Thursday, 8 July 2010

eDgiN oN uNrEalitY, pLs nOt wAke uS up

Now we're near the last free camping is more frequent. One of our first nights in Croatia we really lucked out. After bumping down a dirt track we found ourselves in a tiny little cove with clear still water and white pebbles riddled with holes. The night was shared with sheep grazing on the wild sage around us and the full moon filling our tent. The next morning we got up at six so we could have the beach to ourselves for a couple of hours. The sea was full of black spiky sea urchins, shrimp and hermit crabs pretending to be shells. This has to be my favourite way to start the day: with a swim (the clear blue being a welcome change from Brighton grey), a coffee and time to lose myself in nature.

We arrived on Otok Krk (Krk island) via a very long and high bridge. We were not allowed on the road, so we had to push the bicycles along the thin strip of pavement. The views from the bridge were stunning, if a little vertigo-ridden. In Krk we stayed at a very expensive nudist colony for a couple of days, then decided to hop islands instead of going back to the busy coastal road on the mainland. From Otok Krk to Rab then to Pag on a little excursion boat. Then on Pag back on the pedals. The beginning of this island was really fascinating, with ancient olive trees surrounded by circular stone walls. Crickets and cicadas are the permanent soundtrack to our pedalling. The smell of earth and dry grasses fills our nostrils.

As soon as we arrived in Split we were approached by several people outside the tourist office and offered three rooms, so our late arrival was made very easy. It takes some getting used to being led off by a stranger to who knows what kind of place, but this is how it's done here. After 90k I felt surprisingly good and Alise's recommendation was spot on, this place is neck-craningly (should be a word) beautiful. Another walled city but with more interesting nooks, corners and alleys than Zadar and Trogir. This city's rich history is reflected in its architecture. The Cathedral is a lived in museum with its café and people hanging around on its steps. It's easy to imagine them having done the same for centuries. And the ladies here know how to do glamour, that's for sure, but it all looks like hard work to me. Teetering on great shoes on cobbles takes a lot of skill. The high stone buildings and alleys open up to ornate squares full of swifts and swallows and people selling everything from organic rye bread to home made sandals. Yep this place is cool for a bit, but as with most tourist packed destinations, unless your going to fully embrace it shelling out lots of money it's best to leave. And we did, with no regrets, the following day on a ferry bound for the island of Korçula.

We arrived in the dark and with a single front and back light between us (forgot to buy batteries) we headed off to find ourselves a hidden away camp for the night. The following day we cycled the full length of Korçula, 80% of which was uphill. Within the first two hours of our climb we had finished all our water. We were expecting to find a village or even just a house along the way, but these failed to materialize. So the rest of the ride was painful as the heat and dehydration made us weak and wobbly. The landscape was barren and offered no shelter from the fierce sun. After four hours ride we flew downhill into Korçula town where we drank lots of the local version of coke and ate crisps and ice-cream (mm healthy diet!). On the spur of the moment we also decided to jump on the last ferry to Dubrovnik. Relishing our last boat journey and a chance to catch brief glimpses of more of Croatian islands we sat on deck for hours just absorbing.

Dubrovnik was an incredibly beautiful town, unfortunately also full of cruise ship tourists. As we pushed the bikes off the ferry a group of local women surrounded us. They were very pushy and loud, shoving pictures of their rooms under our noses. We decided to stay the night with the least pushy and lucked out finding ourselves sleeping in a large clean room. Dubrovnik was all a bit too much, full of shops selling tat for tourists. We hung out for the morning but soon fled the city along the crazy coast road. At the first opportunity we turned off into the countryside we were both craving. We ended up at a campsite recommended to us by our Dubrovnik hostess. Monika's is a great place full of mellow travellers and its own little beach. In the morning we swam out to the nearest island. This was only about 1 mile there and back, a distance I do often in pools, but heading off into unfamiliar open water is a bit unnerving even if it is the mellow Adriatic. On closer inspection this little green idyllic island was covered with the usual plastic remnants of peoples carelessness, and with the realization we had to swim back, we didn't hang around for too long. After flitting in and out of places for quite awhile that need to just stay put for a while can be quite overwhelming so we stayed at the campsite an extra day. On Pietro's birthday we left for Montenegro.

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