Just Go Man: Hiking and Wild Camping in a Foreign Land During the Worldwide “Pandemic” (Ch. 6)

Just Go Man: Hiking and Wild Camping in a Foreign Land During the Worldwide "Pandemic"
Just Go Man: Hiking and Wild Camping in a Foreign Land During the Worldwide “Pandemic”

After eggs and toast with coffee in Bakarica, I walked along the coastline right near the water to Kraljevica. It was an overcast, gloomy morning and a lot of my clothes were wet but bagged up in a trash bag in my rucksack. I’d have to deal with that later in the day.

I arrived to the edge of town and walked along a path above the dock to the marina. “No swimming”, read the sign on the dock. “Ok, I’ll have to remember that… no swimming, no fun, no nothing. Got it”.

I walked through a park onto a street lined with residential buildings, then down a road towards the center of town. It was a small town so I’d have to make sure I didn’t make a wrong turn and miss it somehow, plus my phone map was a little unreliable at times because I didn’t have a phone number or a SIM card, but the map still kinda worked, don’t ask me how though.

I arrived at the town center momentarily where there was a row of cafes on the opposite side of a street with a bakery, and a small market located down the way near a building with a sign on it that said “hostel”. “Ok, I’ll have to remember that hostel too, just in case.”

My plan was to see how long and how many consecutive nights I could go without renting a room, but since I’d never done anything like this before, I had no idea how long I would last before my nerves would break down and I’d come crawling back to “civilization”.

I walked along the sidewalk and paused to look at my phone map to decide which cafe I’d visit in order to charge my computer, access the WiFi and then eat the items I’d buy at the bakery. An old man with a white beard and glasses walked by me, staring at me, but he stopped and asked grumpily “Do you need help?”. I replied “No, do you need help?” He just shook his head, in a manner somehow even more grumpy than before and kept walking.

I went into a cafe and set up my computer, charged my cell phone, and perhaps most important, made a long overdue, much needed deposit in the restroom. While I had taken a crap in the woods a day or two prior, I’m not the biggest fan of answering nature’s call when I’m actually in nature. There’s just too many complex mechanics involved- the squatting, the clearing of the landing zone and your shoes, and of course, the wiping. Unless you have been holding it for over a day and it’s guaranteed to pop out dry and hard, you’re looking at a wipe that never ends, and it’s less fun when you’re out hiking miles in the heat, sweating all the while afterwards.

After spending a few hours in the cafe, I checked my map and decided I’d walk 2 or 3 miles over to the west side of the peninsula, to where the beach was and you could swim. After all, I’d need a bath later and the map appeared to show a long stretch of solely wooded area along the way, which I figured, wrongly, would make a great spot to pitch my tent and start drying out my wet clothes.

I set out again and walked up a hill, then through a few residential nooks with apartments and houses and came out to a clearing along a long road. I would have preferred just making a straight line from the town to the beach, but there was an industrial yard there which prohibited such direct travel. The map on my phone had stopped working for one reason or another, so I couldn’t even get an accurate idea of where I was, but I assumed that since the town was so small and I’d looked the map over extensively before leaving the cafe, I must have been going the right way.

After walking along this road for a while and being passed by only a few cars, I ducked into the woods and went back about 30 yards from the road. I thought for sure it would be a great spot to set up my tent early, smoke a spliff and hang dry some of my clothes. I had everything set up and laid out when I heard dogs barking in the near distance. “Great”, I thought. What were the odds that in the middle of nowhere, I’d set up a tent in the woods and there’d be a house somewhere nearby with dogs who, I suspected, could tell someone, or something, was out there- me.

I smoked my spliff and laid in my tent. Not a whole lot of sun was getting through the overhanging tree branches so my clothes weren’t exactly getting as dry as I’d have liked, and the dogs kept barking. This time I heard human voices yelling, sounding a little pissed off. I couldn’t tell who they were yelling at, but this sequence repeated itself 4 or 5 times over the next hour or two, and I realized I had a decision to make.

It would be dark soon, so did I want to risk being the reason why these dogs would not stop barking and people kept yelling, seeming to be more angry with every episode as the night went on? I made an executive decision and surmised I’d be in for a very awkward and uncomfortable night full of anxiety and drama, so I packed up everything and deconstructed my tent, then headed off back into town to check out that hostel I’d seen earlier. It’s not an easy decision to cancel your camping plans especially after you have set everything up and are already laying down, trying to relax and get ready for bed, but when in doubt, just go man.

I got back into town and it was already getting dark. I walked to the hostel building and went inside. It was a small building with a tourist agency office on the ground floor. The hostel itself was on the 2nd floor but there was no reception or desk with employees. Instead, there was a sign on the front door of the building with a phone number to call. Not having a working phone number myself to make a call, I just set my bags down inside the door on the ground floor and sat down inside, out of view from the outside world. I was hoping to catch someone staying in the hostel who I could then ask if they knew the owner to see if they’d relay a message for me.

That someone never came, and after an hour and a half I was dozing off, still seated inside. By now it was around 10:30 pm and I figured it was a lost cause. I walked up to the second floor again to see if I could hear or see any signs of life, but it didn’t appear anyone was there. An automatic sensor light came on and I noticed there was a camera overhead one of the doors.

Walking back down the stairs, I noticed a nook halfway up the staircase, waist-high, which curved around a corner. It almost looked like a small attic. In the space on the right side was a full-length cardboard cutout for the tourist agency.

I had an idea. I went and got all my stuff. Seeing that the camera didn’t actually cover the area where the nook was located, I piled my belongings into the area, then hid them behind the cardboard cutout for the tourist agency, then I crept around the corner and laid on my side. It was hot and there was no ventilation, but I figured it was better than sitting on the ground floor all night. I positioned my body as closely as I could up against the wall which angled back and away from the opening to the nook itself. Just walking by and not peering around the corner, I would not be visible to anyone.

I fell asleep quickly on my side and awoke about an hour later to someone coming up the stairs. I didn’t know what to do, so I just laid there as quietly as possible and tried not to move or make a sound. The sensor light came on, but whoever it was did not enter any of the doors on the second floor. It seemed they were there to check on what was going on and to see why the sensor light had come on, and maybe someone saw me through the camera.

Fortunately, the guy who came to check everything out did not see my luggage behind the cardboard cutout and he did not get up on the nook level and peep around the corner. It was a bit nerve-wracking but he eventually left and I went back to sleep, catching a solid 5 or 6 hours sleeping in that nook on the floor. I had lucked out and I didn’t have to pay for a room, and best of all, I didn’t get caught by the sentry.

Just Go Man: Hiking and Wild Camping in a Foreign Land During the Worldwide "Pandemic"
Available in Paperback and Amazon Kindle

Published by Thomas Clark

Retired welder, motorcycle fixer-upper, cigar aficianado, CBD user, Vietnam vet and proud grandfather of a US Navy submariner