Since departing the concrete safety of Icici Marina, Rijeka and the European mainland, we’ve ventured back out to the islands and this week has blessed us with one magnificent seaside village after another. Apart from one windy, choppy day with a sail out, we’ve mostly been motoring in some exceptionally glassed out conditions where at times the eye could barely distinguish the ocean from the horizon and yachts with a sail up lay serenely becalmed atop a mirror-like surface.
Dad had his heart set on passing under the bridge that connected the mainland to Krk Otok (Otok as in island), and fortunately, that day too was a millpond. As mentioned in my previous post, the gale force winds through the Velebitski Canal can be just plain dangerous. A last minute decision to poke our nose into an almost-too-small harbour at the foot of Vrnbik (room for only a few yachts and opening just wide enough for the catamaran to pass) was a jackpot. Rested high on the grassy green hillsides above our mooring was another picturesque village. These Croatians are a privileged bunch, with blessings of some of Mother Nature’s best work around every corner.
Pulling up stumps for the night, an uphill hike brought us to a simple patio looking down over the harbour and our boat, where local wines sold for 10 kuna a glass (about A$1.70) so we promptly proceeded to get sunburnt and pissed in the afternoon sun. When you have nowhere else to be, why not?
Departing south out of Vrbnik, the stark contrast of Krk Otok’s eroded landscapes, shaped by the winter bora winds, were simply remarkable. We motored down her barren eastern side in glassed out conditions, then cruised by the popular holiday village Baska – protected in a southern valley and easily accessible thanks to the aforementioned bridge to the mainland.
Europeans practically invented nudism and naturalism. They are there on the shoreline young, old and families letting it all hang out. We’re told we’ll likely see boats full of them in the height of the season, cruising around starkers. Yet mostly groups of men – lucky for mum and I?! Each to their own and I admire their long established culture of liberation. Our prudent and overly sexualized society is a sorry disparity. A perfect example of this – when cruising by an obvious resort or nature camp the guys don’t miss an opportunity to get the binoculars out in the search for white pointers!
Next overnight stop was Rab Town on Rab Otok. Narrow peninsulars and deep protected harbours were a popular location for settling in Croatia. Which in turn created postcard-perfect communities built stone wall-to-wall and centuries later painted all the hues of the rainbow. Built on a peninsular, Rab Town was characterised by four church bell towers, the oldest of which dated back to the fifth century and who’s grounds were littered with ruins of Romanesque pillars and archways. Still a strong practicing Christian community, there are churches everywhere in Croatia from large down to very small and church bells break the quiet – echoing around the villages and bays – every hour, half hour and quarter hour.
Dad was cheeky and anchored in the shallow bay opposite Rab’s main town and just outside a breakwater to the inner-harbour ACI marina. Half an hour later, after the rest of us had departed in the tender for shore, he was approached by an unmarked boat with two ACI marina staff and a third shabby-shirted man with a questionable badge. All three were swigging from beer bottles. Despite making a few digs that their authenticity, the threat of a 2,000 kuna fine if he didn’t leave immediately was not worth the argument. So dad was left solo to raise and re-lay the anchor elsewhere. Still early in the season, always worth a try to push your luck!
Dad has been getting a kick out of the local construction and earthworks practices. It’s not uncommon to come across pre-season roadway or walkway repairs with exposed pipes, holes, broken pathways and knee high barriers – where both locals and tourists (or cars) side stepping around crew and small excavators. He wonders where we got it so terribly wrong, when the basic human need to think for ones self was removed. No detours, witch’s hats, flashing lights or traffic controllers here – just life getting on with it and people looking out for their own personal safety.
A fellow cruiser connected us with a lovely Croatian-Australian living at Veli Losinj on Losinj Otok. Anna’s father was born on Losinj and her mother at nearby Primosten (see previous blog post swapping cameras as we overnighted there last month). She grew up in Moroubra, Sydney and holidayed in Croatia as a teenager. Now she splits her time between Losinj (where her parents have since returned) and Sydney. It was a pleasure to have her company over dinner and vinos. And to learn a local’s perspective of the realities of Croatian way-of-life beyond what a tourist observes on the surface.
After the Second World War and through to the more recent Balkans War of the early 90s, many Croatians immigrated to Australia and thus exists a strong population spread throughout our country. It’s endearing when staff in local restaurants, cafes or stores feel a connection through us as they fondly speak of family or friends who are living or once lived in Australia; some having done so for decades. Apart from the popular week-long live aboard excursion boats that we’ll encounter more once we reach the larger southern islands, Croatia’s northern islands don’t see many Australian or Canadian tourists. And we’ve only met a handful of others in the past two months, including the Cooney family from Mackay who own Harvey World Travel.
Losinj Otok and its main centre Mali Losinj was our base for three nights. The island and its surrounding bays and communities are renowned as a wellness retreat with the cleanest air and apparent respiratory healing qualities due to the temperate climate, aromatic gardens and thick pine forests that blanket the island. After walking and biking all over the place and drawing the deepest of breaths into our lungs, we would have to agree. And now that it’s May, the island is in gorgeous full bloom with over 80 flora species; many exotic brought to the island by Losinj captains and seamen in years gone-by. Much the same could be said for majority of this unspoiled country and its island chains – but Losinj in particular was bursting with flowers, pine forests and a peacefulness that was tangible. Check out the island’s website with an impressive Google earth style birdseye view over the island.
Docked in Mali Losinj’s harbour with the best view in town, each afternoon we were surrounded by a steady stream of monohulls crewed by jolly Europeans. Generally out on a seven day charter, they would moor up ready to celebrate a day on the water, before doing it all again the next day. Yachts are squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder in what is often termed a ‘Mediterranean moor’. The marina buzz was infectious and no doubt a taste of the busy summer season that lies just around the corner. Though what we must quickly accustom to when at a similar busy berth, is the amount of attention generated by the small trike/floatplane attached to our stern and the endless stream of intrigued (yet somewhat repetitive) questions!
Another item to arrive in the container was a tripod for the DSLR camera. I’m enjoying the opportunity to experiment with low shutter speed settings on dusk and dark (below).
Beautiful natural offerings continue to present themselves as we head into more sparsely populated islands and deserted anchorages throughout the northern Dalmatian’s outer islands. We now have a general course plotted enroute to Split, where our first guest Aunty Robyn (who’s very relaxed for anyone wondering) will fly out Monday week. Whilst internet service waivers in these more remote islands, we will bid adieu.
Though before I go, wishing a happy Mother’s Day to our dearest mum Pam. She’s tanning up nicely and loving life – will give her extra hugs today for you all. And best wishes to the other mothers out there who’ve helped us all become the amazing people we are today. Including you Mom van de Riet – you can be very proud of your son. Much love!