As we're witnessing the winter chill approaching, we might feel like just hiding under the blanket with some hot tea in one hand and a TV remote in the other. There's nothing wrong with snuggling up on a sofa, but if you have just spent your day walking and running around in nature, it makes it that much sweeter.
Last Saturday, Učka Nature Park was a host to 184 trekkers from all over Croatia and near regions. "Everyone reached the goal before sunset, and even made it to see the 7:15 cartoon... we were first to get to lunch, but last to get to the showing of the film on Patagonia!" - a quote from one of the Gelenderovac.
We were gone because we had a party to plan! Come and join us in the celebration of the ending of this epic journey!
6pm, June 30th at Kino Europa, Zagreb.
"Up to Sveti Ilija? From Donja Vrućica?! God forbid! Not a chance! Impossible... Nobody's passed there for over forty years! Don't go, there are countless snakes, they will get you,...". This is what the locals from Donja Vrućica told us when they heard about our plan to break through to Sv. Ilija (St. Elias), the highest peak on Pelješac, from their village.
Just as I was beginning to think I'd seen everything and that there was nothing left to surprise or impress me, a new day come, with a new adventure bringing new thrilling moments along. And such was the valley of river Neretva, thrilling.
Put it like this: take all of my excessive praise, enthusiastic descriptions with which I've tried to convey all the beauty I've witnessed and put it all together in one single word: Peljesac.
I have to mention a few things about our free day in Lumbarda. Ksenija from TZ Lumbarda invited us for a boat trip around Korcula. I won't even attempt writing just how beautiful this ride through all the scattered small islands was (eighteen of them), nor will I try to convey just how much fun we had before half of our team had to go back for Zagreb, and I couldn't even begin to tell you about the pod of dolphins which made our cruise that much more amazing, or a great swim we had, and the amazing food on the boat...
M!!! Many magical moments!!!
We used our day for transfer to have a look around a climbing spot at Sveta Nedjelja. There is a real peaceful, little, exotic adventure center at the end of this small village, put together by Slovak Miro. A few years ago, when he had just discovered this location, with ideal climbing cliffs emerging directly from the sea, he left his day job, left Slovakia and moved over here.
Flying bulls ... Giant carrots on limestone pavements on islands... An accordionist, torches and Brazilian flip flops next to the kayak ... No, I'm not dreaming and I’m not completely crazy ... I can explain everything…Honest.
Welcome.hr is among other things a very technological blog. Or at least a blog that is highly dependent on technology. To show more clearly what is contained in the background of Welcome, we mustn't forget the very beginning.
„Write it down like this: the place is open for friends and wondering tourists to come in for refreshments and to enjoy themselves... but, ok, they can get a bed for a night as well... I only care to see people having a good time. I wouldn't let just anyone come here, not for all the money in the world... This place means too much to me.“
How is it possible for each and every day of this journey to be so completely different, new and exciting? We have already been through and seen so much, and yet there is still so much more ahead, even though we've had to give some things a miss. I was wandering about all of this while leaving our accidental guide Postar, who told us about a Turkish well in Bunje, where they play the most unusual water polo in the world.
„I cannot sleep ever since I was given these keys“, Tonci Cizmic wailed. „To have such a valuable thing in my hands, without knowing what to do with it, is absolute torture!“ Seriously though, can you imagine how you'd feel if you had billions of dollars and no means of spending it?!
The only thing better than enjoying a day of kayaking from Omis to Brac and cycling through olive groves and quarries is when you get to do all that in great company.
Yep, I'm still behind with posting all the adventure stories from the letter „O“. However, I do have to mention our absolutely perfect first day of the letter „M“. Cycling from Trilj to Zadvarje, seeing the incredibly beautiful canyon and rafting in river Cetina, hiking towards Fortica situated on a ridge above the town called Omis, all in great company of our cheerful Welcome team.
