Me in the Med :)

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Singapore

14 – 15 March                                                                            

We arrived in Singapore early in the morning after a delayed flight from Brisbane.  The Tai Hoe Hotel was basic but comfortable and just down the road from Laurie’s favourite shop – Mustafa’s.  Four floors selling everything imaginable.  To his delight it is now open 24 hours.   Therefore our first stop on arrival was Mustafa’s at 6am!  Noticeable was the number of shop staff to the few customers.  On a later visit in the afternoon it was soon apparent that even the hundreds of staff were stretched with the numbers now packed in the shop.  Crowded and noisy it was not a place to linger for long – especially after little sleep.  Early morning is definitely the time to shop.

An early breakfast followed for Isaac to share with the family his favourite meal of Banana Prata.  These were Isaac’s favourite memory of Singapore after his trip there with Laurie when he was 4 – I can see why they made such an impression on him – Yum.  Made even nicer by the fresh juices to go with it.

Off on the train with the morning commuters to look at the new mall at Harbourside. Many designer shops which didn’t open till 10 and a nice view of Sentosa Island and the chairlift – not for me!  A sleep and then off to the Newton Road market for dinner.  Wonderful chicken wings and kebabs, murtabak and fried carrot cake (like carrot fritters), lime and sugar cane juice.  They certainly know how to eat here.

 

Our second day was spent at Singapore Zoo.  Arriving at 8.30 for the Jungle Breakfast and photos with the Orangutan and Snake. The morning was a schedule of animal shows, with the elephant bath, Polar Bear feeding, elephant show, and the childrens animal show.  Hot and humid we lingered under fans and in aircon exhibits.

Having spent the day we decided another hour was worth the wait for the elephant ride.  Unfortunately the threatening black clouds broke just as the rides were due to start resulting in their cancellation.  Torrential rain meant a sit down in the shelter while it passed.  But it least it cooled it down a bit. Time to consider the highlights of the day - the monkeys that free range in the trees close by, the monitor lizard at the side of the path and the majestic white tigers.

After much delight in the Zoo shop and soft toys under arms, we left the zoo at 6, then packed and had a final meal of pratas before Maxi Lim and his taxi arrived to whisk us to our flight to Dubai.

 

Dubai

16 – 18 March

First impressions of Dubai – hazy and windy, dry heat.  Solid impressive houses, lovely green gardens.  Everything manicured, clean, organized.  No litter, no graffiti, no clutter.

 

Friends are amazing and Cameron has given us the run of his house for the 3 days we are here, including the keys to his car.  Having the luxuries of home and the company of friends has made this a relaxing stop after a long and tiring trip.  Arriving on St Patricks Day we had to decline an invitation to celebrate with Marita and slept the day and night away instead, except for a brief excursion to the Supermarket – yes Cam – the fridge is supposed to have food in it!  Not too different from home but with a more international mix of products and about half the price.  A surprise when we went to unload the trolley at the checkout only to have a man come up and do it for us!                                                                                          

 

Sleeping from mid afternoon meant that the children were awake at 4!!  And any hope of going back to sleep was dashed when the call to prayer at 5 had Anna thinking there was a man outside the door!  Off to Ski Dubai and Emirates Mall for the day.  Opted for the Ski Park tickets rather than the Ski slope.  Taboganning, ice cave, snow slide etc.  Fun although Isaac was upset at not skiing.  Supermarket shop to buy supplies for a good Kiwi dinner at Cam’s – Roast Lamb – great to see NZ lamb for sale in the desert.  Huge supermarket in the mall .. beautiful stands of dried fruits, nuts, olives and spices.

 

Laura woke the next morning feeling unwell so it was a very quiet day as she slept and recovered.  No Wild Wadi or return to Ski Dubai .. that will have to wait till we return. 

Felt that we had not seen a lot of Dubai, but it was a much needed rest stop especially for Laura and we are so grateful to Cameron and Marita for their friendship and hospitality.

 

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Rome

19 – 21 March

Arrived in Rome to an 80euro taxi fare to the hotel and booked into the cheapest accommodation we could find – a convent – at 190euro (NZ$400) a night for two rooms – as in Singapore we had to book two rooms as a family room here only sleeps 3.  Basic but clean and tidy and very central.  Apart from accommodation and taxis Rome is quite reasonable with similar prices to home for food and entry tickets not too steep.  The children are free for lots of places.

We were at the Colloseum by 8.30 which was just as well as the queue was daunting an hour later.  Quite impressive but a brutal place … not really a nice place to be.  On to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.  Very impressive ruins, pillars, temples etc.  All the old buildings quite stunning.  Decided as we were quite close to the Tiber River we would walk to have a look .. then decided Vatican City wasn’t so far and walked up the river.  A bit far for the children really .. requiring a coffee stop at the Vatican.  Thinking the prices would be the same as the full café over the road, we were a little surprised by the $8 coffees – but it was worth it for the sit down.     Lots of Nigerian street sellers selling handbags  … dozens of them – why handbags?

We visited the Vatican Museum and the Sistene Chapel.  Quite a labyrinth of rooms and corridors, all full of beautiful paintings, artworks and relics.  All squashed with lots of people.  Bit too much really but the paintings were amazing with such striking colours. Laura was amazed that the drapes were actually painted on the walls – very realistic. Came out to the rain and a multitude of umbrella sellers.  Gave in when it started to hail!   The streets were white.  Made our way through the flash part of town with all the designer shops and stumbled upon the Spanish Steps while searching for the Metro. 

Home tired and very cold.                                                                

 

The next day we decided must visit St Peters Basilica having run out of time the day before, so up early and onto the Metro.  It’s Wednesday today which is the day the Pope addresses the people at 11am at St Peters.  Arrived at 9 to crowds of people and of course the basilica was closed!  Should have known they wouldn’t have people wandering around inside with the Pope out on the balcony – not with all that security outside.  Looked at a few shops instead then organized our train tickets to Ancona - 55 euros for the five of us.

On the train at 2.15.  Found ourselves a seat then were advised we were in a first class carriage .. another 30 euro please. 

Impressions of Rome weren’t as good as I had expected .. lots of rubbish and dog’s droppings … lots of people .. probably a shame to come in winter as quite bleak. Cobbled streets with lovely old stone buildings interspersed with ruins and beautiful churches.  Surprised by beggers on the streets, mainly very old ladies .. sad.

4 ½ hour train trip to Ancona through Umbria and Le Marche.  Lots of farmhouses and medieval towns on the hills and snow on the mountains.  Very few animals – not like NZ.   Arrived in a rainy Ancona at 6.45pm. An hour in the ticket queue (with only half a dozen people in front!) and we were on the ferry.  Four berth cabin with a shower and toilet.  After a quick look around the ship and a snack from the bar we were all in bed at 9.30.  Quite a restless night with the ship lurching in the seas a few times – so much for the calm Mediterranean!!

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Southern Croatia

22 March – 27 April

Our first month                                               

 

We were all up by 6am to see our arrival in Croatia.  Customs has been no problem the whole trip .. despite our concerns of no onward tickets.

At the ferry terminal we were greeted by a Croatian chap with a hand cart .. on piled all our luggage and off we walked with him to a the ‘Slavija’ hotel.  We walked through the old town of Split through little marbled alleyways. Unsure at first where we would end up but the man seemed to know where he was going.  For NZ$25 he pushed our bags along roads, up hills and through alleys.  Lonely Planet lists Slavija as very basic but the cheapest in Split.  1000 kuna per night (NZ$250) for a room with a double bed and 3 singles.  Actually a lovely hotel with a very nice room ..nice to be all in the same room.  We were lucky that they allowed us to check in on arrival at 8am. 

After a short rest we wandered off in search of breakfast and found the local market.  A huge market with fruit and veg, bakeries, cheese, butcheries and clothing and nik nacs. Breakfast was a toasted ham and cheese sandwich filled with pickles and salad .. very nice.  Also asked for a nice looking sausage which ended up coming in a huge bun with pickles, sauce and salad.  That and two sandwiches were enough for us all for breakfast and only cost $10. 

Bought Anna a pair of trackpants($17), Isaac a sweatshirt($15) and me a top($14) at the market. 

Dried apricots, dried cranberries, roasted hazelnuts, cheese and dried ham, strawberries and blood oranges for lunch .. yum.

Prices are quite reasonable here even in the high end touristy shops.  Nice shoes $50-100, nice tops $25.

Investigated towels, sheets etc .. all about $12 to $20.

 

Our first priority was to visit our new home for the year and take half the bags.  Sitting waiting for us and prepared for our arrival, it’s going to be perfect.

Nice sized cabins and good saloon, especially with the two seating areas.  The cockpit is ample, the chart table comfortable and the L-shape galley will work well. The big decision was the cabin arrangements…. Anna in the bunk, Laura in the forepeak, Isaac starboard aft cabin and us in port aft. 

Looked at local Getro supermarket which is just up the road and has everything .. food, clothes, tools even fridges and TV’s.  Back to the bus stop to catch a bus back to Split.

Arrived back at 7.30 looking for a restaurant for tea .. about time we had a proper meal.  Too early for most places.  Kept thinking we’d found one only to find it was a café .. café’s here only sell drinks, no food at all. Found a lovely one hidden down a little alley.  Beautiful meals and huge!  Gnocchi with salmon and scampi, Gorgonzola and cream for me, Laura spaghetti Bolognese, Laurie and Isaac Sirloin steak and Anna a greek salad.   Starters of fish pate .. yum.  That with drinks was $92 – didn’t even get charged for the bottle of olive oil Laura smashed!  Bit tired so didn’t stay for coffee and $2 dessert wine!

 

We had a look at Diocletians Palace, cavernous rooms and recovered relics all under the city above.  Quite amazing to think it’s nearly 2000 years old.  Has been restored over the past few years. 

We are lucky that the owner has allowed us to stay on the boat until payment/paperwork is completed so we leave for the boat after 2 nights in the hotel.  Decided a taxi was easier than walking to the bus stop with the bags – worth the $50 - $12 on the bus.

Spent an hour or two making the beds .. I do hate making beds on a boat!  Laurie and Laura went in search of food and brought back huge hamburgers for tea.

 

The marina is 20 minutes from Split on the main Trogir-Split road, and the bus service is brilliant with buses every 20 minutes. Our first week was spent doing many bus trips and a considerable amount of shopping for much needed warm jackets, linen and provisions for the boat. My favourite Croatian word became .. Snizenje ! (Sale!), although prices are quite reasonable here even in the high end touristy shops.

 

At the marina we treated ourselves to lunch at Restaurant Bimbijana – next to the marina.  The Calamari and chips for the children turned out to be a whole squid, complete with innards and ink, which squirted up the wall when Laurie cut it up!  Must enquire more carefully in future!

 

A nice sunny morning sees us off to visit Trogir to see the medieval city and old fortress and the market.  The village is lovely with it’s stone alleyways, and the carvings on the cathedral quite amazing, but the market is disappointing.  No prices on anything and obviously see the tourists coming!  Didn’t buy much.  Isaac was keen to buy a flower plant and ended up with a little succulent in a terracotta pot .. $8 for a 50c plant!

 

Another day has Anna organizing a family fun day .. ice cream in Split.  Great excitement to find two diet ice-creams available only sweetened with fructose!! After years of no ice-cream with his sugar allergy, Isaac beams with a big pot of chocolate ice-cream later followed by another of hazelnut – Isaac’s new favourite place in Split. After all that ice-cream it’s a bit late when we finally head to the market and it’s nearly packed up.  Buy dried fruit, lots of sliced ham, a whole ham and some cheese.  We see our first beggars in Split .. a young girl with her baby begging on the street.

We get lost on the way back to the bus station, which isn’t good with heavy bags.

 

The days pass while Laurie deals with infuriating customs officials, and the children and I do supermarket trips, journals and homework.  Within two weeks the weather has gone from freezing cold to very changeable to warm and sunny.  The storm of 40knot gusts one night did not inspire confidence!  Ivan, the lawyer, says it is very unusual to be so cold here at this time and usually only have very little rain at this time of year. Ivan has been a godsend in the labyrinth of bureaucracy here, and we would not want to have been trying to buy the boat without him.  A young, clever and friendly lawyer, he has spent hours ferrying Laurie around, negotiating, pulling strings, and occasionally slipping into the guise of tour guide.  After a week, we finally get the cruising permit and the electronics through customs, after much hassle and handing over of fees.

Laurie does an amazing job installing the watermaker and chartplotter, fixing a multitude of little problems, locating water leaks and correcting electronics.  He does a great job trying to fix the stern gland, but without the right tools its not going to happen, so it’s tightened back up to be fixed another time. 

 

8 April - Split - Brac

Easter Sunday finds the children awake early to discover that the Easter Bunny does come to Croatia, much to their joy.  With our cruising permit in hand, electronics installed and chocolate consumed, we are finally leaving the marina!

The day has dawned dead calm and we motor all the way to Lucice Bay on Brac Island. A pretty bay, we find mooring bouys in the bay and put one to good use.  Yeay for free and easy mooring.

Later we read in ‘Letters from the Med’ that they were charged for the privilege, and we are grateful to be out of the charter season.

We are entertained for the evening by the other boat in the bay, the four inhabitants of which spend 3 hours fishing, apparently for one small reward.

 

9 April  Brac - Hvar                                                                

Motored to Hvar town this morning and moored up to the town wall, right on the main promenade.  Quite fascinated by all the commotion over the mooring of a superyacht near us soon after.  We wandered the town, quite old with my favourite little alleyways and cobbled streets.  Unfortunately, being Easter Monday, everything was closed.  The Fortress Spanjol sits atop the hill overlooking the town, and after much huffing and puffing by some we arrived at the top.  After the climb, we were very pleased to find it open and the 45kuna entry fee for us all was insignificant so in we went, exploring the old prison, the ramparts and the small museum with relics from a 2000 year old shipwreck found off the coast in the 50’s.  On returning to the boat Isaac was hopeful the ice-cream shop would have the diet version we found in Split and was very disappointed when they didn’t, but was pacified with the chewing gum I had found in NZ.  We spent the afternoon watching the flotilla of 15 charter boats arrive and moor around us, obviously in from a race.

Having watched the man buzzing around in his inflatable organizing the mooring boats, it was not surprising that he turned up at 7 to collect the mooring fee .. 200kuna. Think the plan should be to have the benefit of the town wall during the day then head to an anchorage for the evening before payment time.

The evening though brought the benefit of mooring on the promenade when we could leave Laura to babysit on the boat and enjoy a quiet cocoa in a café only 10 feet away.

 

10 April – Hvar - Korcula

We had another wander of the shops, now open, and found jandals for all the girls and some rope etc for Laurie.

A much larger superyacht arrived while we were shopping for the morning, and one of the crewmen surprised the children, recognizing the NZ flag and informing them he was from Howick.

Headed off before lunch and after 5 hours arrived at Tri Luke Bay on Korcula, to a sheltered anchorage.  We actually managed to sail for a bit today in 8 – 12 knots .. thank goodness for peace and quiet.  Having seen dolphins on lots of postcards we were sceptical of finding any, but came across a pod of a dozen or more which swam with us under the bow on and off for 1/2 hour - great excitement.  I never fail to be amazed by them.  The sail down Hvar showed the hills and cliffs cleared for lavender. In summer the hills are a patchwork of purple and colour, must be such a trek up the hills to tend them.

 

11 April – Korcula - Mjlet

Another long journey today .. 7 ½ hours .. managed a couple of hours sailing again. Arriving at Mljet, we anchored in Pomena Bay.  Mjlet has two lakes, one of which has a Benedictine Monastary on an islet within the lake.  Pomena Bay appeared the best access with a 10 minute walk to the lake.  Mjlet is also known as the island on which Odyseuss spent 7 years, and the Pilot Guide mentioned a cave/grotto named after him down the coast.

 

12 April – Mljet - Lopud

On a second look at the Pilot Guide and charts, they showed a channel to the lake from a bay further down the island.  We decided to head off with the intention of entering in the inflatable. As the Pilot Guide suggested noon as the best time to enter the cave we left Pomena Bay at 7.45 to give us time to look at the monastery on the lake on the way.  Unfortunately on arriving at the bay we found that the channel was closed to all motorboats and appeared to have dam across it so we moved on without seeing the lake.  Scouring the coast for signs of the cave we spotted some old huts right on the cliff edge, behind which Laurie saw a hole in the hill.  On investigation we decided this was it.  Being too deep to anchor (80m in close to the cliff) Laurie stayed on the yacht while the children and I went in the inflatable.  The entrance was 1m high and 20m long and was a bit beyond our steering skills so we entered and left quickly.  Laurie returned with the children while I stayed on board.  The entrance led to a cavern with the roof open to the sun.  The light on the water created the most gorgeous blue.                       

We continued on sailing for a few hours in light winds and arrived at Lopud Island at the bay of Sunj at 5.  The first proper sand beach we had seen, we hopped in the inflatable to explore.  The beach was full of washed up rubbish, Isaac had a wonderful time scavenging for treasure! The other end held a taverna that workers were obviously sprucing up for the summer – funny they don’t even lift their head when you walk past.

 

13 April

Decided that Dubrovnik can wait for another day while we relax in Sunj Bay.  Beautiful day again and will give the children a chance to play and do journals etc.

Isaac and Anna spent the morning going back and forwards to the beach in the inflatable.  A school group walked down to the beach today and obviously had a great time in the water .. ours weren’t too sure and stuck to the other end of the beach.  The girls and Laurie have a very quick dip in the cold water off the back of the boat – I’m looking forward to the showers at the marina.  Still feeling ill with cough and cold I’m not enjoying the day as much as I could.  At night we again enjoy the absence of TV and play card games after dinner.

 

14 April                                                  

Sunj Bay is so nice and relaxing that we’ve decided to stay another night.  A few tourists on the beach today… English by the sounds.  3 families have walked in down the hill so must be a bus perhaps from Lopud Town on the other side of the island. Isaac and Laura decide it’s fun to head back to the boat and leave Anna and I on the beach .. at least it only took Isaac ½ hour to come back!  Laurie is busy getting the website going so we don’t have to bug friends with emails but they can see what we’re doing if they’re interested..  While I write this he has changed to installing the inverter .. will be nice when all the jobs are finished and he can finally relax!

Looking forward to Dubrovnik tomorrow – showers and food in the fridge will be nice.

……….Anna and I walked up the road a bit .. no bus .. must walk in from Lopud town on the other side.. we left a bit too late to walk all the way.

 

15 April – Lopud - Dubrovnik

Another gorgeous day and the children are getting brave being hoisted up in the bosun’s chair to sit on the boom.

Leave for Dubrovnik at 9.45 and arrive 2 hours later.  We pass the big cruise ship in the main harbour, and continue down the ‘Dubrovnik Riviera’ to the Marina.

Still getting used to the processes of tying up, we manage, then off to pay the 52euro fee.  Great marina .. 2 restaurants, supermarket, chandlery, swimming pool (though green at the moment) nice showers etc and onsite laundry (unfortunately not self service).  Even has an onsite castle!

At 4.30 we get the bus at the gate to the Old City.  Fabulous old city walls, 25 mtrs high and 6 mtrs thick surround the entire old city .. even on the seaward side.  Comes complete with moat and drawbridge! Apparently they were always attacked by the Turks or Arabs.  Everywhere seems to have changed hands along the centuries, from Greek to Roman to Venetian to Austrian to Croatian.  Being along a major shipping route to Venice obviously wasn’t good for stability and everyone wanted to conquer the area at some stage. City was quite touristy but interesting and we will return another day to walk the wall and look at the buildings and aquarium.  Stop for dinner at a restaurant by the sea .. I choose the chefs special .. Adriatic shrimps on a gorgonzola risotto .. yum!

Lots of ice-cream parlours but unfortunately none with Isaac’s ice-cream .. and we checked every one!

 

16 April

Very windy night and awoke to one missing squab .. must be half way up the Adriatic by now .. another lesson learnt .. don’t be lulled by good weather .. stow or tie everything down!

Laurie now has my cold so we have a quiet morning, then head into Gruz for a look around in the afternoon.  Not much there but buy a few necessaries at the hardware and department store .. one being a stove top coffee maker for Laurie.

Back at the marina, Laurie met a couple, John and Jane, from Wellington who have been sailing for 9 years!

The wind picks up again at night, and after last nights missing squab Laurie is proactive checking everything is secure .. unfortunately in the ½ hour since we used it .. the paserelle has managed to come off the quay, come untied and float away!!! Not again!

 

 

17 April

A fix-it day today .. Laurie has managed to fix the leak in the waterline (unfortunately needing to completely dismantle Laura’s cabin in the process), and install a new toilet pump.  Got all the laundry done (3 loads at $20 a load .. exp laundry), found a second hand paserelle at the charter company .. want $50 though and quite rough so might wait .. and found an apartment next to marina for when the boat’s on the hard .. 65euro.  Walked to the ’village’ ( a few houses and one homeware shop!) and found the gas filling station  for the gas bottles .. unfortunately a 1km walk.  Found a new kettle at the homeware shop .. yeah now have one with a handle which makes life a bit easier. Met John and Jane and an American couple, Mary and Helmut, for drinks at the marina restaurant to sit in a note-swapping session about East and West med .. each having done one half.  Very interesting, especially as both anchor virtually 100% of the time ! Maybe our marina budget will be looking quite healthy.  Mary and Helmut may also have a paserelle we can buy .. will see tomorrow .. and make sure this one is tied on tight! They are being lifted tomorrow too .. and are planning on staying aboard .. also met another family staying aboard on the hard so that will be cheaper than the apartment.  Advised to rent a car for a day trip to Montenegro .. might do that on Thursday – add another country to the list.

