As we were most unfortunately informed, upon our arrival to Zagreb, there is no direct train from Zagreb to Split right now. They are performing an upgrade to the line that will drop it from an eight hour ride to a mere five, but that was little solace to us as we stood there, in the train station, not sure what to do. One of the very friendly locals did help us by telling that we could either take the train to Knin and from there take a bus, or simply take the bus that would be going by Knin all the way from Zagreb to Split. Feeling like taking it a little easy, we went the bus route, which wasn’t that expensive and also afforded the chance to see the scenery from a distance, without having to go to the large expense of renting a car.
The bus was easy to find and get on to, but it was a bit irritating to have paid for the ride and then having to pay a bit more to store our luggage underneath the bus.
Onwards we went, through rolling hills and green fields. We saw people farming in small plots and others lunching in their backyards. We saw the war damage in Karlovac.
It was an uneventful trip in general, until we reached a small cafe stop where everyone jumped off and grabbed some lunch. We had food with us and were “fortunate” enough to see one of the bus drivers (they drive in pairs) get off the bus and run with breakneck speed to the back of the engines. He then ran back around to the front of the bus. Apparently nothing ended up being the problem as he leisurely strolled out and got some food.
Back on to the bus we piled, filling all the seats and the bus slowly made its was through the rolling hills that gave way to steeper terrain and the beginnings of the jagged peaks that lead to the ocean.
As we started to make our way down from the mountains, the bus cabin started to smell of an odor akin to a burning clutch. The smell intensified as the bus suddenly veered from the road on a turn out. The engine choked and sobbed as it gave one puff and up from its innards a large puff of smoke came out of the engine compartment on our side of the bus. As I turned to look at it, the smoke quickly shook hands with a tremendous ball of flame that leaped up the side of the bus. The bus driver was quickly on the scene with a fire extinguisher that put out the flames, but did little to stop the smoke.
The people on the bus looked around like cows, until some of them got it into their heads to get off the rolling bomb that we were sitting on.
Once a safe distance away, we stood and watched as they began ripping the bus and its engine apart. It was when they started pulling out the molten pieces of metal that I realized this vehicle was not moving soon.
Of course, our sideshow did not go unnoticed as the cars on the road went by on the narrow mountain road. Two got too close to on another and clipped their rear view mirrors, which in turn caused more traffic.
Finally, after an hour and a half, another bus cruised over the hill and pulled up along side of our shell of a carriage. Happily we all bordered the bus, only to find that they had sent a bus with five less seats than the one that we were on, which was full. So, of the next hour and a half a few people had to stand. Not the worst of things, since we had narrowly escaped a flaming demise.
We arrived in Split, missing what was apparently an excellent football match, and were greeted by the owner of a room who took us in, which is another tale for another time.