Robin Hood and Tarzan Walking thru the Forest

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Aug 30, 2010

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Flag of Croatia  ,
Sunday, September 6, 2009

With a little bit of dexterity, you can traverse clockwise 1/3 of the way around the sea-facing side of the outer wall in Old Town before you reach an impasse.  It's going back that's the hard part - the casual five foot drops have now become delicate bouldering challenges (James woulda loved it).  The main question is whether to wear closed shoes for better grip, or sandals for comfort when the occasional high wave hits.

Such was the nature of the scampering about that Ian and I partook during our 3 days in Dubrovnik.  Ian is an incoming Junior at UC Santa Cruz whom I met waiting for the ferry from Bari, in possession of a mandolin and a propensity to whistle, most commonly the theme from Disney's Robin Hood and, to occasionally mix things up, the banjo duel from Deliverance.  He was a breath of fresh air from the typical Aussie type whose favorite conversation piece is how much he drinks and gets laid.

That role was filled for the duration of the ride by Justin, who arrived at the port shortly after I did - a genuinely fascinating guy when he's talking about running his own business (property development), martial arts (his parents are both black belts) and a month spent at a temple meditating (he no longer swats mosquitoes, even as they're biting him).  He just had an unfortunate tendency to steer the conversation towards the 100 euros spent nightly on booze and unspecified amount of sleeping around on the Kon Tiki tour group he had just parted ways with.  On the ferry he bought a bottle of rum, 2/3 of which he drained into 4 glasses (there was an English kid whose girlfriend had some hot friends) mixed with equal amounts of Coke.  We were somewhat unimpressed that Justin was the first to pass out, but none of us lasted for long between his libation and the preceding 4 cans of beer at what we eventually noticed was 11.5%.  Still, I did enjoy sleeping and waking up on the deck just as we pulled into the harbor at 7:30, which I'd last experienced on the Qingdao to Shanghai ferry when I was 16.

Ian had read good reviews about The Backpackers Club, which I had already prebooked, so I called them to pick both of us up from the port.  A short wait and drive later we pulled into the house, where the matron - undeterred by the fact that she knew only my name from the reservation - welcomed us with a jubilant "Hello David!  Hello boy!" as though we were prodigal children returning after a long absence from a dark, distant land (substitute dark, distant with hot, expensive and it's not far off the mark for Western Europe).  As is my tendency, I forgot her name right away, proving doubly embarrassing over the days in light of her practice of greeting each guest by name every time she saw us, regardless of whether she had anything more to add.  I felt better when I saw her husband likes to keep it simple - "Hello boy!"or "Hello young people!" as the occasion suited.

She shunted us to the kitchen table for some of the best damn French Toast I've ever partaken (I'm not just speaking from the POV of groggy, hangover hunger either - each consecutive morning I took 3 massive servings), then clucked that we should go downstairs to sleep until noon.  It's astonishing what a difference it makes to stay somewhere that feels like a home and not a business; those 2 hours were the best sleep of my trip yet.

The afternoon was spent checking out Old Town, every aspect of which is delightful except for the port, where the waft of seafood is more tempting than anyone on a budget should ever be subjected to.

The evening and next day drifted by uneventfully but idyllically, consisting mostly of trekking our separate ways between the hostel atop the hill and the promenade and pebbly beaches below.  There's not terribly much to see or do in Dubrovnik once you've hit old town, which is not as negative statement as it sounds in light of the terrible pounding I subjected my feet to in Rome.

On the third day, Ian and I were joined by Alice, an Aussie who had parted ways with her friend Josh that morning, and Tristam, also Aussie, who can go on remarkably little sleep, to find a jumping point yet another Aussie had told us about the night before.  It wasn't hard to find, Ian having passed it the previous day and being marked by an upturned shopping cart in the shallow end, and we spent the better part of an hour clambering up to and diving down from the 20-foot crag over the pool.  An overhanging tree provided the best if not most stable launch point, which only Ian and I were foolhardy enough to attempt in wet sandals (though I have every confidence James would have were he there).

For the latter part of the day we took the ferry from Old Town to the nearby island of Lokrum.  About half the small island was closed off so we couldn't check out the old fort, and the botanical garden was even less interesting than that of Valencia but for the butterflies fluttering over the some fallen cactus fruit.  But the main draw was the rocky far coast that are excellent for diving and sunning, and the tranquility of having no development.

The most ... memorable ... part was the lagoon.  At the far end was a rock face with, as before, a tree extending overhead about 20 feet from the water, but this time with 10 feet of rope hanging down from it ending with a branch tied across its end for a makeshift swing.  The curvature of the face meant you can only start a swing from directly under the branch lest you crash into the opposite face, but the lack of outcroppings meant I had to climb almost as high as the base of the tree itself, putting the swing branch a good 10 feet below me.

The idea was to use my truncated, 5 foot length of rope to do a tarzan swing, pushing the rope away at the apex so I could land clear for the remaining 20 foot drop.  Apparently the physics of pushing away a weighted length of rope near its base is that it returns pretty quickly.  The slide down the length of rope was bad.  Hitting the branch at the bottom crosswise across the back of my thighs was worse.  I suppose it could have been worse - unthinkably worse - if it the branch had been oriented lengthwise, but it was enough that I barely registered the full backflip induced by my legs being caught on the branch that took me the last 10 feet.

I am told that the rest of the island is nice too.


NB: We did not capture the rope jump on video.  If some passer by did, they probably sent it in to Croatia's Funniest Home Videos.

NB: Maelcum, a bit Rastafarian character in William Gibson's Neuromancer, always refers to his first person as "I and I", as in "I and I can hack the airlock but from there you have to jack the system manually".  I keep hearing echoes of that character each time I reread "Ian and I" above.

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david_chung on

Re: Croatia
Hey Atilla,
Good to hear from you. The original plan was to spend 2 1/2 weeks in Croatia, but the whole bike breakdown threw everything in a spin and all I got were those 4 days before moving on to meet Danilo's brother in Belgrade.

I agree about the Adriatic coast, I'm definitely going to have to come back to Europe at some point and give the Dalmatian coast and the Balkans the time and attention they deserve =)

I'll be in SE Asia/Oz/NZ between Jan and April, so will def keep you posted as the time approaches...

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