Close your eyes.
(Okay. Open your eyes, read this first and then close your eyes again)
Imagine you are standing on a wooden plank which seems to be part of a wooden path. You gaze in front of you and can see the weather-beaten path winding ahead. Tall green grass growing on either side of path is framing the way for you perfectly. Sun-rays are flitting through the canopy of the trees you have been standing under. Farther the calm afternoon sun is peaking from behind the clouds. It feels like you are looking at a painting.
You decide to move ahead and as you step out of the tree cover, a gentle cool breeze caresses your face. Slowly you turn your head to the left and are greeted by an expanse of myriad shades of blue. Sky blue, sea green, azure, turquoise, deep ocean and so many more; you couldn’t even name all the shade.
Water is rippling in the wind. Your eyes can’t but follow the ripples along the surface of the lake to the other end where a plunging waterfall completes the spectacle. The unmistakable sound of the power of gushing water could be made from afar.
Trying to absorb all of this, take a step ahead closer to the edge and you realize that the water is clear as air. Swarms of fishes are swimming nonchalantly across the fallen tree trunks at the bottom of the lake. It is all so surreal.
(you may close your eyes here to just picture it all at once)
Didn’t want to open your eyes, right?
I know I couldn’t make myself to move from that spot. And that was just the first lake at Plitvice lakes national park. First of the sixteen lakes. Yes, you read it right, sixteen beautiful lakes with amazing scenery and stunning waterfalls. What more could you ask for?
As it turned out, we could have asked for better weather.
When the day started, any of this did not seem possible. We woke up to overcast skies and light drizzle. With our fingers (and toes) crossed, we dredged to the entrance. We had pre-booked the tickets as there is limited entries at a given time-slot (though later we got to know the ticket is valid for the complete day and multiple entries).
We picked our tickets from the ticket window and made our way inside. The drizzle was still light, but wind was picking up. Obviously, we hoped it was a passing shower and not a thunderstorm.
But we could just get the first view of the grand waterfall from the top of the trail, when the rain started coming down heavier. Had we been alone, we would have thought twice or thrice to push ahead. But with our daughter, it was a snap decision to head back.
We could not even make it to the main gate when the thunderstorm hit us. A kiosk canopy became our temporary shelter as we waited for the storm to pass. We made sure daughter was packed dry and our stuff was secure. We had to wait close to an hour when the rain relented a bit and we made a dash back to our stay (thankful that the stay was nearby).
Safely back inside the dry and warm room, we started to think about alternative options. Our hopes crashed when the forecast showed storm in the complete area around Plitvice. We were even ready to change our complete travel bookings as Plitvice was the one place we were not ready to leave out.
However, someone above heard our plight and the conditions improved drastically in the second half. The rains stopped, and the sun started smiling shyly.
We rushed as quickly as possible back to the national park and made our way down the trail. It was here after the morning ordeal, we finally found ourselves standing at the above spot, gazing fondly at the deep blues and taking in the natural bliss. All the wait and the troubles seemed worthwhile.
We crossed the lake walking across the wooden path. It was one of the most enjoyable moment of the day. Serene water on the either side flowing far and then plunging with a roar to create the most amazing waterfall.
We took the easily marked hiking route and decided to visit all the lakes in the national park. On the way to Veliki Slap or Giant waterfall we had closer encounters with other waterfalls as well. You wouldn’t believe (and we couldn’t imagine that earlier) but each waterfall had something different about them. And that made the whole experience exhilarating.
The main advantage of starting the hike from entrance 1 is that you are always walking towards the waterfalls. So, you get a view from a far and then a closer rendezvous. If you go the other way, you will have to turn back at every other step.
On our hike we got a chance to walk along the lakes, across the lakes and over the waterfalls as well. All along the water was crystal clear. Observing the various aquatic life and the underwater lake bed at each lake become another highlight of our day.
We walked across the lower lakes (trail A) to reach the boat point at lake Kozjak. We had to take couple of boats to continue the trail (trail C) across the upper lakes.
The scenery changed completely at the upper lakes. While the lower lakes had unhindered view and trails were comfortably easy, the upper lakes were spread across terrains. The trails went uphill and downhill, across forests and around the lake shores. It added a fair bit of adventurous feel to our hike. Couple of times we didn’t realize we were next to a waterfall till we turned a corner. And it also gave us chance to have fun in the waterfalls as the wind sprayed us all over. The natural growth around these waterfalls and lakes gave it a more rustic feel.
Though we were short on time, having to start so late in the day, surprisingly we didn’t have to rush through any place. Yes, on more than one occasion we had to drag ourselves from a spot where we just wanted to sit and admire the glory of nature. But I am sure that would have been the case had we had the complete day there.
As the sun started to set behind the hills we started to tire a touch. We kept pushing ourselves and made our way to the endpoint of the trail. Were we afraid that we might get stuck at the park? Yes, on more than one occasion. But we managed to catch the last shuttle back to entrance 1 and were relieved that we were not the last ones. Only drawback was that we had to walk in the dark on our way back from the shuttle drop to the main gate and further to our stay. But this time the sound of waterfalls stayed with us and made the walks easier.
We had long realized that nature smiled at us that afternoon at Plitvice lakes national park in more than one way.