Children very pleased as John and Jane have befriended a stray cat which had kittens on their boat 2 days ago, and children have been invited on board to see them and have a wee cuddle.  Very cute – thankfully they are not old enough to leave their Mum .. that avoided that request .. as tempting as a ships cat would be!  Received an email from Laurie’s sister, Jenny.  They are in Egypt and off to Jordan and Syria then to Istanbul on 4 May.  Hoping to see us thinking we’ll be in Turkey but unfortunately no .. shame. Their travels make our trip seem tame.

 

18 April

Laurie visited the travel-lift at 8 to arrange the lift .. to be told not yet .. someone will come to the boat later-not quite into scheduling!  Preparing for a long wait on the boat, Laurie went to the chandlery at 10 and – Murphy’s Law – a knock on the boat – come immediately!!  Quick run for Isaac to get Dad and we were off.  Arriving at the travel-lift we were a little concerned at the tight squeeze and sharp corner to be negotiated entering the travel-lift stern first!  Thankfully they moved one boat a few metres opening the gap a little .. seemingly impossible .. but Laurie calmly reversed in perfectly .. amazing.  The feat seemed even more impressive when the next boat came to be lifted and among much shouting the engine was turned off .. ropes attached to pull the boat along .. and they then disembarked looking quite shattered and left it to the travel-lift guys to pull into place. The cause of our boats sluggishness was apparent when the propeller came into view .. many barnacles had made their home on that piece of brass.  A waterblast to clean the hull, and Laurie was amazed at the antifoul washing off into the gutters.  Then into position and a rickety ladder provided to climb on board.  I’m sure the boat wasn’t wobbling as much as my imagination had me believe! The worst part was the rotting ladder, but the boat was safe so there was no hotel this time!  We had no choice but to redo the antifoul so that was arranged – good at NZ$1000 and the engineering organized for tomorrow.

Pleased to have an early lift, we headed off to Old Dubrovnik to walk the city walls.  Up steep and narrow stone steps to the top of the wall, we walked around the city perimeter.  Gorgeous views of the ocean on one side and the red rooftops on the other. Interesting to see inside the stone walls we had walked past on our last visit .. too my surprise many are walled gardens.  Felt a bit intrusive peering down on gardens, and walking past peoples back doors.  Imagine a pile of tourists walking past your kitchen window.  Isaac and Anna enjoyed the many sentry posts and canons along the way.  The northern wall is even higher .. and seems longer when stuck behind dozens of elderly tour groups obediently following their flag.  Laura was keen to visit the Maritime Museum.  Isaac enjoyed the model ships and interesting to see the medieval ships instruments .. .. the log drum which spins letting out rope behind the ship .. the amount of rope determines the speed .. the original speed log!  The first childrens attraction we’ve found in Croatia was the aquarium.  Surprisingly good with a loggerhead turtle .. blue lobsters .. eerie moray eels .. and weird grouper fish.  We decided after some time of watching them floating near the surface with their mouths wide open out of the water and seemingly watching us and following us when we moved .. that it was nearly closing time and hence probably feeding time. … clever fish!

It had been another long day and difficult to cook dinner up on the hard .. so we headed to the marina restaurant for dinner.  Not a great decision as expensive and made for another late night which I’m sure we’ll pay for tomorrow.

 

 

19 April - Montenegro

Following John and Jane’s advice we hired a car and set off early for a day trip to Montenegro – another country to add to the list.  Laura was pleased to have a stamp in her passport from a country she had never heard of before!  Negotiating narrow roads on the right hand side of the road in a manual car with overtired children was a little stressful for Laurie, so first stop was Cavtat, a pretty but touristy small town 20 min south of Dubrovnik, which has a wonderful bakery.  Fortified we continued south a further ½ hour to the border, passing lovely green valleys with tall pine trees reminiscent of the tall straight pines on Isle du Pins, New Caledonia.  Border control was quick and efficient and we were soon driving in Montenegro.  At first it seemed very similar to Croatia but as we headed toward the town of Herceg Novi it definitely impresses as a wealthier and more westernized country.  Many US Aid signs were seen at contruction sites .. benefits of remaining neutral during the war and assisting the west.  Herceg Novi has a lovely old town and then a gorgeous upmarket suburb on the hills overlooking the sea.  The road follows the water and we soon saw the magic of Montenegro .. mountains sliding into the sea with picturesque villages.. where mudslides over the years have deposited hills of fertile land at the end of ravines where settlements have been established along the coast.  All hold a medieval church, amazing stone houses and an essence that draws you to imagine a life living under the mountains.  The dream continued at Kotor .. the medieval town overlooked by a fortress camouflaged into the mountainside .. protective walls snaking up the mountain .. even back then it was obvious that nothing of nature is straight and square.  Hoping to climb to the fortress but mistaking the entrance we settled for a drive up the hill nearby to capture some of the view.  Along the coast various signs had captured our interest .. prehistoric paintings .. roman mosaics .. monastery.  We drove up the drive of the monastery .. only to find a monk doing his gardening .. we hadn’t expected it to be occupied and quickly turned around!  The signage didn’t lead us to the mosaics despite several attempts, and a stop at the caves for the paintings presented us with a deep dark cave and a sign indicated the drawings were 100m inside the dark rocky interior. Without torch we had failed on our third attraction.  We unexpectedly found another however when a road block and line of cars had us waiting for 1 ½ hours, able to see the rocks that had blocked the road from some workings above .. the digger we expected .. the blasts of dynamite we didn’t!  New experiences sometimes come when you least expect them!

Back to the border, Laurie was pleased to see the duty free shops still open.  Jane had instilled him with hope that they may contain a whiskey or two.  Out he came with a happy smile and a bottle of Laphroig and a new discovery from Islay,  no Bowmore but Laphroig at NZ$40 was a find.  Pleased to see that Montana wine has made it to the Montenegro/Croatia border too – and at NZ$13 it was tempting.

Making use of the car we made a late stop to the Getro supermarket and stocked up on heavy provisions for the boat.  Amazing the huge trolley of food you can buy here for $400.

Late and dark we missed our turnoff and just up the road came to the Bosnian border – it too late to add another stamp to the passport!  The countries are so close here .. something it takes a while to get used to when at home all we have as neighbours is the sea. 

 

20 April – Dubrovnik - Sipan

Laurie up at 6 this morning to fill and get a new gas bottle before the car due back at 8.  Organised to buy the paserelle from Mary and Helmut, and decide in hindsight it was a blessing to lose the old one as this one is wider and longer with wheels.  Then the news that we were going back in the water today as they needed the room.  Good really as we didn’t need to stay in Dubrovnik any longer and I’ll be pleased not to have to climb the ladder or live on high any more.  Will also be nice to be able to use the water and toilet again.  Back in the water at 1 it was a rush to clean down the boat and get organized before we had to leave the marina at 2.  Laurie rushed back to get a connection for the new gas bottle … returning with a squeal of tyres from a new fold up bike!   Next job – where to put it!  After some rearranging the bike was stowed in the locker and we were off.  Heading up to the mouth of the river it was a sudden about turn as Laurie realized the marina hadn’t given us back our cruising permit and documents… thankfully we weren’t days away at the next marina. Onwards again .. under the Dubrovnik bridge and once again motoring to Sunj Bay.  The delay returning for the documents meant it was too late for our original destination of Sipan.  Calm seas, no wind .. what there was on the nose .. but a swell from the south.  Unfortunately on anchoring at Sunj Bay the swell became more apparent as we rolled about .. so up anchor around to Lopud town .. cute town but gardens of weed on the bottom and the anchor just wouldn’t hold .. must buy the Delta our new cruising friends were pleased with …so off again across to Sipan after all.  Luckily it was still light on arrival.  Another cute village which we’ll enjoy visiting in the morning.

 

21 April – Sipan - Mjlet

A calm night dawned on another lovely day.  Into the inflatable for a visit to the village of Suderad.  A small fishing village with two cafes and a small shop, enough to restock the milk (mjelko).   Then off for the long haul to Korcula.  A frustrating start with 12-14 knots unusable on the nose but once we were more open to the wind had a great sail with the wind building to 23 knots.  Laurie had fun able to really sail for the first time .. and only twice had to be asked to please ease the main before the rails hit the water! Saw some more dolphins but unfortunately too far behind us and when sailing it’s not so easy to turn back for a look.   Having to tack off course and with another 3 hours to go, at 3pm we headed instead into Polace Bay on Mjlet.  Had Laurie worried with talk of walking into the lakes to visit the monastery we had missed on the way down.  We were amused by the man on the dock holding up the mooring ropes for us as we entered the bay .. on further inspection it was the local restaurant hopeful for guests.  He must have been disappointed as we continued up the bay to anchor.  The joy of sailing must be sitting in a quiet bay, anchor down, wine in hand, enjoying the last of the sun for the day.

Laurie made use of the early arrival after dinner to fix the gas locker connection and install the new cockpit speaker.. more jobs done.  The fiberglass in the locker enforced a bracing swim to follow!  The early arrival also saw the children in bed at a reasonable hour for a change.

 

22 April – Mjlet – Korcula

No email back from Dad this morning .. maybe next week.  Before we set off, the children were keen for a row in the inflatable.  Isaac and Anna set off, later Anna enjoyed rowing around on her own, then taking me on a guided tour of the sea anemones and rocks she had found.  Up anchor and off to the island of Korcula, birthplace of Marco Polo and apparently some decent wine.  We were hoping to stop at Lumbarda, the vineyard’s were calling, but not finding an obvious town or suitable anchorage we reluctantly continued to Korcula town, stopping to refuel at an easy fuel dock on the way.  Good timing as we arrived at 1.50 to find they closed at 2, being Sunday.  Tying up to the town wall, we explored the old town with more of ‘Mum’s alleyways’.  Very quiet on a Sunday afternoon, but we found one wine shop open allowing a purchase to be made, and later we stocked up on post cards to send home.

Laurie was pleased as there was a good internet connection, sadly lost when we moved in the late afternoon to moor in the adjacent bay.  We enjoyed the wine with dinner, the best Croatian wine we have had .. must get another bottle tomorrow.

 

23 April – Korcula Town – Igrane Bay, Mainland

I was offloaded in a stop and drop at the town wall this morning in search of bread and more wine.  A blank look at my request for the Lumbarda dessert wine .. apparently can only buy in Lumbarda .. who’d have thought .. should have stopped after all. In my absence, use was made of the internet connection again, Laura keen to download Itunes.  Then we were off, rounding the top of Peljesac and the bottom of Hvar to arrive back on the mainland at Igrane, a small boat harbour on the coast.  Bouyed by John and Jane’s tales of happy anchoring, we dropped anchor just off the town, something we wouldn’t have done a week ago.  All was fine until … “hallo hallo you must move”.. we had moored by a buoy which the local fisherman ties his net to in the evening!  When he asked a little more nicely we moved forward close to the town wall to reset the anchor.

 

24 April – Igrane – Povlja Bay,Brac

The benefit of being 10 feet off the town wall means it not far to go to the local shop – another 10 feet away for milk.  Spying the chocolate donuts and bread behind the counter we bought her stock and had a treat breakfast.

Sailed up the coast headed for Brela. Lonely Planet had it listed with the best beaches on the coast and we were looking forward to a swim and play on the beach.  Unfortunately on the way I learnt the important lesson of sailing .. keep your head out of the arc of the boom.  The rest of the day was spent with a sore head, and feeling rather tired and sorry for myself. We never did get to the beach.  Laurie had decided they were too built up, and the waypoint he had set was somewhere completely different to where I had intended .. never mind .. we ended up in a nice bay on Brac.  Laurie and the children had a quick swim then a warm shower off the back, then off to explore in the inflatable while I made dinner.  More games of Loot before bed.

 

25 April - Povlja Bay,Brac

Awaking to a sore head but feeling better.  We all went for a walk up the road up the hill this morning to investigate, lovely bay around the corner with a flash looking restaurant, mooring bouys out the front.  On the way down, Anna tripped hurting her knees and hands, and had to be carried back to the inflatable by Dad.  She had us worried when she nearly fainted on the way back to the boat.  A lie down and a piece of chocolate from Isaac and she was off in the inflatable again.  Time for my first swim .. albeit very short and cold!  But did mean a warm shower and washed hair after.  Headed around to moor at the town wall hopeful for pizza for lunch, but everything was closed from 12 till 4.  We sat at the town wall, then off at 4 for an ice-cream.  The children had fun riding the bike up and down the road beside us .. an activity they had obviously missed .. until a thunderstorm broke and the rain and lightening brought them inside. Thankfully the weather subsided a little to enable us to wander down to the local café for dinner., as Laurie was keen for a change from routine (and probably a little sick of pasta).  A cute little café with stone walls and checkered tablecloths.  Isaac ordered his usual of calamari, Laurie his usual steak, and I was missing fish so ordered ‘Small Fried Fish’.  Not quite what I had expected, a plateful of whole little fish, heads and all, appeared in front of me.  Laurie was not impressed to see when I had finished, the little pile of heads at the side of the plate.  Apparently this was a dish they had enjoyed in Greece, heads and all!

 

26 April – Povlja - Split

We had made the decision to stay tied to the town wall last night, given the weather. Having tied on with stern to the sea .. the error of our ways became apparent when all night the waves slapped against the stern, jolting the boat .. another lesson learnt! 

Rather tired we motored across to Split, entering the marina to enjoy showers, laundry, water and shore power.  Bonus was a quick internet connection as well.  Laura had used the trip to create a fantastic power-point presentation of our trip .. hopefully Laurie will be able to incorporate it into the web page.  As we had arrived early afternoon we headed into town, stopping at a pizzeria for lunch.  An enforced hours rest as we waited for the pizza to arrive, then off into town.  Laura desperately needed some new clothes, so a few purchases were made.   Also flash new Helly Hansen jandals for Laurie and a HH sweatshirt for me in the most gorgeous blue.  Spent a considerable time trying to find shorts/trousers for Laura with no success, and ended up at another ..quick .. pizza place for tea at 7.  Good timing given the thunder and rain that came down while we were eating.  Had stayed out too late again for Anna and Isaac though.

 

 

27 April – Split – Drvenik Veli

Laura and I got up early this morning and were off by 7.30 to the market.  A pastry and hot choc first for breakfast, where we watched the broken down bus get tied to another with a piece of rope and towed away .. good thing they did the knot properly!

I love the market, and we came home stocked up with strawberries (16 kuna NZ$4 a kilo) apples, lettuce (75c each), grapes, tomatoes, rockmelon, hot chickens and bread and donuts.

Arriving back at 10, Anna had only just woken up and Laurie was keeping an eye on the security men swarming over the traditional wooden boat moored opposite us.  On questioning a reporter, he found that Simon Perez, Prime Minister of Israel, was due to go on the boat.  After ½ an hour a parade of black suits came through the marina and onto the boat.  Expecting Perez to be shuffled straight inside, we were surprised that he wandered around the outside of the boat, being shown various features, in full view. Quite interesting.   They obviously didn’t see us as a security threat as we weren’t asked to vacate.

A lovely warm shower, while Laurie met up with Ivan to get the insurance documents, then a run into town with Isaac for another ice-cream.  Remembering that they sold ice-cream by the litre, we bought his ice-cream to take back to the boat .. hopefully the freezer shelf keeps cold enough.  Laurie had been busy connecting the electronics in our absence, then we were off, 3 hours to Drvenik Veli, 20 knots of wind but unusable again on the nose, and anchored in a sheltered deserted bay.

 

We are leaving southern Croatia and heading north.

 

Impressions of southern Croatia .. grey, barren mountains .. church bells .. stone houses .. medieval walls .. marbled alleyways .. stray cats .. crystal water .. rocky bays .. the putt putt of fishing boats .. back yards filled with vegetable gardens and fruit trees .. wild figs .. grape vines ..

 

 

 

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NORTHERN CROATIA

28 April – Drvenik Veli

Enjoying the bay we stay another day to swim and enjoy the sun, watching the beekeepers arrive in their little boat to tend the beehives on the hill.

 

29 April – Drvenik Veli - Primosten

Arriving in Primosten, we anchored off the beach, then walked around the seaward perimeter of the city, but found it quite a touristy town, although quite pretty with flowers and little parks.  Stonemasons were busy laying new stone in the square, more evidence of the sprucing up before the summer.  Everything was closed being Sunday, so we returned to the boat.

I was looking forward to the traditional town of Draga, but finding information on it proved daunting.  We located it on the chart some way inland and decided it was a bit too difficult.

 

30 April – Primosten – Sibenik – Skradin

Isaac chauferred Anna and I into town to collect veges from the market and supplies from the supermarket. Then we were off to Sibenik.  We made a quick detour on the way when Laurie spied a fishing boat on the rocks, being rescued by three other boats, was he asleep or foolish?

The landscape seems different as we head north.  Houses are painted, the hills are greener.

The entrance to Sibenik harbour is guarded by an old fortress jutting out over the water, the keeper of the river.  Further in tunnels appear in the cliffs reaching down under the water, netted off to prevent entry.  On further inspection they curve under the cliff and back out .. submarine shelters? .. gunboat rearmament stations? .. we’ll never know.

We tie up to the town wall for a lunch stop and to view the Cathedral given high review in Lonely Planet.  120 kuna for a 3 hour mooring was a little surprise, but the cathedral was worth the stop.  The outer wall of the cathedral is lined with 70 stone heads, all catching the soul of the townsfolk hundreds of years ago.  Old and young, interestingly all men that I could see, with the occasional animal, usually a lion.  Adam and Eve stand modestly holding their figleaves in place.  Entering the Cathedral we are struck that there are few colourful paintings, no frescos on the ceiling, no gold, but it is as stunning as any in Rome.  The dark stone with its intricate carvings is so imposing, no glitz and colour is necessary.  Isaac is squeamish at the tombs of priests along the walls, but Anna lights a candle to Jesus at the altar.

Back out into the present day, we head off in search of lunch, and find our best lunch yet.  Grilled chicken for Isaac, Roman salad for me (chicken, potato, lettuce and sour cream .. simple but delicious) and pizza.  Trying a small bottle of Babic, it turns out to be a red, but I am surprised that I am becoming fond of red wine.  Laurie finds a small but well stocked chandlery opposite the fuel dock, with a great selection of shackles, clips and other items  we have found hard to source.

Leaving Sibenik we wind further down the river, past mussel farms in every little indent along the way. Rounding a bend, a little piece of paradise comes into view.  A small fish farm, a windmill, a small cottage right on the water .. an old man tending to his living .. the idyllic retirement, and something surely every corporate executive in Auckland would aspire to.  Life is quite and unhurried here.  The fishermen lie back in their little boats returning to shore at the end of the day.  Further along the river, Laurie notices the boat sit heavier in the water as salt water turns to fresh, then the gorge opens out to a large lake, with several villages around the perimeter.  Passing through we again enter the river and sail into Skradin.

Arriving, we noticed yachts anchored with hawsers to the shore, so decided this was as good a time as any to have our first attempt.  With Laura and Isaac dispatched in the inflatable to shore, Laura proceeded to scramble up the bank and secure the rope to the tree.  She returned vowing never to do it again!

 

1 May – Skradin

We wandered into town at 10 to just miss the ferry to the waterfalls.  Good luck as we found an ‘eco expo’ on for today only just around the corner.  Wines, figs, jams, cheeses, souvenirs, truffles … I was in my element.  Leaving armed with souvenirs for the children, pastries for the trip and sugared nuts and jam we caught the next ferry to the falls.  Slightly annoyed at the pushy nature of the other passengers, it was a nice trip down the river and we alighted to the sound of frogs just by the boardwalk.  We encountered masses of people on the lawn area, playing ball and picnicking.  We decided Mayday must be a public holiday here.  That explains all the boats we have seen on the way .. a long weekend.  The waterfalls and ponds were something out of a fairy story, with princely frogs and cascading falls, wild figs leaning over running rivers (lots of photos for Marie).  Along the way are a group of stone buildings showcasing the traditional Croatian crafts – weaving, blacksmith, a working flour mill with grindstones powered by waterwheels and a very cute donkey.  The ponds were filled with tiny trout – I wonder if they eventually grow to the size we have in Taupo.  Nearly completing the walkway we encounter a sign showing the reptiles resident in the park .. ½ dozen species of snake, pond turtles and lizards.  We were ever watchful for turtles from then on, and studied the occasional tree for a snake, but with no success.  Many species make the park home, including foxes, endangered wolves and otters, boars and wild cats.  We were only in the small easily accessible section of the park and therefore no chance of seeing anything but frogs and fish.

Keen for a swim in the lower pond of the waterfall, the stones were slippery and difficult and only Anna braved a small pool for a dip.  Isaac and Laura experienced life behind a small waterfall, Laura emerging quickly complaining that it was like being in the cold rain!

