Senj is a small coastal town with little more than a layby for a bus station. I had only planned to transit through it, but what would an adventure be if plans didn’t change?
A Spontaneous Change of Plans
After getting very little sleep in Zadar the night before I left for Senj, I decided to stay a night in Senj and get a good night’s sleep before starting my hike.
I also, frustratingly, still had work to finish, so staying in Senj gave me the chance to connect to wifi, finish up, and head into the mountains with a clear head.
I like being free to be flexible when I’m travelling, but in years past the risk associated with that has always been getting stuck without affordable accommodation and having to pay a fortune to overnight somewhere spontaneously.
Thanks to AirBnB, deciding to change my plans in Senj was as straightforward as opening the app on my phone, searching for accommodation in Senj, choosing the cheapest option that met my criteria, and clicking book. The payment went through PayPal so I didn’t even have to enter card details. It literally took me a couple of minutes, on my phone, lying in bed, and it cost me £21. SUCH EASE!
I was unprepared for how stunning the bus journey from Zadar to Senj would be. It follows the coastal road and the journey itself is a pleasure – a distracting one if you’re meant to be working!
After a windy journey littered with magnetic views, we pulled up in Senj, the ticket inspector helped me with my embarrassingly large Hi-I’m-A-Tourist pack, and I wandered up the hill towards my AirBnB studio attempting to exude the air that I knew what I was doing.
I’ve long since learned that the kind of attention I get when I exude the air that I don’t know what I’m doing, is not the kind of attention I like.
The instructions for finding the studio and its entrance key safe were frustratingly poor and, unusually for AirBnB, my hostess was out of town. After a hot session of wandering up and down the same street messaging my hostess and feeling conspicuous, I eventually managed to get in to the studio, only to find that the gas was off.
In fact, this was easily resolved, but I was already feeling self conscious, so instead of messaging my host again immediately, I decided that my hunger would be a good motivation to practice lighting my camping stove.
It’s an MSR WhisperLite International, and as with all liquid stoves, is a bit fiddly until you get the hang of it, so I wanted to feel a bit more confident before I headed off.
At this point I was (wrongly) imagining that I there would be a number of nights where I ended up camping alone, outside huts that were damaged or closed, cooking on my camping stove.
Leave the Door Open
I unpacked my stove on the studio floor and left the front door wide open to ventilate the flat. I was exhausted and feeling a little insecure about all the moving parts of this trip. Would I be able to master the stove in the wind? Would my bag be too heavy to handle? What would I do now I’d used up my buffer day? Did I really know what I was doing? It would have been easy to get overwhelmed, but I put my brain into Determination Gear, and tackled the step in front of me: lighting the fire, cooking some food.
The few children and passersby who walked past waved and greeted me through the open door, and before long an older gentleman stood in the doorway and started chatting away to me in Croatian. I signalled to him that I didn’t speak more than the few words I had already used, but he persisted. Did I speak German? Did I speak Dutch? Even after finding that we didn’t have a language in common, he continued chatting and asking questions.
Apparently it was on me to figure out what he was saying, which seemed fair enough since it was his country, and since he was so multi-lingual. With a bit of help from the Google Translate app, we managed surprisingly well – so well, in fact that having asked me how much my little studio cost, he invited me to check out his far superior apartments for rent.
I agreed to go, though I was careful to follow in such a way that if I had mis-evaluated the situation I would still be able to get away quickly. Sure, I was busy, couldn’t communicate and was aware that I was about to follow a total stranger, but one of the great joys of travel is unexpected encounters.
Besides, you never know when you might be offered coffee and thus far my own stove was not alight!
His apartments certainly were superior to the studio I had rented, though they were patently more expensive too. We looked around, admired the views and patios, balconies and conservatories, and finally perched on some benches in a garage-cum-games room, gazing out to the sea and attempting to decipher one another’s sentences.
I wasn’t offered coffee so when we walked back up to mine, I offered him That Which I Would Have Liked To Receive, but he shook his head and we went our separate ways.
For me, that meant it was time to figure out the buses so I could map my way out of this beautiful coastal town, and finally head into the mountains.