Parking was at a premium in Dubrovnik, so when we spotted a space near the ferry port we decided to park there and take a public bus into the Old City and back. Our car was perfectly placed, close to the ferry port, and our tickets were duly purchased. We reckoned about an hour and a half to get back to our car and onto the ferry would be ample time, after all it had only taken us 15 minutes getting to the Old City gates.
After dinner in the Old City we headed back to the bus stop at the appointed time. The bus took a little longer arriving than anticipated, but still we had built in enough time. We hopped on and were on our way back to our car and the ferry.
It was now dark and raining, so it was difficult to see, and everything looked a little different. I carefully watched the passing bus stops and when I thought we were at the correct one jumped up, and got off, followed by Stefan.
“No, this is not the right one.” he said with authority, and quickly turned me around and we got back on the bus.
“I’m sure it was.” I protested sitting down again.
The bus was on the move, and I watched in dismay as we whizzed by the bus stop, on the other side of the road, where we had boarded the bus earlier in the day.
“That WAS our stop!” I cried out
“The bus will turn around soon.” said Stefan calmly
“But you don’t know how long their route is!” I exclaimed.
I watched anxiously as we headed out of Dubrovnik, passing through one suburb after another.
“Maybe we should just get off at the next stop?” I said desperately looking at the clock at the front of the bus.
“I am sure we will turn around soon.” said Stefan, sounding less sure of himself now. And he made his way to the front of the bus and found out that we would be back in 20 minutes. Whew, we had enough time. But with no sign of turning 15 minutes later we realised that we would only reach the end of the route, the turnaround point, in 20 minutes. We calculated the time; could we make it to the ferry? Maybe… just.
We, the only passengers left in the bus, waited an agonising 5 minutes watching the clock, before the bus finally started back on its route. We knew this would be a close call, so had a plan; I would run to the ticket office to get directions of where we should embark and Stefan would run for the car and pick me up.
Once back in the car, we headed for the ferry boom at rapid pace. It was closed and there was no-one about. In a panic I jump out in the rain with the (expensive) ferry tickets hand; I waved them frantically in front of the boom, at the side of the boom, over the boom, hoping that the barcode would somehow register and the boom would miraculously open. It did not.
“Get back in the car!” shouted an agitated Stefan. And on two wheels, we raced around the side of the ferry building. Here there were still some officials about.
“Bari?” said a surprised customs officer looking at his watch and then at us. He hesitated, “OK, passports please.’
We managed to park just before the ferry ramp was raised, with only 10 minutes to departure.
“Let me tell you how a public bus route works…” I began.
Common sense should prevail even in the face of assertiveness.
DUBROVNIK, CROATIA 10-06-2013
Croatia is a land of few vowels; Krk, Crkva, Hvar, Trpanj. You really want to insert a little vowel to help you along. None-the-less Croatia is very geared up for tourism and most of the Croatians we came across could speak English. Just when we were determined to go “off the beaten track”, we found ourselves in one of the top 20 tourist destinations of the world and compounding the error we inadvertently managed to navigate to three of their top tourist traps.
A trivial yet interesting fact is that this area is known as the Dalmatian Coast – the origin of the Dalmatian dog. But as yet I have seen no Dalmatian dogs only many a scrawny, weather-beaten cat, who seem to inhabit all the towns in countless numbers.
We timed our arrival to Croatia to escape the approaching cold-wet Cape winter and were expecting a warm Mediterranean summer, but it was just our luck to find them experiencing an uncharacteristically cold summer. It seemed, even to the surprise of the locals, that summer had been delayed until further notice.
It was only a week later that we finally glimpsed the sun and decided to hit the popular beach at Bol, on the island of Brac, to soak up a few rays and swim in the clear, warm Adriatic Sea. A beach in Croatia is a rocky affair, don’t think you can just lay out your towel and settle into the soft sand, uh-uh, here you need to rent a lounger and at a price.
“What happens if it rains?” Stefan asked the chair vendor while handing over the equivalent of R100.
“Guarantee no rain today.” came his snappy reply.
It was a mere 20 minutes later that dark clouds gathered and the rain came pouring down. The vendor was no-where in sight as we hurried back to the car.