We finished the letter „C“ in Sibenik. Director of the Tourist board, Dino Karadjole and his son met up with us on the dock, in front of the most famous building in the historic town center, the St. Jacob's Cathedral. We spent the entire day sightseeing and just walking around „Kresimir's town“, which is another name for Sibenik since it was the residence of King Petar Kresimir the fourth.
My dear blogreaders, I guess it's high time I posted something. Well, here I am humbly reporting to you just to say I am aware of this and sorry I haven't had a chance to. I have actually had a few days off but that hasn't helped either. However, hope dies last, and so I hope I will eventually make up for it, in some way yet unknown to me. For now, I will give you a short overview of the Sibenik-Split break. Summary of the whole letter „O“ soon to follow. We are starting on the letter „M“ on Thursday, 19th of May. With regular blog posts. Probably.
Dear friends and blogreaders! We've changed the date of the biggest Welcome in the World finish to June 3rd, the Friday - so Pope could enjoy visit to our homeland with a fullfilled image of the Welcome, and not some distorted version of it. So, the route doesn't change, just the end time of it. Visit Dubrovnik and drink a festive one with us, we'll go to the mass afterwards!
I wish I'd been waking more throughout the night. I felt amazing each time I woke up on our little island. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes in the middle of the night was billions of stars in a crystal clear night sky. Second time I woke up it was already dawn, and the light had just started slowly caressing the sea. A bit later on I was completely awaken when I caught a view of white crests wallowing on both sides of the island. Not a good sign for someone who's planning on rowing all day, though.
Official forecasts and predictions of local weather-experts had announced a very big storm. But fortunately for us, it turned out yet again, that somebody up there likes us. It was a perfect day for kayaking around Kornati.
It seems that almost every one of our little towns has its own amateur historian dedicated to studying its history and customs, hanging dearly on to local values and heritage. They are mostly laymen, who enjoy spending their time and energy on their passionate research. Such is Dragan Strgacic from Veli Iz. And on top of it all the man is an excellent cook.
All the grandeur of Velebit that was hidden under heavy, gray clouds, was revealed now, in all its glory, as we were setting off. Rowing from Starigrad towards Razanac, I kept turning over to take yet another look at this mountain's magnificent beauty.
I could give a thousand reasons why it is always wonderful to come to Paklenica. But at the beginning of May, and during time around May Day holiday you just have to go because of the Big Wall Speed Climbing.
Good part of the most beautiful top bit of Southern Velebit, our mythical mountain seems to be more of a mine field. We were hiking over the beautiful Bunovac plateau towards the Struge mountain shelter. There are wide green meadows there surrounded with impressive steep slopes that end somewhere in the clouds, but our steps were restricted to a narrow footpath bounded by poles marking the safe, demined corridor.
My Garmin device was still showing me that I was on the right track through the forest path, but the ground I was pushing my bike on, having to carry it in the end, did not even look like a proper path at all. I was moving on very slowly through all the broken branches and trees brought down by some storm or heavy snow, and it was getting dark. „It could be worse... at least it's not raining“, well, so I thought two second before rain drops started falling on my face.
Beauty of Dalmatian islands is unsurpassed. The air, the scents and the sounds are something special. I was enjoying every breath, every view and every melody this amazing nature created, while I was riding from Bozava towards Sali.
I was laughing at my friend and rowing coach Dragec when he was telling me about how he once got so deep in his thoughts he didn't notice he had been rowing for hours towards some buoy in the sea which he nearly smashed into. I've just passed by the island of Skarde and I really don't remember how I got here. Rowing for hours really is the most perfect meditation.
One of the things every resident of Croatian should definitely go and see is
What a day! Almost each one of 135 kilometers we passed through yesterday was filled with some amazing, fun and eventful stories; we walked through forests, surrounded with mine fields around Saborski and Licke Jesenice, went over the magnificent valley of Dabra, went horse back riding with cowboys from Lika and He Who Dances With Horses, took our canoes to Gacka, rode with guys from the cycling club “Barkan” to Otocac, had an encounter with a real, live bear and, finally, climbed up to Zavizan.
