Friday, January 15, 2016

Kike, talk to me...

climbing can be sport

There are many fascinating climbing stories and this one ahead is no exception, although is by no means epic like, say, Touching the void. It lacks perhaps height, tricky overhangs, ropes, chalk and other typical gear, but not mental strength or those familiar dramatic moments that make your fingertips sweat.

Vili Guček

Years ago two friends Kike and Ivica in good spirits went for a stroll around Marjan peninsula – green park extending few kilometers west of the old town where we all go for walking, running, cycling, climbing, kayaking, swimming, relaxing, is a beautiful place. Young and in good mood they were walking through nature, having conversations about...something...different things...and a bottle of wine (I like to think it was red) was accompanying them. Finally they were at Šantine stine – magic south-west side of Marjan with little churches and hermits' dwellings from centuries ago walled up into the vertical limestone cliffs – home to local rock climbing community.

a hermits' dwelling and St. Jere church - south side of Marjan

Kike and Ivica weren't themselves climbers but be it the surrounding, wine, view to the sea and islands, their philosophical moment or simply all blended together, they went to climb what they saw as their route (not a bolted one) without climbing shoes or any piece of equipment. They were soloing parallel to each other placing their feet, finding holds, getting higher and higher when suddenly Ivica got stuck and couldn't get out of it – coming down didn't look good and other directions appeared impossible too. As seconds and minutes were passing his body got nervous and the mind was following, everything he tried was useless except for losing energy and thus opening door to panic. Muscles were getting tired, one leg started shaking. Sweat. They had already passed a point of no safe return down. Kike being two meters to his right was unable to help, or at least it might have seemed so. Time was dripping and with it Ivica's odds were getting smaller, yet just before the situation switched from desperate to hopeless Ivica said these right words: „Kike, talk to me“. Kike could talk, both of them actually can talk, and so Kike started to talk...gradually Ivica calmed down and found his way up. Thanks to him asking his friend to talk and this one talking back they both relaxed and reached the top, stood on flat soil above the rocks happily and walked back to the town...

Marjan and Split

What would be the moral of the story If we were to look for it? Well, to start, drinking and driving aren't to be mixed, so don't do it that way, go climbing with friends who know or take a course with a club, hire some outdoor agency, whatever. Be safe during the activity.

safety not third...

But even by doing things by the book, (not at beginner's level), sometimes the goings get tough and then you if you get yourself together your chances will grow.

But when we scratch surface we'll also see how this really is a climbers' story, because despite getting themselves in a serious trouble facing fatal outcome they remained focused and calm on the inside which saved them and that was their only option, best and only card to play. I'm glad they did...

...just a perfect day...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do


„It's time to leave the capsule if you dare“ – this is what I occasionally say to our guests when they are about to step little bit out of their comfort zone whether it is paddling into the wind around some rocky point or climbing an exposed route. Those are in fact David Bowie’s lyrics from Space Oddity, one of the most memorable songs ever.

The great artist left this world and although you never related him to kind of activities we do his life seems like an outstanding personal adventure, a courageous journey oftentimes into unmapped territories before GPS was invented. Creative, original, willing to experiment, take new paths and abandon old ways, he has inspired people for decades.

Now the story gets little personal (despite blog experts’ advices). Anyway I remember clearly and vaguely at the same time one night in Hvar some 10 years ago when few of us kayakers and friends met up the Teraca (meaning terrace) bar next to the famous old Hvar theater overlooking the square. That warm summer night we, powered by local carob grappa, developed a theory of “True kayakers” and what they do, like, eat, drink, laugh about and such…the list would be too long if I only could recall it now or perhaps too personal but among those rare surviving lines is: - A true kayaker listens to Bowie!!!
Years have passed, many strokes pushed us sometimes in circles and ever further, people came, left, adventurers became priests, lovers vanished and children were born, the world seems crazy like never before, who knows if we’ll ever get together like we did that night, I only now that I won’t forget us all at Teraca bar, and Bowie has something to do with it.

Teraca bar and some of us from that night

"floating in a most peculiar way" somewhere around Vis island

I’ll dedicate some nice and new kayak trip to you David Bowie, goodbye...

Saturday, December 12, 2015



Wow!!! Small group of friends is all it takes to turn a weekend into an extraordinary experience. Three of us went exploring roads on the east side of the island and we enjoyed it, of course. Saturday was reserved for the area between Korčula town and Lumbarda. Bire, our beloved Grk winemaker was away for a wine fair so we had to do without him this time but that didn't stop us to ride past his vineyards. Gornje Blato – vast field of fertile land that at the same time displays and hides wonders of nature and people's hands was our first stop and then we headed southeast to check the blue and seemingly endless Adriatic horizon.

