Wednesday, September 30, 2009


It was time to farewell everyone on the boat so emails were exchanged and this website shared, and off to the bus station we headed. The station is only a few hundred meters up the road from the port but we were feeling the heat even at 9am. We realised a little too late that you also have to pay to put luggage on board the bus and the guy wasn't giving change so we paid a premium! The drive itself was really interesting, initially following along the coast as we left Dubrovnik and headed south but then moving inland towards the border. You could start to see some of the areas that were affected during the war.
Our first road border crossing was simple. We didn't even have to get off the bus. The official boarded and stamped our passports and on we went. It felt like about 10km from the Croatian border crossing to the Montenegran one, so we were glad we weren't walking. Once through the border we again found the coast and the rest of the drive was constant scenes of the bluest of blue water, games of waterpolo, families swimming and stunning coastlines.
Leaving Dubrovnik
We arrived in Kotor around 2pm and were flooded with people trying to get us to rent their apartments. It was a little unnerving but our guide book had warned us of this. We had prebooked our accomodation so just had to figure out which of the three 'gates' to the old town it was nearest to (Note:Google maps hasn't made it to Kotor yet). Unluckily for us it was the furthest one from the station so another few km of walking in 40+ temperatures. The lady at the apartment told us there had been a slight mix-up with the bookings but not to worry as we would stay in her friends apartment for the same money. He arrived to show us the new apartment which we had no idea whether to trust him or not. The conversation went along the lines of:

Him - "English?"
Us - "Yes. Do you speak English?"
Him: - "No."

And that was that.

After thinking we were getting led down the garden path as we wound our way through other peoples driveways and backyards, our apartment was excellent. 1bed mezzanine style studio with the all important air conditioning. There was a lot of pointing and nodding as he tried to show us how the air-con worked and the complicated front door lock, but we figured it out.

The afternoon was spent wandering the Old Town in search of a supermarket. The old town is in immaculate condition, no wonder that UNESCO gave it heritage status. You would think it would be easy to get lost but most of the narrow, cobbled streets all end up back in a square near one of the 3 gates. Thankfully it doesn’t take too long to walk around the town in its entirety and the temperatures kept all sane people indoors so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Since we had pretty much walked back to the bus station to find a supermarket we decided to cook our own dinner. Pasta, a bottle of wine, really bad english TV and airconditioning. What more could you want.
The view from out front door is straight up the mountain backing the Old Town. At the top is St Ivan Fortress and a small church halfway up. Claire's mobile phone provider was very nice in sending us a weather report for free at 5pm every day so we knew that temperatures were going to be high again. Knowing this we set off around 7am. It took a fairly leisurely 2 hours to get up and back, and this included lots of photo stops to appreciate the view and feel sorry for the guy having to whippersnip the path.

Our reward was breakfast down on the waterfront before stocking up for lunch at the markets and returning to the airconditioning to recover. That afternoon we forced ourselves to brave the heat and looked at a couple of churches and visited one of the historical Palaces which also doubles as the maritime museum.

We also attempted to walk further round the bay but the road was really narrow and quite busy with cars, so gave up in favour of icecream and shade. After dinner we headed back into the Old Town to try for some shots of the fortress. The people were out in force. As soon as the sun sets, this town comes alive. There were heaps of families out doing the shopping and kids playing at 10pm.

It was our last day in Kotor so we ventured down to the pebbly beach for a swim. The water was surprisingly chilly considering how hot it gets during the day. The non-english speaking apartment owner was great and let us stay until after lunch as our bus wasn't leaving until 3pm.

The bus trip back to Dubrovnik encounted a slight delay at the border crossing, as the Croatian police decided to do a random baggage check on every passenger on our entire bus. An hour later we were on our way and very glad that we had invested in packing cells, which made the repack much quicker then others.

After arriving at the Dubrovnik bus station we had to figure out how to get to our hotel. Thinking we were used to the croatian transport system we assumed the bus would be fine relised it only came every hour from that stop and we had just missed one. We looked at the map and thought "it isn't too far, we'll just walk". An uphill 60min walk later (with our large backpacks) we arrived at the hotel completely knackered. We decided against going into town for dinner and settled for an expensive buffet dinner at the hotel.

This was to be our last day in Croatia and our flight back to London was for late afternoon. For the morning we joined a sea kayaking tour that left from just outside the Old Town walls and went around the nearby island before stopping off for lunch in a cave and returning to the Old Town. We did have the option of snorkelling at the cave but after hearing the shrieks at how cold it was both of us decided not to go in. We were wet enough anyway just from the paddling. All in all it was a relaxing holiday.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The first part of our journey back to Australia was a week of sailing around the islands off the South coast of Croatia. Rough seas; cramped conditions; bad food.... these are things that you may associate with sailing, but fortunately we had none of that.

We arrived at Dubrovnik airport just after lunch to a very pleasant 25 degrees, a vast improvement on the previous few days in London. The bus ride into the city was very picturesque, with steep mountains dropping into the bluest of blue seas. We were dropped off at the main bus station, where we purchased our ticket for next weeks trip to Montenegro. The bus station is also next to Gruz Harbour, where we found our boat for the next 7 days. We were initially shown a below deck no-ensuite cabin, which started to concern us, but after pointing out that we had paid for an above-deck ensuite cabin, we settled into our nice above deck room.

Our next mission was heading off to explore the Old Town. The Old Town is a complete maze of streets with lots of steps and blind alleys. It reminded us a little of Essaouira in Morocco but much cleaner. The big difference was that the streets here are spotless.

