If you heard of National park Plitvice lakes it’s probably because of the it’s probably because of the stunning lakes interconnected with even more stunning series of waterfalls and cascades. If you visited National park Plitvice lakes it was probably for the same reason. However, that same lakes cover only 2,17 km2 of the Park area that is more than 296 km2 in size, or 0,73% if you prefer it that way. Have you ever wondered what happens in the other 99,27% of the Park? You haven’t? I don’t blame you for that, you probably didn’t even know the real size of the Park. When the main attraction is so flashy and spectacular you don’t really care what happens behind the scenes. But I do, because around 66% of the Park area is covered with forest and part of that is the most beautiful forest I have ever seen in my life – Čorkova uvala virgin forest, the only one of its kind in Croatia, and the way to get there is through 20-something kilometer long trekking/hiking trail that takes deep into the wilderness.
Rule number one in any hiking and trekking tours that I always heard in my life was that you never do it alone, you always have to do it with other people because a lot can happen when you spend the whole day in wilderness especially when you go deep into the wolf, bear and lynx territory. Seeing that I failed miserably in finding a partner to do it with me I started making plans which included me breaking that rule and going there completely alone, because I guess nobody is mad enough to spend whole day with me far away from any civilization. My friend Andrija heard of those plans and decided to have mercy on my soul by accepting the misery of my company just to save me from my own stupidity.
The best thing about plans is that life sometimes gets more interesting when you don’t make them at all and you just adjust as you go along. With so many different factors influencing your everyday life sometimes that’s the only way you can get some things done. We didn’t really plan our trek, it just happened. Both our schedules were clear on the same day so and that was it.
The start of the Čorkova uvala trek is from the top of the lakes which means that you have to take the train from station 2 to station 3 to get to the start. First one that drives up there starts at 8.00 am and we made sure to catch it to get an early start and make sure that we have plenty of time for our trek without having to rush through any parts of it. Andrija decided to take his dog with us and I was really jealous of the bitch (and I say that because she’s a female dog not because I hate her or anything like that) because she got all the attention from the tourists that were waiting for the train with us. You can see her in the picture below, just lying in mud. Yeah, I know. She’s disgusting.
During the first part of our journey both Andrija and I were in good spirits, me because I was finally going to the now almost mythical Čorkova uvala and Andrija because he got some nice looks from girls on behalf of his dog (and now you can connect all the dots and see what I was really jealous about). Basically, we were just two weird dudes having fun and looking forward to the day that was ahead of them and people that saw us during this part of our trek would confirm that because I started my day off by yelling at fish that were swimming in Proščansko lake (the highest lake of the National park). ‘Stop swimming you f…ing fish’, I yelled completely unaware that there were loads of other people around me, but I was really annoyed that I couldn’t get the right photo of the fish when she/he/it wouldn’t stay still for a single second.
Start of the trek takes you along the lakes just for a little bit, but soon we were climbing up into the hills and getting further away from all the others that only cared about the water and waterfalls and selfies and other touristy things that tourists do when they visit Plitvice lakes and with every step we took we got further and further away from any sign of civilized life (I do not consider the two of us to be civilized at all).
Getting an early start ensured that we had enough time to really enjoy the trek and just take things easy so we made a lot of breaks and I had plenty of time to try out some of the new things I learned about taking photos with my Nikon. I still pretty much suck at it but I take hundreds of photos and eventually get few of them right and I was secretly hoping that we’ll get a chance to have a close encounter with at least one member of the trinity (wolf, bear and lynx) so I could take a photo of them (and use it to brag on Instagram and Facebook later) but that didn’t happen. The only photos I took were the ones of trees and rocks and fallen trees and some more trees.
The trail is truly amazing and its beauty can easily be compared to the beauty of the lakes and waterfalls. It doesn’t take long for you to get to the first beech, spruce and fir trees that grow over 50 meters tall and have huge trunks, almost as big as Nicki Minaj’s butt. The best thing about it is that if you’re doing it on a hot summer day, like we were, you’ll spending the whole day in a nice refreshing shade of the forest and it’s not just the shade, it’s the peace and serenity of the whole place that just makes you want to stay there forever. It cleanses your spirit and makes you feel whole and one with nature again. It really does. I’m not bs-ing you. If you ever do this trek it will just be you and the forest. There will be no other people walking the trail, no traffic, no noise and the only sounds you hear will be the sound of leaves on the wind and birdsong. In this crazy fast world of ours you really get to appreciate moments like that when you get them, the feeling of bliss in such a beautiful wilderness is just one of the best things in the world.
