Papuk Nature Park, for me, is one of the most usual places I could visit. It is only a 15 minutes drive from my hometown and I visited Papuk monthly as a child with my family for many years. Because it’s the usual place for me, I never thought that I will write a “travel story” about it, but that has changed.

Mališćak mountain hut (734m)

This autumn I have spent a few days in my hometown and I have decided to visit the park every day to try to get a few decent photographs. While I was preparing for the hike, the weather was really bad, the sky was covered with heavy clouds and it was raining from time to time. I thought I will not get a chance to capture the rich colours because of the lack of the sun and proper light. It was dark, cold, windy and I was thinking is it worth it to go outside and get soaked?

The view from the Mališćak mountain hut

Whenever I’m at the location and the weather is not as expected I try to think about what can I photograph in this type of weather? Since there was a thick cloud cover, one of the choices was to go and photograph waterfalls and creaks in the deep forests.

Creak Krajčinovica in the west part of the Papuk Nature Park

In the Park, there are a few bigger creaks with a few manmade waterfalls and rapids and they are very well known among photographers and hikers. Also, they are very close to the main roads and the creaks itself are very reachable so those were the obvious ones that I didn’t want to photograph.

Above the Mališćak peak

A few years back, I started to explore the Park topographic maps in search of the creaks which are not very well know and which have an intense change in terrain that is resulting in a waterfall or interesting rock formations (cascades) in the creak. This was very exhausting since a lot of creaks that were on the maps don’t exist or they appear only after heavy rains or after the snowmelt. So for every creak that I have found on the map with an interesting spot, I went to check on the location to see if there is some potential. I merely scratched the surface, but I have found a few gems, and there is a lot of them that need to be explored.

The plan for these few days was very simple, go and check all the creaks which I thought had a good chance of having interesting spots. But since nothing in life happens as it was planned, this didn’t as well. The main problem was that summer was very dry and there were not enough rainy days in the autumn to fill the creaks with the freshwater. Because of that, the flow in many creaks was very low and waterfalls were very tiny. It was interesting that a few of them, popular ones, actually did have a pretty decent flow and I managed to get some nice photographs.

A large waterfall in the Jankovac forest

It is a bit hard to explore random creaks from the map since almost all of them are not located near hiking paths. This means that interesting spots are very hard to reach, the height difference can be above 10 meters, most of them are within canyons with very steep sides that are impossible to walk on and the only solution is to get into the creak when the terrain is good and walk through it until you reach the desired location. The whole process is very slow and I could explore maybe two creaks per day.

The road on the way to the entrance of the Jankovac forest

Since things didn’t go as planned, for the rest of the planned days I wondered around Park and photographed everything else. I didn’t have a specific theme of what I want to photograph, as, in the beginning, I just drove and walked around. Surprisingly I stumbled upon very nice views in the places I didn’t expect and I didn’t miss the sun because images had that specific autumn look. I was really happy with the results that occurred by pure luck.

There is a beauty in the bad weather when things are changing very quickly. You can get heavy rain, a cloud of fog, glims of the sun and heavy winds all in one hour. That is what real landscape photography is about, to capture the feeling of the changes in the weather and in nature. These conditions bring drama and excitement to photographs which are not possible on a regular sunny day.

Waterfall called Skakavac (grasshopper) in Jankovac forest

Because of the constant weather transformation, I was able to photograph some of the popular locations in a bit different view. Since it was raining and it was cold, there were no people outside and I was completely alone. It is not just because of the weather, local people rarely visit the Park and if they do, they go on well know locations like Jankovac Forest Park, Mališćak peak and Dubočanka valley. I don’t blame them since other locations are known only to the hikers and you need to be ready to walk a little bit to visit them.

Creak Brzaja in the west part of the park
The road on the way to the Jankovac forest

On the other hand, I’m happy that many people don’t visit the Park because it is a relatively small one and if many people started coming here it would very quickly be full of garbage and destroyed by the human hand. Every time I come to hike in the Park, I get surprised how forest cutting companies got far and deep into it, or by how I find lots of human garbage in the places where it was not before.

Waterfall called Vražji mlin (Devils mill) in the west part of the park
Skakavac waterfall from the above

I think some places are better to stay hidden until people start appreciating and respecting nature and learn how they should behave in it. Maybe some parks or special places in parks should be protected from mass tourism as well. Just the lack of proper roads or auxiliary facilities will decrease the interest of most people to visit a specific place.

Creak Brzaja in the west part of the park

Papuk Nature Park is small compared to other mountain parks in Croatia. It doesn’t have much to offer if you’re not looking deep enough and are not ready to an extra mile (literally), but those who put an effort and find something special, deserve to be awarded an intimate and secluded part of the park for themselves.

Papuk will always have a special place in my heart and on my memory cards, this is the place where I felt the need to be one with nature and this is the place where I crafted my photography skills as it was my “model” since the start. I will always come back to it and I will not stop exploring for hidden parts of it. This “autumn trip” didn’t go as expected but in many ways opened my eyes and proved to me that I should visit Papuk more often and write about it even if it is practically in my back yard. For some other, this could be a completely new place to visit and explore.

Can’t wait for the snow 🙂


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