Plitvice Lakes National Park

Day 22, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Plitvice Lakes were proclaimed a National Park in 1949 and they were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1979. There are sixteen lakes in the park and an incredible number of waterfalls. Over thousands of years the water has eroded and dissolved limestone rocks and the dissolved calcium carbonate reforms as tufa, a porous stone that makes barriers between the lakes. This results in new falls and cascades being constantly created.

The Plitvice Lakes Park are amazing.  We soon ran out of words to describe the wonder of so many waterfalls and cascades, and the beauty the we saw all around us.  The weather report said it was to be a cloudy day, but it forgot to mention the rain and mist!   It was drizzling and misty most of the morning but the rain eventually stopped later in the afternoon. We only saw the sun for about three minutes!  In spite of this we had a fantastic day.  I think it is best is to post some of the many photos I took and let you wander through the park along with us. The reflections in the water were beautiful and I kept wondering what all this would look like on a calm sunny day?

There is water rushing everywhere!These steps, all 212 of them lead to a huge sinkhole and the Supljara Cave .
Notice there are no hand rails on the boardwalks!  I saw two people trip and almost go over the edge so I am sure it must sometimes happen.Here we were walking right on top of a waterfall, and it is one of the few places that had a handrail. Yes, we wore ugly plastic rain ponchos as did many other hikers. and thankfully they helped keep us warmer and drier.These are called the Big Falls.The water runs everywhere and somehow trees manage to grow in waterfalls and shallow lakes.  We turn the corner and see this.
and this! These falls are 28 meters tall.

There are boardwalks everywhere, even right over top of waterfalls,
but as I said, no handrails .The reflections were stunning…
and the colours of the lakes were amazing.Every lake was different colour.We walked through areas with interesting trees…
and I really liked the roots on this tree.
The water everywhere is absolutely crystal clear.
There are bears, wolves, deer, wild boar, and wild cats in the park but the only animal we see is this busy little squirrel.
We walked for more than six hours, about 22,000 steps which is almost nine miles and we climbed the equivalent of 84 flights of stairs.  We figured it out and that is more than 1400 stairs up and as many back down.  No wonder we were both tired tonight.


Sunday, November 22

This was our Airbnb apartment near the village of Alhendin, about 20 minutes outside of Granada. It was very nice and quiet but it is time to hit the road again. We need to be in Los Alcázeres, a small coastal town in southeastern Spain by evening.Image 2015-12-12 at 11.18 PM

The drive is interesting as the scenery changes often.  These are photos shot through the car window so they aren’t the best, but they give a pretty good idea of the countryside. This is on the outskirts of Granada.  I find it so strange to see apartment buildings and then countryside right beside them.  There are no suburbs around here, it is city and then it is country, nothing in-between.DSC01195We are surprised to see snow on the mountaintops.DSC01200

Before long there are fewer trees and the land is much more arid looking.DSC01199It is hard to tell from the photo, but this area is much like Drumheller, Alberta, with fields suddenly giving way to steep, dry ravines. DSC01206

Soon we are seeing weathered and eroded hills that have what look like caves or tunnel openings.DSC01207

A quick bit of internet research revealed that many people in this area live in caves.  We stop in a little town named Purullena, and visit the Museo Cueva Immaculada.  This was quite the experience.  As we entered the museum we realized that we were walking through a family home.  There were footsteps painted on the floor and we were told  to follow the footsteps and then we were left to explore their house! We passed what looked like the grandparents having something to eat with their grandchildren in the dining room.  It was rather bizarre.Image 2015-12-12 at 11.48 PM

