Sweaty Pack Mules and a Slice of Paradise: Mis/adventures in Croatia

I’m cursing slightly because I just wrote this whole entry and killed my battery to do so, went to copy it and it got deleted. Sometimes working from your phone SUCKS. Let’s do this again.

I say this every time, but can’t believe only 8 days has gone by since Santorini. It seems like time moves slowly for a minute, then picks up like a hurricane. Let me explain.

We got very restless on our six hour ferry to Rafina, then tried to nab a taxi to the airport. The driver was ushering us into the car without telling a price. When he finally said 60 euros for a fifteen minute drive, we declined, he used colourful language, and we moved on.  We managed to find a bus for 6€ and headed out. Always go this way if you want to save money. Our flight from Athens was delayed and when we got to Rome FCO we had an 8 hour layover before our 9am flight to Dubrovbik. It was probably the worst sleep I’ve had the entire trip, since I really didnt. I managed an hour on our next flight but we were both sluggish. Little did we know, this is when the real fun would begin.

Let me start by saying that I accept full responsibility for the mayhem that ensued. When looking up our hostel, Kate Guesthouse, on hostelworld, I didnt think too much of the fact that the reviews were from last year. I took screen shots of directions to use as soon as we got into Dubrovnik. The day was searing hot- 37 degrees- and we were sweaty packmules climbing the many steps to our supposed hostel. After a long trek, we made it to a house with no signs. Confused, I spoke to a woman in the gate… “kate guesthouse?” “Yes… i kate… but no… no guest..” “no guest?”  “I no guest…show me… show me…” 20 minutes of sheer confusion later, I realized that we had the wrong kate guesthouse. We spent fifteen minutes contemplating defeat in the shade of a carpark, and theres a rather entertaining video of Madysons struggle if you’d like to take a look at it.

Many stairs and curses later, we found the right place. He owner also didnt speak English, so we paid and decided to give up. Thankfully our evening was nicer. We took a 5pm walking tour of Old Town and learned about their four fears, the defense system, the war of 91 and the lack of true residents in the town. From there,  we paid 11 euros to do the city walls. This is a must do. The whole town is a UNESCO site and the views over the roofs and sea are unparalleled. After that, we returned home to book accommodation in Split.IMG_20150812_205502IMG_20150812_204427

This was not achieved, so we took a bus to Split the next day, hoping to find something when we got there. The bus ride was long and involved a crazy bathroom attendant at a rest stop. The sign said 3 kuna, so I gave her 3 kuna. She started yelling at me and waving her hand to shoo me. I counted 1…2..3.. nope, more angry yelling and shooing. I nearly gave up when Madyson passed the same money to her and she rushed me in. I’m sure she put a curse on my family and I, but at least I finally got to use the washroom… Anyway, we finally decided to book two separate places, so M booked Bell Tower Hostel and I found Croparadise green. The problem with the first place was that we werent sure we had actually found our hostel… a lot of people in Croatia rent out their homes or apartments and dont seem to find a need for signage. The address was correct, but their was only a post it note taped to the door with a phone number. D’oh. We did the only thing possible: cracked a beer, had some snacks, and sat on our bags in wait. As people passed us smiling and saying hello, I had the odd feeling that strange people sitting outside this door was not an unusual thing. A couple from Belfast took pity on us and invited us in to use the washroom and phone. We finally reached the owner who told us the key was under the door and we could have the room, though she had double booked it.

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A few hours later we took a stroll down the promenade which is beautifully lit and dotted with cafes and restos. We did as the local youth do and had a beer by the pier. We returned home to check in with family and called it a day.