Before leaving on this journey I was most looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the wonderful sights of our beautiful country, but what excited me even more was all the exploring of the unknown. Today I got to enjoy both. After seeing our most famous National park, Plitvicka jezera, I went off to a more remote spot between Rakovica and the canyon of river Korana.
I don't seem to be able to leave from Prpa's. I just can't stop listening to this man's stories. His manner of speaking is very clear and concise but at the same time very moving, full of love, pride and respect for the mountain he knows so well and cares for so much. The Velebit mountain range is Prpa's life, and Prpa is the embodiment of Velebit. Listening to Prpa's archaic words, carried on his husky voice, they sound so ancient and wise you get the feeling as if this extraordinary and magnificent mountain is talking to you through him.
Right, I guess it was only a matter of time. After 14 days and more than 800 kilometres, including 200m at the sea, after two successful escapes from stormy to ideal weather, I have had a stormy experience. I surrendered almost without a fight. It was enough to just peep out on my kayak from the top of Pag, to feel the full force of our mythical wind, and the furry of the sea. I managed to run away and hide myself in the first secluded hideaway, where I got on a boat. I'm scared to think what would have happened if I had carried on.
OK, this is the situation: I'm seriously behind on my blogging. What you're reading as today's news, actually happened two days ago. To make it easier for myself catching up on everything, I can tell you that the ridge of the island taking you from Mali Losinj to Mrtvacka bay is beautiful, that rowing between the island of St. Petar and Ilovik is magical and that the sunset on Silba is unforgettable. You don't even need to read more on that.
Who ever said ignorance is bliss? I've been getting so frustrated with myself lately for not having a clue about nature, even though I enjoy spending so much time in it. While admiring such unbelievably gorgeous sights on my travels, I feel as if I have a very special book in front of me that I cannot read. Is there anything worse than for such an illiterate man to attempt writing a travelogue? Well, let's see.
I'm really interested in seeing which photos Luka will put up today, and what Marko has managed to record and also when will Cedo get a hold of those lithium batteries. And how will I ever manage to catch up on everything I didn't get to do today. All in all, I could very well call this penultimate „E“day a day of crises.
I do love the mountainous region of Goranski kraj, with its picturesque little towns and lush forests. I get on my bike and rush through Gornje Jelenje through to Bakar in mere half an hour. I love to go kayaking at a quiet time of day, when the calm is such and the sea so clear I can see straight through to the bottom. But, I will remember today after the people.
Sliding down the slopes of Javornica I thought the worst was behind me, the cold wind bringing chill to my bones, stormy weather, snowy hail and temperature dropping to a mere 1°C, I thought I had redeemed myself for an easy crossing over Senj channel. Oh man, was I wrong!
If Patagonia is known as the South American Switzerland, because of its lakes and mountains with little towns surrounding them, then Croatia should be called the European Patagonia, judging by everything we've seen on route from Senj to Begovo Razdolje. We witnessed 3 seasonal changes in one day, three climate zones, and I had changed my clothes so many times I was beginning to feel like a model at the Cro-a-Porter fashion event.
Rowing like crazy in the middle of the Senj channel, carried by mild sirocco wind pushing me from the back. (As predicted by Nebojša's correct forecast Meteo-info), I noticed propellers at the wind power plant stopping one by one. Was that really quiet before the storm? I carried on faster with Dino Alberini's voice in my head. He said to me:“If the storm hits, and it will, even if you are 500m away from the shore, turn away and rush back down the wind. I'm telling you, seriously.!
We could all hardly wait for our first day of rest. We decided we would take a break in between two letters. The plan was to quietly sort out our impressions, tidy up the mess that had accumulated in the cars, have some proper rest, catch up on our sleep and smooth out all the kinks we didn't get to deal with during our 6 days of the „W“trip. In the end in turned out to be our busiest day and we got no rest at all.
