As the sun sets we are leaving Continental Croatia behind. In order to get to the Adriatic Sea, we have one last obstacle to face, the mighty Velebit mountain range (5700 ft. at its highest peak). Desolate and beautiful it was finally conquered some 15 years ago, when Croatian Highway A1 was built, and a 3-mile-long tunnel was drilled through its heart allowing passage to all regardless of the weather or the season.
We are ignoring the highway and crossing Velebit the old fashioned way, across the saddle using the scenic route first built in 1850s during rule of the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I. Dramatic route slithers like a serpent up the south side of the mountain that is completely barren, with only its limestone insides exposed. It connects the crystal blue sea to the green forests and pastures, where we came from. Some of the best examples of karst topography can be seen here.
Rugged and desolate, Velebit mountain range is a Nature Park with two National Parks within its range, safeguarding many species of diverse plant and animal life. Park is a very popular hiking ground for numerous international and domestic tourists, but we will not have time to explore it. We take a brake at the saddle and try to take in all of the grandeur that Velebit is commanding on us. I try to take away with me its stillness and permanence that at times I miss so much.
As we take pictures, excitement over the view quiets down, conversation becomes obsolete, sun disappears and we are slowly wrapped in a blanket of dusk. Quietness and the coolness of the night surround us as we look at the Island of Rab, our last destination. I can now tangibly foresee the end of our journey and a wave of sadness washes over me.
More about National Park Sjeverni Velebit: http://www.np-sjeverni-velebit.hr/
More about National Park Paklenica: http://www.np-paklenica.hr/en/