Back in town I was able to return to the market to buy wine that was too heavy for this morning, including a blackberry dessert wine that I will look forward to tasting.

Laurie meanwhile had rushed back to the boat, which appeared to have dragged anchor in our absence.  After some time we spied the yacht coming up the harbour, and Isaac jumping into the inflatable to retrieve us from the town wall.  Returning to re-anchor, we omitted the hawser, blaming this for putting further pressure on the anchor.  We must buy a new anchor at the first opportunity.  

A cultural show was timetabled at the eco-expo for 8pm.  With Laurie unwilling to rely on the anchor again, Laura and I were to set off.  While I wait in the inflatable, Laura appears, one leg in, oops, and unscheduled swim delays us a little!  After drying off we head into town only to find no sign of the show.  A pancake in compensation and we explore the wonderful old main street which runs parallel at the back of the promenade.  At 8.30 with night setting in, we head back through the marina and along the riverside track to the inflatable.  In the dark, with lightening and thunder suddenly breaking over our heads, we were relieved to float the inflatable, only to have the wind pick up, and a quick and determined row back to the boat under the light of Laurie’s torch. Back on board the heavens opened and the downpour of hail began, we made it just in time.  The hail had frightened Anna so a hot chocolate all round seemed appropriate.

 

2 May – Skradin - Tribinj 

Awaking to our 20th wedding anniversary and an exchange of Croatian wine.  20 years! We recalled our first wedding anniversary when we again celebrated with travel, that time as 21 year olds driving through California, seeking out cheap truck stops and bemoaning the US exchange rate of the time.

 

A wander into town to show the rest of the family the main street with its long curving road flanked on both sides by seamless straight vertical buildings rising from the side of the street.  The odd open doorway revealing an alley under the building frontage leading to a garden and stone house behind. We bought bread at the little bakery and lettuce from the old lady with her stall at the entrance to the marina, beautifully fresh, obviously picked from her wonderful vege garden this morning .. this is what I had looked forward to.  The bread didn’t last long as Isaac was holding it .. then was finished off feeding the 2 swans with their 8 babies.

Laura talked us into yet another shirt (with Aegean fish this time) .  Back at the boat 2 more swans came to visit and the children enjoyed feeding them just off the back of the boat. 

Taking advantage of the fresh water we wash bodies, hair, clothes and bedding before setting off.

We have enjoyed our visit here, and wind back along the river refreshed and relaxed.

The wind is blowing a steady 20 knots as we wind back out to sea,  and we run with just the genoa at 7 knots (being a short trip we are too relaxed and lazy to roll out the mainsail!)  Our destination is Tribinj, as I have read of the large fishing fleet and the local speciality of fish ragout with polenta.  I’m keen to stop at Logorun on the way, just off Tribinj, a donkey sanctuary for the now rare and endangered donkeys that used to be intregral to Croatian life.  Spotting only one on the hillside, and being to rough to go ashore, we head to town.  As it’s our anniversary and more thunderstorms are forecast we treat ourselves to the marina.  This must be the next of our favourite stops. The bathrooms are stunning, coin operated laundry, and a lovely old town just around the bay.  We wander off to explore, finding beach shoes for the children (a necessity when swimming due to all the sea urchins in the shallows). With the restaurants very quiet we wander for a while, then alight at Konoba Simun, we were enter into the back room with it’s stone walls, antique implements lining the walls, and fishing nets on the ceilings. As the ragout comes only as a plate for 2, Laurie forgoes his steak. We had an enjoyable evening full of laughter and fun, although Laurie was not so keen at the fishbones amply scattered throughout his dinner!

Back to the boat and the children befriended yet another little cat which very nearly followed us right on board, despite Isaac’s initial apprehension about black cats on a full moon!

 

3 May – Tribinj - Pasman

I was awoken with a jolt this morning, to find Laurie sprawled on the floor, feet still flailing on the bed.  Thinking the small wedge of the bed had given way … but no .. his hand had slipped getting up.  After ensuring he was OK I allowed myself a giggle.  After Laurie had recovered himself and brushed down his pride, we focused instead on the thunder and lightening and pouring rain and the temperature that had plummeted to COLD .. oh the sunny Mediterranean!  I decided to take advantage of the laundry to wash the towels.  Yes a coin operated laundry .. but costs 35kuna to buy the coin from the office!  Therefore they only got washed and could dry on the boat.  As the weather improved work began sanding a launch on the hard behind us.  With no vacuum sander, the wind in our direction and a wet boat, we soon had the pleasure of black dust all over the boat.  While Laurie washed it down I paid the marina bill, getting 10% off after complaining about the dust .. if you don’t ask you don’t get!  Mind you we needed the discount with the NZ$125 fee .. no wonder the bathrooms were so nice.  We made a hurried departure to avoid any more dust settling.  We were keen to buy a new anchor and therefore bypassed the Kornatis and headed north toward Zadar.  We would discover the Kornatis on the way back down the coast.  With the wind rising and weather deteriorating, we stopped at Pasman for the night.

4 May – Pasman - Zadar

Deciding to head for Zadar we sailed in rough seas and 20 knot winds to Zadar.  Laurie reminded us how soft we’ve become, as these were typical Auckland seas.  The rain had Laurie donning his wet weather jacket for the first time and appreciating the fact that I had brought it.  We arrived in Zadar wet and cold.   Choosing from 5 marinas in the city, we headed for what appeared to be the main marina nearest the city.  The price list showed 57euro a night for us, and as with Tribinj, we were told there was no set leaving time. After drying off the rain stopped and we headed into town in search of marine shops as Laurie was hoping to buy a new Delta anchor.  Many had closed at 12, to reopen at 5.30, so we headed into the old city to find the Marina Stores shop, finding St Donat’s Cathedral along the way.  In the drizzly rain I still managed a peep and a photo.  Amazing were the bottoms of the walls, where old roman pillars had been used as the foundation supports for the outer walls .. no preserving history then! Surrounding the cathedral were excavations of more pillars, stone sarcophagus and various pieces of roman ruins.  Amazing that they are just sitting there for anyone to clamber on.  At home they would have been covered in graffiti.

The girls were tired of searching the city, so while Laurie and Isaac kept searching for Marina Stores, the girls opted to sit for a hot chocolate.  But that would have to wait as across the street I saw my favourite store from Sydney, MNG.  After locating some ‘essential clothing’, we returned for our hot chocolate and to wait for Laurie, before dragging him into MNG.  Yes, you must buy that dress, and yes you must by those white ¾’s too!!!   They do have gorgeous clothes there, unfortunately none of the pale denim jeans that I had loved from Sydney.  Being over 500 kuna we obtained another tax refund form in the hope of actually being able to obtain the refund one day.

On the way back, we spied piles of cherries at the market, and for only NZ$5 a kilo, then home via the marine shops that had now reopened.  Laurie was pleased to find 12v fans and assorted wires and connections to complete the installation of the electronics.

 

5 May - Zadar

Anna and I headed off to the market in the morning, returning with cherries and strawberries, veges and fruit.  I took a gamble on buying some artichokes which are everywhere here, although I’m not sure how to cook them.

Laurie gave up on ever finding a Delta (as Marina Stores had never heard of them, despite having them in their catalogue), and at $250 bought a 20kg Bruce instead – the best option he could find, and worth a try for the money.  A survey of the marina showed that half the boats had them, and they’re rated to 80 foot boats! 

The weather ensured that we stayed inside for the rest of the day, while Laurie installed the new anchor, and made good use of all the wire etc he had bought yesterday feeding it here and there to connect to this and that.

One thing we have noticed here by their absence is cats .. there are no stray cats north of Split?

 

6 May – Zadar – Lucice, Molat

Up early and we all headed back to the market, as I decided I hadn’t bought nearly enough for the week ahead.  We were hoping to visit the Archaeological Museum, with it’s 10,000 exhibits, but unfortunately it’s closed for maintenance.  With the weather fine, we stopped for Anna to have a play at the first playground we have found in Croatia.

Back to the marina, the housework was done .. wonderful .. takes next to no time to vacuum, wash down walls and shelves, clean bathrooms .. and Laurie finished installing the 12volt connections.  At 3.30 we were off .. to be told we should have left by 12, with leaway till 2.  Shame no-one told the person on the desk when we arrived, but they let us off with the 2 nights.  Not quite 57euros per day when you add on the 7euro and 6 euro per day power and water charges – must look out for ACI Marinas in future, these private marinas are expensive.  .  The chap on the desk was more keen to know if NZ needed well qualified young people .. apparently good jobs are hard to find in Croatia . We had strong winds again and on the nose so we chose to tack across the channel rather than motor.  Giving up after 3 hours and not much headway we motored the last hour into Molat, finding a bay reasonably sheltered from the wind.  Having news from NZ that the girls had speeches coming up, we decided that our ‘school’ would have a speech day too … roll on next Friday.

 

7 May – Lucice, Molat – Uvala Krivica, Losinj

We awoke early this morning to a pleading call from Laura that she was feeling sick .. up on deck and over the railing.  There had been a swell coming into the bay all night and the rolling of the boat had finally claimed a victim.  So up anchor and off round the corner to Ist, where we could get off the boat and have a walk. Laura and I wandered the very quiet village in search of an open market for milk.  Luckily the second one we found was open.  We are amazed that at a small place like Ist they too are gearing up for the onslaught of charterers with new mooring lines out and upgrades to the pier. Laurie worries that if the onslaught reaches here it must be really bad!  With Laura still feeling unwell and the wind gusting we stayed at the pier until mid-day, then off in 25-30 knots to sail to Losinj.   Laurie was having fun really sailing at last, while the rest of us tried to ignore the occasional course change past islands that had us heeling over into the wind in 30 knots.

Arriving at Losinj, we had read in the cruising notes of other sailors, passed on by Jane, that Uvala Krivika was their favoured anchorage.  As we headed into the crystal blue water, we could see why.  Abandoned houses amongst the pine trees overlook the gorgeous water. 

My day doesn’t end quite so well, as I decide to be helpful and let go the rope to lower the inflatable, but forget to wrap around the winch first, resulting in a nasty rope burn on my hand.  To top it off the fridge lid comes down on my head a bit later just to do me in completely! 

 

8 May – Uvala Krivica, Losinj           

We decide to make this a rest and play stop for a couple of days – we have now been sailing for a whole month.  With the hammock resting off the spinnaker pole, the bosuns chair swung off the boom, the fish eagerly awaiting any morsels delivered and the crystal water in which to swim, we were alone in this corner of paradise and would enjoy it for a while.  A fishing boat comes by early, we wonder if it’s for fee collection, but he just wants to sell us some fish.  But the fish here are very small .. too small to fillet .. and too fiddly whole, so we decline.  It’s one thing you always wonder here .. will someone try to charge you for anchoring in their bay.  A couple of dozen hikers appeared around the bay during the day, then later in the morning many giggles arose from the children as we gained company in the form of our first ‘bare boaties’.  Naked at the helm, in fact for the rest of the day, it was all a little too continental for my British upbringing!  We had been forewarned that this was a common form of boating for many of the visiting Germans in the summer .. something I’m sure we will have to get used to.  Later in the day we went ashore to explore.  A restaurant was located 1km away so we followed the path to investigate, but sighting the rickety ‘WC’ portacom and the chap kicking his ball against the wall, we decided to turn back unseen up the path. Anna sighted another bright green ½ inch beetle, and Isaac was fascinated by the little lumps of earth surrounding a multitude of ant holes, containing some of the biggest ants I’ve ever seen.  We investigated the 3 or 4 abandoned houses, wondering why you would ever abandon this gorgeous setting, and contemplating the cost of purchase and restoration!!  Seeing the remains of a campfire and some wood set around for seating in the midst of an old stone wall, Isaac made up a very amusing song about naked sailors warming their rear!

Another swim before dinner, I’m sure the water’s warming up slowly, and our company left to be replaced by two other yachts (fully clothed!) in the early evening.

 

9 May – Uvala Krivica, Losinj           

Another early start this morning as Laura wakes me up at 5 feeling sick.  We spend the next 3 hours sitting/lying in the cockpit, complete with pillow and blanket.  The fisherman returns again and unfortunately for him the 3 boats here all decline.  A slow day follows .. with a couple of swims, some homework and reading.  Anna had set up a hairdressing studio in the saloon, so we all had our hair done, I was lucky enough get mine done twice.  A bit windy today so not quite as perfect as yesterday but good nonetheless.  The afternoon brought a police boat into the bay wanting to check our boat papers etc.  They were concerned that we still had our Croatian boat number while the papers showed the NZ .. something we will have to try and get done .. goodness knows how we’ll get vinyl numbers made, things like that aren’t easy here.  They then informed us that our crew list wasn’t a crew list, that we needed a different crew list and must get it at Losinj as soon as possible.. funny as that’s what the harbourmaster gave us as a crew list .. who knows.  The bureaucracy here is one of the country’s let downs. Deciding that we may be pulled up in Losinj with the same crew list (!!) we decide to head for Rab tomorrow, recommended by Nigel.

 

10 May – Uvala Krivica - Rab

Wanting to move on, we were up early for a swim and breakfast then off at 9.  A bit of a shame as the day was beautifully warm and still, and meant a 4 hour motor over glassy seas to Rab.  We spotted a long black line of birds flying between islands .. small black geese – hundreds of them.   Not wanting to risk incurring more fees at a town wall, we anchored on the other side of the bay and walked into town.  We could see why Nigel recommended it.  A quiet old town with lovely parks and another playground for Anna. Parks are something we have hardly seen in Croatia so they really stood out as a rare item here.  Four cathedral towers mark the skyline and one we could walk up, being part of open ruins of an old cathedral.  Beautiful views out to sea and over the town. The little winding streets that I love, high stone walls that turn into houses without a break.  We enjoyed lunch and ice-creams, and fresh squeezed orange juice from an ingenious machine in the café.  This was the first fresh juice we had found in Croatia. We restocked the groceries again, having to carry them back around the bay.  All fine until Laurie’s back made it’s displeasure known back on the boat.  He therefore had to spend the rest of the evening flat on his back hoping it would come right by morning.

 

11 May - Rab – Rabac

Laurie’s back has thankfully come right this morning so we head off for a long sail to Rabac on the mainland.  The sail started well when we suddenly had a few dolphins appear beside the boat and swim with us for a little while.  The rest of the trip didn’t provide much to see along the way .. the tall cliffs of the island of Cres .. we looked for the vultures that nest there but didn’t see any .. a couple of small towns on the hill … a huge oil refinery in the distance.  After 8 hours we were quite pleased to arrive.  Rabac was so different to the other towns we have seen .. mainly big hotels and holiday apartments, very touristy.  No sign of the usually very central cathedral or a proper town… don’t think it would be my ideal holiday spot.  We loved the ‘beaches’.  Patches of concrete had been poured over the rocky shoreline to make a smooth area of ‘beach’!  How lucky we are in NZ.  We didn’t bother to visit and anchored in a small bay nearby.   The children finally got on to writing their speeches .. amazing what they can do when they get motivated.  With Laura having been ill for a few days, we allowed an extra day and it will be speech day tomorrow.

 

12 May – Rabac – U Soline, Verudela

We sailed down the coast stopping for lunch in a bay at the Premadura peninsula.  Many naked sunbathers for entertainment!  Around the peninsula we stop at Verudela.  An interesting entrance to the bay.  The Pilot Guide is not clear here and when we take the obvious channel, where we can see yachts moored along the way, we slow to a crawl and turn around with only ½ mtr under the keel.  Finding another entrance with a narrow channel we enter a big and very sheltered bay, trees down to the waterline and obviously a popular anchorage (once you find your way in!).  The children perform their speeches for us before dinner and they never fail to surprise and amaze us.  All of them, including 6yr old Anna and unenthusiastic Isaac, have done fantastic speeches. The topic being a place we have been, Laura has spent hours researching Rome for hers, Isaac gives a wonderfully personal account of Krk National Park and Anna summarises a variety of events from our travels.  What clever children we have!!

 

 

13 May – U Soline – U Soline, Limska Kanal

We leave the anchorage and head for the Brijuni Islands.  A national park and residence of the former President Tito, they are still off limits without a permit or on a tour as they are still used by the current government.  We read of a safari park on the island, as various animals from around the world had been gifted to Tito over the years, and it is also a marine park with apparently picturesque islands.  We thought this might be a nice stop for the children, but seeing the prices ($180 marina fee or $150 for us all to go on a tour) we decide to sail past first (just outside the no access zone).  What the charts would show as the nicer part of the island is off limits, and what we can see doesn’t impress much so we decide it is probably too over-rated and pretentious for us.  The marketing seems to mainly focus on what movie star has visited!  The pacific islands definitely overshadow these ones.

We decide to leave Pula as we will re-enter Croatia there from Venice, and  motored on to Rovinj (wind on the nose again!) arriving at mid-day, and decided to carry on another 10 minutes to look at the Limski Kanal .. a gorge highly rated.  A pretty trip but perhaps overshadowed by Sibinek, and we couldn’t sail all the way down as the gorge is restricted to tour boats only.  Deciding to obey the sign we turned back, we had already seen 2/3 of it anyway.  Along the way we spied a cave on the hillside with a tour boat docked at the bottom, a stairway leading up.  As the tour boat was leaving Laurie backed the boat up to the pontoon and the children and I hopped off for a look.  There are supposed to be two caves in the gorge showing signs of prehistoric settlement, but all we could see was graffiti – and not prehistoric!  A nice cave though, with seating and a kiosk at the front – all closed at the moment though.  Back to the boat we stopped for the afternoon at a nice bay round the corner.  Isaac, Anna and I headed into the beach and looked at the rock pools, oysters and a few anemones.  Swimming off the boat was much nicer so we head back.  We take a stand today on Laura hiding away in her cabin reading all day, and remove all the books to our cabin..  Hopefully she will mix with the rest of the family a bit more now – that was half the reason for the trip after all – family time.  Isaac’s are soon to follow.

 

 

14 May – Limska Kanal – U Lon, Rovinj

After our morning swim and breakfast, we headed around the corner to Rovinj to anchor in the bay by the marina.  Heading into town along the waterfront, we first passed the fishing boats, where Isaac was pleased to spot a striped squid swimming in the shallows.  The fishing boats were then replaced by floating shops … boats backed up to the wall, with canvas sides, open to the back, set up with shelves full of souvenirs – mainly shells, dried puffer fish, and other sealife dredged up for the tourist – not here in Croatia we doubt but imported from some tropical place now no doubt devoid of seashells!  Further along the bay we arrived at the old town.  I was in alley heaven again as we wandered the backstreets looking for lunch.  Deciding that we had passed the best restaurants back around the bay we headed back for lunch.  A nice restaurant, but again 400kuna.  Back to the old city, we headed up through yet more alleys to the Cathedral of St Euphemia at the top.  Having read the history of the saint, she became a Christian and for doing so was fed to the lions by Emperor Diocletian (nice chap!). According to the dates she was only 14.  Her body then sent to Constantinople where she was born.  500 years later after a change of rulers in Constantinople her followers feared for her remains, and sent her sarcophagus on a boat.  Legend has it that it was found floating off Rovinj, and was moved to the top of the hill, by a small boy and his two cattle to whom the saint had appeared in a dream,  to where a small church stood, since replaced by a cathedral in her name, a statue of her clearly seen on the top of the steeple.  She is now the patron saint of Rovinj.  Entering the cathedral, we found the room to the side that houses the Sarcophagus of the saint and a large painting on the walls depicting her being fed to the lions in the Colloseum watched by the crowds in the stands, and another of her sarcophagus being moved up the hill. Anna found it difficult to comprehend that she was alive when she went into the lions … hard for a 6 year old mind to understand .. hard for a 40 year old one to understand the brutality too.  Laurie didn’t come in .. the worship of saints, the huge monuments to them, as we have seen in so many places …  the huge wealth we’ve seen in all the cathedrals in Rome .. doesn’t quite seem right.  While I enjoy the history and the amazing sculptures and craftwork, Laurie is affronted by the display of huge wealth, in amongst all the donation boxes.

After the cathedral we wandered down a little alley full of art studios.  The first time we have seen the artist and his own works .. much art we have seen seems reproduced and common.  The artwork of one artist in particular was stunning.  An amazing painting of Rovinj at sunrise, with the light appearing to shine through the painting.  Enhanced of course by the placement of halogens, but stunning nonetheless.  We were very tempted at 2200 kuna (NZ$550).  Some had yachts in but not the same effect of colour and light, if they had we would have made a definite purchase.  Given more time we may have requested a commission of our yacht.  Also an incredible painting of fruit and a wine glass, incredible colours .. also very tempting but 7000 kuna for that one.  After a hot walk an ice-cream was required.  10 kuna for these, but delicious.  I had given up on ice-creams as the last few have had the flavour of sickly lollies, but I have been re-converted.  Heading home we happened down the shopping street, to find a pretty dress for moi, and only NZ$25.  A quick stop at the chandlery for yet more clips, chain to tie the inflatable (getting ready for Italy where we have been warned to tie and lock everything!), padlocks and cleaner for the boat.

