I walked from the hostel in Zagreb a few miles southwest through town to the bus station. People were on their way to work, but the capitol city still didn’t seem to be buzzing with too much activity.
I passed an open-air market where they were selling clothes and other items but I didn’t stop to check anything out. I had lost my hat before I even started this journey somehow which was not a good thing, since I definitely have fair skin and, while I enjoy the sun, the sun seems to enjoy cooking me even more.
I arrived at the bus station having worked up a pretty decent sweat. Wow, if I sweat this much after just 2 miles in the shade, how bad is it going to be when I’m actually walking down the coastal highway? I’ve always been the kind of guy who worked out and exercised regularly, but this was a different kind of workout, that’s for sure. I looked online to see how hiking ranks among various workouts and found a site saying that it was about equal to going jogging in terms of benefits and calories burned. Ya know, jogging is just so much fun and so easy, that you hardly ever see anyone doing it, and hiking’s not far behind.
Just Go Man: Hiking and Wild Camping in a Foreign Land During the Worldwide “Pandemic” (Ch. 3)
I bought a ticket at the station and boarded a bus that was packed with passengers. The bus attendant came around and scanned everyone’s ticket, showing the absolute minimum politeness required to hold down a job in the public transportation sector. I had to pay extra for my bags, which seemed like more of a Croatian bus scam than anything, having to pay extra for your bags right before you get on the bus far away from the ticket counter, but what a great way for them to extort you for extra money.
The bus started moving and we were off. I started tracking our progress on my cell phone’s map. We crossed town over to the south side of the river which runs east and west in Zagreb. It was filled with lots of open, green space and I thought to myself “wow, there’s lots of places to camp around here, maybe I should have just stuck around and knocked out a few days here.”
I was a little anxious because I didn’t know how easy it would be to find places where I could go through with my wild camping plan. I’d heard that you could get a hefty fine of around 300 – 400 Euros if you were camping “illegally” somewhere, and that would definitely put a damper on my spirits and my finances if that were ever to occur. I decided in my mind that everything would be fine, even if I didn’t know if it would or not.
I took a look at my cell phone map again, this time at Rijeka. The thing about Google maps on Android phones is, it doesn’t show elevation, which would really come back to haunt me in a few hours. I looked at the map and searched for some green space that I hoped would likely be abandoned and insignificant enough that would allow me to go undetected on the first night of my off-grid camping experience.
After about an hour, I had to pee. Unfortunately, the bus restroom was off-limits, closed down due to the ever-dangerous “cootie virus”. Oh well, I can hold it for a few hours. “No big deal”, I thought. I tried to access the bus Wi-Fi but it didn’t work, so I just closed my eyes and nodded off, going to sleep for about an hour before I awoke to a pit stop the bus was making a little over halfway from Zagreb to Rijeka.
Most of us got out of the bus to stretch our legs and to try to use the public restroom. It was an “official” stop for the bus, meaning it was a dedicated rest stop area for the route. I walked up to the building near a few ladies and observed the signs saying the restrooms were closed due to “cootie virus”. It’s funny how the cootie virus seems to only know how to attack people in public restrooms. Maybe if we all stopped going to the bathroom forever, we could finally nip this thing in the bud.
I climbed up a nearby hill and tried to get out of sight of the bus, then made my urinary contribution to nature, hoping not to be seen. I’m not sure if anyone saw me, but even if they had, I’m pretty sure no one would have cared. I felt bad for the ladies, and I didn’t see any of them which were brave or bold enough to attempt to squat nearby.
I thought how terrible a double-standard it was that men could pee in public without any social stigmas attached, but it was much tougher for women. For instance, in Thailand where I had lived for almost a year, it was nothing to see a taxi driver standing off on the side of the road with his taxi parked, not even trying to hide the act of taking a giant piss, even in the city on busy roads. Well, I’m pretty lucky I can pee standing up, I suppose, and I’ll take it. It’s a small consolation for having to die in wars.
Moments later we were all back on the bus and before you knew it, we had arrived in Rijeka at the bus terminal. It wasn’t looking good for me as I followed the map along with our progress on the bus. We had come down a very steep, narrow canyon to enter town right near where I had originally planned, or so I thought, to camp for the night. Ok, this was going to be tough, since my original spot seemed to be inaccessible from anywhere.
I got off the bus and made my way more towards the center of town, then I headed up a hill and just tried to go as high up as I could, or what ended up being about a kilometer or two. It was a steep climb up streets, up stairs, through a park and past a museum, and finally over a hill crossing a main road, then up a narrow and winding road into strictly residential territory.
I didn’t think I was going to have much success as everything was packed in tight, with lots of houses but few openings to any forest area. I thought to give up my search and just head back down, but I decided to keep going anyway. I got a dirty look from one of the guys who lived in one of the houses, but I eventually made it up a hill and found the power station, located right next to Fitness Center Spartacus.
Fitness Center Spartacus didn’t look like a fitness center at all, it looked more like a house with a gate around it with a giant tub of water in front. I thought maybe I’d try to jump the fence later that night and take a dip to bathe, but I’m glad I decided against it. I really didn’t need to illegally enter someone’s private, gated property just to wash myself. The risk wasn’t worth the reward.
I walked around the power station compound and into the nearby woods- no good camping spots to speak of, too many rocks, too much slanted elevation, and in some parts, it looked like there might have already been someone living there as I discovered a scooter helmet and some clothes in what looked to be a squatter’s camp.
I noticed a large tower for the power lines across the road, and behind it, a giant thick wooded area. I slipped behind the bushes once cars had driven past and figured this would probably suffice for a camping spot, even though there were apartments about 50 meters away and I could hear noise. I decided to stay there for the night.
I heard lots of voices and what sounded like some type of makeshift party in the woods to the opposite side, and there were lots of trails in the woods near where I had chosen a spot. Well, this wasn’t going to be easy, but I was willing to give it a try. Suddenly, it started pouring down rain.
I quickly attempted to assemble my tent, but it had been a couple of years since I had put my tent together, back during my time in Taiwan when I would go off-grid camping on the weekends outside of towns.
By the time I got my tent together, I was soaking wet and so was my tent. Well, there was my bath for the evening, whether I liked it or not. I began to wring my clothes out once the rainfall subsided and kept my tent cage only halfway up in an attempt to not attract any attention from cars passing by that might see me.
The night was a little bit awkward and uncomfortable. People parked their cars nearby and hung out, looking out at the view of the bay. Fortunately though, no one saw me or detected me, and no one took any of the trails that went directly through where I was camping. I packed everything up in the morning and headed back towards the power station to a flat area where I rolled a spliff and took a rest to mentally prepare for the day’s hike.
My target for the day? Doricici Dog Beach, about 10 kilometers away, south of Rijeka. My first night was a success. I had stayed protected and gone undetected.
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