I'm completely lost for words to express how absolutely overjoyed I am with this adventure, it really has turned out to be amazingly beautiful and packed with so much action and excitement. To quote our own team wiseman Marko: „I can't work this way! “. I simply don't know how to convey my impressions from this journey without repeating myself with how overjoyed and delighted I am and over doing it by carrying on in that manner… but, I'll try!
Dear friends and readers, you will have to accept my apology for taking a day off (a night off, really), but I'm going to have to take a short break from this blogging and have a proper night's sleep. There's nothing that I would let stand in my way between me and my pillow right now.
If there really is such a thing as patience and if such a virtue has a face, then it belongs to the guys from Alba. A few selected members of this trekking team from Labin, were waiting on us for 5 hours at the start of our kayaking section of the trip, at the Rasa bridge. But I can explain everything. Really. So, read all about it.
Our cameraman, Marko, is a quiet young man, and one of those people who have an air of ancient wisdom about them. He rarely ever speaks, but when he does, it is deep and spot on. At the end of our delicious dinner last night, prepared by wonderful Sandra at Niksa's place in Pazin, Marko finally opened his mouth and stated: „My mother was very worried about how we were going to feed ourselves on this trip... I have never eaten this well three times in a row in my whole life.“ And that was all he said throughout the entire evening.
It's been nearly 11 hours since we sat down in our kayaks heading for Porec. We were rowing towards the small island of St. Jerolim, in between Brijuni and Pula.
„Niksa“, I asked, „are we gonna approach it from left or from right?“,
„Let's go from the right side... it will last longer“.
And that's how it was. We had been rowing for twelve hours straight and we still haven't had enough.
We started off from Savudrija with all the media frenzy and voices of children from a near by kindergarten in Umag singing to us, we had a truly exciting arrival in Poreč with a wind orchestra „Porecki delfini“ playing for our welcome, and above all that a perfect day for kayaking, a completely surreal picnic in Antenal and a grand theft of our three laptops and a part of photo equipment.
All of this in just the first day of our adventure, as we call it the Day W – first day of our WELCOME journey.
It seems like none of us could really believed that we have finally set off. Even though we’ve been effectively packing and preparing everything for the last week or two, trying to make sure we get it all done and sorted before we leave for this two month adventure, it wasn't until we got to Ina petrol station on the motorway, that we realised that Welcome is really on a go.
I feel a bit calmer now that the press conference is done. One less possibly nagging feeling looming over my head, and I'm a bit more relaxed about leaving my family for two whole months. If I keep attracting media coverage as I have done for the past few days, my family will be seeing even more of me than usual.
We've attracted a fair amount of coverage from the press, on television and on the internet, and I keep giving interviews for radio stations. 24 sata news web site has even given us our own part in the lifestyle section, and we haven't even set off yet!
I was faced with a somewhat twisted family picture this evening, with my wife and children sat on a sofa staring at me with a pretty emotional (or pitiful, maybe) look on their faces. This should come as no surprise really, since their devoted husband and dotting father at his ripe old age was parading all over the house in his brand new climbing gear. I have to say that I was pretty excited to try on all of my fantastic new equipment I got from our praiseworthy sponsors.
Small worries and excitement over organisation and preparation for the journey. Teams in Imago and Projektil are starting to lose it slightly. I'm not even quite sure myself what to do first. Should I start thinking about all the equipment I haven't acquired yet, or start looking for hosts and friends that could take us in, or should I sort out movement permits needed for protected areas, or maybe I should do some work around the house before I leave home for two months..?
It took me some tome to accept the fact that Welcome won't be happening this year. All points made during meetings with my dear and highly capable Imagos sounded quite sensible: we don't have a sponsor and without them we can't carry out a high quality project in its full potential. So, it would be best to hold out for another year, and set a search for a proper sponsor in the meantime.