Tomorrow we will leave the boat in the marina and hire a car for 4 days to drive to Slovenia and Austria.  Originally planning to do the trip from Trieste ( originally only a day trip to Slovenia but Austria is so close … actually so is Hungary … hmmmm) but decided against the Italian driving!

 

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15 May – Rovinj – Bled, Slovenia

We collect our rental car at 11am and begin the drive to Slovenia.  Taking the scenic route to the border our first stop is the town of Pazin, where we look through the castle and museum.  Bells, woodworking, ethnic dress and old instruments.  Isaac is most interested by the torture chamber! It leaves me with a very uneasy feeling about the cruelty humans can inflict.  On we drive through vineyards to Motovun, a pretty town on a hillside.  We stop at the roadside honey shop, buying honey with the comb inside and some crystallized squares with Propolis.  Laurie eats a whole one only to have his mouth go numb!  Our last stop in Croatia is the town of Buzet, home to truffles, and Laurie buys a whole truffle in a jar to try later (NZ$15), while I can’t resist the dessert wine. Arriving at the Slovenian border the children are most upset that the passports only get a cursory glance and no stamp.  Slovenia has a great motorway system, funded by tolls, we travel the width of the country for total tolls of 5euro.  We encounter our first long tunnel, 3.8km.  We have read of one in Austria that is 14km long.  Along the motorway we spy a sign for some caves and detour.  A wonderful underground cave system which you enter by a little train.  It would have been wonderful but it’s 4pm and the last tour was at 3.30.  It will have to wait until the return trip.   We then encounter an hour’s holdup stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway.  We are surrounded by trucks with number plates from everywhere, Italy, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Austria, even Russia. Long haul truck driving is really long-haul over here.

We arrive in Bled at 6 only to find that all the accommodation seems to be full.  We finally find a room that sleeps all of us in a lakeside villa for 100euro.  The villa is stone and quite old, but has a nice modern room and nice view, and the bright red tiles all through the bathroom are interesting.  Tired and hungry we venture out and find a nice Pizzeria for dinner.  As there is hardly anyone in town and we are puzzled by the full accommodation … maybe they just don’t want anyone quite yet.

 

16 May – Bled – Werfen, Austria

The morning dawns wet and cold, unfortunate as the beautiful lake loses some of it’s beauty in the rain.  Our plan to walk around the lake to town is off and we drive instead, finding a café for hot chocolate to warm us up.  They have dozens of different hot chocs, and Laura is in heaven with a white chocolate one.  A bit like drinking chocolate pudding.

We drive up to look at the castle on the cliff overlooking the lake, but the rain puts us off exploring and we continue on instead to Austria.  At the Austrian border, we again miss out on a passport stamp but we do pay 6.50euro to enter the 7.9km tunnel through the mountain into Austria.  A bit lost with no map or information, we stop at the town of Villach only to find the information bureau closed at midday.  We are lucky to find a big bookshop and take the opportunity to buy English Lonely Planets on Austria, and for future reference Egypt and Morroco.  A little tired of pizza we are pleased to see a fish and chip shop and enjoy the breadcrumbed fish and herring salad. Scouring the Lonely Planet we find there is an ice cave at Werfen on the way to Salzburg and decide it is worth a slight detour to visit.  As the inside of the caves are at freezing point we stop to buy Isaac some jeans .. shorts may be a bit cold.  We have also noticed a huge drop in temperature with the rain and the further north we go .. the car registers 8 degrees outside temp… to think we were swimming in the sea yesterday.  The scenery in Austria is stunning, vibrant green valleys with snow-topped mountains.  Around every corner we find another postcard view.  The gorgeous wooden houses with window boxes appear. With so many trees everywhere there is no shortage of wood.  With all the glorious photos to be taken we are disappointed when our camera battery expires and we have forgotten to bring the charger.  We stop at the town of Obervellach, a gorgeous town with coloured buildings, to find a battery but to no avail – thank goodness for mobile phones with cameras.  Halfway to Werfen we arrive at Mallnitz and the road becomes a car-rail.  For 17euro we drive the car onto the carriage, then sit in the passenger carriage for the 10 minute trip through the mountain tunnel.  At Werfen we find the hotel Erzherzog Eugen for 100euro.  After talking to the lady for a while we tell her we are traveling for a year.  I think she viewed us as rather strange .. our children don’t attend school, we didn’t want breakfast (it was the $80 charge rather than the food that was the problem!) and we arrived in T shirts and shorts.  She kept questioning all three things .. quite perplexed by us.  While I was organizing the hotel, Laurie had noticed all the people walking up the street in traditional clothing.  Enquiring of a lady the reason, he was told of a concert at the local church which was due to start in a ½ hour at 8pm.  We therefore quickly dropped our bags and walked up expecting a traditional show.  With the musicians hidden on a higher level and a sermon in German with interludes of music, it was not quite what we had expected and with the children very tired we slipped out after half an hour.  Laurie will take some time to live this down.

 

17 May – Werfen, Austria – Bischofswiesen, Germany

We head off early this morning for the Ice Caves.  A drive up the mountain, a ride up a near vertical cable car into the clouds, and a 20 minute walk in the cold and high altitude through the mist and we’re there.  We are quite thankful for the mist as it hides the downward view from the cable car and the sheer drop off the side of the path . The cable car was not an enjoyable experience for us older ones, and Laurie certainly didn’t enjoy the 20 minute climb after it but we made it .. to look forward to the 1400 steps inside the cave!!  Thankfully the guide advised that there were only 700 steps up .. with the other 700 down!  We entered the caves with a fuel lamp and started the climb up. Inside the cave huge ice walls and lakes and ice sculptures have been crafted by the wind as it freezes the water drops that filter through the rock.  The ice is quite spectacular but unfortunately no photos are allowed.   The caves are the largest accessable ice caves in the world.  We see the first 1.5km of caves where the ice is .. a further 42km of caves continue on but without the ice.  After an hour in the caves we emerge and head straight for the café!  Hot chocolates all round, and having missed breakfast we order apple and cheese strudels, goulash and fried potatoes with sausage. The food is divine and is all I expected Austrian food to be.  The ride down in the cable car wasn’t nearly as bad, and we were glad to have arrived early as a steady stream of people now headed up the mountain.  The 12 in our group including the 5 of us made for a peaceful and enjoyable tour.  The next stop was the souvenir shop.  Laura has taken to collecting keyrings and Isaac spoons, so we add to their collections, while Anna buys a chest of small precious stones.  The ice-cave overlooks Burg Hohenwerfen, a castle with tours and a falcon display.  We decide against a visit, partly as Laurie thinks the falcon display may include it retrieving wee birds and mice … something Laura in particular would not enjoy.  We therefore continue along the scenic road into southern Germany .. the old Bavaria.  No border post exists at all just a sign post to announce the change of country.  It has been raining for most of the drive and Laurie is finding the driving stressful.  With most shops closed today, we find out it is a public holiday, so we are pleased to find a café open in Bischofweisen.  Café Stuberl is worth a significant detour for the cakes and slices prepared here … delicious … and obviously very popular with a stream of customers, many taking away packages of cakes.  Our destination today is Berchesgaden, home of ‘Eagles Nest’, a residence of Hitler accessed by a 150m horizontal tunnel into a mountain then a 150m vertical elevator to the top.  We rush for the last bus, only to find it has been cancelled due to the weather.  Laurie also decides that this is not the place he was thinking of … it is the castle in the film ‘Where Eagles Dare’ that he is keen to see.  He is somewhat stunned to find later when we return to the boat, that the castle he wanted was Burg Hohenwerfen, the one with the falcon display that we decided not to visit!!  Why there is no mention of it’s role in the movie in the Lonely Planet or the castle pamphlet we have no idea.  We go mad looking for accommodation here and leave, finding a Gesthaus above a restaurant back in Bischofsweisen.  Clean but smelling of smoke, 2 rooms for a total of 100euro including breakfast. We eat dinner at the restaurant, weiner schnitzel and sausage and goulash soup.

 

18 May – Bischofsweisen, Germany – Salzburg, Austria

We enjoy a great breakfast of boiled eggs (complete with crocheted covers) ham, salami, cheese, rolls and jam.  Wanting to see a little of Germany we drive to Lake Cheimees. The drive takes us through forests (the Black Forest?) then farming areas rich in the smell of manure.  We are amazed by the countryside.  The farms look like manicured golf courses.  We decide this is because the animals are not put out to pasture.  We assume they are kept in the barns, and see the farmers mowing the grass and baling it up.  We find out later that the cows are actually taken up the mountains for the summer, being brought down again to the sheds in Autumn.   We arrive back in Austria to just small road sign announcing the country, and head into Salzburg.  Stopping at a pension, they are full, as apparently is most of Salzburg due to the holiday yesterday and today being Friday, people take a long weekend.  She is very helpful and rings around for us, to find another pension above a restaurant for 132 euro for 2 rooms on the outskirts of town with breakfast.  We have a rest, then head into town. We find an internet café to check emails, then walk across the river into the old city.  The narrow streets are lined with designer shops and labels, but we find an amazing shop selling painted real eggs and painted glass baubles.  There are trays and trays of painted eggs in all different designs for Easter, then across the road more in Christmas designs with the glass baubles.  The children each choose a glass ball.  I then can’t resist and buy two of the Christmas painted eggs and two for Dad.  The shop arranges shipping, so for an extra 12euro we have them all sent home to Dad.  Hopefully they arrive in one piece.  The lady in the shop gives the children a small wooden horse each, as they have to wait for their decorations… little does she know that they will be waiting for a year. We take a picture of Mozart’s birthplace and wander the city.  We are surprised to find a busker playing the didgeridoo.  Heading home at 8 we buy hot dogs with yummy Austrian sausage for dinner just as all the restaurants are starting to come alive.

 

19 May – Salzburg – Bad Mittendorf, Austria

Another trip into town this morning to see Festung Hohensalzburg, the fortress that overlooks the city.  Another steep climb (too cheap to take the funicular railway up).  We join a castle tour with our audio guides to see the additions to the fortress over the years with each subsequent arch-bishop resident, another torture room, a marionette puppet museum, but best of all is the amazing view over Salzburg.  At the souvenir shop Laurie finds a gift for Colin.  Although clamouring for more souvenirs, only Laura buys a pen and a gift for her friend.  Isaac and Anna have already bought miniature violins in the town this morning.  Laurie is upset to find that our family ticket is all inclusive and included a one way trip on the funicular railway.  We used it to go down!!

The town square has a pretzel stall.  We forgo the huge pretzel for 14euro, to buy an apple and a cheese and ham.  The girls don’t see the chocolate ones until too late!

Our destination is the Salt Mine today, so we head off at lunchtime for Hallstatt to the south. We drive through more gorgeous countryside and past sparkling lakes to arrive at Hallstatt on the banks of another stunning lake at the foot of the mountains.  First we have another very high and near vertical climb in another cable car, then a 20 minute walk further up the mountain, past a skeleton retrieved from the mountain (shame the descriptions are all in German) and various archealogical digs.  We arrive just as a tour is about to start, so we quickly have to slip on overall trousers and jackets and go to the entrance.  The overalls make you feel like a POW, trudging up the hill to the mine!  We are all asked if anyone is claustrophobic, and can see why when we enter through a 350m tunnel straight into the mountain, just head height and close at the sides.  Our first stop has huge rocks of salt, then a movie on the history of the mountain.  Then we’re sliding down a salt chute (the reason for the protective clothes).  Later another 60m salt chute takes us further inside the mountain to subterranean salt lakes.  An animated wax figure tells the history of the ‘Man in Salt’, a perfectly preserved, although rather flat (from the pressure of the mountain) man, found in a rock collapse within the mountain 300 years ago.  He was thought to have been trapped within the salt mine 3000 years before.  No wonder it’s the oldest salt mine in the world.  Isaac was hoping to see him but he was buried when found and now no-one knows where. We exit on a little train, a very long trip through a tunnel back out to the sunshine. More souvenirs and we’re on our way again.  We hope to stay in Bad Aussee but finding accommodation is difficult so we continue on finding Apparthotel Montana in Bad Mittendorf.  We have a lovely 2 room apartment with kitchen, new and very comfortable for 120euro.  The owners are a very friendly Dutch couple, also sailors.  This would be a lovely place to spend a week - if only we could afford it!!  The NZ-euro exchange rate makes a dent in the pocket.  We venture out for dinner as this is our last night of the trip.  With not a lot open we find Restaurant Nanu, and are very pleased we did.  The food was delicious, and although the waitress was run off her feet, she was very friendly and helpful (especially with deciphering the menu for us!).

 

20 May – Bad Mittendorf, Austria – Rovinj, Croatia

We head off early for the long drive home to the boat, bemoaning the fact that we were too cheap to book breakfast at the hotel (6.50euro each but a lovely buffet we see as we are leaving).  We are in luck though as we spot a fleamarket by the side of the road. Stopping we spy the stall with fresh cake and strudel and fried balls with meat in a type of bread.  We also buy homemade jam and goats cheese.  A few 10c cars for the children keep them occupied on the long drive.  We are keen to stop at ‘Minimundus’, a park with models of the major buildings of the world, so we head for Klagenfurt.  On the way we detour slightly at St Veit to see Burg Hochosterwitz, said to be the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  It is most impressive at a distance, and being a little ‘castled-out’ we don’t enter.  The 14 towers wrap around the hilltop making quite an impressive sight.  As we pass Friesach, we are pleased that the children need a toilet stop, as next to the conveniences we find a small roadside stall, that amazingly has a full menu and delicious food.  We have schnitzel and big Austrian sausages with salad. The owner gives us coffee on the house and an ice block for the children.  We are too full for the delicious looking strudel and cake.  To look at the building you would only expect a drink and a packet of chips. 

At Klagenfurt we find Minimundus and spend a couple of hours.  Truly amazing how they have recreated various buildings – Gaudi’s Cathedral, St Peters, an Indonesian Buddist monastery, the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House and many others.  Even a maori whare from NZ – though it is dwarfed and looks a little sad alongside the cathedrals nearby.  Incredible work to re-create the detail in each building.  Isaac is thrilled with the working miniature trains and monorail.   A fun water sprinkler is on in the gardens, and finding them in the souvenir shop I can’t resist.  We are pleased to finally get a passport stamp as we leave Austria for Slovenia, and hopping on the motorway we have a dream run right through Slovenia, stopping only for the toll gate. To stay on the motorway we go out to the coast, seeing the huge port.  We somehow come off the motorway, and seeing the huge queues of cars going the other way we are loath to turn around.  We have decided that we won’t sail around the coast to Venice. The things we were looking forward to in Trieste and around the coast, we have now had in Austria.  We therefore opt for the coast road since we won’t be sailing here, past Umag and Porec.  Cars in the other direction are backed up for miles near the border .. it has been a long weekend and they are all returning from the beaches of northern Croatia. We pass acres of vineyards, more acres of camping grounds and as it starts to get dark wonder if this road is leading in the right direction, but we eventually end up in Rovinj.

 

 

We’ve had a wonderful trip away, a bit tiring for the children but we’ve seen some amazing things and some beautiful countries.  Our costs were a bit higher than we expected, our accommodation averaging at NZ$220 a night, and with the marina costs and the rental car and food and attractions we’ve managed to spend $4500 in 6 days and 1500 kms.  But with the opportunity so close at hand we couldn’t pass it up, and we go to sleep with some great memories.

 

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21 May

Our next few days in Rovinj are spent getting haircuts and restocking the cupboards. Laurie has researched the psoriasis treatment centre we saw at Umag.  The therapy looks promising and is not available in NZ, so we head up the coast looking for a suitable anchorage for the two weeks it will take.

We arrive at Umag but the harbour isn’t easy to moor in and buoys are laid in half of the harbour.  Unsure of picking up a bouy we anchor in a clear space.  While I’m making dinner we hear ‘Hallo Hallo’.  A port vessel is alongside and the next word is ‘You must pay!’  Apparently it is not OK to anchor there – but is OK if we pay!  We apparently can’t anchor in the rest of the bay either, even though the Pilot Guide says you can. According to the port official “the navigation book is not real”!!!  They want you to pick up a bouy.  The 5kuna per metre charge wasn’t an issue (NZ$15)… it’s the rude way they approach you.  Manners are obviously not part of the English classes here!  So we up anchor and leave.  The bays nearby are not sheltered so we head back to Novigrad and anchor on the other side of Luka Mirna bay.  On the way there were more polystyrene trays floating in the ocean and Isaac wants one to build a boat.  We pick up 4.  One thing we have noticed the last couple of days is that there are buoys cordoning off all the swimming areas out from the beaches and headlands.  We decide this is another preparation for summer when the hordes of speedboats come over from Italy. Having witnessed their lack of regard for slowing down or keeping a reasonable distance we think the cordons are a wise precaution.

 

25 May – Luka Mirna – Rovinj

The children are up early this morning starting on their boats.  They have done a design on paper and then start scavenging parts from the boat to build them.  We are moored off a campground, one of the huge areas we saw from the car.  By the beach there is a swimming pool, restaurant, boat hire and tennis courts.    We need a secure anchorage for the two weeks Laurie will be doing the treatment, and this bay isn’t sheltered enough nor is there much nearby for the children and I to do so we head back to Rovinj Bay.  We all have a welcome swim and Isaac plays in the inflatable.  As I take the line from him as he comes in, my foot slips and into the water I go.  Thankfully Isaac has the sense to push the inflatable out so I can surface again.  More than bruised pride, unfortunately I have bruised legs and ankle too.  Laurie heads off later to investigate travel options to Umag.  Surprisingly there are only 2 buses a day, so a scooter is probably the best option at 150kuna a day.

 

26 May – Rovinj

Laurie is up early to collect the scooter and head off for treatment.  I hope it’s successful.   We spend the day catching up on journals and homework.  Laurie doesn’t return until 7.  The scooter was a nightmare apparently and then he took the wrong turnoff, so it will be a car tomorrow.

 

27 May – Rovinj

After dinner tonight the wind changes suddenly from SW to a very strong NE, gusting 50 straight into the bay, with forked lightening and thunder.  This wasn’t on the forecast!! Yachts are dragging anchors and we don jackets and lifejackets preparing for an emergency exit if necessary. A couple of boats that have dragged badly have lifted anchor and motor around waiting for the storm to ease.  Our anchor has dragged but we are still in 3mtrs when the wind subsides.  At least the children have learnt an important lesson about why we are always onto them to keep things tidy and stowed away.  The barometer shows 999, and looking at the history it had been steadily dropping but I hadn’t noticed while Laurie was out.  Next lesson learnt, don’t just rely on the forecast but keep checking the barometer.

 

28 May – Rovinj

There is a big swell into the bay during the night, so much so that Laurie gets up to check Anna won’t fall out of bed.  We haven’t had a great sleep when the alarm goes at 7.30.  The day looks fine but the barometer is at 997 and more bad weather is forecast for this evening.  A brief period of strong gusts from the NW – we wonder what their idea of brief is.  Laurie lets out more rope and leaves instructions before he leaves in case the weather turns in his absence.  We were hoping to use the car in the afternoons this week to have a look at Pula etc but the forecast isn’t great and since our anchor dragged yesterday we’re not happy leaving the boat.  The boat next to us didn’t drag at all yesterday and when they haul anchor to leave this morning we are keen to see what type they have – a Delta – we must find one but easier said than done.  The children play chess and teach Anna the rules.  Although they have always got on well, we have noticed they’ve become a lot closer, Laura in particular playing more and Anna enjoying lots of cuddles.   The ban on books is obviously working.  Can’t believe I have to get at them to stop reading (especially after we dragged 200 books over here)!!  But no TV, and now no books, and they occupy themselves playing games together.  The books will still be read of course, just for an hour a day instead of all day .. think they’ve read just about all of them already anyway.   Laurie returns tired mid afternoon and we batten down the hatches preparing for the forecast wind.  A boat comes in during the afternoon and anchors right behind us (why when there’s a big empty bay all around?). We will have to keep an eye out if the wind picks up from the NW again.  At 4.45, just as I want to start dinner the wind arrives.  As predicted it turns to the NW.  We have all our chain and a long length of rope out in preparation, unfortunately the boat behind us hasn’t, and although he’s checking his anchor he doesn’t let out any more chain, but goes below to see it through, surely he can see how close he is.  Maybe we shouldn’t have been up on deck and he wouldn’t have left us to it.  Meanwhile, our stern is nearly over his anchor chain.   A glimmer of hope as his anchor chain shudders and we mischievously hope it will drag to where he should have anchored in the first place.  It doesn’t, so swearing about our German friend, I’m dispatched up the bow to lift the anchor.  Holding on tight when the strong gusts come and soaked through, we get the anchor up and we’re off.  We decide to see out the storm in the shelter of the harbour, then think about entering the marina.  It’s not a pleasant ride into the harbour and we spend the next hour motoring back and forth in relative shelter.  Even though the storm dies down, the marina won’t let anyone try to berth, so we’re back out to the bay for a very roly poly night.  Why does the wind never come from the direction of the swell here so we are always side on?   Blow saving water tonight, I’m freezing cold and need a hot shower.  Laurie turns on the heater which is a godsend at times like this and we start to dry out.  It’s all a bit much for me however standing cooking dinner, and I have to take my leave for my first seasick trip out to the deck.  It’s an early night tonight!

