Have you ever had that feeling while you are asleep that you are missing something? Feeling late, but still asleep so you don’t know if you should take the feeling seriously and act on it, or just enjoy the dream-state washing over you?
The first ripping note of my Muse ringtone blasted through my pillow and my dream. Button was calling me in a panic that I had not responded to his messages. I was going to miss the boat if I didn’t get to the pickup point RIGHT NOW. Literally rolling out of bed and into a pile of yesterday’s discarded clothes I picked some at random and ran out the hostel at full speed. It was 09:00 and my pickup was at 09:05. I sprinted – something I never do – and just made it as the minivan was pulling up, out of breath and sweaty.
On the boat I recounted my morning so far. I hadn’t had time to dress properly, collect any useful items like sunscreen, no time for breakfast, NO TIME FOR TEA!!! But I had made it and was looking forward to today, promised to be the highlight of the trip. The Fish Picnic Boat Tour. We wobbled around in the harbour till the captain turned up, poured us all some Grappe and set off grimacing at the horrendous taste. It must have been his way to set the tone for the day as nothing would be as bad as the taste of that drink!
The first Island, Kolocep, was a quick stop off. A wide swooping bay with houses piled up the hill behind it. Slightly ruined by the huge faux pirate ship at anchor that had deposited a load of tourists just before we had arrived. I wandered up a hill… no one followed so it must have looked like I was going alone. I found an overgrown rock stairway leading into the undergrowth to a huge decaying villa. It must have been quite an impressive house in its day. Now it’s marble patio was shattered by tree roots pushing the slabs up at odd angles, roots reaching out of the cracks like zombies trying to escape. I found a door in the side that opened to a laundry room and onto the second floor. I wasn’t keen on exploring too far after a couple bats scared the shit out of me by making a sudden appearance. Also the rotten beams crunched underfoot so I had a quick look around, treading as delicately as possible before leaving.
The second island, Sipan, was REALLY remote from Dubrovnik and had maintained relatively untouched by the tourists. It was beautiful. A small rock jetty with peeling painted boats bobbing gently in front of a small harbour. A pebbly beach lead past a couple trees providing dappled shade over the village green. In the background white stucco buildings rose higgledy piggledy all around with bright mediterranean red roofs. A few houses had some iron tables outside where wizened locals sat drinking coffee in chipped espresso cups. It was magical.
I had a short look around but wanted to explore inland. We had been told by our captain that the island had a long fertile centre strip where the best olive oil and wine was produced. Button and family stayed around the fishing harbour so I took off for a solo walk along a track I had spotted on Maps Me (really useful offline map app that every traveller should have)
I found the way and headed out of town. Soon it was obvious I was travelling the path less followed and I loved it. The grass was pushing up through the gravelly track and the higher I got up the hill behind the village the more unkempt the road became. Soon I spotted a clearing through the trees at the top of the hill on my left and hazarded a good view was available. Having done a lot of walking I think I’ve developed an awareness for how nature presents itself, patterns in the landscape that I find it increasingly easy to read. This was no exception, the hilltop had only a few low trees growing and offered an incredible view down the full length of the fertile centre. You could see the cliffs on the left, lapped by the Adriatic sea swoop down into the green cultivated valley and up again on the right side to tree covered mountains. I just stood here for about 10 mins enjoying the view.
DAMN time marching onwards, I hadn’t looked at my clock since setting out on this walk and now had only 10 mins to get back to the boat for our fish lunch. I was at least 20 mins of walking so set off at a run for the second time today. I still hadn’t eaten annything but found myself feeling oddly energetic and nimble. I was careful not to trip or sprain an ankle way out here on my own and only a couple days before the wedding. I made it back in a sweaty mess and joined the party for some fresh fish.
The food was simple, grilled fish, tomatoes, cucumbers and some cabbage thing but it was refreshing and clean tasting. The fish just fell apart it was so juicy and tasty with garlic and lemon. There is nothing more it needed. Everyone on the boat was drinking wine from a never ending cooler chest on deck. I’m not great on boats as aforementioned so I stuck to water and cola, but everyone else was getting nicely pissed by this point.
Island three, Lopud, was the longest stop. This was much closer to Dubrovnik and had a few large hotels on the front. I enquired about renting a jet ski but it was 1200 Kuna for an hour, about £150. That’s a bit steep for my pocket so went for a walk instead. The group had caught local taxi golf buggies over to “the tourist beach” on the other side of the island. It’s like the locals had collectively decided to keep all the tourists in one place to stop them wandering off too far. I didn’t come here to sit on a beach so walked up another hill, no one followed. Everyone on the boat had gasped at the photos I was getting on my crappy phone camera, but no one was willing to walk up to the places to collect them… shame really, they are missing out. This island was no exception. I walked up the golf buggy track till I found a path leading vaguely up the mountain. I just kept following this above the tourist beach. I could look down on everyone playing in the sea, a gigantic pleasure yacht in the background lazily heaving on the waves. I soon came across a church in a cleft of the hill. It was well looked after and murmuring noises were coming from inside so I did not intrude. Behind this was another track sign posted to a fort. Gotta love a good fort, so took this and found myself high above the town we had arrived in. The fort commanded a spectacular view over the coastal town and across the islands in the distance. This was a much older fort than the one on Lokrum. There didn’t seem to be any gun emplacements, all the windows (that were still surviving) were small and slit for bows and arrows.
After this I walked back down to Sunj beach. It was hot and I needed a dip to cool off, also I figured I should hang out with the gang a little. A short dip in the ocean was all I really needed. Having not had time to pack this morning I didn’t have any swimming shorts with me so I just went in with my normal shorts. This meant I was dripping all the way back to Dubrovnik, but it was totally worth it.