Don’t believe the weather predictions of a chair vendor.
CROATIA: BOL: 05-06-2013
I have always thought that I would support and encourage creativity in other people, particularly my partner. He seems to have landed up with the camera on a few occasions, and I have to admit he takes a good photo. But when the photo-taking becomes fixated on one particular subject, it can become quite tiring.
The Plitvice Lakes, set in a lush beech and fir forest, are certainly eye-catching and well-worth the trip. The lakes are glacial blue, crisp and clean and the waterfalls and cascades are powerful and prolific. The number of locals and tourists visiting this site are a testimony to the pulling power the Plitvicka Jezera National Park, the largest national park in Croatia. There are even a number of caves carved into the porous river banks, that you can climb up to and explore. Like me you may be thinking what wonderful photo opportunities all of this presents; lakes, waterfalls, forests and caves.
We had decided on a brisk walk along the edge of the lake back to the park entrance. The water is completely clean and translucent; you can clearly see the stones at the bottom and the little fish swimming around, as well as the many branches of fallen trees.
You might even remark on it, “Wow, look how clear the water is, look at that wood under the water.” Perhaps you might stop to take a picture or two. Although we were on the same path, I kept leaving Stefan behind, and every time I turned back to find him, there he was on tiptoes, or on knees, leaning at peculiar angles taking photo’s; ALL of them photo’s of wood underwater.
We do not all see things in the same way.
PLITVICE LAKES, CROATIA: 02-05-2013
At my insistence we headed straight for the supermarket this morning before heading for Croatia. Here we purchased my new best friend Tom-Tom the GPS. She is small, has an English accent and most importantly knows her way around.
It was a long drive and we were looking forward to our hotel in Rovinji. We reached the town without incidence; Tom-Tom had done a superb job. Nearing the hotel, the streets became narrower with many one-ways and blocked off routes. No matter which direction we approached, we could just not reach our destination. I felt so disappointed with Tom-Tom and in sheer frustration decided to ask for directions. We discovered that we had booked into a hotel in the “Old Town” and no cars were allowed, not even the locals. Were we supposed to drag our over-sized suitcases through the cobbled streets? On further enquiry we were told we could get a special ticket to pass through the boom that blocked off all traffic to the Old Town. This allowed us 45 minutes to locate the hotel and off-load. We painstakingly inched our way through the narrow pedestrian-filled streets, and after three further enquiries finally found our hotel.
Our room was situated down a narrow cobbled alley, through a green door, up a steep staircase. We off-loaded as quickly as we could and were told that we would have to pay per hour for the nearest parking. If we wanted free parking we would have to park on the other side of town and walk back to the hotel. Our journey was not yet over.
The tiredness and frustration of the day dissipated with each step, as we made our way back to the hotel. The charming arched alleyways, green-shuttered windows and cobbled stones had an irresistible romantic allure. Traditional music filled the town square and the small harbour was tightly packed with bobbing fishing boats. The sidewalk cafes were open for trade and doing brisk business. In the distance heavy storm clouds were brewing, darkening the sky, creating a dramatic backdrop to this historic town.
By the time we reached our room, we were enchanted and had already decided we needed another day to soak up the ambience of this special place.
A destination can be worth an arduous journey.
ROVINJI, CROATIA: 30-05-2013
In my opinion, there are only three important matters to consider when travelling abroad; language, plugs and cars.
I have never thought myself a linguist, my French consists of a smattering of words remembered from Standard 6 French lessons, so I was surprised to find my few words greatly surpassed Stefan’s French vocabulary. I realised my assistance was needed when Stefan was asked in French if he would like onions on his sandwich and answered, “No, we’re from South Africa.”
The language issue is simply an inconvenience; Stefan was simply given extra onions. The plug issue can lead to frustration and disappointed blog-readers. The driving issue, however, can have life-threatening consequences.
You may think that we left our stressed lives behind us in South Africa, but no, since we picked up our French Renault Clio from the airport, my life has been filled with adrenalin and white-knuckles. Stefan drives and I navigate, but he has also put in charge of reminding him to keep RIGHT. It may sound simple but the problem is remembering. So far we have driven on the wrong side of the road five times, turned into on-coming traffic twice and taken an off-ramp that was actually an on-ramp. Oh yes, we nearly took out a French pedestrian too, but that had nothing to do with keeping right. It is stressful. Today, however, I do feel there has been a general improvement, as Stefan is no longer trying to change the gears by reaching for the door handle.