 

29 May – Rovinj

Laurie is up at 6 for an early appointment, and with the swell still coming in but only 5 knots of wind, he decides we should all go with him to get off the boat .. good idea! We drive to Umag and while Laurie is away, we get some breakfast from the bakery and look around the town before the aquarium opens at 9.  It’s not a great aquarium but the children enjoy the fish, crabs and eels.  Laura takes far too many photos and buys a fish ornament from the shop.  We wander around a bit more before Laurie arrives back.  We have lunch, stock up at the market and do a quick supermarket stop before heading back.  The sun has reappeared thankfully, but we are still rolling around.  The forecast has more bad weather scheduled for the morning so we head into the marina early this time.  Don’t fancy seeing out bad weather when Laurie’s not here and I’d happily pay $100 for a long hot shower at the moment.

 

30 May – Rovinj

We get up early to take the laundry into town, hoping that the city laundry will be cheaper than the marina.  They quote 70 kuna for each load.  Anna reminds me that Dad suggested I should take them for an ice-cream which sounds like a good idea.  On the way we stop to buy Laurie some T-shirts and come home with 3. 

In the evening Laura and I return for the laundry and a bill of only 100 kuna for the two loads.. it was worth the extra walk.

 

31 May – Rovinj

Needing yet another load of laundry we trek back into town.  Determined to find excursions to keep the children occupied we visit the bus station, information office and a couple of travel agencies, but really don’t emerge with any new information.  With an hour till Laurie returns, we visit the Rovinj Museum.  Very small with some pottery fragments and the rest paintings.  We return to the boat and clean it down and fill the water tanks in preparation for going back to the bay.  But when Laurie returns he’s decided that with the weeks forecast still very up and down, we should spend the money and stay in the marina for peace of mind while he is out all day.  He can also do with a good nights sleep.  The children and I walk around to the bay for a swim at the beach as the sun has come out hot again.  There are several little beaches among the rocks, all look like they have had stone chip poured onto them.  There is a nice little café tucked into the trees and we pass a big hotel with a lovely big pool.  After dinner we head into town to collect the laundry  and another ice-cream stop, cappuccino and chocolate for me.  We decide a good mission for this week is to investigate every ice-cream shop in Rovinj to judge the winner!  We have an entertaining evening sitting watching the locals and tourists pass by, some in amusing get ups and many with their dogs in tow.  Amazing how every day the place seems busier.

 

1 June – Rovinj

Our decision to stay at the marina for a good nights sleep doesn’t quite eventuate with the worst sleep we’ve had for ages.  With the mooring rings banging on the pier all night, and at 1am the crew on a neighbouring boat still outside chatting, we awake at 6 not exactly refreshed.  We all head off with Laurie to be dropped in Novigrad, at the Mercator shopping centre Laurie has seen.  Unfortunately this turns out to be just a small supermarket and a café, with all the shops yet to open.  But we have a nice walk around the town and find a couple of playgrounds.  Yet another ice-cream fills in some more time, melon and limoncello flavour this time, although Laura’s Coke flavour is rather nice.  Laurie gives us all 20 kuna each to buy one other a present.  With each buying for the next youngest, except Anna who buys for me, I am thankful for the hour the purchasing takes up, as I have 4 hours to occupy with not a lot to do.  Isaac is amazed at the amount he has managed to buy for Anna, a bag of lollies, a lollipop, another lolly and a swimming ring all for $5.  Laura buys Isaac a fish net and a muesli bar, while Laura receives a Tweety fan and lolly from me.  Anna has bought me a tray and a cute china donkey.  Laurie makes his reasoning clear when the children are asked if they received more pleasure from buying the presents, or from receiving them. Resounding cries of buying them, except from Anna with her hands full of lollies who thought receiving was very cool!  Laurie is feeling a bit better, so we head off to the Baradine Caves just out of Porec.  Basically a big pit in the ground, which descends deep into the earth, revealing caverns with stalagtites and stalagmites, all in shades of red from the iron rich red soil above.  Near the top a small ledge houses 2 large frogs. At one point there is a hole dropping a further 60 metres under the ground, and from there a pool which is a further 70 metres deep!  From the depths of this water they have discovered a strange fish with legs, like a wee salamander that has no eyes or pigment to its white skin, called a ‘human fish’.  One lives in a shallow pool at the bottom of the cave for us to see.  A very odd little creature, native to this region.  The cave is also home to bats but we don’t see any.  We note the absence of the glowworms we would expect at home.   The caves are quite spectacular and much better than we had anticipated.  We emerge and I purchase only my second souvenir of the trip, a plaque of a ‘human fish’ in a pool.   This is apparently one of 1300 caves in Istria, but the only one open to tourists as it only has a 12 metre steep drop at the entrance (which we descend via spiraling stairs), most others have a much longer drop and are therefore not easily accessible.   There are over 9000 caves in all of Croatia, due to all the karst rock here.

 

2 June – Rovinj

Laurie has his first day of two treatments and will be gone for most of the day.  It’s pouring with rain so it’s a quiet day of journals and homework.  At 4 we head up to the marina café hoping they will have the America’s Cup on the TV.  They don’t, but the hot choc was nice anyway. 

 

3 June – Rovinj

The weather has improved today so we take the bike past the bay and head through the Punta Corrente Forest Park.  We pass two more nice cafes and arrive at a small beach opposite the island of Crveni Otok, a big hotel marring it’s landscape. Anna and Isaac have a play with the net and we have the picnic they have prepared, then a bike ride back to the boat.  If nothing else, the bike is great for the kids at places like this.  The marina café has the sailing channel on when we return so we order another hot choc, only to find the Cup isn’t on.  Laura enjoys the 29ers regatta showing instead.  When Laurie returns he and I can leave the children on the boat in view of the café where we sit with our coffee.

 

4 June – Rovinj

It’s hot and airless today.  Anna is dressed up in all her finery playing a game with Isaac.   They have all the saloon cushions in the cabin to make a secret hideout. 

 

5 June – Lipica, Slovenia

We get up early to go with Laurie this morning.  We have a slight delay as Anna slips over on the way to the bathrooms and grazes all her elbow.  Her slippery shoes have got to go – pity they’re her favourites.  Some cream and some sympathy and we are off in the car.  We drop Laurie off for his treatment and I’m trusted to do a 5 min drive to the supermarket, amazingly I manage to get there without driving on the wrong side of the road!   We fill the trolley to overflowing and $300 later wonder how we are going to fit it all into the small rental car.  We collect Laurie and are off to Lipica in Slovenia. We’ve arrived two hours before the horse tour so we have lunch, Laura gets her Slovenian keyring after all and we find a playground.  The horse tour starts at the paddock where the little black foals are snuggling up to their beautiful white mothers. The foals are born black then turn white when older.  Between two weeks and two months old, the older ones are curious and come over for a pat.  We find we have chosen the best time of year as the foals are only born between April and June. We have a tour of the stables, then a show where the horses get to perform their tricks.  In the stables the children are more fascinated by the wee swallows that make the ceiling their home … little heads poking out to view the passing crowds.  Some horses are proud and strong, some appear sad and dejected! The 500 year old stable is still in use … they knew what they were doing ..,. with it’s 1 ½ metre thick stone walls, the pleasant temperature is constant winter and summer.  When the tour has finished, Laurie is still a ½ hour away, we have a nice walk up the road, past the paddock with dozens of ‘retired’ horses.    On the way home we stop at the Mercator Centre in Kopar.  Fabulous supermarket where we squeeze some more shopping in the car, and a shop a bit like Rebel where we find some great Columbia sandals for Anna.  She agrees to bin the slippery shoes, they’ve caused one accident too many.  Everybody’s tired when we arrive back at 7.30 so a quick dinner and into bed.

 

6 June – Rovinj

Several charter boats leave today, packed with people/beer/food/water.  My question whenever 6-8 men charter a 3-4 cabin boat is …. Where do they all sleep? 

 

7 June - Pula

We catch the bus to Pula today … 40 minutes from Rovinj.  We depart the bus with no idea where we are, but choose the right direction and come across the Colloseum. Having already seen the one in Rome, I’m not so keen to pay entry fees to this, but Anna is keen for a look, so in we go.  We don’t bother with the $8 audio guide, we can guess the history and aren’t really keen to be reminded of it.  This Colloseum has one point of interest though, which is a tunnel to the area under the arena.  Originally used to house the animals, the large room underneath now showcases the history of trade in Istria and implements of olive oil making.  The tunnel has made the visit worthwhile. We continue into town to find that once again we have chosen a public holiday to visit a town, Corpus Christi today.   Many shops are closed, but we see the Temple of Augustus, add to the takings of the ice-cream shop and, wandering the back streets, we find the ruins of the roman forum.  I’m amazed again that these are just open, in amongst the weeds for all to trample over.  Further up the hill from the ruins is the fortress, giving a great view over the town and bay.  It is so hot today that we stop for a much needed drink, when Laurie texts to say he has come to meet us.  Over to the marina for another drink then home.  There’s brass band music drifting across the town tonight.

 

8 June - ­Trieste

Up early again today to go with Laurie.  We visit Getro again, deciding to fill the boat with supplies while we have the car, and with Laurie dubious of our finding similar supermarkets in Greece.  Then we are off to Trieste.  First impressions aren’t good, with huge awful apartment buildings and big factories billowing smoke, I decide this must be the ugliest place we have visited so far.  But arriving in the town centre we find wonderful stately old buildings, a wonderful town square and an interesting town.  Try as we might we can’t find the tourist info office, and the children aren’t interested in more museums, so we decide to wander.  We can’t resist the blueberries in a tiny fruit shop, or the frappes made from gelato – wonderful in the heat.  The town reveals a few clothes shops, and when Laurie arrives we find one with several tops for Laura – another expensive day!!  Although at an average of 20euro each not too bad really.  The clothes are reverting to the styles of the 60’s and 70’s, very patterned and colourful.

Tucked along a side street we find the best chandlery of the trip .. and they have a Delta anchor!  Having just bought the Bruce, Laurie decides to think it over, we can buy it on the way home from Venice.  We don’t leave till 7, and driving home through Slovenia, Laurie remembers a restaurant he’s seen behind the Mercator in Kotor, so we stop for dinner.  We try the steak .. not having been impressed with the steak so far .. but here it’s fabulous.  Restaurant Capris can definitely be recommended. We have a wonderful meal and all head home happy.  Arriving back at the boat the band is playing at the marina café … Croatian renditions of 80’s music!  Later in the evening fireworks are going off on the other side of town.  The town must be lively in summer.

 

9 June – Rovinj

We have a morning in Rovinj town.  Laura is keen to buy a ceramic tie necklace and we have another look down ‘art street’.  I’m sure more shops have opened since our last visit.  There are also signs up for a jazz concert at night, a regatta on Sunday and an elvis concert on Monday!!  We spend the afternoon cleaning down the boat, filling the water tanks, generally making use of the water and power before we leave.  Laura does a great job scrubbing down the inflatable, and Isaac is given fenders to scrub to keep him busy!  After dinner the girls get a treat ice-cream … a fancy one at the café … banana split for Laura and pineapple sundae for Anna.  As we leave the band is starting up again .. hope it’s not elvis! 

 

 

11 June – Rovinj – Unije

We’re back sailing again at last and we’re pleased to be out of the marina.  The intention of stopping there for a good nights sleep didn’t really come to pass, with boatloads of charterers in their cockpits till the early hours of the morning and mooring ropes banging, but at least the boat was secure.  Our first stop is Unije, as we left a bit late to make Susak today.

 

12 June – Unije – Susak – Ist

Anna has set up a restaurant on board today … peeled fruit .. drinks .. all available at a 50 lipa charge.  She had made herself a good earning by the end of the day!!  I think that while Laura enjoyed the service she was a little concerned at her depleted wallet by the afternoon!

We motored to Susak, wind on the nose again, and had a walk around the town.  We arrived at midday and were greeted at the wharf by the local restaurant owner with her card – but we had already had lunch on the boat.   We wandered the town and climbed the hill to the church and housing.  It was incredibly quiet … and incredibly hot.  A few new houses are being built here … something we haven’t seen often.  It would be a lovely peaceful spot for a house  … little town … nice beach.

After a much needed swim we head off to the top of Ist.  We hope to anchor in the small bay around from the town but there is too much weed.  It’s unfortunate we were indecisive on the Delta anchor, and the shop was closed when we returned from Venice… it would have been the right decision to buy it for peace of mind.  Instead we anchor just off the town in U Kosiraca.

 

13 June – Ist – Dugi Otok

A long motor again today, wind on the nose … surprise surprise. After a long day we anchor half way down Dugi Otok at Tri Luke Bay.  There doesn’t appear to be much here except for a ferry landing and gas station. 

 

14 June Dugi Otok – Kakan

We set course for Kornat this morning .. no need to check the chart .. just head straight for the wind and we’re bound to be on the right heading.

An amazing trip through the moonscape of the Kornati islands today.   Translucent waters, surreal hills, the ever-present haze in the Croatian sky.  We have read that the islands are owned by the people of Murter, who keep houses here and visit to tend their fruit trees and land.  We are a little bemused by this, looking upon a barren landscape divided by stone walls, but few living things to tend. 

We had hoped to enjoy lunch at the restaurant Colin and Barbara recommended at Opat, but it looks very deserted as we arrive so it’s salad on the boat in the neighbouring bay instead. 

We press onwards towards Split, with plans to stop at Zirje, but there are no suitable anchorages nearby so we head to the island of Kakan, and find peaceful Potkucina Bay to share with the other boats here.  We are anchored near more ‘bare boaties’.  I still find it difficult to understand why ½ dozen older men would sit for a chat and a wine completely naked!   

On the shore a small shed and umbrellas stand under the sign ‘Babaruca’.  The owner arrives by inflatable in the early evening and starts to prepare his fish and light the grill.  By evening he has several customers enjoying his hospitality.

Laurie continues to find enjoyment … no … concern and amazement … with the anchoring techniques here as more boats come in for the night.

At 8.30 a small boat putters up beside ours .. about 2 feet away up the side of the boat.  With the little ones asleep we are all quiet inside.  I expect the usual ‘Hallo’, but nothing, and he putters off to the boat beside us.  We expect he was after mooring fees.  Bit of a cheek if he was … paying to drop anchor doesn’t seem quite on.  Don’t know how he gets on with the boats whose occupants are frequenting the bar.  Never mind .. we’ll just stay quiet inside.  I suppose we could give the benefit of the doubt and assume he is trying to sell his catch.

 

15 June – Kakan – Drvinek Veli

It is a sad day today … as Laurie’s truffle became true fungi .. mouldy funghi .. and has to be thrown. Although … we really cant see what all the fuss is about .. it really wasn’t very nice.  Apparently they’re $3000 a kilo this year … maybe you get what you pay for, at $800 a kilo ours must have been the cheap stuff!!! (Thankfully they’re very light so we only threw out $15)

We are amused by the two older men doing a circuit of the bay in their inflatable .. would all seem quite normal .. if only they had some clothes on!!

We have 20-28 knots against us for the trip today, yes on the nose again, somewhat higher than the 6-12 knots forecast, and a rolling trip with the waves and swell.  We stop for a break at Rognizica for lunch, then return to Mali Luka on Drvenik Veli for the night.  We enjoyed this bay on our last stop also.   We are fortunate that the boat anchored in ‘our spot’ leaves just as we enter the bay.  Later in the evening we are joined by a couple more boats, the most interesting being a lovely 80 foot yacht complete with crew, that makes 3 attempts to anchor in the easy bay  - 2 attempts squeezed into the head of the bay and the third 50 metres off the rocky point!!  Passing over the wide and sheltered middle of the bay they give up and leave.  Can’t have been a kiwi crew on that boat!! 

 

16 June – Drvenik Veli – Split

We head off at 6.30 this morning to motor across calm seas to Split, towards the haze that always seems to soften the coastline of Southern Croatia.  Arriving with intentions of entering the marina, we stop at the fuel dock first, and spot Mary & Helmut’s boat anchored in the harbour with ½ dozen others.  As we can wait for water, we decide on a cheap night and anchor nearby and have a quick catch up … the children are very pleased to see a familiar face.  First stop is the Laundromat then Laurie and Laura head to the chandlery while I take the others into town for an ice-cream.  The waterfront development is finished now and looks great.  Retractable awnings all down the promenade with café seating underneath, palm trees, gardens and seating.  Why can’t Auckland utilize its waterfront like this.  In town one of the big clothes shops is having a sale and Anna comes out very happy with additions to her wardrobe.  Arriving back at the boat, we are now the proud owners of a Delta anchor!  In the afternoon I attempt to obtain the customs stamp for the Tax Refund but will have to wait till we exit the country.  Such a confusing process, get stamp from customs, return to shop for refund, but cant get stamp till leave the country . how to get back to shop?  Laurie buys a new Ipod on the way back through town, having previously dropped his in water, and thankfully they use the Global Tax Refund system which you can post in to Austria. We’ll wait and see if it works!!

At 6 we meet Mary and Helmut and Bev and Richard, a couple from another American boat, Dakili, for a drink.  Oh the pleasures of being older and retired, you can cruise for years to your hearts content … and they have!  We think Bev and Richard are amazing … well into their 70’s and still cruising the world – what better retirement.  Everyone moves on to dinner with a couple from a French boat … unfortunately I was too organized and we had dinner on the boat beforehand so we head back to get the children to bed.  We forget to collect the laundry and hope they are open on Sundays or we’ll be here another day.

 

17 June – Split           

Up reasonably early for a girls trip to the market and laundry collection.  They are open today thankfully.  The shopping trolley I bought proves its worth at the market enabling us to buy much more than we usually can.  Prices seem to have come down a bit and now there are peaches and figs.  We buy

Beautiful big watermelon – 5kn kilo ($1.25)

Peaches - $2 - $3 kilo

Redcurrants - $5 punnet

Cucumbers – 75c kilo

Tomatoes – 75c kilo

Corgettes $2.50 kilo

Big juicy figs - $2 kilo

Cabbage – 75c kilo

Lettuce - $1.50 kilo

Apples - $1.50 kilo

And of course another rockmelon for $5.  The rockmelons here are amazing, even Isaac likes them.   

We also buy mince ($9 kilo) and sausages ($4 kilo) and hot rotisserie chickens ($7.50 each)

 

Back at the boat Laurie is busy with maintenance jobs all morning.  The engine battery is dead , which explains the problems with the anchor winch, and after some investigation there is no water in the ‘no maintenance’ battery.  Laurie magically gets it restarted and charged and we will see tomorrow.

We decide we’ll stay another day.  Mary & Helmut said the restaurant was the cheapest they’d been to in Croatia, so we might have to investigate.  Laurie’s also keen to return to the chandlery tomorrow. The only disadvantage is we can’t swim in the harbour and it’s so hot again today.   We see M & H later and they will join us for dinner with another American chap who has just sailed Turkey and Greece … note taking time.

Spending the evening at Buffet Fifa …dinner is great … some helpful information is gleaned …  and we enjoy the company, Bev and Richard have also joined us….and at $50 for our family of 5, Mary is right, this must be the cheapest restaurant around. Afterwards we enjoy an ice-cream and the novelty of the city at night (for us as we are usually on board with sleeping children). 

 

18 June – Split – Hvar

We revisit the market to stock up on watermelons … only $1.25 a kilo but I’m sure the two weren’t quite 11 kilos?!?!  Sometimes you have to be a bit careful at the market! Plums and oranges help to fill the trolley then off for a final icecream for Isaac … 3 scoops to mark the occasion!!  We enjoy some South American buskers then depart for the boat.  The engine battery has definitely called it quits .. so Laurie heads off to the chandlery again.  He returns with a new one better than the old, so we’re set and another job off the list.  While he installs it Isaac drops me off to Bev and Richard, who have kindly offered to run through their Greek pilot guide and give some hints for our month ahead.  I emerge with a page full of notes, some advice on choices of route to Turkey and some interesting places to stop on the way.    I learn the reason for the flurry of activity in Croatian towns before summer … between June and October no construction is allowed on the coast … all building must stop while the tourists are here!  Dakili is a beautiful boat … a Hallberg Rassy 49.  Sitting in their saloon is like sitting in a living room, comfortable and homely. The few cruisers we have met have been exceedingly kind and helpful – sailors truly are a wonderful breed!

We head off at lunchtime with our course set for Vis …a 5 hour trip.  We enjoy wind at 20 knots that we can actually sail in and the peace when we switch off the engine.  A little too much into the wind for my liking as the rails again nearly make acquaintance with the water, but this is forgotten as 3 dolphins cross our bow.  We never see large pods here, only ever 2 or 3, but we have been lucky to have had probably a dozen encounters with these lovely creatures.  Coming past the top of Hvar we spot the sails of an old sailing ship and Isaac convinces us to change course to investigate.  As luck would have it they drop the sails just as we’re coming near, but the old sailing ship turns out to be a Greek cruise ship in the style of an old schooner.  Passengers are sitting astride the bowsprit posing for photos .. must be quite an experience.