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The next day was unbearably hot but we still managed a trek up to Marjan Hill for a good view of the city. We went swimming at a rocky outcrop nearby. We wandered old town and checked into our hostel which I do recommend. We had a tiny apartment with our own cooking area, bathroom and awesome aircon. We tried to figure out our TV but after 10 minutes (ok ok, 30) of a horrifying Selena Gomez movie, we gave up. We had booked a Ziggy Pub crawl for 20 euros and it was worth it, even if we didnt make it to the last bar. I had been playing around on Tinder and spoke to a guy from Australia who I convinced to join us with his buddy, as well as a couch surfer in town. I was quite pleased to meet so many people from Scotland as I’d been missing that beautiful accent 🙂 I spoke briefly with a guy named Jack from Glasgow, and I now have a personal tour guide the next time I’m over to prove that Glasgow is better than Edinburgh. Mmmm, the Scottish.

But I digress. The next day we took the Jadrolinija ferry to Starigrad and waited for our pick up to Cast Away, Gromin Dolac. I had contacted Didier on couchsurfing and he accepted us. The story goes that it had always been his parents dream to start a small guest house venture on the property, but his mother sadly passed away when they were kids. Years later, he and his sister have decided to pay homage to their mother and host campers and travellers alike on this little slice of heaven. We were picked up by Dan and Jorge, then went into Jelsa to pick up another guest named Robyn. Dan and Jorge were volunteering for the month of August. Dan is originally from the States but now has a top hostel in Cardiff that I intend on visiting one day. He was quite chatty which is good since some of you may know how much I like to talk too! When Robyn got into the van, she told us about her horrible accident on a scooter in the tunnel on Hvar. Her foot was swollen and her finger was badly injured.

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That first night was a bit tricky since it rained the entire time. We didn’t sleep well between the relentless pounding of rain on our tent and the feverish, cracking thunder and lightning streaking across the sky. We were pleased that the next two days provided better weather. There were cute little touches to the area, but it was still simple and rustic. There was a rainwater shower, two fridges, a gas stove, lounge areas and a really nice beach. The stones were white and smooth…so pretty! I can’t describe how amazing it was to truly unplug and have time to relax. Madyson had a point that often when we have a spare moment, we reach for our phone. Not having that option allowed me to read an entire book, write, and think about things I havent recalled in ages: skipping stones with my grandmother before she passed away; the cute info cards ontario provincial parks used to give away to the kids; going to the cranberry festival in Bala with my old roommate Kim 6 autumns ago.

There was a good mix of people at Cast Away- adults, kids and youth alike. Some were volunteers. Some were on holiday. Didiers family was there. Many couples came for quiet time. Every day there are people coming and going so the dynamic always changes. Last night felt a bit bittersweet as I watched the sun go down. I guess the experience is as close to my vision of camping back home, so it felt like saying goodbye to summer. Knowing our trip is soon coming to an end brings many mixed emotions. I will be glad to see friends and family, eat the foods I want, sleep well, etc., but each place we’ve been truly feels like a small blessing and I am not ready to let go. I tell myself the adventure will not be over, but rather that returning home is just another part of the road I must walk until the next path diverges with awaiting surprise.

Waking this morning brought more of the misadventures we so enjoy on this trip (sarcasm, of course). We were set to leave for Stari grad to catch our ferry back when we find out the minibus isn’t working. Shit. An italian couple had a car but couldnt afford to take us so we were crestfallen, knowing we’d miss our ferry and bus to Plitvice. A guest named Enrico helped us arrange a cheap return to Starigrad in the taxi his friend had taken to reach castaway. We hopped on a later ferry and have now booked a latee bus. A bit of a hiccup, but we are healthy, safe, together. Mady’s water bottle today had a message: ‘today I count my blessings which are many.’ Too true. If you have any desire, I urge you to look up Cast Away. It is definitely a unique experience and one not many people will have. Shout out to Dan- see you in Cardiff! Robyn, no more accidents. Susanna, Jorge, Enrico, Francesco, you guys are wonderful! Thank you Didier and Jelena for sharing your slice of paradise. I will never forget the cherished reading spot, the Italian, the incredible stars and wonderful people.

Much love from the road,

Kristy

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