Are we done yet?

Since touching down in Zagreb it has become chillingly obvious to us both that we are ill prepared for the coming winter months. The time to take action to remedy this situation is now.

Pam’s work life for the previous fifteen years has involved going into shopping centers and malls on a professional basis and she is loath to go anywhere near such facilities in her own time.

She accuses me of being a rampant shopaholic when I show interest in local shops (she refuses to stop at shops on our walks even if they sell things we need) and I have to really insist that our need overweighs her aversion to get her to consider helping in such ventures.

You guessed it folks, today we are going to the shopping mall. I am laying down the law.

Pam begrudging accepts her fate for the day on the condition that we make a list of the items we need prior to departure and that we only look and shop for these items alone and no others, with no distractions or deviations allowed.

The Pacsafe bag Pam purchased in Australia to protect our documentation and credit cards has disappointingly burst the main zipper. We have unsuccessfully tried to have it repaired and now urgently need to replace this. I need a lightweight warm jacket of some sort sooner rather than later. We need a Croatian phone/data SIM card for emergencies. Miscellaneous warm weather gear such as scarves and gloves. I would like to have a small backpack for the day excursions we are now having which will enable me to carry our cold and wet weather gear along with my compressed Pacerpoles to match our needs as they change throughout the day.

Pam wants to have her hair cut.

I need to find replacements for the Keen boots I purchased in Australia as the right boot split along the side early in the Camino with the following repair giving me a massive blister that I carried for the remainder of the Camino and from which I have still not fully healed. Now the left boot is splitting in the same place. The left heel sole area is worn to the point of disrupting my gait and I am sure this is adding to my left knee woes. Other than the fact that they make wide fitting shoes I am not happy with Keen.

Buying shoes is always problematic for me because of my very wide feet, we have found a Zagreb camping store online and I have researched their stock and have a couple of hopeful contenders in mind.

I lay out my plan of attack for Pam’s approval.

First we will go to the Centar Zagreb shopping center we had seen across the river on our walk yesterday. Here I hope to we will be able to find the bag, jacket, SIM card, scarf/gloves and hair salon wiping out most of our needs in one foul swoop.

From the Centar Zagreb we will make our way to IGLU sports (the camping store) which has an address on the website in the western part of Zagreb. Here I will try to find boots.

From here we return swiftly to our apartment.

Seems simple when it is laid out like this.

The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley.

As we leave, the sky is low and grey.

Ominous even.

Back to the city centre we march. A day pass for the tram service is thirty Kuna ($6 Australian) each. In no time we are gliding out across the road bridge we had walked under prior to Lake Jarun yesterday. We dismount on the corner on the far side of the bridge and commence walking past the Arena Zagreb towards the Centar Zagreb.

We had seen these two large structures across the river the previous day.

Pam say’s she is perplexed that the public transport does not take people all the way to the shopping center. I counter with the statement ‘on most other days she gives every indication of loving to walk everywhere’.

Probably not the smartest thing to say when heading to a shopping mall with Pam.

Centar Zagreb turns out to be a large modern shopping mall full of fashion and shoe stores along with a supermarket, a few electronic equipment shops and a cinema. Nothing unusual here.

The bowling alley and the casino on the top floor take us by surprise.

By the time we have had a look around Pam is complaining about ‘shoppers fatigue’. We have been here maybe fifteen minutes and purchased nothing.

Walked a thousand kilometers across Spain, never complained once about being tired.

Having gotten the lay of the land we buy the replacement bag for the precious passports and credit cards and get a down jacket for me (mmmm toasty) in rapid succession. We get a SIM card and the girl selling it offers us double the data limit as a special, things are looking good.

Pam wanders off to get her hair cut and I check out the electronic shops, I want to buy a specific bluetooth speaker so we can have some music on our next long walk. Nobody stocks the model I am looking for.

We meet again in an hour. Pam is sporting a cute bob and looking good.

We wander around looking for cheap gloves etc without much luck however Pam does find a good light long black scarf.

By now Pam is fretting, our sentences grow shorter and shorter, our replies become monosyllabic. It is mid-afternoon.

Time to get out of the mall.

