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Week 9 – Enjoying the Salty Waters Before New Mountains

Week 9: Monday 24/08 – Sun 30/08

Krapanj Island and its underwater beauties – Monday

Another sleepless night and a breakfast under the bit of shadow our camping pitch offers start a long and hot day. A good side of the heat is that we are drying figs that we collected on our way to Sibenik, they look tasty.

After a failed attempt to catch a bus from Zaboric to Brodarica, we wait an hour in the shade of the bus stop hoping to catch the next one. At 1pm we finally hop on the bus. After a few minutes we realize we are going too far, when we manage to stop we are further than the village and the bus driver manages to get 20 kunas from us without giving us a ticket, a recipe or an explanation. Frustrated, we walk back to the village centre, descend to the coast and take a ferry that in a few minutes drops us on Krapanj island. This tiny island is famous for its sponges and its lively underwater world. It’s for the second reason that we are here. We walk until the northern coast of the island and start snorkelling. The sea here is shallow for hundred metres from the coast, which means a lot to discover with our goggles. We spend a good hour swimming between fishes, spotting corals, sea urchins, algae and crabs. There is little people on this part of the island: we can enjoy the spot as well as a bench in the shadow all the afternoon.

Back on land, we reach the bus stop of Brodarica. A bus stops by, we ask if it stops in Zaboric, but as soon as the bus driver realizes we speak English he starts saying “no, no, no…” and leaves. After a few minutes trying to hitch-hike -even if we are pretty sure it won’t work in Covid’s days-, we decide to walk back. We walk 40 minutes on the side of the road with cars passing by all along. A bath in Zaboric beach refreshes us as well as the beer we enjoy after showering.

The night is almost fresh and a few drops of water reach the dried soil.

Visiting Split before taking a ferry to Ancona – Tuesday

We are happy to leave this campsite. Even if this is not the best summer season for Zaboric, the camping was almost full, the village still crowded -mostly with Croatians- and the heat is just unbearable.

Saturday night we managed to buy a very cheap ferry ticket Split-Ancona, that will allow us to reach Italy avoiding passing by the places we have already visited on our way to Slovenia. The ferry is leaving from split tonight at 7:30pm. Therefore, we decide to spend the early afternoon exploring Split, Croatian second-largest city. Here the Roman emperor Diocletian built its palace in the year 305. The city later become Byzantine and then was controlled by the Republic of Venice. Later on it was Napoleonic time, then the Austrians, annexed to Italy during World War II. After the Socialist period, under Yugoslavia, Split, and the whole country, got finally independent in 1991.

Today, the city-centre is a UNESCO site worth of protection. Practically, the Diocletian palace now hosts restaurants and souvenir shops.

After a few hours waiting to board on our ferry heading to Italy, we finally leave the coast in the sunset light enjoying a last glimpse of Split. We try sleeping in the kids’ playground of the ferry, it’s the only soft piece of flooring.

Ancona and the Regional Nature Park of Conero – Wednesday

Ancona city centre is nice and the morning is not too hot. We enjoy walking a couple of hours around the town after a sleepless night. What we liked the most of the old town was the “Fontana del Calamo”, also known as fountain of the thirteen “cannelle”. You can guess why looking at the picture.

The objective of today is to understand how to deal with the latest act approved by the Italian government and entered into force last Thursday and to visit the Regional Nature Park of Conero. The first, is a law stating that people entering Italy from Croatia are obliged to make a Covid test in the 48h following their arrival on the national territory. We try to figure out where we are supposed to get tested, where we can spend the self-isolation until the test day and which health institution we are supposed to contact -in Italy each Region has a wide independence in managing their own health system.

Conero coast is beautiful. The Mediterranean brushwood managed to install in this limestone rocks that deepens abruptly into the sea. From the parking of Badia di San Pietro -an ancient monastery with a view on the Adriatic coast- we follow a trail towards “Belvedere Sud”, then we reach the “Passo del Lupo” and descend vertically towards the sea until the beach of the two sisters -Spiaggia delle due Sorelle. The two sisters are the two rocks dipping in the sea at the edge of this famous beach.

Even if it’s still very hot, along all the trail we can enjoy the shade of pines, Juniperus oxycedrus and Arbutus unedo… We end up doing some 500m of vertical distance, which counts as double in this heat. The beach itself is spectacular from above, however, getting closer, the screams of the people, the boats coming back and forth announcing their destinations and the canoes make it hard to enjoy the beautiful location. We discover that almost everyone has come by boat to the beach -the path is supposed to be closed and any access is forbidden.

Completely exhausted, we spend the night in a beautiful parking with other vans. With a bit of privacy and a nice view on the “Macchia mediterranea” we can finally enjoy a proper shower. We installed a mosquito net that allows us to sleep fresh and long.