We are fortunate to have made the diversion as we find a wonderful little corner of the bay of Veli Garska on Hvar.  We anchor close in and tie back to a tree to prevent us from swinging and spend the next hour enjoying the beautifully clear water and enjoying being cold!!  We have longed for this swim for 3 days.  The children stay in much longer than us, then we spot … of all things … a deer down by the water.  Two more join it in foraging through the washed up rubbish and they pay no attention to our 3 splashing nearby.  The children swim over for a closer look … what an incredible sight!  I am alarmed when the deer starts chomping on plastic bags, and it gives the children a first hand lesson on being careful with your rubbish!   This has all meant a late dinner and late night for all, but well worth it.  Vis will still be there tomorrow!

 

19 June – Hvar

The day starts at 7am and the sun is already hot.  We all dive in to the cool water and watch as the deer return to the beach.  Not being able to bear watching them chomp through plastic bags any longer we swim in to the beach and remove all the plastic.  In its place we leave a load of fruit skins and bread and return to the boat for a breakfast of watermelon, rockmelon and figs, watching the deer return to enjoy their breakfast too.  Ironic … we strive to rid ourselves of rubbish and today we are gathering more! The children spend most of the morning in the water, playing waterpolo and walking the tightrope of the hawser line in the water … a piece of rope provides hours of entertainment!  Laurie has certainly picked the perfect spot in the bay, a small indent within the sheltered bay .. sadly only big enough for us.  The other boats that come and go throughout the day seek out the more obvious eastern and western corners of the bay while we watch from our secluded spot in the middle.  This is what we search for .. quiet bay, secluded, beautiful water … so why move on too quickly?  Vis will have to wait another day.  The afternoon is set aside for homework then back in the water again.  The children swim another load of fruit in to the beach before being called out for dinner.  The day in the sun has left a bit of sunburn and we must be more mindful of how much the strength of the sun has increased over the past weeks.

 

20 June  Hvar – Vis

Another swim … another drop of fruit to the beach … and we’re off to Vis.  It’s a 3 ½ hour trip to Bisevo, while not a slow trip the time seems to drag on today.  We arrive at Bisevo at 1.30 to visit the blue grotto, unsure as the time to visit is between 11 and 12. We anchor in the 20m deep bay, thankfully there is no wind. A small boat waits at the entrance to the grotto, 30kn and 15kn for the children entry fee.  We enter down the narrow passage, pushing the inflatable along from the sides of the cave, to emerge in a large cavern with the most gorgeous blue water.  This may not be the time to visit, but the water is still stunning and we have the place to ourselves to enjoy the quiet coolness.  Quite something as apparently in summer there are boats queued up to get in.  The light comes from underneath through a cave opening under the water out to the sea.  The children are fascinated as they put their hands into the water they become a luminous white.  We have forgotten the camera and when we emerge the ticket man has gone.  We retrieve the camera from the boat and return.  With the grotto still to ourselves the girls and I slide from the inflatable to enjoy a swim here, before another inflatable enters.  This is quite a remarkable place. 

Continuing to Vis we tie up to the town wall and head off in search of the harbourmaster to check out.  They are open from 6 – 8, but at 6.30 there is still no sign.  At 7 Laurie gets lucky and our papers are sorted.  Next stop Police.  There is no-one there either and we try until 9.30.  Meanwhile we have a ‘farewell Croatia’ meal at the restaurant opposite the boat.  Vis is a lovely small town, lots of activity with all the boats in but not as noisy as expected.  A kiwi flag is spotted further down the wall, a group Kiwis and Aussies enjoying a weeks charter. 

 

21 June - Vis – Vieste, Italy

The small market is right opposite the boat … which is just as well as the children have eaten most of the fruit from Split already.  I use up our last kuna on apricots and peaches while Laurie tries in vain to locate the police. With bad weather forecast for Friday and a 12 hour trip ahead of us we can’t wait any longer and set off anyway at 8. They are so lapse on the road border, the sea border seems much the same.  With our late departure and the wind at 30 degrees, we use both motor and sail for the uneventful trip, maintaining 7.5 – 8 knots and completing the trip to Italy after 9 ½ hours.  An island marks the half way point and we have now left Croatia.

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10 June – Venice

Our day starts at 5.30 and by 6.30 we are starting the 3 ½ hour drive to Venice.  It’s a bit early for breakfast so we look for somewhere to stop along the way … a bit difficult early on a Sunday morning.  Whizzing along the autostrada, by 8.30 tummies are grumbling and we spy signs for an ‘Autogrill’ (23 km ahead).  Stopping for petrol and breakfast this isn’t an ordinary sit down roadside café.  We order our juice and paninis then stand by the only two tables.  At 23euro for breakfast we can see that it’s going to be an expensive day. Back on the autostrada and, as in Austria, the speed limit is 130km and even at that cars continually pass us by, predominantly Audis, now more than ever Laurie’s favourite car. We pass the imposing structure of the castle at Mirimare then flat land covered in wheat and corn fields.  At 9.30 the autostrada becomes a bridge into Venice and we head for the Tronchetto carpark.  Following our noses from the carparking building we find the ferry terminal to the city.  65euro for 5 12hour ferry tickets and we’re on our way.  The small ferry passes under bridges into the main canal.  We marvel at the buildings and houses along the waterfront, the watertaxis and gondolas and ferries sharing the waterway, and the big pink crocodiles along the frontages of buildings!  We later find that an International Art exhibition is on in the city, this being the first day, and enjoy the exhibits we find from Iceland, Moldova and Bulgaria.  Another 40 exist located around the city…. This explains all the pink crocodiles!  Along route Laurie spots a NZ emblem on a fellow passenger and gets talking. As I see them depart the ferry I recognize the faces, but infuriatingly cannot remember place or name.  We alight at San Marco pier, emerging to an overwhelming heat and crowd.  Stalls selling Venetian masks, souvenirs and paintings line the waterfront.  We make our way toward Basilica di San Marco, but seeing the crowds decide to walk a little around the block first.  We enter a little side street, cool and devoid of people, and meander past small shops, many closed being Sunday, to find one open full of masks of all colours and descriptions.  The display is quite stunning, and Laurie is quite pleased that I decide against purchase due to the difficulty of storing and getting home.  Laura takes photos to send to her Year 6 teacher, they had made Venetian masks at school that year.  A sign beckons us into ‘The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World’.  I’m ushered to the back of the shop by the owner … “make the young girl very happy” … to find boxes of sleeping kittens.  More kittens play outside under the watchful eye of their mother, and the children delight in playing with little paws and patting wee bundles of fur.  Laurie meanwhile has been ushered to the other side of the shop, where the back door opens straight onto a canal – I’m amused by the mask and snorkel by the doorway … surely not!  We note the sign for bed and breakfast as we leave … this would be our pick for a stop in Venice … quirky and relaxed.

Our wanderings take us over small bridges, through narrow alleys, past enticing doorways and overhead balconies.  While the main canal and waterfront are touristy and noisy with the boat traffic, the back alleys and canals are peacefully quiet.  We are also pleasantly surprised that the pollution we had read about is not apparent.  Another turn down another alley, and the stillness is broken with the sound of proud Italian singing. We stop to contemplate this, when into view comes a gondola with it’s own private virtuoso and accompanying piano accordion!  Standing on the bridge watching the gondolas glide past, we can understand the romance of Venice. 

Later we realize how far we have wandered, and make our way back to San Marco. Multitudes of shops selling masks and Murano glass line the way.  Laurie spends hours waiting outside mask shops for us to emerge.  Laura buys a glass necklace and small mask, the other two buy plain masks to decorate themselves.  We pass more Nigerian handbag sellers, here as in Rome.  Along the streets we note the number of different nationalities visiting, many more than elsewhere.  We arrive at the cathedral to find it has just closed … 4.30 on a Sunday.  I’m disappointed.  The outside of the cathedral is stunning and must be the best building we have seen so far, this beats anything in Rome.  I was anticipating the interior, the alter-piece with its 2000 precious stones, but that will have to wait for another time.  Piazza San Marco, flanked by elegant old buildings, is home to thousands of pigeons.  Bird seed sellers make a good living here! We stand and wait for the moors to chime the bells at 5, but they must be on strike today!

We investigate the flash part of town, then, contemplating the long drive home, reluctantly leave at 6.  Our departure is delayed with the queue for the packed ferries. With the heat still intense, at least there is none of the pushiness we’ve experienced elsewhere.  It’s been a long day, a bit tiring, and Laurie falls asleep briefly on the ferry. With our tickets never being checked, it leaves you wondering how many honest passengers there are.  Back at the carpark we pay our 20euro fee (3 euro an hour or 20euro for up to 24 hours) and depart.  We can’t resist stopping at the restaurant in Kotor for a very late dinner, then home at 11.

 

We came to Venice with mixed expectations.  Famous city, great architecture, so much tourist hype, 20 million visitors a year, we were unsure if we would like it!  But we left deciding a day trip could not do it justice.  We will return, one day when the children have grown up, we’ll spend a week in Venice.  We will have to stay in the heart of the city, maybe above the bookshop.  Oh to have been here 100 years ago, before the motor boats and the crowds.  This is a place to sit, to contemplate, to meander, to capture some of the romance.  This city seems to catch you unaware, to entice you to linger, to weave you into its magic.  Away from the hype, away from the crowds, Venice is as it must always have been. 

 

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26 June – Brindisi – Barcelona

All packed up and ready to go, we bus into town and wait at the station café for our train.  While there Laurie receives a text with the bad news that his Dad has had a heart attack at home … with elderly parents this was what we had dreaded while away.  Some ringing to family and we will just have to wait to see how he improves.  It’s a fairly subdued day … the excitement of the trip has been dampened … but the children are extremely good on the 4 hour trip to Pescara.  The Eurostar trains are certainly a step up in comfort … quiet, airconditioned and even has a dining car.  The land we pass is extremely flat covered in miles and miles of olive trees … turning to miles and miles of vineyards …. Becoming stretches of sand covered in thousands of umbrellas with breakwaters built off the beaches for miles down the coast.  Arriving in Pescara it is still hot and humid.  It appears a nice city from our view on the airport bus.  We board the plane with no problems, except for the very upsetting occasion of finding Isaac has put his little leatherman in his bag and the customs men have to confiscate it … a very unhappy boy enters the boarding lounge.  On board the Ryanair flight was pleasantly surprising … comfortable … clean … friendly flight crew … drinks etc to purchase … my expectations were somewhat lower.  We fly over Italy, then Corsica, arriving in Barcelona at 10.30.  On the way we receive the great news that we’ve won the 3rd race … clever kiwis!   It’s been a long day and our plans to hire a car are thwarted as we find you need a prior reservation … you cant just pick one up at the airport!  So we alter our plans and head for the airport hotel …. Full … but they kindly ring another and order us a taxi (35euro for a 10 minute trip).  We arrive at a great little hotel that looks like a castle and seems to double as the local truck stop at the restaurant/bar downstairs. 

 

27 June – Barcelona

Laurie is off to organize the car then we are off to Barcelona, and we luckily find a little parking building just up the road from the cathedral, Sagrada Familia.  Gaudi’s Cathedral is stunning.  The detail … the architecture … the design … the amazing way the man thought … add up to an incredible building … and it’s only half finished.  We take the guided tour which was well worthwhile then spend another couple of hours investigating the museum and the models.  We have run out of time to see Gaudi’s Park today, but as we walk back to the car Isaac is delighted with the sword shops and souvenirs.  It’s a long 4 hour drive to Valencia, again on super speedy highways. Arriving at 10, Pete meets us at the toll gate to guide us to Henrys.  Henry’s house is on the outskirts of Denia, on a hill overlooking the valley out to sea.  A gorgeous house in typical Spanish style …  white stone walls, dark wooden beams, orange tiled roof … tiled courtyards and beautiful palms.  Surprising are the 3 gates to unlock before you get to the front door … security is quite an issue here.

 

28 June – Valencia

With all the traveling of the last few days everyone is tired and Laurie’s neck is very sore, so we have a lazy morning then head off to find the supermarket.  After stocking up the fridge and cupboards we head to Valencia.  We get lost in the maze of streets but finally find the Cup Village and Rob and Bevan … it’s so good to see familiar faces. It’s a lay day today so reasonably quiet and we are introduced to the China Bar … a favourite stop for Kiwis above the China Base with a great view over the village.  We are caught out with the time here and with the sun still blazing at 9pm we leave with Rob back to Henrys.  We cook up the local steak and sausages we found at the supermarket then into bed at 11. 

 

29 June – Valencia

Laurie and Rob are up early to drive to Alicante for Rob’s flight.  It’s been a short catch up but so great to see him.  On Laurie’s return we are off back to Valencia, again getting lost.  The road signs here are so confusing its infuriating.  We find a park in plenty of time though and join the mass of black shirts, NZ flags and blow up Kiwis to wave out the Team. As the black boat passes they couldn’t ask for a better send off on the other side of the world.  It’s amazing how many Kiwis have made the trip up here. After a long wait for the water taxi to cross the canal, we show the children the Auld Mug then join Bevan to watch the race on the big screen on the lawn.  Great excitement as we engineer a fantastic start splitting through the spectator boats, to increase our lead on the first leg, then disaster as a small hole in the spinnaker tears the sail apart and after the chaos 3 spinnakers are trailing before order is restored.  While a brave effort is made to reduce the loss … it’s an inevitable loss nonetheless.  The boys need a bigger cheer as they return to base, then we console ourselves in the China Bar meeting up with Suzanne.   Suzanne joins us for dinner and we catch up on all the news.  Having been here a month already she knows the village back to front.  It’s another late night.

 

30 June – Valencia

We only take one wrong turn today!!   We arrive early as Suzanne thinks that Amanda may be here, so we enquire at the boat she tells us … but it’s the wrong one!  We wave the boats out from the Alinghi side today to avoid the queues to cross the canal, and standing behind us is a girl Laura knows from school!  Laura spends the afternoon watching the race with Gemma while we investigate the activities and displays then meet Bevan again on the lawn.  It is so much hotter today and we swelter while again watching the Kiwis get the start and lead for the first half.  Then a wind shift allows Alinghi to glide past, and unable to recover ground we lose race 6.  Unfortunately there are more Alinghi supporters on the lawn today so we are surrounded by cheering and red flags.  Off to the China Bar again to retrieve Laura.   We take Suzanne to her car as she has offered to sell us her Lonely Planet for Spain.  Arriving at the carpark, we are gobsmacked by the Spanish parking.  Suzanne is angle parked in the parking space.  If no spaces are available the Spanish just park behind the angle parked cars, and leave their handbrake off so their car can be pushed out of the way to let people out!!  We have to push 4 cars along so Suzanne can move her car.

 

1 July – Valencia

We are having lunch with Pete and his family today.  We stock up on beer, wine and nibbles then follow Pete’s instructions to Javea.  With two boys, a pool and DVD’s our children have a fantastic day.   Pete and Mari are lovely, and two of their friends have stopped by, Gary, an Englishman here for 25 years, and George from Equador.  We have a wonderful afternoon … we have really missed spending time with friends.  An additional bonus as we receive news that the racing was cancelled today for lack of wind … we didn’t end up missing a thing.  We are also introduced to the delights of Sangria … like a red wine with fruit juice … and very nice in the heat.  Pete sends us home via the coast road, to enjoy amazing views as we cross the mountain to find Denia at sunset.

 

2 July – Valencia

The racing has a lay day today so we drive into Valencia to look at the city and the Science Museum and Oceanarium.  Laurie is keen to stop at the big Carrefour mall to buy a gift for Henry so that is our first stop.  We pass some huge stores on the way, furniture and electronics.  Everything here is big .. the shops, the buildings, the cities. We find some wine and shot glasses for Henry, some shoes for Laura, ice cream for Isaac and Paella for lunch … quite a successful day!  We have run out of time for the museum, and at 100euro for us to go to the Oceanarium it wasn’t going to be an option.  Bevan is coming back with us to Denia for dinner, so we collect him from his apartment and drive home.   Isaac enjoys Bevans ‘weird old questions’ on the way home and arrives with a boost to his general knowledge.  We wander down to the village for dinner.  We have been looking forward to dining here all week, but when we arrive all is closed being Monday.  Down a side street we find Restaurant Diana open.  Run by a friendly young English couple and a wonderful meal … albeit steak and ale pie, fish and chips ( and the menu even has mushy peas and Yorkshire pudding!).  A great English meal in the middle of Spain!  Not quite the authentic Spanish meal we were hoping for but nice nonetheless.

 

3 July – Valencia

Pete and his boys are joining us and Bevan to watch the cup today.  We find ourselves a seat in the Woolshed, while Laurie and Pete and the boys go to wave off the boats. Laura’s friend, Gemma, is guarding seats just in front of us.  At 3 the racing begins … and what a race!  We’re in front, then we’re not, then we are, then we’re not, then a penalty against us from an Alinghi manouvre … disaster … we’re over 100 metres behind when the wind disappears until a wind shift on the last leg picked only by the Kiwi boat.  While Alinghi are sure of their win and zipping up their sail bags … we sail on past.  Thunderous cheering explodes in the woolshed … we catch up … we pass .. 10 metres … 30 metres … 60 metres in front just before the line … we do the penalty turn … Alinghi is approaching … only metres to the finish line … the clock shows 2 seconds apart … silence  …“who won?” reverberates around the crowd … Oh no … after all that … it can’t be … such a huge effort … and we lose by 2 seconds … later confirmed to be only a 1 second lead.

 

4 July – Valencia – Girona

We are up to wash sheets and clean up … very grateful to Henry for lending us his gorgeous house.  We see some more of Javea as we meet up with Pete to return the keys, then we begin the long 5 hour drive to Barcelona.  Half way there the motorway is blocked … a 2 hour hold up.  We see smoke rising in the distance … and later drive past the burnt out truck which has ignited the trees about and caused a brush fire 2 km long.  We bypass Barcelona, too late for the Park Guell, and continue to Girona, arriving at 10pm.  We have called ahead to reserve a pensione, but simply cannot find it even when we finally find the street, and the lack of English of the owner makes calling for directions pointless.  We try a few hotels but all are full.  We finally find one on the outskirts at 11pm.   It’s been a very tiring day, concluding to a frustrating evening … but at least we didn’t have to sleep in the car!

 

5 July – Girona – Pescara

Off to Figueres this morning to find the Dali museum.  Lonely Planet lists Figueres as a bit of a dive, but we find it to be a quite a nice city.  We find a parking building close to the museum and spend the morning entranced by a sometimes strange imagination brought to life by incredible talent.  The works of Salvador Dali are quite diverse.  The most intriguing holding a different picture depending on your perspective or distance of view.  The visit is capped off with a visit to Dali Joell, the Dali designed jewels which are simply stunning.  He has breathed life into jewelry, with a ruby heart that actually beats, and a diamond butterfly fluttering its wings… jewelry in motion!

With no time left to explore the coast, we enjoy a buffet lunch in town then head to the airport.  So tantalizing when France is only 20km away!

Returning the car to Solmar we leave impressed with the quick service, the great price (315euro for a Citroen C4 for 9 days) and the free shuttle to the airport!  Laurie realizes why he’s so tired when the odometer checks in at 2800km!  We have an uneventful flight back to Italy, passing again through unmanned customs, and the bus arrives just as we exit.  We have reserved a room at Hotel Regent on the waterfront just south of town and get a great room sleeping 4 (Anna’s still little enough to have a bed made up on the floor!) including breakfast for 94 euro.    The restaurant next door provides a lovely meal and one of the cheapest so far, then back to enjoy our last proper bed for a while!

 

6 July – Pescara – Brindisi

Another 4 hour train trip back to Brindisi then the bus to the marina.  The traveling, though long, has been very easy.  Our boat is waiting patiently for us and it’s a quick dinner before we fall into bed.  We are exhausted.  All the traveling and late nights that creep up on you with late sunsets, but we have loved it and are so pleased we went. Best of all we have enjoyed the company of our friends.

 

Gracias Espanol … we have had a wonderful visit.  Spain is many things … beaches and bulls, siesta and sangria, art and architecture, paella, tapas, orange groves and high rises.  We have expanded our vocabulary … ‘gracias’ (grarthiarth!) and the all important ‘café con leche’ (of course … coffee with milk).   We may have to return in 2011 … we have yet to try tapas, to visit Park Guell, to see the development of Sagrada Familia … to win the America’s Cup!   Adios Amigos … we may return!

 

 

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7 July – Brindisi – Otranto

Back from Spain we were ready for our trip to Corfu.  The office at Brindisi keeps very short hours … two hours in the morning and two in the late afternoon.  I therefore arrive on opening at 10 to pay and retrieve our papers.  Meanwhile Laurie is making use of the bike to collect some supplies from the local market.  At 11 we are off on the 7 hour trip to Otranto.  We are lucky with the wind today and manage to sail 4 hours before needing the engine to get us there before dark.  The coast is quite unpopulated to the south.  The odd outcrop of holiday apartments and umbrella infested beaches in between the towns.  Sailing into Otranto harbour we are serenaded by Elvis and Abba booming out from the waterfront bar, which thankfully ceases as the sun sets.  The city sits atop the old fortified walls in a myriad of alleys.  But it’s late, and we’re not keen to leave the inflatable here, so we forgo a visit to the town.