Curtains separate the rooms so that air can circulate, and there are also chimneys for air circulation. We climbed a flight of stairs to an area of their home that was set up as a museum, with old farm implements, photographs, kitchen utensils, and a whole lot of other assorted items.  Here are some pictures of the cave houses in Purullena, and another little village we drove to nearby.DSC01242The temperature in these homes stays between 17º and 21º C year round. The ceilings are dome-shaped so that the caves will not collapse and to distribute the weight of the hills above to the thick outer side of the walls. DSC01233Thirty years ago everyone in the town lived in caves, and today about 1,100 of the towns population of 2,700 still live in caves.  The soil here is called arcilla, which is a special type of clay that is compact but still very soft so it is easy to dig.  It is also an impermeable soil which stops the rain from entering the cave.DSC01221The cave homes are dug out of the mountains and there are no other construction materials used. The homes are painted with white chalk which breathes so the air can circulate, and this prevents humidity from building up in the caves.DSC01230We saw this ‘troglodyte’ busily hanging up her laundry before she went back into her cave home. These cave dwellers call themselves Troglodytes, which is from two Greek words meaning hole, and dying to get into  If you want to read a bit more about these unique houses check out DSC01240

We were quite surprised to discover that the public washrooms were also the family bathrooms, complete with the family laundry, showers, kids toys and other personal items! These were located just outside the cave home, sort of like modern outhouses.  We thought it must be difficult to put plumbing inside the caves.

As we continued on our way to Los Alcázeres we passed lots of huge market gardens, many of which had these tunnel hothouses, field after field of them. It was quite the sight.  DSC01254


Monday, November 16

There were more painters on our balcony this morning.  It looks like they are going to do a lot of painting today so it is a good day for us to be away.  We are going to visit Gibraltar so we drive near to the bus station and catch the ‘La Liena’ bus which takes us to the border between Gibraltar and Spain. Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory so this will be the fourth country we visit this trip: Spain, Portugal, Morocco and now a territory of England. We walk across the border into Gibraltar and then spend some time trying to figure out the best way to see the sights.  Although we did do internet research before we arrived it turns out it wasn’t really much help.  We finally decide to take a taxi tour which includes the four main tourist sights.  It is a bit expensive, 80€ for 1 1/2 hours but we realize we don’t have enough time or energy to take the cable car and then walk 7 km down the rock which is what we would have to do to see the sights. That wasn’t mentioned in any of our internet research! Yesterday we only paid 120€ which included our bus and ferry rides, lunch and the 6 hour guided tour of Tangier. We drive up the winding roads of the Rock of Gibraltar and stop at a viewpoint where we can see the Spanish coast and the city of Algeciras where we are staying.imageWe then visit St. Michaels Cave, where we are treated to a sound and light show in a huge cavern with many smaller side chambers and great rock formations.  I’m not sure if I like all the bright colours on the rocks as they are quite spectacular on their own. See this link for more information about the caves.  They have a rather interesting history,

There is a stalactite that has been cut in half which was very interesting as it has growth rings much like a tree does.imageWe drive to a high point on the rock and we have great views of the Sea of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean as the rock is very narrow here, but even more interesting than the ocean views are the monkeys.  The monkeys of Gibraltar are tailless Macaque Monkeys.  No one knows how they got on the rock but they are now one of Gibraltar’s big tourist attractions. They are managed and taken care of and they are the only monkeys living outside of captivity anywhere in Europe. There is also a feeding station which has improved their health and helped to stop attacks on tourists for food, although nearby residents are still careful not to leave their windows open, or they will find monkeys in their kitchens looking for food! I love the mothers and their babies. They appear quite tame but they are still wild animals and they do have rather large teeth…


Next stop, the Great Seige Tunnels.  This is the only part of the tour that was a bit rushed. The tunnels are quite extensive and we almost had to run to get to the end and back again in the time we had.  Too bad, but at least we got to see them.  Here is more info if you are interested.

imageI took this photo of Gibraltar’s airport runway from one of the tunnel openings.  Do you notice anything unusual about it?imageOur tour ends in the older part of town and we have tea and lunch before slowly making our way back to the border checking out the streets and shops along the way. Many of the buildings have balconies with plants but I thought these two were particularly pretty.imageIn this picture of the rock you can quite clearly see the tunnel holes where the cannons were placed.  There is also a flag right at the top that is at half mast in memory of those who died in the Paris attacks.image

Now, doesn’t this look like I should be in England?


