Have you ever felt like the universe is trying to tell you something? Well I’m still waiting for the message but I had the feeling numerous times on my recent trip to Croatia.
My Wife The Baking Backpacker booked the trip to Croatia as a bit of a cheer up as things really hadn’t been going our way of late. It was a pragmatic destination as usual. Don’t get me wrong Croatia has always been high on our list of places to visit but the flight deals being offered by Norwegian were just too good to pass up and money was tight.
For around £40 each we had managed to get return flights from London Gatwick to Dubrovnik for 10 days and had found an equally cheap Airbnb apartment overlooking Banji beach just outside the city walls. If you need an apartment in Dubrovnik I cannot recommend this place enough it was just perfect. Dubrovnik AirBnb
The first warning sign was when my bad luck back home turned worse and we realised we had to return home 3 days earlier than planned. Some people may have cancelled the trip there and then but we decided to forge ahead and luckily our lovely Airbnb host refunded the 3 days which covered the cost of a new return flight.
We were all set, determined not to let problems in the UK ruin our trip. We got everything packed and even managed to get an early night as our flight was at 6am.
Hurdle number 2 arose immediately upon waking up on the morning of our flight. 3am leaves most people a bit bleary eyed but I’d taken it to the extreme. When I awoke feeling refreshed and excited as I always do before a trip I was alarmed to find that I couldn’t open my right eye. A quick look in the mirror showed it was swollen up like a golf ball and the eye itself was so bloodshot I was concerned it would start attracting sharks & vampires alike.
Multiple doses of brufen, antihistamines and a cold compress managed to get the swelling down after about half an hour leaving me with a weepy bloodshot and extremely misty right eye.
Once again, my stubborn gene decided only having one working eye wasn’t going to stop us so we chucked our bags in the car and set off for the airport.
Chucking our bags in the car we set off only to discover that I had forgot to fill the car car up with petrol the day before. It turns out that none of our local petrol stations are open at that time in the morning. We tried every station on the way out of town with no success and eventually had to drive to the next Town, taking us considerably out of our way before we finally foundsomewhere to fill up.
Driving wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, I could see well enough and the roads weren’t busy at that time in the morning the problem was that we were now running very, very late and had to push it to get to the long stay carpark.
Along the way, we discovered that I had accidently listed our arrival time as 6am, the time of the flight rather than the time we would be arriving at the carpark. Luckily for us the barriers still let us through and I roughly parked the car before jumping on the bus to the airport that was doing its very best to leave without us.
We’d made it to the airport with enough time to check in, get through security and I even brought a pair of shorts on the way to the gate as I’d forgotten to pack any (They didn’t fit of course).
We arrived at our gate with half an hour to spare, our heart rates started to return to normal and I’d even found some eye drops to ease the irritation in my now completely red and streaming eye. I decided it would be a good idea to keep my sunglasses on until we had taken off. Just in case someone thought I had contracting an eye melting disease and decided to drag me of the flight ala United Airlines.
The flight from London to Dubrovnik is only 2 hours so normally I would have just broken out my Kindle and tried to make a dent in my recent book but understandably I was exhausted and slept almost the entire flight. That was until an announcement was made informing us that we may not be able to land.
I dozed on the plane and awoke to see the beautiful Croatian coastline bathed in glorious sunshine stretching out below me. Then it happened; An announcement was made that Dubrovnik airport was experiencing extremely high winds which may prevent our plane landing.
I was convinced of the announcements authenticity almost immediately as we started to descend. I’ve been through some bad turbulence in my travels but this was nothing short of bat shit crazy. There were no sudden drops or bounces but rather the plane was getting blown sideways and tilting almost halfway over with each gust. Unsurprisingly the Pilot decided against landing the plane upside down and we were soon climbing back into the sky.
The announcement was made, we would be diverting to Split. One unfortunate young American lady obviously hadn’t understood the announcement and thought they were splitting the plane like a train would divide at a station. She got herself quite worked up trying to figure out how this was possible and how it would help us land. Once the air stewardess explained that Split was another City in Croatia the now calm Lady returned to her seat muttering about how Split was a stupid name for a City.
We reached Split in about 20 mins and the landing was smooth but then we spent the next two hours sitting on the plane whilst the ground team figured out the best plan. It seemed that there were three options. Dump us all off there, bus us to Dubrovnik or wait for the wind to die down and make another attempt. Whilst this was taking place the ground crew noticed marks on the plane’s engines and the airport authorities demanded an engineer investigation. It turns out that there had been no fewer than three bird strikes on the engines so it’s a good job our pilot aborted the landing attempt.
The decision was finally made that all 140 passengers would be bussed to Dubrovnik. Three coaches were organised and within 30 minutes of disembarking we were hustled onto the coaches with a free cheese and ham roll and a bottle of water for our 4-hour journey.
I was further amused by the young American Lady who couldn’t understand why it took 4 hours to drive and only 20 minutes to fly. Her mind was completely blown when it was explained that we had to drive through Bosnia to get there. To be fair though her Sprite bottle had been refilled numerous times with vodka miniatures so that couldn’t have helped. I had visions of her being poured off the bus at the border crossings.
During the journey, which I must say was stunningly beautiful and I’m glad I took it. I was doing some research and discovered that it was not unusual to have problems at Dubrovnik airport. I discovered that airports are graded from A-C. Category A airports are those with standard landings, Category B is defined as “slightly out of the ordinary” where-as Category C airports are for experienced pilots who must undergo specific simulator training to land there. Also, known as ‘shit your pants landings’.
Dubrovnik is a category B airport and can apparently be rather tricky on the approach even without the high winds which are also common. A local lady told me that winds blast down towards the city and the airport from the high plains and often cause problems but they normally subside by early afternoon.
Despite all the hurdles we made it to Dubrovnik and were intent on making the most of our trip. Some people may have been annoyed by all the issues and delays but I’ve done enough travelling to know that it’s easier to just embrace it. Without a doubt the extra bus ride through Croatia & Bosnia enriched my travel experience. I didn’t sleep a wink as I was transfixed by the snow-capped mountains, lush green pine forests and orange roofed houses.
During the trip I saw the obligatory goat on the roof of a shed eating the leaves of tree and an array of humorous road signs warning people not to drive off cliffs, bear and wolf crossing signs (or Bear vs Wolf? Who knows) and an intriguing one that looked like an African Warthog.
Particularly beautiful were the colourful roadside shacks selling oranges and coffee, precariously built along the cliffside roads.
As soon as we arrived in Dubrovnik the sheer beauty of the city washed away any weariness we may have had.
Unlike this cat who lived next door to our apartment; I was not at all grumpy. I was just happy to have made it too Dubrovnik for what would be an amazing trip.