Med – Croatia
'The wind most feared in the Adriatic is the Bora. Typically blows from the NE along the Croatian coastline, often at gale force, and has been recorded at hurricane force at Trieste.'
(Mediterranean Cruising Handbook,
Honestly, I hadn’t known that when I volunteered to organise a Med trip to follow on from last year’s successful circumnavigation of Menorca.
Peering out of the aircraft windows at the sea off Dubrovnik it wasn’t the Bora that worried us, it was looking down at the F5 from the SE which was leaving large areas of foam and pounding the Dalmatian coast impressively.
We were met at the airport by the representative of Huck Finn, the only company in Croatia that seems happy just to rent out sea kayaks.
There are other companies, but they’re keen to include kayak rental along with the supply of a guide, and booking B&B accommodation each night: a more elaborate service than we wanted. Those companies also warned us that 'camping outside of the campsites is strictly forbidden and the penalties are high'.
First stop was in Dubrovnik, to start to search for fuel for our cookers: we never did find meths for Trangias, but we did eventually find (in Top Marine, an angling store!) propane/butane mix for our Coleman and Primus burners; and we bought a Camping Gaz cooker with a different type of cylinder than we had a burner for. Being September, stores had run down their supplies of camping kit.
Our first two nights, and our last, were in a campsite in Zaton, about half an hour from Dubrovnik. We five had the site pretty much to ourselves, and the Adriatic Sea was in a bay just across a quiet road: but no beach. Rain from the tail end of the weather system of the past week – the one that produced the SE swell – tested the waterproofing on our tents during the first night. But the ground in the campsite was remarkably quick to dry out; maybe the limestone base helped.
Our first day afloat wasn’t!
Our kayaks had been marooned kilometres away on an island by the weather which left Huck Finn disinclined to tow them over for us. So we spent the day exploring Dubrovnik – a fascinating place – and finishing practicalities like fuel and food shopping.
Our second day started with us checking out our boats – Prijon Seayaks – and spraydecks. They weren’t used to this: some of the decks had holes/splits, and the kayaks needed some attention such as tape to cover the holes where the rudder lines usually come through the hull. (We didn’t take up the rudder option, and the boats were generally fine and not too hard to handle.)
Thereafter the day was lovely, and set a pattern for most of the rest of the week: gentle seas, fine weather, lots of blue sky, warm blue water, stark rocky coastline and - at the water’s edge – rocks so sharp you could feel the kayak flinch when you got too close! We headed out to the Elaphite Islands (one of the Things Not Too Miss in Croatia, according to the Rough Guide), passing Kolocep first, then Lopud for lunch, and stopped for the night on Sipan. We came by chance upon our base for the night, which seemed to have been a restaurant before it was abandoned: some of us bivvied, others put up their tents among the concrete tables and chairs.
Up soon after daybreak the following morning, we followed the Sipan coast before spending an hour and a half crossing over to the island of Mljet. The first village we came across tempted us to stop for a beer; the second tempted us to stop for a pizza and a beer while we waited for the food store to open. Our base that night was just beyond Sobra, camping wild on some terraces. During the night two other tents appeared nearby, confirming our suspicions that wild camping in Croatia is not unusual, but it does require discretion, erecting tents at sundown and getting them down soon after sunrise: not getting caught is the key.
Maybe it’s the Portsmouth Club’s training, but as a group we settled in well together, each taking a share of what needed to be done. This really showed the following day, when after a long morning we arrived in Polace, the main village in the Mljet National Park.
Within half an hour of landing, we had:
a) found a shop and replenished our food stocks
b) discovered that we could rent two small apartments for the same price as staying in the campsite we’d checked out that morning
c) purchased the obligatory tickets for the National Park; and they are the same price, no matter how long one stays (so we said three days) and include minibus rides to and from the inland lakes
d) replanned our trip to allow for the Bora, forecast to blow through in a couple of days (mobile phone reception was so good, only once did we fail to get a forecast off the internet).
That afternoon we walked through the woods and over the hills to the inland lakes, swam, took a boat ride to an island monastry and walked back in good time to get to a restaurant for a tasty meal (negotiating a special price seems to be one of David’s many talents). The following day we paddled around the end of Mljet and into the inland lakes, which are directly accessible from the sea and picture postcard pretty.
The Bora arrived during the night.
It was windy and wet. It was still quite blustery when we packed our kit into the (free) minibus and went to over the hill to the boats. The conditions were interesting but not dire: the wind was quite gusty all day, but we were sheltered to some extent by the land mass on our left, and when the wind changed direction to run along the coast, mostly it helped us along. That night we got to the end of Mljet and found, for the first time, a sandy beach to land on, and later to camp behind. Only the few nudists noticed our presence, and they were unconcerned.
In the morning we went around the end of the island to inspect the open crossing ahead of us: it looked feasible, by only a small margin. The better option was to stop for a coffee, read a while and see if things improved: they did, and we had a nice crossing, back over to the Elaphite island of Sipan. We found a nice spot for lunch; wandered into the town to check it out; and in a moment of decisive lethargy, decided to stay put for the night. A few people passed by on the footpath, but seemed unconcerned.
The following day the route back to Zaton took us past the parts of the Elaphite Islands we’d not seen on the way out, with plenty of time to roll, camp and hand the kayaks back. A couple of canine Croatians befriended us, hanging around the campsite and accompanying us as we walked a mile to a superb fish restaurant for supper. They waited patiently while we feasted, then accompanied us back to the campsite.
The following day the minibus arrived promptly as usual, to take us back to the airport for the end of a truly picturesque, amiable and relaxing trip: 198 km in all, at a rate of £290 per person + air fares. And, back at Gatwick, autumn had really arrived.