There were many big fancy shops but then there were also the smaller not so fancy ones.image

Now, do you remember that picture of the runway?  Well here I am walking across it!  Yes, the road and sidewalks go right across the runway, and just after we begin to walk across the sirens start blaring and they close the road right behind us.  We are the last pedestrians to cross, and as we stop to take this picture an announcement is made for all pedestrians to clear the runway!  They meant us!imageAs we wait for the plane to take off, the one you can see behind me in the picture above, we have a great view of the Rock of Gibraltar.  image

There goes the plane, right where we were standing just a short time before. It was quite something to see.image

On the bus home we are treated to a pretty sunset.image


Prehistoric Cave Drawings at El Castillo, Las Monedas, and Altamira

Thursday, October 1

The caves are not all that easy to find.  There are not a lot of signs for some of these main tourist attractions on the roads in the towns or villages once you are off the highways.  We actually made a ‘wrong’ turn that got us close, and then we asked directions from three local women who were sitting on an old stone bench on the side of the road, cracking and eating walnuts, while they visited.  It is an uphill winding road to the caves and we arrive in time for the last tour of the day at 1:40.  That is another thing that is taking some getting used to, the hours that attractions and businesses are open.  More on that later.

We are not allowed any pictures inside the cave and there are only four of us on the tour, so no chance to ‘sneak’ a picture or two…however we are allowed to take a picture before we enter the cave from the waiting area.image

The first cave we enter is El Castillo,  or Castle Cave, named after the mountain where it is located. The cave is incredible in its own right. The following cave pictures are taken from information in the interpretive centre.imageThen there are the cave drawings! The oldest, the negative handprints are 35,000 years old! There are also many drawings of bison, horses, reindeer and abstract symbols, including lots of round red shapes whose meaning is unknown.imageHaving a guide is essential, we never would have seen most of the drawings without her.  Our guide only spoke a little English, but it was enough to explain a bit of what we were seeing and answer basic questions. We decide we need to wait until after lunch and see the Las Monedas Cave which is also open, so we have our picnic lunch in a nearby farmer’s field. We keep looking for bulls as we hear branches cracking but discover it is only the chestnuts falling from the trees. imageLas Monedas has even more spectacular rock formations than El Castillo.  The stalactites and stalagmites are incredible, and form a multitude of differently shaped spires, pillars and other shapes.  There is so much to see that my head is swivelling in all directions, which can be rather dangerous on uneven, slippery wet footing!imageOur guide for this cave, Rebecca is amazing.  Her English is very good and she has an extensive knowledge of the cave but also of archeology and history as well.  We are the only people on this tour and our scheduled 45 minute visit extends to an hour and a quarter.  We are so glad we changed our plans and decided to see this cave as well.  There are only a few charcoal drawings in this cave, near the entrance.  I did some sketching in the caves, difficult without much light and not a lot of time, but it was an awesome feeling to think I was standing making art in the same spot as a prehistoric artist stood some 35,000 years ago!

We do a little exploring of our own after our tour.image

Next stop the famous Altamira Caves.  These caves are no longer open to the public due to the damage caused by thousands of daily visitors in the 70’s, but there is an accurate reproduction called the NeoCave that we can visit and a museum. I sit on the floor looking up and I try to draw, it is pretty hard on my neck. Here is a photo of my efforts.

imageThese are two pictures I took of the NeoCave.  We are amazed at the size, brightness and number of drawings.  The NeoCave is better than not seeing them at all, but I can only imagine what it must feel like to have been able to see the actual drawings in their original setting.image image  Hand drawings from the museum display.image

We are the last people out of the museum at 8:00 and we need to drive home in the dark.  This proves to be a bit of a challenge as we hit road construction, some detours and then we miss a few of the turns so made our own detours!  Thank heavens for the iPad and its maps with GPS.  I think we would have been driving around all night without it!