..!

Tidying up our affairs in England has proven not to be as straight forward as one would have hoped and where one letter should have sufficed, bureaucracy in the UK seems now to demand things in at least triplicate with multiple signatures and original documents! Even when you have finally managed to talk to a human being and you believe it has now all been resolved, the next letter you receive is kindly informing you that the last direct debit has not been paid – surely that’s what cancelling a utility is all about – or do they still expect payment when we’re not even there anymore..!

Anyhow enough of my ramblings, but with these games to play along with planning the diving and CARE visits for the road ahead, not to mention driving nearly 4000km already in the first two weeks through six separate countries… has meant that the relaxing nights by the camp fire have yet to show themselves. To explain the gravity of the salutation, my brand new copy of the latest Harry Potter novel remains unopened – a travesty in itself..!

So we finally leave Slovenia after a long traffic jam and some re-routing. We all really liked Slovenia and it would be high on our list of places to return to. But that’s for another day… for now it’s Croatia here we come.

Now as our expedition name hints, sooner or later some underwater aspect surely had to emerge & Croatia was top on our list for places to plunge beneath the waves. Our main focus on arriving was to quickly suss out the potential dive spots along the country, juggled with the now customary whistle stop tour. Those that know us will appreciate that when it comes to diving we aren’t just happy with any bit of wet rock and a fish, but are extremely keen wreck divers. The Croatian coast definitely has it’s fair share of what looked like interesting wrecks in what we hoped would be nice clear, warm water.

First stop Pula…. Hmmm a bit of an industrial city with not a lot of appeal. There was what looked liked an excellent example of a roman arena, but it was getting late so after getting some local advice we pushed on to Rovinj and stopped en route for some shut eye down a track after a long days driving. Unfortunately the Croatians seem to love exceptionally loud music and it was some time before the blaring noise from the restaurant some way off lulled us to sleep.

Rovinj is a quite beautiful little walled town right on the seafront, but today wasn’t to be sightseeing, Rovinj time to done suits and dive dive dive. We stumbled across our first dive centre and by chance they had a dive scheduled within the hour to a wreck called the Istra. This was a nice sized merchant vessel of about 270ft lying in ~42m but standing some 14m proud of the seabed. From the sketch we saw it looked a great dive. As Martin hadn’t got wet in awhile, he decided to miss this dive and go for a later one which was a bit shallower, to ease him back into the flow of things.

After enquiring about the water temperature we quickly decided that hiring suits would be the better option, but once on the boat we were surprised to see that everyone had some fairly serious wetsuits including full booties and fins – some even drysuits… whereas we sat contemplating what we were about to jump into with our open toed pool fins in hand. We’re going to get cold & boy we weren’t disappointed…!!!

In fact I don’t think I’ve EVER been so cold on a dive…. Surface temp luvely 24C, from about 20m you hit a thermocline and it drops some 4C, then wait for it… at 30m you hit another thermocline and it ends up being a very chilly 16C… enough to say we absolutely froze. For the 18 odd minutes that endured I could barely wind on the camera and snap the odd picture… there was no way I was lifting an arm up to read my computer or pressure gauge. What a travesty…. A beautiful intact wreck and we shivered around the same bit of metal about 8 times before succumbing to the numbing coldness and surfacing. It was too cold to even invoke the standard internal wetsuit warming procedure!

Our thanks however go to Sergej Valerijev from Diver Sport Center who we got talking to once warm and back on dry land. It sounds like he has some very interesting deeper dives that they have recently found in the 60-80m range and with the right (UK) equipment it would make some first class diving.

Undeterred, I was keen to give things a second chance. The ‘to do’ wreck in this area has got to be the Baron Gautsch. Baron Gautsch She was the pride of Austro-Hungarian fleet and this passenger ship lies in 40m standing 14m proud after hitting a mine in 1914, almost 91 years ago to the day we set off to dive her.

As the Diver Sport Center didn’t have the Baron scheduled during our brief stay, we moved on to Nadi Scuba who were extremely helpful and looked after us. We booked on for the following day – after explain our need for FULL & THICK wetsuits then headed inland to find a suitable camp site.

No sooner had we got dinner on the go, than the first drops of rain started to fall. We quickly finished off and retired to our tents…. During the night a fair dinkum storm erupted and at the break of dawn we half expected a pair of ruby slippers to be sticking out from beneath the cruiser…! On this occasion our tent decided not to be a tea bag & we remained reasonable dry… ah my mod might have just worked!

Martin had decided that he wanted to head inland to see the Plitvice lakes, so after retracing our tracks back to Rovinj he left us to it. With a somewhat thicker wetsuits Nice boots..! and a remarkably calm morning after the nights howling gales our spirits were high. We chugged out to the wreck site.. it’s fair to say that boats here don’t travel fast… what the likes of Voyager or Wey Chieftain could do, we would have made the trip in a fraction of the time.

On arrival at the site we were thankfully the only boat & on hitting the water the visibility was perfect. The wreck is remarkably intact and you can easily swim between decks and she makes a fantastic dive. We were allowed to get on and do our own dive and we almost covered the entire length – inside & out. On ascending the line at the bridge you could look back down and clearly see the front half of the ship from bow to bridge – superb :o) On surfacing even the local dive guide from Nadi Scuba was delighted at how good a dive it had been.

After bidding our farewells and a quick detour to an internet café to arrange the next set of dives, we set off to meet Martin in Zadar almost halfway down Croatia. The mains roads however dictate that we needed to do two sides of a triangle, so it was quite late that we pulled off the motorway towards Zadar. Having not heard from Martin in awhile we wondered how he was getting on locating a suitable camp spot. No sooner had we thought it a text came through saying: “bush camping not advisable – too many signs saying MINES – have found alternative camp site for the night” and gave the GPS lat & long!