The air outside smells like impending rain, there are no easy trams or buses to the address of the camping store which is a long way away. We decide to take a cab.

Our driver knows the shopping complex we are looking for and our trip is swift however he has a lot of trouble finding the IGLU store and we drive around the entire outside of the complex which centers around a large Bunnings like hardware store.

Finally we find the IGLU store which is in a small shed separate to everything else. It looks closed despite the website indicating hours from 9:00am to 8:00pm every day other than Sunday. Our taxi driver has a look at the sign on the door and tells us he thinks it will re-open after 5:00pm which is still a couple of hours away.

We decide we will walk down to the shopping complexes that we had passed a couple of kilometers back on the road to the centers to have a look at what they offer and then walk back to IGLU to check out the boots.

Before we set off Pam has a coffee at the cafe attached to the hardware store. We ask about the camping store which is next door however no one knows much about it.

The other shopping complexes lie at the far end of the busy four lane road we are on and walking there takes almost an hour. On the drive from the airport to the city I had noticed signage for Harvey Norman which is a department/electronics store that began in Australia. Now we are about to go to Hardly Normal (as we call it) in Croatia.

To Pam’s annoyance I insist on dragging her into the electronics section, her mood lightens when she hears Pearl Jam latest single Sirens playing on the sound equipment.

By now the sun is setting, we finally remember we now have a usable phone and decide to call IGLU before attempting to walk back.

The clerk at the store informs us that the store in the area we are in has been closed for some time and that they now operate from a store located near the Zagreb bus terminal (I had seen their roadside advertising yesterday).

The bus terminal is basically on the opposite side of Zagreb to which we are now on. We reconsider our plans.

I suggest we go back to our apartment and go to the store tomorrow as we are planning to catch a bus to Samobor and will be right in the area. ‘Two birds, one stone’ I say.

Pam is having none of that, ‘we don’t go shopping on our adventures, not ever’.

Finally we settle on catching another cab across town as we have no idea of public transport in our current location.

We are unable to find a cab rank and seek advice from the pharmacy that lies next to the center exit door. The pharmacy assistant tells us there is no cab rank at the center despite the signs saying otherwise and gives us a number to call to order a cab.

Pam calls the number only to be confronted by an automated service that unsurprisingly was all in Croatian.

Luckily the pharmacy assistant is a sweetheart and obligingly calls the taxi service on our behalf when Pam explains our situation.

As we wait outside for the cab in the chilly air I am very glad I now have a new warm jacket.

Our cab driver is young and tells us ‘he only speaks a little English’ and then spends the trip asking us about ‘where we are from’? ‘Australia’, ‘do we like Croatia’? ‘Love it’, ‘how long are we going to stay’? ‘Probably till January’? and many other things in very reasonable English.

If I spoke as little Croatian as he spoke English I would be very happy.

We cross Zagreb in peak hour traffic so the trip takes a while, Pam is now fretting that we won’t get back in time to have dinner again at Vegehop which closes at eight.

Finally we are at the camping store, by now my left knee is aching and I limp up the stairs to the shop which is on the second floor of a building.

The store stocks the boot I have been looking at online, they have it in the size I think might fit me, I try the boot on.

My feet are crushed immediately the moment I try to stand up. I would not be able to take ten steps in this high end hiking boot let alone walk five hundred kilometers across rough terrain in Turkey. (Pam has been looking at the Lycian Trail)

I ask if the store attendant if IGLU stocks any other boot that might fit me, he takes one look at my feet and says no.

OK then……I inform him about the IGLU website not even mentioning the closed store let alone the presence of a second one…..he tells me ‘he knows the website is bad and that the head office don’t listen to the store staff’.

I know it is not his fault but URGE TO KILL RISING.

Pam has scouted the store for small backpacks and other peripherals we may need without success in the meantime.

The afternoon has been a complete bust.

As we walk back to the tram tracks that pass the bus terminal I am sure steam is rising from the top of my head from the heat of my frustration.

By the time we have had another delicious dinner at Vegehop all is forgiven and forgotten and we are laughing and holding hands on the walk back to the apartment.

Not every day can be a diamond.


Pam and Mick

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