Downhill took us with a view to Vela Pržina sandy beach that would perfectly fit in an end of a movie when the main characters, having overcome difficulties and made serious money, arrive and drink cocktails to enjoy next stages in their lives. We only stayed for half an hour though, almost alone gazing at the open sea in an meditation like state. Guess the sun broke just for us.

Lumbarda area is special, millenia ago the river of Neretva used to flow along the north side of it which is why it is nowadays sandy land growing vegetables of a rich taste such as zucchini or cherry tomatos that locals boast of, not to mention Grk wine possibly originating from the Greek era but that has never been proven. Or it was the Illyrians who had already inhabited the island when the latter came and who were winemakers themselves and so maybe the word Grk doesn't come from Greek but the word gorak meaning bitter in Croatian.

That evening we decided to treat ourselves with traditional meal, or better to say, a way of preparing food, called peka in Malta tavern. Iron baking dish under the cover of iron bell with charcoal on it bakes and cooks the food making it juicier than otherwise. The fireplace was on and that's really great way to experience „island life“ off the seasonal routes and ways.

Other upside of Korčula over other central Dalmatian places in the autumn and winter is that is simply few degrees warmer which makes the whole package more pleasant. The climate is almost subtropical compared to say, Split, which again is warmer than most other towns on the coast.

Sunday was really splendid – Žrnovo village waiting with Dijana making lovely late breakfast for us. Eko škoj is her brand meaning ecological island and she grows and produces olives, vegetables, grappas, jams and so on. We sat in the warmth of the sun at the terrace of 200 or so year old house to enjoy a welcome grappa followed by dried figs and fresh olive oil with Dijana's made bread, salted fish, cheese, dried cherry tomatoes, Pošip white wine  and finally, as the meal was already turning into lunch she took out of oven a cake-like bread with walnuts and dried figs.

Next we left Žrnovo and its countless stories from far and near history to cycle some, first up- and then slight downhill dirt road to Kočje or Koče as locals call it. Dolomite rocks of strange shape overgrown with ivy, moss, holm oak trees, secret trails and little caves, a source of water known as the „Fairies spring“; all of these make for incredibly intriguing and magical ambiance in a relatively small area.

As the trail is marked you don't get lost, but when you explore a bit further there's always some new shape, trace, plant or evidence of a temporary human presence in the past. Koče is one of those places you return to whenever possible. Unless it's rainy, because then it's muddy and slippery.
We biked on down to north coast and after two more nice stops got to Korčula town past sunset. That was nearly five hours of little sweat and pure joy.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Heaven on water?
„Charming, ancient harbors dot Croatia's stunning coastlines and islands, which take a backseat to no other Mediterranean shore, and a wilder side can be found in Kornati National Park, where campers bed down on islands used by herders for 2,000 years. Paddling coastal Croatia's almost unimaginably blue waters leads wanderers through a delightful maze of more than 1,200 islands. Some 70 of them are inhabited, and like Croatia's mainland communities, their culture reflects the country's intriguing location between Central Europe and the Balkans.“

 – This is how National Geographic Travel puts sea kayaking in Croatia among Top 10 Mediterranean Adventures. But why? Well, the answer is simply because the east side of the Adriatic sea is there the way it is and it has only taken some time for it to start being discovered and recognized by (foreign) adventurers, recreational kayakers and particularly by local community whose majority still have no clue what exactly sea kayaking really is. Tourist „experts“ included.

Free your mind
When I was child there were boats we called gondolas or sandolinas for rent and we, usually boys, would sometimes somehow find just enough money to go for an hour or two paddling along city's beaches. Those boats were in fact very primitive form of kayak and occasionally they were even equipped with air pockets which kept them on the surface when you capsized. One fine day a friend and I turned over some 60 meters from the beach and the gondola sunk to the bottom around six meters below us. We were perhaps 12 years old at the time and we had no choice but to dive to the boat and push it on the bottom enough times till we could finally grab it. Only by then most of our rental time was gone and that was it, but the connection was made. As years went on I would see kayakers from other countries who seemed to be pleased by their navigation in our waters.

Once upon a time in Lastovo
Three decades later sea kayaking is still not a big thing in Croatia; locals now have some (faint) idea what it is but very few people actually do it. But the active ones are aware of the beauty surrounding them. Thanks to our predecessors who arrived long long ago here where the East meets West, North meets South and the land is married to the sea, we enjoy the privilege of being born and living in one of the finest corners of the Mediterranean.