To Covid or not to Covid: on our way to confinement in Gran Sasso National Park – Thursday

We spend most of our day trying to figure how to comply with the Covid act. The procedure consists in the following: contacting the regional health authority, file an online questionnaire, waiting to be contacted back, present ourselves to the test laboratory, get tested, wait for the results. If the results are positive -therefore, the test is negative- we are free to move. All along the procedure we are supposed to be in self isolation, not moving from our van and at the address we communicate to the health authority. Doesn’t seem to be complicated: we decide where to spend these days -it’s supposed to last no more than 4 working day the procedure- in Campo Imperatore, where, if we are lucky, we can also walk in the nature not entering in contact with anybody -this spot has free drinkable water, public toilets, and it’s the departure point of the most spectacular itineraries in Gran Sasso National Park.

After a first successful call with the ‘Covid call centre’ we are told that we need an Italian phone number because they cannot reach foreign numbers and they are supposed to call us day-by-day to have update on our health conditions. Well… we decide to drive towards Campo Imperatore and stop on the way to buy an Italian Sim card and do the grocery for the next days on confinement to avoid any further stop in crowded places. We find a shopping mall -the only place where we could find a phone company- subscribe a phone contract, do a bit of grocery -we were trying to avoid big supermarkets but today it’s like this.

Trying to call back the ‘Covid call centre’ reveals to be impossible. No one answers any more -and this will go on for the next days. We keep driving towards our destination and calling the health authority.

We decide to stop a few kilometres before Campo Imperatore in a deserted picnic area just outside the forest of Vado di Sole. We are officially inside the “Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga” and it’s wild, majestic, windy and finally cold. The sun setting on the rock wall leaves us speechless.

A National Park of large prairies and few harsh peaks – Friday

Divided in 12 districts, Gran Sasso National Park is the third largest protected area of Italy. We approach it from North-East, the ‘Marche’ side, where rich and fresh beech forests cover the steep road. Vado di sole marks the passage between green forests to yellow prairies. The landscape transforms suddenly, here is the wind that dictates its harsh rules. Indeed, the only vegetation capable to survive with this constant and strong wind stays low on the ground, no trees or bushes. The area of Campo Imperatore is part of the project LIFE praterie, protecting high grasslands through the sustainable management of pastures and tourists flows: never leave the trails in the park! Here the grass cover the large plateaus and the mountains until the limestone rocks dominating the lunar landscape. Rocks are home to the endemic Abruzzo Edelweiss, a rare specie of flower that can survive in these extreme conditions.

In this period of the year everything is dry, the blades of grass moving in the wind like waves in a yellow ocean. Sheeps, cows and horses are taken here grazing during the warm season. We can see some herds and the cheese and meet vendors on the side of the road. Street food in the park is the trend, and ‘arrosticini’ is the meal not to miss -if you aren’t vegetarian like us-, sheep meat skewer, normally sold 1 euro the piece.

Around 5pm we finally park in Campo Imperatore -2000m- after having prepared tomorrow’s climb. We decided to combine two via ferrata in order to reach the top of “Corno Piccolo” 2655m, from here we are supposed to have the most scenic view of Corno Grande, 2912m, the highest mountain of Italian Apennines. It is also one of the most exposed itinerary, traversing harsh rock and not requiring trad-climbing equipment. It will also reveal to be the best choice for a crowded summertime Saturday, the Corno Grande will be full of people on a huge queue to reach the summit.

Two Via Ferrata at Gran Sasso: Brizio and Danesi. 15km between the rocks and the grasslands – Saturday

Time for climbing adventures in Gran Sasso National Park. Check out the report of our itinerary combining two Via ferrata: Brizio and Danesi.

We wanted to go climbing but it’s too windy – Sunday

During the night the van has been shaken by the wind. In the morning the situation doesn’t seem to be better.

After breakfast we decide to face the strong wind and see if we can climb. There is a wonderful climbing spot called ‘Pilastro di Monte Aquila’, some 40min from Piazzale Campo Imperatore. They call it a ‘magia di calcare’: a limestone magic. Not many people are climbing here, this is why the rock has a perfect grip.

When we arrive to the spot, we realize it’s way to windy to even try climbing. Too bad we brought our climbing material to have a walk and get some air. We then decide to reach Duca degli Abruzzi Mountain hut -2388m. Some strong gusts of wind make it hard to stand. We look at the hut from outside and descend to the parking without stopping.

Back in the van we eat pasta and decide to drive towards a safer place where we can sleep without having the impression someone is shaking our van -in breach of the Covid act, by the way. The road descends through the grasslands, the herds and the wind. After about 20min on the road to Fonte Cerreto, we spot a small parking on the left side of the road. Here there are trees growing and green forests conquering the steep and windproof mountainsides. We deduce that it must be less windy, and we are right.

The moment we step out of the van, a white dog comes to meet us. It’s a ‘Maremmano’ shepherd and it’s a she-dog. She looks hungry: we give her biscuits, bread and water. Scared she takes the food from the ground and, as she starts trusting us, from our hands. She drinks two bowls of water and leaves. To us she goes under the name of Bella.

We are starting to develop a strategy to shower inside. It’s almost viable, not comfortable, not enjoyable, but does the job.

Tagliatelle with pesto, a movie and a bit of reading end our day.

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