Early start today to be up with dad before he left for the airport. Girls were still in a morning slump when he left at 8. I walked up to his car with him and said goodbye. Not too sad as will be seeing him in less than 2 months when we get back to oz. He texted later so his phone was working (one less thing for him to worry about!) and he'd obviously managed to get to the airport.
Jason had brought the car down and parked it outside the apartment so I finished packing and sorted out the car. Will have to do another post office trip soon! We got everything organised and left around 10:30, posting some postcards an getting some fresh burek and bread on the way. Up onto the highway and bye bye Dubrovnik - for now. We travelled along the gorgeous Coastal road again - such beautiful scenery. The blue/green Adriatic with lush dark green islands rearing up out of the water and outlined by a strip of grey rock between vegetation and sea. We passed Mali Ston again with the wall and the oyster/mussel beds. We passed through the Coastal stretch of Bosnia and back into Croatia, but not before the Bosnian border guard had given us a hard time, demanding our vehicle greencard and details of our trip. It wasn't until further up north that we turned eastward and crossed again into Bosnia to head to Mostar. Asked again at this border for the greencard but a slightly nicer guard. We basically followed the river east so were in a wide flat valley with rocky mountains at either side. Appearances just told us that this was a poor country. Old and damaged cars on the road, almost soviet-like concrete block houses, many in ruins and concrete construction only half finished and no sign of progress. I was peeling meg a mandarin on a stretch of country road when Jason remarked that you could 'really smell the fruit'. Looking up I saw that there were several roadside stalls selling freshpicked mandarins and he hadn't noticed what I was doing! There was a coachload of tourists who'd been picking their own bagfuls of fruit.
When we reached Mostar Serena was at a loss so we drove around following the streetsigns. This meant a fairly in-depth tour of the riverside town and my gosh it was run down and dirt poor. Graffiti, rubbish, broken buildings, people aged beyond their years. We eventually got close to the old town and were waved into a parking lot by some men, obe of whom said he was a tourist guide and that this was secure parking for 10 krunas per hour. Jason, having been very keen to visit Mostar, was less than thrilled to be leaving our car in this place! He'd seen pictures of the Mostar bridge and it's collapse during the 1993 conflict and the lady on our boat trip had told him about the souks there. Once we got into the old town it was indeed very pretty. Cobbled streets, lined with stalls that were selling a much more eastern variety of tourist tat! A very Turkish feel to the souvenirs and town. Meg, having not spent any of her pocket money so far and thus accumulated a fair amount, bought herself a wooden painted recorder. We got to the newly built (as of 2005) 'old bridge', made of marble and a steep arched affair. Just as we got to a point where we could see it a young man in speedos climbed over the railing at the top, stood puffed out like an Adonis for a moment and then gracefully dropped his knees and flew down into the green river below. Apparently it's a daily ritual. The bridge was a lovely sight. From the top one direction the view was a bit utilitarian and concrete but in the other old stone buildings and mosques followed the curve high above the river, steep lanes twisted in-between and far off, the stony mountains towered over everything. Such a pity that the loveliness was so encapsulated in the small area around that bridge. From what I can gather the town was divided, Muslims vs Christians. Such a timeless and pointless tale. Meg and I had a quick look in the markets and she bought a little pink bracelet with an evil eye which she pulled and broke once back at the car. Her money! Was quite a good lesson for Emily today that meg was able to buy things whereas she wasn't. Then she found her purse full of English money which Jason suggested she exchange at the bank of mum so she is now flush again!!
Happily reunited with our car, we set off for Split. Once back in Croatia we travelled on the other side of the river and then turned north winding through countryside and up mountains before joining the motorway. The villages we passed through are so poor and decrepit. Fascinating the difference in quality of life here compared to more northern Europe. The countryside is beautiful in an arid kind of way. Saw autumnal colours for the first time down here. Very low growing plants and trees and silvery rock peeking through more and more the higher the ground.
We arrived in Split around 5. Was surprised at how big a city it is! Quite sprawling with lots of low rise apartment blocks all look like they've been rapidly built in the last decade or so. Our campsite is on the coast about 6 kms south. Very nice. Hardly any other tents so we had our pick, we set up close to the beach and one of the playground but also an amenity block only to find that the block had closed 5 days ago for winter. So a bit of a hike to the loo! A great site, three playgrounds in total and a bar/restaurant that we had dinner in. Lots of people staying here (though not in tents!) and the most young children we've seen in a while. The girls are excited to get up and play tomorrow!