 

8 July – Otranto - Corfu

Ciao … arrivaderci.  Our visit to Italy has been brief, and we look forward to our return visit.  The Adriatic coast is laid back and friendly.  Industrial, but gems of old towns in between.  We hope the rest of Italy will be as enjoyable.

We have a 4.20am start this morning for our crossing to Greece.  Laurie heads out of the bay while the rest of us snooze a bit longer.  Half way to Greece, a surprise as his brother rings, with his Dad in the car, for a chat.  It seems quite surreal sitting in the middle of the ocean chatting on the phone.  The sea is smooth, like a layer of silk stretching out to the hazy outline of land beyond.  The incredible water is highlighted as a pod of porpoises swim over to join us.  Diving through the water then swimming under our bow … majestic and playful … they are so clear even when spiraling to the depths.  As we get closer to Greece, to our surprise the surface is dotted with more than 2 dozen turtles along the route, all basking on the surface in the morning sun.  One we manage to glide up to with the engine off, and it swims close to the boat as we marvel at how lucky we are to be blessed with its presence.  These are endangered creatures and we are captivated to see so many. 

Albania has loomed on the horizon all day, and as it comes closer into sight, it is a beautiful country with amazing mountains.  How we would love to visit, but time restraints and tales of a woeful bureaucracy keep us at bay.   We have our first sight of Greece at the northern islands off Corfu.  Stopping at one for a break, we swim in the beautifully clear waters.  We continue on, through the one mile passage between Albania and Corfu, still mindful of tales of piracy, but in the knowledge things have vastly improved.  We anchor for the night in Kalami Bay.  Stately homes overlook the bay, the hills are green and fertile, while swimmers play and later retire to the taverna on the beach.  We place our temp guage in the sun briefly and it quickly climbs over 46 degrees … the water is enjoyed all the more.   Tomorrow we will tackle our first entry.

 

9 July – Corfu

We enjoy a swim before breakfast and are reluctant to leave this beautiful bay, but we must press on and head into Gouvia Marina.  The office is a hike from our mooring, but the marina holds a chandlery, port authority, supermarket, swimming pool and two restaurants.  The Heikell guide says you can complete entry here, but on investigation this only applies to EU boats, and we must go into Corfu town.  We investigate the chandlery shops in the village outside the marina, which also holds several restaurants and a large supermarket, then catch the bus to town and head to the port and the customs office.  Unfortunately we arrive 20 mins after closing time at 2.  The shops here keep such gentlemanly hours … closed all day Sunday then again on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.  On the 3 other days, there is a siesta between 2 and 5.    Why do we work such long hours in NZ?   We wander the city, finding the old town with streets full of souvenirs, and the yacht club and gardens in the flash part of town.   The heat is intense today and we seek out every bit of shade.  We consider a taxi back, but at 15euros we settle for the bus.  Every taxi we have seen is a black Mercedes .. and we decide it must be a profitable business here.  Isaac is very pleased to replace his lost leatherman at the marina chandlery, and regales us all with its features for the evening while Laurie replaces the Bruce Anchor with the Delta we bought some time back in Split.

 

10 July – Corfu - Paxi

An Australian from the cruising yacht ‘Virgils Child’ stops by to say hello this morning. A small world as he tells of sailing through Malaysia with a NZ family, turns out to be the Pedersons.  Luckily he saves us a lot of time and hassle informing us we were at the wrong customs office yesterday … who’d have thought there’d be two!  With directions and advice not to take the boat, we again catch the bus to town.  Once we find the office at the very end of the quay, it’s a very quick and straightforward process to clear customs and police, heading back for the stamp from the Gouvia port authority … not nearly as tedious as we had been expecting.  While Laurie heads off to the chandlery, the children enjoy a swim in the marina pool … very flash. Laurie returns with a new life ring as the last was very tatty, more fans and a very cool wind up flat hose which will make life a lot easier.  Also non slip mats for the cockpit table … wont have plates slipping all over the place now.  He also spied a shelf of used books for sale through the window of a bar and for 2euro each we now have 6 more books.  We leave at 3 to refuel, then the 4 hour trip to Paxi.  We plan to stay in Lakka, but a forest of masts awaits us, however slightly south is a lovely little bay that we have all to ourselves.  A house complex sits on shore overlooking the white pebble beach and clear waters.  We watch in amazement as more yachts sail past these tiny private bays to moor with the masses at Lakka.

 

11 July – Paxi

Anna’s birthday has finally arrived and we are awoken to ‘Birthday Time’ ringing out through the boat!  She gleefully opens her presents, and beams when birthday emails and texts arrive from Grandad, Elisabeth and Lynne, to be followed by a special treat – a phone call from cousin Michaela to celebrate their joint birthday.  Anna enjoys swimming and playing with her new toys. Then it’s time for the party lunch and birthday cake.  After lunch the wind has shifted and we have to make a hasty departure.  We hope to spend the afternoon at Emerald Bay on Antipaxi, but the wind is against us and we head back to Mongonisi on Paxi, where the taverna at the waters edge provides a lovely birthday dinner, complete with wee cat to finish off the scraps.

 

12 July – Paxi – Levkus

It’s a rough trip down to Levkus today in Force 5 winds.  Arriving at Levkus and negotiating the interesting entrance to the harbour, we wait in the strong winds for the bridge to open.  The Levkus canal was dug out to allow passage between the mainland and the island through the shallow salt marshes.  The bridge is usually raised for yachts to pass but with the strong winds the bridge is swung around to the side, an interesting feat of engineering to watch.  The surrounding waters are all marshland as we sail down the narrow channel.

 

13 July – Levkas – Keffalonia

Heading for Keffalonia, the pilot guide warns of the busyness of Friskardo harbour in summer, so we bypass the town to find a nice little bay with only a couple of boats around the corner. 

 

14 July – Keffalonia

We sail down to Sami to stock up on supplies, moor up against the town wall in our first Med mooring (very well executed too!!)  and find a wonderful little town.   The main promenade is lined with many restaurants and cafes, while the main street behind contains the main shopping area.  Investigating the local supermarket we find prices to be a lot higher than we were used to in Croatia and wish we had loaded up even more there.  We are very taken with the most gorgeous yoghurt here though.  Fruit and veg prices not too bad.

Wanting to try some of the local specialities, we pick Restaurant Adonis from the line up.  The very friendly waiter was delightful and particularly taken with Anna.  We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch of Keffalonia pie, fried meatballs, tzatziki, Saganaki (fried cheese) and mousakka.  We were even treated to watermelon on the house.  We left with directions from Gregorius the waiter, to the restaurant in Athens where he works in the winter.

After dinner Laurie and I once again enjoy the wonders of the town wall as we leave Laura to babysit and enjoy a quiet drink while keeping an eye on the boat.  Very relaxing sitting on the waterfront in the setting sun, watching the ferries arrive. Hearing music and clapping further down the street, we find a concert setting up, the locals in traditional costume.  Retrieving the children from the boat (still awake anyway) we take a seat to await the performance.  After 3/4 hour the concert starts at 10pm. Traditional Greek dancing with accompanying musicians.  Quite lovely, but after the 10th very similar dance we retire to enjoy an icecream before bed.

 

15 July – Keffalonia – Messalongi

We reluctantly leave Sami and head across to the mainland to Messalongi.  The town sits within a lagoon, and you must pass through a long channel, flanked on either side by old fishermens houses on stilts, now mainly used as holiday homes.  We like this place! The harbour provides an incomplete marina.  Floating concrete pontoons sit in the corner of the harbour.  Several cruising boats are there so we tie up.  Ours is not attached to the land, so we must take the inflatable into shore.  We have been told of many such marinas in Greece, where the basic structure has been built with EU funds, but power and water are not connected and no one runs them, so they just sit there being used by local boats and the occasional cruisers.  Wandering into town it is again a Sunday so everywhere is closed, but we are able to sample our first gyros … which was delicious.

 

16 July - Messalongi

Laurie researches internet connections, our main priority at the moment, and the girls embark on a shopping excursion.  The clothes here are lovely and very reasonable.  We meet up for a freddo (an iced coffee very common here) then gyros and kebabs for lunch.  The wind has picked up when we return to the boat so we decide to delay our departure until the morning.

 

17 July - Messalongi - Corinth

Laurie has risen at 4 to make a good start on the trip, hoping to arrive at Galaxhidi by lunch and see Delphi in the afternoon.  A good breeze early morning becomes 30 knots on the nose by 9, so it’s a hard motor.  An hour before Delphi the backstays suddenly become very loose and we find the forestay has broken.  Laurie rigs up the halyard lines to secure the mast and we make the decision to bypass Delphi and continue to Corinth. We need to get to Athens quickly in case we are delayed getting repairs.  I t becomes a long day, 13 hours, 30 knot winds, 3mtr swells and a worrying mast.  As we approach Corinth we see smoke rising from Ancient Corinth on the hill beyond and flames are obvious on the hillside.  Fire planes are dousing the fire.  They skim the sea drawing up water, then fly over the flames, dropping the water as they pass.  We get a ringside view as the three planes skim the water very close to the boat then bank over us back to the fire.  An exciting end to a long day.  Arriving at Corinth we tie up to the wall with some other cruising boats.  We meet Loris and Ann from Hermes, a very helpful Greek couple who give us advice on the Canal, and provide phone numbers for a rigger in Athens.

 

18 July – Corinth - Athens

At 8.30 we are sitting at the entrance to the canal, and follow through after only one ship and ½ dozen yachts that are entering with us.  Once in the canal the heat is stifling as the cliffs rise on either side to a height of 90 metres.  Further in the canal is thankfully shaded.  We pass under the train bridge and motorway, and all the spectators watching from the footbridge.  As we exit we moor at the dock and pay our 186euro fee, it has been a much easier process than we anticipated.

Off to Athens the wind has picked up again and we wind through the dozen tankers moored in the bay to arrive at Marina Zea.  Our first impressions of the marina are grim as several masts appear out of the water, the hull well and truly under.  Several other sunken boats are spotted throughout the marina.  As we call for a space our lack of a reservation becomes a concern, but after 10 minutes a space is found.  As the marina dinghy arrives the man peers at the mast then exclaims ‘Why did you not tell me you are from New Zealand … I would find you a space straight away!’  We are led to the far wall in amongst the huge super-yachts.  The mooring lines are interesting, extremely difficult and caught on the bottom, but eventually we are secure.  We are later advised that 2 years ago in winter a huge tidal wave brought down the wall leaving debris through the marina, and the rigger later tells us that the debris from the wall also sank most of the boats moored there.  Lets hope there are no tidal waves this week!

 

19 July - Athens

The morning is spent at various chandlery shops, inbetween trying to organize a rigger.  Inflatables have proven elusive here but we find one, surprisingly, at the local Carrefour.  It appears perfect but Laurie wants to research it first.  We visit the National Archaeological Museum in the afternoon.  Rather than trying to negotiate the public transport in the heat, we opt for a taxi and get an informative ride through the city.  The museum is amazing.  The first section is mainly 2-3000 year old gravestones, carved or sculptured in the likeness of the deceased often sitting with family.  Many relics from shipwrecks and ancient cities, then the part the children have been looking forward to – the gold room.  Gold jewelry and death masks adorn the room.  I find most amazing the 2 metre high bronze sculpture of a lady, only recovered from the sea 13 years ago when found by chance by a fisherman.  Now restored it is stunning to think it has sat under the sea for over 2000 years.  Unfortunately no photos are allowed, only a handful of exhibits are prohibited from photography, we are unsure why.  Also impressive is the bronze sculpture of a boy on a horse in full gallop, almost life size, the restoration is amazing.

After the museum we wander to the centre of town, having lunch and finding more clothes shops!  Laura and I leave with more purchases!!

 

20 July - Athens

It is so hot here today.  The temperature gauge is sitting in the sun and registers 54.3 degrees at 8 this morning.  Laurie spends the day trying to get the new internet connection working while I get washing and cleaning done.  It’s far too hot to do much else during the day.  Laura and I venture to the supermarket in the evening.  With 2 trolleys loaded the supermarket is closing before we are finished.  Out on the street we start to get desperate as 3 taxis stop then as I tell them I want to go to the marina they drive off without us … obviously not far enough for them to bother.  With thoughts of waving a large note in front of the next one to make it worth his while, we are in luck as the next one stops.  He is a bit puzzled by the loads of shopping filling his car, but we squeeze it all in and we’re off.  At a 2.40 fare, he’s grumpy even as I pay him 5euro. Never mind …we’re back.  The rigger hasn’t turned up so we will have to do the Acropolis without Laurie tomorrow.

 

21 July – Athens - Aegina

The children want to wait for our next visit to Athens to see the Acropolis rather than go without Laurie, and it’s so hot even at 7.30.  So we head off to the Vodafone shop this morning to see why the new internet card wasn’t working.  The rigger had finally been and fixed the rigging which was great, we were getting a bit concerned that no one would turn up.  With everything back in working order we finally set off for Aegina at 2. Our trip to Athens has been a busy one for Laurie, with the hassles getting the rigging fixed, trying to find if the sails have arrived, installing 12v plugs in the cabins, more fans and the cool fold up hooks we found in the chandlery, and the infernal internet problems.  Half the trip to Aegina was spent reattaching the lines and the anchor and we arrive at 4 to find a very full town wall.  With concerns that we may not be able to moor, we manage to squeeze next to a kind Greek boat.  Suzanne is waiting on the dock and we have a look at the boat she is teaching on before retiring back to our boat for some NZ Montana Sauv.  Suzanne has been telling us how boats in the know sail into the harbour under sail, to avail themselves of the resident photographer who captures all boats entering the harbour later locating the boat in the hope of a sale. Sure enough a lady arrives with our picture, unfortunately we didn’t know to keep the sails up, but we have a great photo anyway.  Later in the evening Suzanne had made a reservation at a local restaurant, and we enjoy a lovely meal, the resident cat enjoying any scraps the children sneak its way.

 

22 July – Aegina - Athens

Suzanne joins us this morning and we wander the town to look at the shops.  Some interesting craft work here.  It’s so hot again and as we arrive back at the boat for lunch the temp is reading 44.  After lunch Suzanne has work to do and we leave for Athens. It’s been nice to catch up again.  We are melting in the heat and stop off at an island half way for a swim.  The water is starting to get very warm.  

 

23 July - Athens

We have decided to buy the inflatable at Carrefour so that is our first stop this morning.  It takes so long that the girls head off to find the Post Office to send Elisabeths present.  After an hour at the Post Office we finally have it sent.  Post is so hard here.  We’ve been looking for a Post Office for a week.  With that job done we investigate the shops on the way home.  Everywhere is having summer sales and we have a successful day, finally finding Laura some shoes and shorts, and Anna is very happy with some new clothes.  We arrive back to find Laurie has been into Athens to collect the new water meter, and has also acquired a 12v TV.  I’m not that thrilled as one thing I didn’t want on the boat was a TV, but Isaac is so excited.

 

24 July – Athens – Sounion

We are up early today to another hot day.  A taxi to the Metro then the train to the Acropolis station.  The metro is so easy here.  Arriving before 9 we are still confronted with tour groups and a hot sun, and buy more water at the Acropolis (an expensive exercise at the shop there).  The Acropolis is quite amazing.  A much bigger site then I had anticipated.  An oasis of history and space in the centre of a mass of concrete. Buildings and apartment blocks spread as far as the smog that hides the horizon.  The Parthenon stands as the centerpiece, unfortunately you cannot go inside.   A major restoration effort is in progress with amazing skill rebuilding the marble.  As we leave, the benefits of arriving early become apparent as streams of tourists head toward us. We head straight back to the boat for our 12 o’clock departure.  Bevan has been due to arrive in Athens and we were all looking forward to seeing him again, but delays with his boat mean it is not to be.  We can’t wait any longer and must set off, only missing him by a day.  Isaac and I stop to buy his peanut butter on the way, and arrive back to a wet Laurie, unsuccessfully diving for his sunglasses that slipped off in the heat.  Luckily he has a spare as he can’t see without them, but we’ll all miss the very cool ones he bought before we left home.  We have an uneventful trip out to the coast, and the Temple of Poseidon on the cliffs of Sounion beckons us to stop in the early evening. After dinner we walk up the hill to the Temple, pay our 4euro entry fee and enter.  It’s bigger than I had expected.  There is an amazing view from the top of the hill out over the end of the Attica coast, and we wait to view the sunset from the Temple.  Our expectations are somewhat dampened as the sun sets into the smog before it hits the horizon!!  But the temple and the view are quite amazing and we are pleased we made the stop.

 

25 July – Sounion – Siros

Anna was keen to swim at the beach this morning, so while Laurie took the family in the inflatable, I decided to swim in.  Enjoying the swim, I left them to the inflatable and swam back as well.  Back at the boat, Anna and Isaac had a great time being towed behind the inflatable in the old life ring.  At 11 we needed to leave, and sailed under the Temple of Poseidon and away from the mainland.  A brown haze hovered over the horizon, surely too far to sea to be smog, dust maybe with NE winds?  Our destination was Siros and after 7 hours of rolling in the swell with the wind on the nose we arrived at the bay of Ormos Galissas.  We have not seen a clear sky in Greece.  The haze is always present, more so than Croatia, and severely restricts visibility.  Today it is difficult to see the islands and while we sail in a white haze we know the island lays just beyond.  We enjoyed a swim after the hot day, then again watched the sun set into the haze … unsure now if it’s smog or dust! 

 

26 July – Siros – Mykonos

It’s becoming harder at night now.  We go to bed sweltering, last night I gave up on the cabin and slept in the cockpit, until I woke up cold and came back!  Then at 5 we were both woken with the strong winds.  Outside in the cockpit to check the boat, we couldn’t believe the heat in the wind, especially at 5 in the morning.  Heading off at 10 we anticipated a rough passage with Force 5 winds forecast, but started out in calm seas and little wind.  An hour later though we rounded the bottom of Siros and the winds arrived.  With the sea swells it made for a rocky trip and we took refuge in a sheltered bay at Nisos Rinia for lunch.  Pressing on we decide to head for Mykonos town rather than anchor in this wind.  The haze has become quite grey today.  If we were at home we would expect the rain, the horizon is so dark.  But it doesn’t rain in Greece in the summer.  Heading straight into 35 knots made for a wet and wild trip up the island. Expecting shelter in the new marina we were surprised to find the wind stronger, and little space with most boats side to.  With some trepidation we accepted the offer to raft up alongside another, an interesting manouvre in the strong gusts.  The greek owner had me worried when I queried ‘This is the meltimi?’  to receive the reply ‘ Meltimi yes, but this is light’ !!  The next hour was spent fending off a charter boat trying to moor beside us.  After several attempts Laurie hopped aboard to help them.  Having shown them how to winch in the bow line and with their boat nearly secure, they made the unusual decision to give up and head off, with Laurie still on board!!  Hooking the anchor of our Greek neighbour, we were again fending them off, at least Laurie could hop back on board!  With a lot of luck they slid into a space and tied up.  We spent the remainder of the evening on board, in case a new arrival decided to raft up to us.  We definitely wanted to be there to fend off!

 

27 July – Mykonos

The meltemi roared into the harbour all night and we awoke to the wind still whistling in.  Our Greek neighbour informed us they were leaving, so we would have to move to let them out.  A daunting prospect in the strong gusts, but when the time came Laurie carefully inched out our bow line until we were back alongside the boat behind, reattaching lines while I was busy moving fenders.  The Greek boat was chartered to some friendly Irishmen with the Greek skipper and between them and the Russians on the charter boat we were moved and their crossed anchors from yesterday were unhooked, and with that finally done they were off.  We took their space at the wall and then collapsed from 2 hours of fending, maneuvering and assisting with the tangled anchors.  The Russians from the charter boat brought us a magnet of St Petersburg as a thank you for our help which was very sweet and invited us for drinks this evening. With the dramas over we secured the boat and set off to town.  The bus leaves at the gate and is only a 5 minute trip, much shorter than we expected.  Mykonos is how I imagined Greece to be.  Gorgeous white houses, all rounded at the edges, with coloured shutters, and offset by natural stone walls.  The town is the same, like many houses transformed into shops and cafes, not a commercial building or concrete apartment block in sight!  The view around every corner warrants a photo, even as we stop for Gyros and look back down the cobbled streets, each stone outlined in white paint. Mykonos is not a cheap place, even away from the flash designer shops.   We walk back to the boat, trying hard not to be blown off the road by the wind.  After dinner we join our Russian friends on their boat.  Laurie is introduced to real Russian vodka while we try to make conversation with their limited English.  Very friendly and hospitable, we really enjoyed meeting them. They were very grateful for Laurie’s help with the boat and think he must be a professional sailor!!

 

28 July – Mykonos

The wind is still too strong to leave and we spend the day doing journals and reading. Laurie is busy installing the TV much to the childrens delight, and they proceed to watch The Wild Thornberries in Greek!  They watch the cruise ships come and go, we help a Polish boat that rafts up to us and then we need to get off the boat and go into town for dinner.  Finding streets we had missed yesterday and many more shops open in the evening, we enjoy the many art shops and galleries we find.  There is stunning art here, we could spend a fortune.  Amazing paintings and more incredible sculptures. One clay sculpture of a lady running holding her childs hand, stunning because the sculpture is life size.  We find more amazing sculptures, but the price tags are in the thousands of euros and a bit beyond our reach.  Laurie does find a painting he likes though.  A small painting of the ancient Cycladic forms he was taken with at the museum, looking very much like alien faces, and he now has a birthday present.  We arrange to have it shipped home so maybe it should be next years present!  Laura also finds a sandstone boat, and after all the many boat models, paintings and glass boats she has seen, this is her favourite so that’s another birthday solved, also being shipped home.

