Another week, another day, another 5am start, but this time I'm going further than Dubrovnik. As if on a piece of elastic I find myself going back to Split; no island too remote to prevent such wonderful continuations of friendship. My lovely Ives had her birthday yesterday, and her daughter's is Saturday so I promised ages ago that I would come back this weekend for laughter and celebration. It is the only reason, I think that she let me get on the ferry the last time I returned to Šipan!
I ended my last piece of meandering reportage pondering what would happen this week. There was a plan to meet a friend in Dubrovnik for a quick drink. A. Plan. Surely by now we should have learnt that they are mere 'helpful suggestions'; a doffing of ones cap to normality and order, if you will. This is why on Sunday evening I found myself on a friend's sailing boat with only the clothes I was wearing, with not an item of toiletry to be seen, and a bunch of new drinking buddies. Experience has taught me that Devonians are some of the best people in the world and never have I felt more welcome. Or more drunk! Normal.
Still, given I was stranded on the mainland after a splendid champagne supper, they kindly offered me a lift back to Šipan, in return for a little local knowledge. After breakfast and a monumental hangover the following morning, with a beer based supermarket sweep - they were determined to redefine 'booze cruise' - we were heading down the channel and underneath the magnificent Franjo Tuđman Bridge towards the open sea. I was entranced by the grace and quiet of the sailboat, and when a motor boat gave way and went behind us in true textbook 'power giving way to sail', skipper-style I was beside myself. They were all sailors and answered all my daft questions patiently! Due to Devon school days I was also able to act as interpreter as the Croatian Skipper was utterly at sea... When Dalmatian meets Devonian.
After a cheese - meat - beer based picnic lunch, we headed out to anchor off the island of Lopud for an afternoon of swimming and general larking about. I've not laughed so much, nearly drowning with mirth, watching two idiots go off to buy icecream in a tender, both rowing in opposite directions. Before realising they had no cash, because the communal wallet was bobbing about merrily on the sea.
Makes my own chaotic travelling style look like a military operation. Tell me, with merry Devonians in charge, how the hell was the Spanish Armada repelled?
I borrowed a snorkel and mask and was mesmerised by fish feeding on bits of bread. I've never seen that from below - a stunning display of acrobatics. I joined them in their diving display, not quite as elegant but I've already demonstrated to a naked German, I'm not a fish!! We finally pulled into Šipanska Luka at about 6.30pm and it had been a treat to see the south-west side of the island from our vantage point of the sea. Sadly the lack of wind meant we had to be engine powered, but still, it was glorious.
At this point I showered and wished I had clean clothes. The best I could manage was some manly deodorant. After a number of refreshing mojitos, I was mint and lime scented. Our organised skipper had called ahead to reserve both a berth for the boat and a table for dinner. I can unreservedly recommend Kod Marka - no menu, no wine list. Just incredible meat or fish of the day with whatever dishes the chef has dreamt up to start with. In this case, little fish in oil with grilled bread, then peppery octopus cakes. The rare steak, veal, and meaty potato sauce was incredible. The marzipan scented medlar fruit liqueur to finish this feast was utterly divine. The Orsan Restaurant in Dubrovnik the night before had been breath taking but in a completely different way. By midnight I'm sad to say, I was exhausted...and pretty much collapsed!
Some idiot the next morning decided an early morning dip was in order. He thought it was 7am...and to his horror two hours later, it really was 7am. Waking up on a boat is the weirdest experience; like all the best bit of camping. Except the water is generally outside your porthole, and not in your bedding/shoes. Feeling much better after many hours sleep, coffee and fried eggs, I sadly waved goodbye to my new friends. They had a date with some wine tasting in Korčula; if anyone is there, can they make sure the place is still standing.
My life after Croatia remains a bit hazy, but these guys reminded me of my time in Devon and why I am still friends with many people from that period of my life. Just was just like been 19 again; they left me exhausted, boggled, hungover, with laughter muscles aching from use. The journey back to mine on the little local bus was uneventful, and involved a conversation with someone about Simon Stylites. Obviously.
The rest of the week was fairly quiet, with a trip to a deserted beach on the mainland as the highlight. Nothing to see here, but oh, boy, was I sunburnt! The pizzeria just down the coast was pretty good too, they did a mean ice coffee.
There was a moment on Thursday when I thought about going to meet the sailing guys on Korčula, then head to Split from there on Friday morning. But owing to me not knowing what day of the week it was, I got my ferry timing knickers in a twist. So I had to forgo the pleasure of another drunken night on water; instead I spent the evening looking at the stars and nattering about nothing much. I think night club regulations were discussed given the local bar's usual Thursday night pulsing drunken Aussie beat. Inevitably it was a late night because I had to be on this 6am ferry, bound for more Split adventures.