The nature on the other hand did everything else giving us so many reasons to admire and cherish its creation on daily basis. Scattered islands and islets moored in crystal water, numerous coves and pebble beaches, caves and lagoons, lovely towns and villages, lush vegetation and bare rocks, turbulent past and ancient (pre)history, myths and legends, gastronomy, wine, hard work and leisure, culture and's all here and much more...

Wine not?
So many islands are unlikely to leave you indifferent; their number is such that anyone after exploring the Mediterranean spirit is bound to find the perfect one, be it among northern ones or, say, Kornati national park with incredible diversity of marine life, bare vertical cliffs and almost unimaginable quantity of rocks hiding little oases of olive groves, or authentic taverns few meters from the sea. North Dalmatia around Šibenik is abundant with little islands and islets, the bay of Šibenik is one of the most protected harbors in the world while the region of Split is entrance to even more colorful ambience of islands like Brač, Hvar and Vis. Further south the climate is almost subtropical in Korčula and Mljet, vegetation of those islands as well as the Elafiti group is lush, the land is fertile, the water is warmer...

The currents that pour in from the Mediterranean flow in the Adriatic sea roughly speaking up along „our“ side and bring fresh supply of water which is to a great extent responsible for the amazing transparency of the water while later on they go down the Italian side. And who knows, it might have been these currents that backed up with jugo (southeast wind) brought Odyssey away from Ithaca into the Adriatic more than three millennia ago and he possible liked it so much that he kept prolonging his return. Although those currents aren't too strong and tidal oscillations pose no threat to navigation nevertheless the sea demands respect and caution if only for micro-climate conditions which combined with summer storms must be taken seriously. But since nowadays weather forecast reports are easily available (there is mobile phone signal almost wherever you go), it only takes little common sense to make your paddling holiday safe and pleasant.

Red rocks
Breathtaking landscapes and charming little towns aside, this great archipelago stretching for about 300 nautical miles is unique in Europe for sea kayaking particularly from April to November and those who dare to do it whether on their own or through some specialized agency will doubtlessly have unforgettable discovery of the place and people living here.

Somewhere in Kornati
The kayaking possibilities are numerous anywhere between more touristy and solitary islands off the beaten routes and doing it you can spend a couple of hours to few months depending on how deeply you are addicted to it and how much time you have at your disposal. Along the way you can combine camping, private accommodation and small luxury hotels again proportionally to your preferences and lifestyle. Or why not stay onboard a boat that cruises the most attractive areas where you can then leisurely explore the most attractive spots without worrying about the weather and the itinerary. In other words any way you chose to do it don’t wait too long - it will only get crowded one day.

A man and a donkey know more than just a man (or donkey) - old Dalmatian saying
Sunny side of  Hvar
Hard life
Tipically Adriatic
Abandoned olive oil rafinery
Old parts of olive oil press
Submarine pen from Yugoslav army
Odysseus cave 
High cliffs, deep sea
There were even dolphins...
Sea level siesta
Do it yourself
Three is a crowd...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

                                            YOU HAPPY, ME HAPPY
Tourism has changed many times and the process has at times been slower, other times of course more sudden, and it will continue that way whether we like it or not. As there are tourist workers with different approach to the matter, so it happens with the „objects’’ of their efforts – people who travel for all kinds of reasons and spend certain amount of time and means in a place, be it for pure pleasure or a business trip leaving them few hours or maybe more to treat themselves with whatever they like provided they find it. Nowadays unless constrained by an important meeting hardly anybody goes where they can't enjoy, be it a great music festival, superb food, authentic ambience, spectacular hike or something in particular anyway. And visitors are also viewed as either tourists or travelers where generally speaking tourists just follow patterns, guides with mikes, buy local souvenirs made in China, eat pizza in the main square and such, while travelers prefer discovering certain area through more spontaneous course of action, not necessarily knowing how long they will stay in a place or maybe simply by staying there longer than just 2 to 3 days which has come into fashion. As if you could see everything in a week or 10 days.


Proportionally the similar can be said about the providers: there are the ones who cheat on food or wine quality and source, window view, gear, etc., and those who are ready to give a client at least what they’ve paid for, and whenever possible with an added value. And naturally the most thriving ones are those in between staying happy as long as the numbers suit them.

Despite the ever-changing tourism theories, realities and tourists’ habits, despite numerous divisions and subdivisions, one thing seems to stay the same – there are only two kinds of tourists: those who don’t care where they are and those who do, always willing to fathom as much as possible local ways and culture. The latter too come for a variety of reasons and if it is, say, scuba diving, they need more than just excellent and reliable equipment, they need an expert diver/guide who is able to tell them about the local history, mentality, who will point them in good direction and if there’s a great tavern or bar not listed in guidebooks or hard to find, tell them about it.