Fair point and a warning not to be ignored. We plugged the Lat/Lon into the GPS & headed towards the rendezvous… only to find a sign to the named village 180 degrees from the direction the GPS was pointing. A quick investigation showed we were using different notations for deg/min/sec so a quick re-calculation put us back on track and we arrived at Autokamp Peros in the shadows of another monstrous family holiday camp. After a quick pizza (another continuing theme) and beer we retired to bed tapping our toes to the latest euro beats vibrating across the camp from our larger neighbour! The guys at Autokamp Peros were extremely helpful and we decided to spend the morning chilling and catching up on things as the contents of our Land Cruiser seemed to have evenly spread from the back to almost covering us in the front seats!

After the leisurely morning we set off south towards Split, with the thoughts of seeing some fine examples of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. We arrived late at Trogir and spent the evening strolling the streets in what was a fairly pleasant little walled town… Romanesque-Gothic town of Trogir however we were accompanied by the rest of the tourists in the region, so felt a little claustrophobic. We opted to go elsewhere for an evening meal and stumbled across an old roman mill that had recently by the looks of it been opened as a restaurant. After a quick guided tour we got stuck into a local dish of stuffed beef, with the obligatory beer to wash it all down – very nice indeed

We chanced our luck at a nights bush camping high up in the hills, then headed off early for us for a day in Split, before catching the ferry to Hvar island to do some more diving and meet up with my brother Frazer and his girlfriend Beatrix. Split is famous for the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace and all the pictures that we had seen made it look very impressive. Diocletian’s palace We quickly realised however that the pictures were an artistic interpretation of what the palace had look like in it’s day and sadly boar very little resemblance to is modern equivalent. However we spent a few pleasant hours strolling the streets and going up the tower – which gave Maz the willies and topped off the afternoon with an ice cream.

Next stop Hvar Island to meet with Frazer and also to dive with Nautica Dive Center who had very kindly offered the team a days safari diving to Vis Island to dive some of the great wrecks :o) Ferry to Hvar Island Either the ferry was early or Frazer was late, but eventually we met up and had a drive around the island admiring the peculiar collection of stones liberally piled up across the landscape. Stone PilesApparently in times gone by, they piled up the stones to clear enough of a patch to farm… it seems a somewhat labour intensive pastime, but I guess when needs must!

After an evening supper of pig on the spit, we crashed out ready for the next days full dive safari. The dive centre thought it quite funny when we saw the first boat (after being told it was a 3 hour boat ride to Vis) Lets just say it looked more like a row boat..! When the safari boat arrived we felt happier of our prospects of sailing the high seas..!

The dives on Vis were fantastic. The first dive was a Greek ship Vassilios T that sunk after hitting the rocks in 1939. She’d been built in Japan and reminded us of the Japanese wrecks we’d dived previously in Coron Island of the Philippines. Lying in about 20 to 55m on her port side and intact, with exceptional visibility that you’d expect around an island called Vis we had an impressive dive. Unfortunately there was a little misunderstanding between ourselves and the ‘Dive Guide’. We’d been under the impression we were doing our own dive, but the guide most defiantly thought we were to follow him, so when he was ready to go up and we were still enjoying the wreck I learnt how difficult it is to speak on open circuit underwater..! Southern shore

After a pizza lunch on Vis, we set off for our second dive on a wreck called the Teti. Again she had succumbed to the rocks around Vis and lay with her intact stern in about 35m and the forward section broken on the rocks at 10m. The rear steering is still in place, so hopefully a few of the underwater photos will come out, but patients please to see them as they were taken with the ol’ fashioned 35mm slide film & it will take a bit of time before we manage to get them up on the web.

Croatian IslandsSo a thoroughly enjoyable day trip with Nautica Dive Center and a late return to Hvar. After picking up Frazer and Beatrix we headed towards the eastern end of Hvar ready for the ferry first thing (ish) in the morning to take us back to the mainland. The camp site we choose however turned out to be an olive farm and although we’d been careful not to make any impact the farmer turned up in the morning and literally counted every olive on the surrounding tree just to be sure. We gave him the translated flyer and satisfied that we’d not disrupted his trees, he left us to pack up and make tracks for the ferry.

The islands and southern end of Croatia had definitely thinned out in tourists and we all felt it was much more like the Croatia we’d been hoping for. With the sun shinning it was onwards to Dubrovnik with a small bonus country added to the list - an immense 10km of Bosnia to navigate before driving back into Croatia!

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Comment from Ant
Sounds like you're having a great time!

How come Martin keeps chickening out of all these dives? Scared of the cold?!

and can someone please explain the pic of the week - can we assume it's Alex or has Maz pulled a random foreign person...?

And is she holding you back or threatening to push?!

(you've brightened an otherwise dreary Friday afternoon in the office!)

26 Aug 2005 @ 17:16:12

Comment from Bernard Hespel
Bonjour de la Belgique,nous sommes les Belges du camping de Epernay France et nous suivons votre route. Courage a toutes l'equipe.Salutation.
26 Aug 2005 @ 18:11:44

Comment from Taimur Mirza

I have been reading you guys inching your way East. I am a member of the offroadpakistan group and have been planning to organise a dive near Karachi at a wreck site and near a rocky island with certified 'warm waters' where Martin would be the first to dive.. :-)

End November early December is the best fishing, diving time around Karachi.

All the best,

29 Aug 2005 @ 06:25:10

Comment from martı[email protected]
Enough comments about the cold water thanks - I know how to heat a wetsuit! I did the Vis dives with Alex and Maz and very nice they were too. Didn't even get too sick on the boat! Looking forward to the next, wherever they are!
31 Aug 2005 @ 14:51:03