We did the tour of the walls which had a few hairy moments as there are some very steep drops. The views are amazing. Our final item was to reward ourselves with some of the best gelati icecream we have ever eaten.
Monday morning we sailed off to the island of Mljet. Being one of the younger members of the boat we took advantage of the roof space and set up camp for the few hours.
We headed into the national park to see the 2 salt lakes (Malo Jerezo and Veliko Jerezo) as well as visit a small monastery on an island in Veliko Jerezo. All in all, it was another picturesque location, but the monastery was very simple and in the process of being rebuilt.

A relaxing swim in the afternoon, although by this time Claire had learnt lesson no. 1. Sunscreen works very well, but only when applied. The 5% of her body which was minus the sunscreen fared particularly badly. Claire was in a fair bit of pain and the constant exposure to the sun wasn't helping the knees any, so we returned to the boat and spent the remainder of the afternoon watching waterpolo and sunset at the beachside bar
Velico Jerezo
Tuesday morning we sailed out for Vela Luka on the island of Korcula. We awoke to the sounds of the engines starting up. We left really early and had breakfast whilst sailing. I have to say the food wasn't really to our tastes so far. Lots of beef and potato. Thankfully for Claire there was Nutella at breaky and she did collect any of the unused packets to eat throughout the day.

We weren't able to get into port until after lunch so we docked in a beautiful little bay where we were surrounded by amazingly clear blue water. There was although a disused military base which had prominant signs saying no mooring, and no photos. Of course we disregarded this, and docked for lunch. Naturally midway through lunch an official uniformed man came down and told us to leave. Only problem was that our captain had gone spear fishing for tonight's food, so we unhooked the rope and moved about 20m further into the bay and floated for a couple more hours

Loved being able to jump off the side of the boat whenever for a quick swim to cool off.
The town of Vela Luka is tiny with not alot to do. We waited until around 5pm before tackling the hill behind town in search of a cave (Vela Spila). The walk was just over 1km and we were knackered when we got to the top. We think the guy collecting money at the entrance felt sorry for us and let us in for free. In hindsight there wasn't very much to see at all. It was in shade, so did give us time to hide from the heat for a bit before walking back down. We had had enough of the boat food and dined in town. Have I mentioned how good the icecream is? It is very easy to have more then one a day.
Inside the cave
View of Vela Luka from cave
Wednesday morning and we were off to Hvar. Followed the same plan as the day before, sail for a bit, anchor, swim, relax, swim, eat, relax, swim. I love this lifestyle! This is a bit of a party town and lots of very rich people come here judging by the boats. We were in a queue for nearly an hour before we were allowed to dock. There were 9 boats in our line tonight. So far there has only been 4 and we are usually on the land side with the others having to walk through ours to get to land. This time we were in the middle. We spent the afternoon looking through St Stephen's Cathedral which was an interesting mix of modern and traditional decoration.

You would have thought that we had learnt our lesson from yesterday, but we tackled another hill to reach a fortress anyway. The path was quite a lot easier as it was paved all the way. The views over the town and port were amazing and worth the effort. On the way down we stumbled into a fresh fruit market and stocked up for snacks and then Claire spotted the bakery. The most exciting find of the this trip was a Lamington! Sadly it was about 3 days past its prime.
View from the Fortress
Thursday and we sail back to the island of Korcula, this time docking in Korcula Town. According to our itinery we were meant to come here on Monday, but as we've found out, the itinery is at the discreton of the captain.

Korcula Town is much bigger then Vela Luka. The old town is very picturesque and we managed to find a roof top bar in one of the turrets of the wall. A fabulous spot to watch the sunset, but you definitley don't want to be wearing a skirt to get up the ladder. Any drinks ordered come up the outside of the building in a basket and pulley system. Great for novelty but very expensive.
We raced these into the port
On the advice of the guide book we bought tickets to the Moreska which is a live show of singing and sword dancing. Both were amazing, especially the sword dance as the sparks started to fly!
Friday we sailed to Slopan and this was the first time we didn't stay on the roof. The airconditioning stopped working during the night and neither of us slept well, so we hid in whatever shade we could find. Instead of docking in a bay we pulled into a tiny port called Sipan and had lunch. There were sea urchins all along the 'beach' and we walked for ages in order to find a suitable spot to enter the water.

Our lunchtime entertainment was a water polo game between a group of american teenagers and the local croatian men. Let's say that team USA was getting a lesson in how to play. All the waterpolo matches we have seen have been in open water and the ropes are permanently in place so people are always having a go. The final port for today was a single street town where it seems the only reason to go there is that the boat gets cleaned.

Saturday was heading back to Dubrovnik via Lopud which had the first sand beach that we have seen. Inspired by yesterday's waterpolo a few of us found a ball and had a throw around. When we got to Dubrovnik it was lunchtime and it was way hotter then the first time we were there. We found out later that it had been 40 degrees. Tried to sit out the heat on the boat but eventually headed into town to see the Franjevacki Samosan (franciscan monastery) which was amazingly cool inside. It had some of the highest ceilings that we have seen in churches so far. The cloisters also had some pretty gardens and a small museum. We finally found the breeze at a tiny harbour side bar and spent the rest of the evening there.

This week was fantastic and just what we needed after the hassle and stress of packing up our lives again. The coastline is amazing and the gentle rocking of the waves will put you to sleep in an instant. Just remember to apply the sunscreen.

Next stop: Montenegro