30th May, 2006 // Croatia
has it really been THREE WEEKS??
Well hey to anybody reading.
I have just realised that the siren has sounded for the commencement of my fourth and final week here in the magical land of Croatia. I really cannot believe it!!! It feels the opposite to coming to the 3/4 mark in a race, where you just want it to be over; it's more like I wish it had only begun!!!!
I am getting more adventurous with the language, and this is fun in itself, for the mere comical value as well as the sense of achievement felt when you ask somebody a question and actually UNDERSTAND the answer, even if it is simply the price of a burger or the time a bus goes. What was that thing they said about small things and small minds?? I forget. On the comical side I manage to say things like "ten big good please" pretty frequently and it takes me a bit to understand why the kind shop assistant just stares at me blankly, but Sandie's effort was the best, managing to mistakedly call a drink (piše) a piške, or "cunt", ha YEP, priceless.
With the highs and lows of the language barrier aside I have become pretty attached to both just being a travel bum and this country in particular. I did ended up on Bol for a second stint of five days, but these were a little wasted as the wind only blew on two of them. Sandie shared a few days with me there before heading South to explore Dubrovnik and its surrounds, with the plan for us to meet up once again in Split. I was VERY close to not keeping up my end of the bargain here, I seriously considered staying on Bol to windsurf the next week away, but my wise elder sister advised me that I may feel like I wasted an opportunity, that we are not ALWAYS so free to go wherever we want with only a pack to carry. I came around and saw her sense, met her in Split and we headed North together.
So next stop was another coastal port town, this time Šibenik. A really well protected port by a long entry and several protecting Islands, Šibenik and its surrounds were a bit of a hotspot in the recent war. Some friendly bullet holes in some walls and the occasional spent round of ammunition around the town's protective forts and fences were reminders of this, and a humbling sight. To know that only 12 years ago active war was occuring where we stood, soldiers with guns, snipers, mortars, land mines, it was a stark realisation to me that war is not really a thing of the history books, that our world is still subject to it, and despite technology and education, the simplicity of peace remains an almost untouchable holy grail.
Perhaps these little sights and feelings got under my skin a tad, and I have made getting out to Vukovar a priority of mine for the coming few days. It is a town that, along with its surrounding areas, was perhaps most brutally involved in the recent war. It marks a point on the North East border of Croatia, the one shared with Serbia, and it marks the location for some of the more offensive brutalities that the war played host to. Vukovar actually fell under Serbian occupation but was recaptured by Croatia in the major military offensive that saw what could be described as the end to the worst of the fighting, however the town remains home to populations of both Serbians and Croatians, who are still fiercely divided. My next story might go into those merky waters a bit more, if I can make sense of some of it?
Anyway, back to a chronological order. We found some cool accomoadation in Šibenik, high up on the hill overlooking the town and the port. The twenty two thousand three hundred and seventy one steps between town and our pad were EXACTLY what Sandie wanted too, especially on a hot day after a 4AM wake up for a 7 hour bus ride, so she was quite excited also, especially carrying her pack!!! The reason for staying here was to visit the famous waterfalls of the Krka National Park; seventeen cascading falls over about a kilometre covering 46 vertical metres. The numbers don't do it justice, it's fucking BIG, and in ancient times drove an area of mass industry. Water flow was bypassed with walls to allow for the construction of some amazingly intricate channels and waterways. In these were built turbines that could be spun by the water when the appropriate gate was open, and the turbines drove everything from old shool washers and fabric softeners (read as big heavy bits of wood to SMASH fabric to softness) to grinding devices to create flour and cornmeal. With no expaectation of seeing such engineering marvels this little exhibit, featuring the still working original constructions, was a great side to the spectacle of the falls. The back to Šibenik for a nice meal with Sandie before heading our separate ways again the next day.
I headed to Paklenica National Park, on the coast North West of Zadar, and after walking about 8Km to get my bearings and park entrance card and some supplies I was finally hiking by 2PM. The goal was to summit the highest point and get out, possible in one big day, but I found out about a free mountain hut at about 1350m so I made that my destination. I didn't do a lot of pre reading on this park, but it turns out it is one of Europe's biggest clinbing destination. I am not a huge technical climber, but it is VERY impressive. After seeing the busy beginner cliffs and thinking the climbing was past, I began to notice figures HIGH above the valley floor, getting to the top of 400m faces, just with a mate and some rope. My bro knows much more about that stuff than I do, but I was gob smacked. Anyway, kept hiking with a big pack and finally came acroos a little hut, up there in the clouds somewhere, where there is still some snow on the ground!!!! Settled in to the surrounding photos of the bears and snakes that frequent the area, and the darkening sky confirming my night alone, when 2 mad Germans appeared. I was pretty stoked to have some company, and they were stoked to find the hut as they were a bit lost, hence the late arrival. We were asleep soon after dark but awoken by midnight by some VERY active animal life on our porch, perhaps wild cats, who knows, and some squirrels inside the hut. The wind was blowing fiercely outside, and while the fear factor was eliminated by the false sense of security in the presence of my German companions, I am confident I would have had little sleep if they were not there. The knowing that bears roamed these areas, BIG fucking bears, and the inability to lock the door just created some, well, bad dreams OK. Call me a girl, but my 2 inch pocket knife was close by all night and daylight was a welcome relief!!!! My summit hopes drizzled away with heavy clouds and rain that morning, and needing to be on a bus by afternoon I descended as the German's guide down an area that I had been lost on the day before. I figured going it alone in this high country with NO visibility was not necessary, so we all got down safely together.
That was this morning, then I bathed in a fresh creek as it ran off the mountains into the sea (a MUCH needed bath!!!), hitched a ride back to Zadar and got right onto a bus to Zagreb where I will sleep tonight before moving on to Osijek tomorrow for 2 nights with a day trip to Vukovar in between, I figured sleeping there might be silly??
So until next time, keep the peace in the world and enjoy it. I'll be back in Brisbane pestering that part of Australia's population sooner than we realise, but not before seeing my BEAUTIFUL girl for the first time in SEVEN months!!!!!!!
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