We could have bought a dozen artworks this evening, all stunning, all big and impressive, and unfortunately, all too expensive!  We find a small restaurant for dinner. They do wonderful lamb casserole here with spit roasted lamb and delicious chips cooked in olive oil, although the Mykonian cheese is too strong for everyone else’s taste.

 

29 July – Mykonos

Today was always the worst on the forecast and as the morning progresses the winds become even stronger.  We were hoping to take an excursion to Delos today, as the Russians had told us it is very impressive and well worth a visit.  But crossing the rough channel for a ½ hour trip in a small ferry doesn’t appeal, the reason we’re still here is because it’s too rough to be at sea, so it will be another quiet day on the boat today.  A good chance to catch up on homework and play a few games.  The wind reaches force 8 during the day and we desperately hope it will settle tomorrow. Laurie hires a scooter and has a look at the island, returning to take Anna to the beach.  After taking Laura and Isaac for a ride, Laurie is called on to help the Russians whose chartplotter has died, unfortunately they will have to leave without it working.   After taking the scooter back, Laurie returns excited to have seen a pelican wandering through the streets by the waterfront.

 

30 July – Mykonos – Kusadasi

After another quiet day on the boat in the wind, Laura and I wander into town.  The wind is still gusting down the hills and we are careful not to get blown off the cliff. Arriving in town Laura spots ‘Ubiquitous’ at the town wall, and we walk around excited that we may see Bevan after all, but after enquiring we find he left the boat in Athens. I’m keen to see the windmills in town and we find them through the maze of streets, also finding the cafes where Laurie saw the pelican, but it’s not to be found.  We look at the shops, buy a present for Sarah, and have a drink.  On the way back through the streets we hear people talking about pelicans, then around the corner there it is, wandering down the street, through the tables at the café, and up some steps to a water bowl.  Having a drink then pecking at a beer can in the tree, it settles down for a sleep in the middle of the cobblestones.  It is happy with people close by and I’m fascinated by it – that’s made my day!!  Back at the boat Laurie has had two hours of fending off boats coming and going.  We and the Polish decide to anchor out ready to leave early tomorrow, but at 10 the weather is calm and we both head off in our opposite directions.  Leaving the harbour there are 7 cruise ships in, all lit up and sparkling in the night.  Rounding the headland the moon lights our way to Turkey, as I have a sleep and Laurie keeps watch.

 

31 July – Kusadasi

After a fitful night, I’m up at 6 to relieve Laurie for a desperately needed sleep.  I’m not allowed to keep watch in the dark.  I see in the sunset, the blazing red sun rising above the Turkish coast.  At Kusadasi we find a well equipped marina with restaurants, laundry, supermarket, chandlery, boat services and best of all … a swimming pool. After a rest we organize our check in.  For an extra US$40 the marina will organize all the customs and police requirements and we decide it’s money well spent, with four departments to check into, and use our time instead to walk into town.  We investigate the bus station for Colin’s arrival tomorrow but it’s a way out of town and decide they are better getting a taxi.  The waterfront is flanked by restaurants, unfortunately all offering English breakfasts and steak and chips.  In town there are many tourist shops, copy designer labels, Nintendo games, jewelry and shoes galore.  We try Turkish ice-cream, very thick and almost chewy, then find what I’ve been looking for … a shop filled with Turkish delight, nuts and coffee … so good to be in Turkey! We head off to bed, all excited that Colin and Barbara are arriving tomorrow.

 

1 Aug – Kusadasi

We wake with a start realizing it is 9am already and Colin and Barbara’s bus will have arrived.  A little later there is great delight as Lord and Lady Butland are escorted on board!  Despite an overnight bus trip with little sleep they are keen to visit Ephesus this morning. The marina has suggested a taxi that will take us and wait then bring us back for 50euro, so after a coffee and a catch up we’re off at 11.  We pass holiday villages along the coast and a big water fun park that brings cries of ‘Can we go? Can we go?’ We come across Ephesus suddenly among the dusty hills, confronted with souvenir stands at the entrance.  As we wander through the ruins and down the streets of Ephesus, we are stunned at the size of the old city, and the amazing state of repair that it is in.  Past columns and temples, fountains and tombs, shops and houses to the Grand Theatre, seating 25,000.  We pass the amazing library frontage, ornate and magnificent and rest in the shade under the Gate of Augustus. 

After the heat of Ephesus, we dive into the marina pool on our return … heaven.

Wandering into town, we pass the multitude of tourist restaurants, then Laurie finds a little café tucked down an alleyway, frequented by locals and with cheap and delicious Turkish food.   I’m still annoyed that coming to Turkey it is so hard to find Turkish food.  The restaurants have English, Italian even Mexican, then maybe a token Turkish dish if you’re lucky, I find it very sad.  It’s almost as if the tourists come for the beach and the sun, but aren’t interested in anything else Turkish, just creating a piece of England with sunshine.  But our restaurant is wonderful.  The owner is delightful, giving Barbara a big hug as we leave, and we enjoy a wonderful meal.

 

2 Aug – Kusadasi – Samos

We have to add C & B to our crew list, which the marina organizes and even delivers to the boat!  Meanwhile we stock up at the supermarket then we’re off and C & B are sailing again at last.  With the best wind we’ve had for ages the sails are hoisted, becoming very gusty and reminiscent of the Mykonos meltimi as we round the 3km channel between the Turkish peninsula and Samos.  Concerned with the wind we shelter at Samos for the night, remembering after frantic hand signals from a passing Austrian boat to lower the Turkish flag.   A patrol boat enters the bay appearing to be doing anchoring exercises, and we relax when they leave.

 

3 Aug – Samos – Paradise Bay

The sails are out again today … 2 days in a row of decent wind!!  Sailing passed the Gulf of Latmos, now marshland from the receding sea, we continue passed the dust and concrete of Altinkum, and through major fish farming to arrive at Paradise Bay just before dinner.  It’s been a long day, but I have been enjoying the book B has lent me, Lollipop Shoes, a sequel to Chocolat.  A refreshing swim then dinner.  In the evening B enjoys more whiskey tasting with Laurie!!

 

4 Aug – Paradise Bay – Bodrum Marina

The water, though clean and clear is slightly fishy, but silky and warm.  Our destination is Bodrum today, and we arrive at Bodrum calling in as sailing yacht ‘Jan’ from NZ (why not take advantage of our good standing) and are greeted with big smiles and a wonderful berth right by the marina office and bathrooms.  The marina is impressive complete with fancy shops, supermarket, laundry, chandlery and various restaurants. The waterfront reveals restaurant after restaurant, all touting for our business as we walk past.  Finding a small restaurant full of locals we think we have found our place, but the food turns out to be very ordinary.  Never mind, can’t get it right every time. The town square at night is bright and busy and colourful and we end the evening with a flash dessert to make up for dinner.  Walking home we admire the many gullets moored along the waterfront, with their varnished wood, impressive size and looking magical with all their lights.

 

5 Aug – Bodrum Marina – Knidos

We have been looking forward to St Peters Castle and the Underwater Archaelogical Museum, and we are not disappointed.  Not a museum in the manner we expected, but a showcase of underwater finds displayed around the castle.  My favourite being the 2000 year old glass vases and goblets, so delicate and intricately carved, in varying colours, and all intact after all those years under the sea.  Various craftsmen offer their wares, calligraphy and jewellry – all adding to the interest.  We wind up stairs and along castle walls, up towers and down to dungeons.  We have enjoyed Bodrum, though it is crowded at this time of year.  We sail to Knidos, through choppy seas and high winds again, and arrive to a hidden bay with a solitary taverna on the beach with a small pier, a gendamerie behind, and the grand remains of the city of Knidos on the hills.  We are greeted by a small boat encouraging us to moor up to the pier, he looks almost official in his captains hat … but at our decline he suggests instead that we may visit his restaurant!

We enjoy the quiet bay and L & B indulge in more whiskey tasting under the stars.

 

6 Aug – Knidos – Kalymna

We explore the ruins of Knidos this morning, which must rival Ephesus.  An extensive city, just sitting in the hills, with columns and pillars, remains of buildings and the big theatre, all overlooking the gorgeous harbour.  Amazing that we can just wander through and over the fallen pillars, the marble facades, the ancient streets and the skeletal buildings.

Back at the boat we plan our route for the remaining days, deciding on Leros, Patmos, Amorgos, Naxos, Ios, Santorini.  We therefore set sail for Kos, able to sail again!

Kos provides customs problems as C & B enter Greece, unfortunately on a boat that didn’t sign out!  Luckily we were seen as too much of a headache and waved off with a warning to observe procedures in future or else!!  All very well, but it is no easy process to decipher what the proper procedures are, with conflicting information from various official sources.  With the day tripping Gulets and ferries returning to the wall and with ‘Jan’ looking like being meat in a sandwich, we up anchor quickly and sail to Kalymna. Rounding the entrance to the bay we are greeted by an almighty explosion.  Slightly stunned we look in amazement as the locals carry on as normal without a glance to the cause, we are still none the wiser.  Tying up to the town wall we are pleased to find water, then set off in search of dinner.  A taverna on the waterfront serves up delicious lamb in lemon sauce for me, and Colin is very happy with his moussaka.

 

 

7 Aug – Kalymna – Leros

After locating a hardware store, Laurie is hoisted up the mast to have another attempt at fixing the mast light, much to the amazement of the locals walking by.  Meanwhile B & I locate a couple of market stalls and return with deliciously ripe peaches and nectarines.  A chant of ‘Rigano … Rigano’ passes by the boat, as an old man walks past with his bags of Oregano for sale.  He must ply the waterfront for over an hour, and later I feel I should have bought some, not because we need it, but just to make his morning worthwhile.  We are pleased to see that he returns with less bags, having made a sale.

With the jobs done, the next stop is Leros and we anchor off the lovely beach of Pandeli.  Beautiful swimming again, then a walk into town before dinner.  In the town on the hill we find old buildings, a for sale sign on a stone frontage with sad wooden shutters, a peep through the holes revealing an absent roof and a long abandoned interior.  A little art gallery takes our interest and we leave with a couple of small prints of the artwork.   We return to the Taverna Dimitri, so highly recommended in Lonely Planet, on the hill overlooking the bay and our boat.  We are lucky that they have one table available, and enjoy mezedes of cheese in a claypot, octopus, saganaki, local sausages and chicken in retsina, all accompanied by the amazing view.

Back on the boat we soak in the tranquility, the dark water, the town lights and the illuminated castle perched on the hill.  Colin swears the castle lights turn green, but as long as we watch there is no green to be seen, and poor Colin goes to bed slightly puzzled.

 

8 Aug – Leros – Patmos

We make an early start on the trip to Patmos and find the last space on the town wall.  A quick breakfast and we catch the bus to the Monastery of St John on the pinnacle of the island, with it’s stunning views.  An inspiring wee chapel displays its ornate metalwork and walls and ceilings covered in paintings.  Some of the paintings are smoke damaged and missing plaster.  Elaborate chandeliers hang from the ceiling.  A priest is explaining various aspects but unfortunately it is all Greek to us. 

We investigate the museum, the most amazing displays being the ancient gospels, some from the 5th and 6th centuries and a 7th century Book of Job, complete with colour illustrations.  A little down the hill is the Cave of the Apocalypse, a small cave where St John is said to have lived and received the divine instructions for the Book of Revelations.  The cave is now incorporated into a small chapel amidst more monastic buildings, but retains its original stone form.  The place of St Johns bed, with his stone pillow is obvious, together with the fissure in the roof above, from which came the voice of God.  It has been quite an awe inspiring morning, which we contemplate as we wind our way down the old Byzantine path walking back to the village.  Laurie and the girls have taken the bus down, as Laurie is not feeling so good, and they return reporting a scenic route past further bays, spying donkeys and goats.  We introduce C & B to the delights of Greek frappes (iced coffees), then buy more postcards and birthday presents in the town.  In need of a swim we leave the town to locate a bay for the evening.  We try in vain to ascertain the setting of ‘The Summer of my Greek Taverna’ from the descriptions in the book, but it could be anywhere, and we settle in a bay with crystal clear water, and sure-footed goats on the cliffs alongside.  The rising wind and general tiredness of the crew means we stay on board tonight enjoying the serene sunset and good company.

 

9 Aug – Patmos – Amorgos

Laurie is up at 5.30 awaiting the sun to rise for another early start to miss the forecast bad weather.  We are obviously well ahead of it and have an easy 7 hour sail to Amorgos.  B spends the hours teaching Anna how to sew, then we frighten the boys with plans to visit the monastery at Amorgos. On the way Anna is being so good organizing morning tea when the fridge comes down on her finger.  Those lids are so heavy, especially on little fingers.  Some magical arnica, a bandage from our real life on board nurse and a big cuddle and the pain starts to subside.  Any lingering pain is discarded when dolphins are sighted as we approach the coast. Barbara is happy to have at least one sighting of a Greek dolphin.  We marvel at the incredible cliffs, which shelter mountains of barren land, etched everywhere with ancient terracing and stone walls.  This island must once have been so fertile. Hundreds of years of toil and tending the land has at some stage been abandoned as the soil now sits at the bottom of the ocean.  That ruler who decreed all of Greece should be planted in olives did the land no favour, as native root systems were replaced by olives whose roots had no defense against the erosion of the wind.  Thousands of years later we now see the barren landscape that his lack of foresight claimed.  Passing through pretty bays we arrive at a little bay outside K.  A little white church with its blue dome stands sentinel on the waters edge, and I can’t resist swimming across for a look.  With it’s little picket fence and blue gate crowned with a small cross, it must seat 6 at the most, but its secrets stay hidden behind stained glass blocks and closed doors.  Back at the boat I’m spoiled as Barbara has made lunch from the delicious pack of bacon we found yesterday.

Arriving at the town wall after lunch we are met by a NZ couple from Christchurch who have seen our flag.  They have bought their boat in Kemer Turkey earlier in the year. After  chat, we hurry along to the bus to see the Monastery before closing.  Having missed the 5pm bus we must wait till 6, and hope we have time with the Monastery closing at 7.  Holding my breath as we wind up the steep cliff roads we reach the Hora at the top then continue to the dramatic cliffs on the south side of the island.  Walking down the path the monastery is striking as it comes into view.  Nestled in the cliffs high above the sea, the whitewashed building almost forms part of the cliff.  We huff and puff up the steps, then don sarongs as no shorts are allowed, and surprisingly no trousers for women.  This is strictly enforced so Laura and I have to take turns with the sarong, but when her turn comes she decides against it.  The inside of the monastery houses a small chapel and museum, and at one room we are greeted with Turkish delight and a sweet liqueur.  I save my Turkish delight for Laura, somehow knowing that she won’t come in without me after all.  It is a rush trip as it is nearly closing time, then we carefully make our way down the slippery steps for the last bus.

We find a nice restaurant right at the back of the boat, and are lucky to get a table. Ordering is amusing as most of our selections are unavailable, they have run out.  But we have a lovely meal and Anna has a wonderful evening as two little Australian girls at the next table come over to say hello and spend the evening chatting about their living in Switzerland.

 

10 Aug – Amorgos – Ios

Our new little friends are leaving on the ferry this morning and stop by to say goodbye. We are also joined by the NZ couple who give us some tips on Turkey.  Colin has found gorgeous fresh pastries at the bakery which we enjoy for morning tea on the way to Ios.  Stopping at a bay for a swim we find sparkling emerald water over the sandy bottom.  We are puzzled at how Ios has managed to accumulate so much sand while all the other islands are so rocky.  In town we find one of the last spots at the town wall then organize C & B’s ferry tickets to Athens.  Laurie and I are treated to a night out while C & B babysit.  We have a wonderful meal at Restaurant Susanna, bustling and friendly, then take the bus to the town on the hill to see the throngs of partygoers dolled up for the night ahead, and enjoy pottering through the shops in the peace of our own company.

 

11 Aug – Ios – Santorini (Thira)

It’s an uncomfortable trip to Santorini with the wind on the nose and a choppy swell. Sailing into the caldera we are surprised by the size of the island, the sheer cliffs in amazing colours of white and red and black, and cannot comprehend the force of nature that blew 2/3 of it away.  The towns sit high on the cliffs, draping over the edges, defying the shingle below.  Nea Kameni, the volcanic plug, sits as a mound of glistening black lava in the middle of the caldera.  Sailing round to the marina a high sea has whipped up as we round the island.  All donning lifejackets and the children sent downstairs, we round the headland.  Laurie does a great job timing the waves and it calms a little as we are heading in their direction.   The marina has a difficult entrance, all the more so in the high seas, but in the short lull between waves Laurie manoevres the boat, pleased for our powerful engine, we negotiate the shallow channel and we’re in the safety of the harbour.  With no berths in sight a fisherman beckons us to the fishing area, the boat is gone for two days and we can anchor there till then.  He reluctantly accepts an NZ cap later, we are very grateful for his kindness.  Two more boats anchor next to us, but one, squashing a neighbouring fishing boat and with a somewhat arrogant attitude, is told to leave.  Finally secured, C & B and Anna and I go for a walk to explore.  The dusty road is like being in the desert. 

Further around the marina we spy an Australian flag and walk round to say hello.  The boat is Cadiz, from ‘Letters from the Med’ fame and Laurie leaves a card for Ian, having spoken to him in NZ before our departure.  While he’s leaving the card the owners return, not Ian, but Peter and Carol from Noosa, the new owners.  We enjoy a chat and receive a recommendation for a restaurant for Laurie’s birthday lunch tomorrow.

 

12 Aug – Santorini

Well, Laurie wanted to be tripping over presents on his birthday, and the children make sure he will, as the floor to our cabin is dotted with little packages, even an Ouzo from C & B.  Today is the day to explore Santorini and after presents and French toast (with bacon, maple syrup and fresh ripe peaches … yum … who said boat cuisine had to be dull!!) we’re off on the one hour bus ride into Fira.  It’s not all the whitewashed buildings and blue domed churches that the pictures have you believe, but the view really is stunning over the deep blue of the caldera.  We find the restaurant recommended by Peter and Carol and have our best meal of the entire trip.  Restaurant Kapari comes thoroughly recommended.  Gorgeous surroundings with bouganvillia draping over the walls, friendly service and the most amazing food.  We are all oozing over the stuffed vine leaves, the fried stuffed olives, the grilled cheese and the incredible grilled feta in a crunchy coating of sesame seeds and honey.  The mains are just as divine, lamb casserole, mussels for Barbara, meatballs and chicken in lemon sauce.  We are brought watermelon on the house, and having heard us sing happy birthday, Laurie is presented with a small bottle of Ouzo!!  We are amazed that we are the only ones there.  They are in a quiet part of town but deserve to be packed.  We wander the shops after lunch, Barbara convinced that we are confirmed shopaholics!  It’s another long bus ride back passing fields of grapes vines.  The vines here lay on the ground unsupported, the grapes growing in the middle protected by a layer of leaves.  We open the bottle of Monastery liqueur Colin found in Amorgos, and Laurie’s birthday whiskey in celebration.  Peter and Carol stop on their way back from dinner for a drink, and we enjoy swapping tales of travels.

 

13 Aug – Santorini

We decide on a trip to Oia this morning, first taking the bus to Fira.  The first bus to Oia is packed solid so we spend an hour waiting for the next.  Fira is crowded beyond belief and we are pleased to finally board the bus.  Oia in contrast is relatively calm and quiet. We pass more wonderful art and find a gallery with stunning 3 dimensional paintings, including the volcanic rock, driftwood and other textures to amazing effect.  Here Laura makes her first investment in art, unfortunately not the 6000euro original, but a limited edition print, an even better investment when Mum and Dad buy it for your birthday! Then the cliffs provide the postcard views we’ve been looking for … so that’s where that blue domed church has been hiding.  The contrast and clarity of colours is so defined here… the white of the houses, the deep blue of the ocean, the vibrant pinks and reds of the bouganvillia.  We introduce C & B to Gyros for lunch then wind our way back home on the bus past the terraced hills covering the flat outer slopes of the island.  We venture up the cliffs above the marina for a farewell dinner with C & B, a visiting wee dog happy to clean up any scraps we may have.  But with the lovely Greek food there aren’t many.  We amuse ourselves watching Colin skip down the hill with Anna and Isaac, knowing that the days ahead will seem emptier now.

 

14 Aug – Santorini

It’s a sad morning as we farewell Colin and Barbara, and find ourselves alone and quiet again.  We’ve had a wonderful two weeks.  The children will miss all the attention, Anna in particular will miss Barbara, and we will all miss Colin’s unfailing cheerfulness.  We busy ourselves with cleaning and washing, and homework and journals.  A bit of fun is in order so off to the beach, sitting on our first deck chairs and playing in the water, enjoying the sand under our feet.  On our return the boat seems very quiet.