Saturday 16 July 2016

Retreating to Mljet

Some occurrences probably deserve and need no words, so I've been putting off writing about the past few days. They go to prove that 1. all plans are bunk, 2. I can be just as stupid here as I can be in the UK, and 3. home is definitely where the heart is. However the incredible island of Mljet has been a perfect retreat, and as usual the unexpected has made the trip worthwhile.
I decided on this trip on Monday partly at the invitation of a gathering in Split at the weekend. Ladies cackling about life, love, friendship, and universal truths over red wine, grilled meat and chocolate soufflés was irresistible. After a week of unmitigated self-inflicted heartache I needed my lovely friend in Split. So what could be better than recovering poise in calm Mljet for a couple of nights, then continuing on to Split on Friday for a change in pace?
It started off rockily. I missed the bus from my village to the port, forgot to confirm my accommodation reservation, had no clue where to get my catamaran ticket from, was clueless as to whether there was bus from Sobra to Pomena late at night, I'd omitted to check where I was going if I even got to Pomena, hadn't downloaded Google maps of Mjlet, and despite being aware of the crap weather on the way, didn't take my coat or a pair of jeans. Still, whether it was the havoc I'd wreaked, or just my new sheer couldn't care less attitude to travelling, I remained utterly calm amongst the wreckage. Technology in the shape of a £5 3 Europass suggested a location of my room at Barba Ive's (recommended) in Pomena, and it allowed friends and family to tell me how stupid I'd been. Situation normal then.
I can confirm that, yes there is a little bus which meets the ferry, and even if you are staying in the most out of the way place, tell the driver and he will make every effort to get you there. Two lost looking people showed him where they wanted to go on Google maps and he dropped them off as requested. By then I was the only person on the bus, and I got off when we pulled up in a tiny village. I stopped to consult the map and blue dot. A worried local gentleman was convinced I was called Natalie and asked my name several times. Apparently she was his missing guest and she was supposed to be on the bus. She wasn't. Oh. Perhaps I should have become Natalie as her life seemed quite interesting.
Walking around the harbour, it was alive with the sounds of boats, water, people and the atmosphere was party-like. In a daze I found my konoba and asked for Dažen. The poor guy was single handedly managing the busiest place I'd seen at the busiest time of night. He hastily showed me up to the room and left me to it. The room was perfect; spartan, clean, with a view to die for over the sailing boats and harbour. The windows shut out the people noise and I was cocooned in cool quiet.
Assuring my brother and the exasperated one that I was safe, I ventured out for a late snack. It was after 10pm and restaurants were definitely winding down. Luckily I found a quiet place - konoba Herc - which didn't mind serving me a mixed plate of salad, excellent fish pate, olives, cheese and ham, and bread with which to mop it all up. The waitress and I compared hair styles and we had a giggle, lovely lady. I headed home to my room and crashed out into happy oblivion. Until 4.30...
What is it with this time of the morning when you are feeling miserable? I lay there uselessly willing my brain to stop whirring. I gave sleep up as a bad job, laughing at the memory of a recent Facebook conversation about the unreasonableness of early risers who shower, flush and stomp about. As I headed out for a morning walk, there was no particular direction in mind but packed a bag for all eventualities. The fragrance and peace of the dim forest flooded through me.
The small lake is impossibly deep and was invitingly calm; two dogs were playing in the shallow water on the beach and when they saw me, they greeted me like a long lost friend. Running out of the water and showering me with cool salty water, they made it their job to be my guide. They would run ahead, stop, check I was ok, then carry on excitedly. I was spellbound and pathetically grateful for their doggy companionship. One worry was that the lady dog was holding her paw oddly and not putting weight on it. Perhaps a bite, or sharp object, or an old injury? I had no idea. I felt for any heat and she was happy to let me touch it but, being cautious, and not wanting to upset a strange dog, there was nothing much I could do. Still, we carried on... And her kind eyes just made me melt.
By 7km and three quarters of the way round the two lakes, one of the dogs had decided he had more
important business to attend to, but the other was happy to limp along with me. Occasionally she would jump in the lake for a dip. Probably should have joined her! We had shared my water and I was getting quite concerned. There were also more people around, and one of these joggers stopped to greet this new friend of mine. She asked me in Croatian why the dog was limping and I felt so guilty! Turns out she was a (non practicing) Slovenian vet and dog owner, on holiday with another vet! We gave the dog more water, she felt the paw and then we both worried. She ended her jog and we fell into conversation and laughed about the coincidence of a vet meeting a poorly dog. We nattered and we exchanged numbers, promising a coffee later. We had more in common than just animals it seemed. Broken hearts, in need of quiet, work stresses and generally being overwhelmed by life. All very familiar.
We took a shortcut back to where I'd picked up my doggy chums to see if there was anyone there. A conversation with a forest ranger set our minds at ease. Nelly (Neli?) was a dog of misfortune and had been badly hurt by a car, hence the paw. She was also a drama queen and enjoyed acting for the attention. I love this dog! She followed us both back into the village and collapsed knowingly at the local smoothie/ice cream joint. It had been a pleasurable morning and it was still only 9am!
Coffee and wifi achieved I sat down and read the news about Nice. Once again the sad words are meaningless and nothing can be said, merely felt.
By midday I went foraging for warm fresh bread, pate, crisps and peaches. It was time to head into the forest again, but what a difference 12 hours later makes! So many people, the day so warm and bright. A little boy and I nattered in French, he explained knowledgably that these lake weren't the sea but it was still salty water! I asked where he thought the sea was, and he looked around, so sweet. After, I lay on a sheltered bench to read in a beautiful spot. By the time I decided to move, the sun was about to put on its best pyrotechnical show, so I watched until the sky was dark, and then collapsed into bed.
After all, Split the following evening was going to be a late one! And my friend and I were getting really excited.

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