Driving across France to Italy we discovered; tunnels, trucks, traffic circles and tolls. The tunnels are impressively long and take you straight through mountains. The trucks are numerous and unavoidable. We thought we would save money on the toll roads, by taking the alternative route, but wound up so dizzy from all the traffic circles that we soon headed straight back to the toll roads.
Leaving France, we also left behind the security of our built-in GPS. We felt fearless, after all we had a map, and the world once functioned without GPS. I was not feeling as confident, however, when we couldn’t find the correct turn-off and ended up doing an hour-long loop, arriving back at exactly the same place we had started; like a lost hiker who finds himself walking in his own tracks.
“Tomorrow I am not going anywhere without a proper map.” I declared.
“Would that be my ‘proper’ or your ‘proper’ “Stefan replied.
Each country incentivises its road users to use the Toll roads. In South Africa it’s potholes, in France it’s traffic circles.
We have raced each other on previous occasions, but it’s usually a race to a finishing line. You see I am fairly (actually extremely) organised. I had planned, sorted, shopped, packed and re-packed carefully, paying attention to every detail. What I had not planned for, however, was my fiancé. He tells me he does not PLAN to leave things to the last minute but that it is just a “personality trait”.
I could sense we were heading for disaster when five days before we were due to leave, he still had to; fix up his house, sell his house, complete an important and difficult work project, sign a trust resolution, organise a Power of Attorney, shop for needed items and pack his bag. I could visualise what was about to happen, so I decided to take action.
The first step was to organise somebody else to cater for our farewell party. This was met with dismay, “So you want to take away all my fun now?”
The second step was to plead, “Please, please whatever you do just don’t, don’t be late for the airport. That would be the worst thing you can do to me, please.” The third thing I did was plead and the fourth, “Please…”
It was when there was only an hour to go before we were due to leave for the airport, that I witnessed “Panic Packing”. For those of you lucky enough never to have experienced this, let me explain. Panic packing can only happen if you have less than an hour to go. You need to use both hands, working them in opposite directions, as you grab and pull, then grab and throw. Remember to drop and bang items periodically, then push-push-push such items into a suitcase. It is essential that all of the above is accompanied by loud and forceful language. Be sure not to sort and definitely do not fold. Items must be piled in a disorganised heap in the middle of the suitcase as they need to be squashed downwards while using extreme force to zip it all up.
We actually checked in on time, and I saw we had 10 minutes before boarding. “We will have to go straight through.” I said confidently.
“Oh no,” he answered casually; “we still have time for a cappuccino with my family.”
“But there are queues at Passport Control”
“What queues, there are no queues here; this is Cape Town not Joburg.”
“I wish I had brought a tranquilliser for you Cathy. ” Stefan’s sister said, giving me a pitying look. “Stefan ek kan nou weer sien jy gaan die kind op hol jaag. (Stefan I can see you are going to drive her crazy) Aag shame Cathy.”
“Its fine” he said calmly sipping his cappuccino, “they can’t leave without us.”
“We have to go now!” I urged gulping down mine. “And I have to go to the toilet.” I said, in a desperate attempt to get him moving.
We sailed through the security check but on rounding the corner we saw it; the dreaded QUEUE at passport control. We had just joined the queue when we heard a boarding call for our flight, we were somewhere in the middle of the queue when the FINAL call came and a few people were ahead of us when the URGENT FINAL call came. We were met by harried ground staff as we left the passport counter and told to RUN while they frantically gestured towards the boarding gate.
And so we sprinted…
“You see we got here, “he said, panting from exertion, “didn’t I tell you?”
I gave him an exasperated look. We took our seats in stony silence. “Did you SEE the queue?” I asked.
“But you see my darling, if it wasn’t for me you would have nothing to write about. It would all be so boooooring.”
You can technically be on time at the airport, but still be late for your flight.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: 26-05-2013
This is probably where it all started, the idea to travel, write and dream.