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.
To be fair, we have had quite an eventful and exciting day prior to that. We had an early morning start, as it has become our traditional routine now, in a kayak. I had Goran Mrdusan waiting for me in Stoja. He's a former state champion in thriatlon, working nowadays as head of an Infinitus association which is, among other things, involved with organizing one of the best adventure races in Croatia. In a manner of a cheerful host, guide and a local-patriot, he wasn't too fussed about the sole „writing“ and „the look“ of his part of the letter „W“, but rather decided to take me through a cluster of small islands nearby Pjescana uvala lagoon. I didn't complain about that slight detour. The islands of Veruda, Fraskeric, Frasker and all of the area leading up to the Cape Kamenjak is amazingly beautiful. I really hope residents of this region know how to appreciate and enjoy these wonders. I am especially fond of the Cape Kamenjak and its exotic Safari bar, made up of bits that sea washed out to shore. This was our transition zone. Goran's partner in all things adventure related, Igor joined us at the start of our cycling section of the route.
When we got to Pula, we couldn’t ignore the text message we had received the day before: “You can come and join us on top of the scaffolding in the Arena and take a few photos from the top. All the best from the Arena restoration team! “And so our ever enlarging team (we met up with Roni, Tricker from Pazin, when we got to Arena) climbed up to the top of a 35 m high scaffolding. Thanks to Arena's hardworking restoration team we were given the unique opportunity to cast a view on the Arena and over the city of Pula. It is amazing to think we were in the back seats of the audience that some two thousand years ago seated people cheering at gladiator derbies.
I happily welcomed this change of activity. I was finally able to rest my tired, blistered hands while pedalling to Pazin. The Forest Gump effect started somewhere after St. Vincent, a small place with a gorgeous main square. Senad Hodzic and Maurizio joined our adventure here, with Martin Cotar waiting for us at the entrance to Pazin. Martin is a former European and world cycling champion, working today as a higher professional expert at the Istrian region tourist board. I am not entirely sure if these people were beeping at our cycling group cheering or cussing, but they did horn an awful lot at us.
Some two and a half hours later we arrived at Pazin. We were greeted by Radenko Sloković from TZ Pazin and Niksa, in his new role as head of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. Terrace of the „Lovac“ hotel provided us with a spectacular view over the impressive canyon of river Pazincica, which plunges into the crater of the Pazinska jama cave. It is amazing to see people's houses spread all the way to the very ridge of the abyss. Our next section of the route is waiting for us on its rocky 20 meter long vertical descent. Guys from the Mountain Rescue Service and the team prepared all the upsailing ropes and all the necessary equipement. I am yet again happily tied and fastened in a harness with all the tight little climbing gadgets. Sebastian and Luka, two of the best Istrian speleologists are making sure we don't put a foot, toe, finger, wrong while descending the rope. We can see the remains of the last flood with all the crushed trees and branches brought down, but also a wonderful view of the old Kastel. This is where, after Jules Verne's story, Mathias Sandorf fled, through Pazinska jama cave breaking out at Lim Channel. Our descend to the cave entrance, which, through it's large halls, narrow meanders and a few lakes carries on for further three hundred meters when it creeps into it's underground route, ended our third day of the Welcome adventure.
I'm very pleased.