The bottom line is that tourism can be dull and exhausting (when visitors become no more than figures), or it can be more demanding inspiring relationship for both sides.
But if you are a tourist/traveler and you would find a really good hotel, cozy apartment, family-run tavern where daily specialties vary in dependence of what’s fresh that morning in the green or fish market, little bar where relaxed locals hang out, shady trail leading to a secluded beach, refreshing adventure activity (something we do) how can you tell who is worth your energy when there’s so much competition, so many websites and other (internet) tools used by the providers?

Mediterranean: "Stranger, the law doesn't protect you here"

It takes two to tango, but meeting a perfect partner requires a recommendation by a someone who’s been there and done that or a focused research through extensive areas of advertising games. Other way is something we like to call pure coincidence – when things naturally start happening without too much planning, like when a thought or a click leads to another step and then suddenly it’s magic. Whichever path(s) you choose is of less importance– as long as it works!!


And in the meantime leave your instincts active…


Monday, January 26, 2015

Mons Vipera

croActive holidays
view to a hill
It's a grey and rainy day in Korčula, jugo wind is showing its consistency and persistency in keepeing you inside...ideal for many indoor activities such as cooking, watching a film from a couch or brainstorming. Through the window and clouds I percieve the mountain of Zmijino brdo also known as Mons vipera (Viper's mountain) or Perun's mountain, and its peak Sveti Ilija.

across the sea
Its presence dominates the area of Pelješac and north-east side of Korčula island. It rises 961 m above sea level as a giant from some old tales not really interested in people but rather happy when left alone. Occasionally gets angry and then it's not a place to be there. But we all know that storms come and go and blue sky appears again as if it has never rained before. 

A group of us, friends, went few weeks ago up there to spend a night in the so called hunters' cabin (half an hour walk from the top) and the forecast said it would rain at night. We contacted the local Mountaineering Club Sv. Ilija from Orebić to get the hut key and they said somebody was already up there so there was nothing to worry.

hike up
Our pace was moderate and we got there just in time to organize wood for fire and then after a grill and homemade wine right when we got into our sleeping bags the clouds swallowed the mountain and began pouring down its wet content. It felt nice being inside, protected. It seemed we were the only people in the world and I imagined us from say, a perspective of Korčula, when on such a day you only see two thirds of Ilija and the rest dissapears in the clouds like some lost and distant world. 

in the mountain
Wind gusts and showers went on whole night, and finally the morning cleared the sky so after breakfast we went to the top plateau to admire the view to the mainland and distant mountains of Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro to the north and islands of Mljet, Korčula, Lastovo, Sušac, Vis, Hvar...on a day with a really good visibility it's possible to see the most remote islets of Palagruža and even the Italian coast. 

the ridge
Spectacular landscape includes the ridge of the peninsula of Pelješac itself resembling a long and jagged dormant beast winding and streching for 65 kilometers. If one wanted to venture into exploring numerous coves, fields, vineyards, taverns and wine cellars, villages, not to mention history, it would take time but it's nice to know that there is always something new and different to come back to.
prickly juniper

Like this mountain; from its foothill you mostly see rock and little greenery and when you start ascending it, like we did, taking the east, steeper trail, it is fascinating how suddenly you're walking surrounded by trees and when you arrive to the plateau leading to the cabin it is even more green and fertile then expected, tall, mighty black pines stand in harmony with hibernating sage and prickly juniper forming such a delighting scene that you soon start thinking you have to be back in springtime when they are blooming.

black Dalmatian pines
As for the animal world the most common is to spot moufflons, but they share the mountain with more elusive jackals, boars, rabbits, falcons, hawks, vipers, owls, pheasants, grouses, and many other birds species. Seeing hoarses roaming some lower parts of the mountain is no surprise either. In order to encounter some of the wildlife one should be silent, spend more time in the mountain or simply be lucky, perhaps armed with a binocular.
...because it's there...
The way down took us more to the west in a milder but longer trail, first through the trees and then it started turning back towards our starting point in Orebić with views opening once again to Korčula island and town with all the islets spread out in the strait. And then the chapel of Lady of Karmen and its cypresses gave us one more opportunity to stop for a moment and reflect on all the wonderful things and sights we've met along the way.

a view to Korčula and Lumbarda
To summarise, Sveti Ilija is a wild and beautiful mountain with good and marked trails, an ecological heaven only a couple of hours walk from the sea level, so if you happen to be in the area and have a „hiking problem“, that's a place to go, particularly in spring or autumn when conditions and temperatures are generally more favourable.