The deeper we went into the forest the taller the trees grew but soon enough it wasn’t just the trees that were growing around us. After few hours of walking we started noticing rocks growing all around us. I didn’t expect them at all and they were amazing bonus for us because they just added to the beauty of the forest. In some places, it feels and looks like they are trying to grow as tall as the trees and seeing them meant that we were in the heart of the Čorkova uvala so we decided to have our lunch break and we found a perfect spot among these beautiful rocks.
We were convinced they all used to be part of travertine barriers thousands or tens of thousands or some number of years ago. Looking at them I tried to imagine what it all must have looked like in the past while devouring my low-carb zucchini patties I prepared earlier in the morning (tip to myself: next time when I go for such a long trek I should carry food that has a little bit more calories). Just thinking about those moments makes me want to go back there right now, but I’ll probably wait that perfect autumn day to revisit this forest again (and fall in love with it one more time).
One of my colleagues told me that after the forest comes the most beautiful meadow with grass soft as a silk, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. Andrija warned me about the moment we were going to get clear from the forest. It’s as if you go through a portal that just teleports you in a completely different world and we were trying to go through it as quietly as possible hoping to catch some of the wildlife grazing on the grass and as we cleared the forest it was obvious that the meadow was empty but ‘ohmygod’ it was so freaking beautiful. It really was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, beautiful green grass that really looked as soft as a silk, the cacophony of the sounds and the sea of forest surrounding this beautiful island from all sides. It was so beautiful I almost jizzed my pants from the excitement.
Somewhere on the other side of this grass island is a log cabin and next to that cabin is a well that we were looking forward to because we were both running low on water supply. The tables around that cabin are great resting place and you get to enjoy the view of the meadow that is ahead of you.
Somewhere during our break, we both started wondering how exciting it must be when just before the dusk all the animals come out of the forest to graze on the grass or just drink the water from the nearby creek. The only thing that could beat that would be looking at the night sky and seeing all the stars and Milky Way above you. It was that very moment that we promised ourselves that one day we will ask National park management for the permission to spend the night there. That was our plan, and our fantasy was that there will be some girls with us when we do that.
The log cabin where we took our break was the middle point of our trek and now we had the worst part ahead of us. Did you notice the steep hill behind the cabin? Yeah, the trail takes you right across and it doesn’t go zig-zag to make things easier for you, it just shoots straight up and it’s very, very steep. We tackled it head on, without stops or breaks and it was actually easier than I thought it would be. The descent from the top of this hill back to the Plitvice village and back to our car was far worse. We both have somewhat bad knees and 10 kilometers of constant downhill trail was really punishing for us, and we were also running low on energy (low carb and low calorie zucchini patties is really not the food you want to bring with you on 20+ km trek) now that we were out of shade of the forest and into the open trail where the sun was relentlessly beating on us but still we made our way back to the civilization.
During this part of the trek you get to see some of the lost and forgotten villages of the Plitvice lakes area, the surrounding mountains, the Plitvice stream that creates The Big Waterfall and Plitvice village but we cared for none of them because we were tired and our knees hurt and we just wanted to go home, eat dinner and have a nice cold shower.
Walking through Plitvice village we were met with harsh reality of apartmanization that was happening just hundreds of meters away from the lakes and Big waterfall, a sour reminder that there is such thing as too much tourism and that money doesn’t really care about the nature so you have people claiming the ownership over the Plitvice stream right in the heart of the National park (you can read a little bit more on what’s happening in this article).
Even though we were both really pissed after seeing what was happening we soon forgot about it because we were on our way back to the car and promised land of cold showers and dinners. That meant it was time for me to be jealous of Andrija again, because the lucky bastard got to go home and sleep at the end of it whereas I still had my night shift ahead of me. Still, it was all worth it because I finally got to see the hidden beauty of the National park Plitvice lakes (thanks to Andrija who agreed to be my nanny on this trek).