In the year leading up to our trip to Croatia and Slovenia, Joe and I were asked many times why we had chosen those particular countries to visit. Once we learned a bit about this region of the world, it was an easy decision. The more interesting question is how did we ever find out about these countries in the first place.
In the course of our relationship, Joe and I have taken on the hobby of kayaking, and even bought a kayak ourselves. We’ve mostly used it around San Diego, but we’ve taken it on a few river trips as well. I had been looking up what the best countries for kayaking were when I stumbled upon gorgeous pictures of kayakers on the Adriatic Sea off the Croatian coast.
Fast forward one year and we were those kayakers. We were with a small group tour where the itinerary included kayaking out to the island of Koločep, circumnavigating the island, and sitting down to a nice meal at a local restaurant. This trip, at 22 km, was one of the longest kayaking trips we’ve done in a day. Luckily we were outfitted with state-of-the-art gear given to us by the kayak tour company.
We left from Zaton bay, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful bays we had seen. The water was clear, of course, and especially smooth inside the bay.
As we were circumnavigating the island, we stopped at a Blue cave. The cave was very small and you had to swim into it. The water temperature was a little too cold for me. We all jumped out of our kayaks and everyone else swam into the cave. Getting back into our kayaks, however, was difficult. They were anchored in a small cave where the waves kept smashing them into the rocks. People lost items and sustained a few cuts – Joe, in fact, had both of these problems. We also tipped our kayak getting back in and fell once more against the rocks. Unfortunately, during this maneuver we took on enough water that I scooped 35 litres (1 Nalgene at a time) out of our boat before the guide used his water pump to fully empty our boat.
The rest of the circumnavigation to our anchor point was rough as winds picked up on that side of the island. At times it felt like we were paddling very hard and not moving at all. However, once we got to the island the rough patch was definitely worth it. The island is very small and we were told only has one car. There is even a school with one child attending. As we walked further into the island we encountered some pretty dramatic scenery. Our guide told us we could jump off of these beautiful 30 to 40 meter cliffs – something that would have never been allowed in the States – but no one took him up on the offer.
The restaurant, like most we visited during our time in Croatia, had an amazing view sitting right on the beach above the water. It would have been amazing for non-vegetarians; they got the fish from right out in the bay each morning and cooked meat on a fire right in front of you on the deck outside the restaurant. As it was, we had some “cheese sandwiches”, french fries, salad, tomato, and lots of bread with olive oil.
Though we didn’t take many tours during our trip, this one was definitely worth it as our guide happened to have perfect English and was very knowledgeable about the current political state of Croatia. We learned a great deal of our knowledge about Croatians and the government from what he told as we ate and walked through the island.
A particular tension in Croatia right now is between the younger generation of around our age, and a political class in Croatia that in the words of our guide is centered around gaining political popularity points by referencing the Croatian War for independence from Yugoslavia. According to our guide, there are a significant number of veterans from the war that live off their benefits, sit around restaurants all day and talk about the war. This group, and the politicians that cater to them, favor a policy that is more negative to cooperation with the surrounding former Yugoslav states and the EU. The younger generation would prefer for the war to be put behind Croatia, government bureaucracy to be curtailed, and economic integration with the EU to be expedited. While this is all from the mouth of one local, it was an interesting insight into the mood of a young country that has had a more tumultuous time than average in the last quarter century.
Our trip to Koločep was an outstanding highlight of our trip to Croatia, and our kayaking adventures to date. Letting our hobby of kayaking guide us to Croatia was a great decision that we hope we can repeat to take us even further around the world!