Hitchin' a Ride

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Debelic Slavica

Flag of Croatia  , Kvarner Bay Islands,
Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day One:
We didn't know where the day would take us, but we knew the general direction we were headed, so we rose at 7:00am and hightailed it to the jetty for the early ferry. As they say, no news is good news, so we were still feeling positive as we disembarked in Split at 9:00am. To that end, we made the call to buy tickets to the city of Jablanac, hoping that Diego would be found and that we wouldn't have to fly home early. We'd missed the bus by minutes, so had a few hours to kill (once again in Split). Fortunately, we knew the territory well, so just headed into Diocletian's Palace for a leisurely breakfast. We also returned to the English bookshop and bought Konrad the entire Game of Thrones series, significantly adding to our load.
The bus we took north turned out to be the super local, driving supremely slowly and stopping in every single town we passed through, taking what seemed to be the least direct route possible to "Jablanac." I use the quotation marks here because the bus didn't actually travel through there, dropping us instead on the highway a good six-plus kilometer walk up the hill from the town. We were still feeling optimistic based on the news we'd received the night before, so decided to try at least one day on the island before making the decision to fly home.
And with that we began the long and winding walk down (thankfully it wasn't up) to the jetty. Once there, we discovered that there weren't any buses or taxis there or on the other side and that the place we would be ferried to was nothing more than a jetty -- no town, no transport, nothing. After taking up an entire day on a ferry then bus and finally on foot, we were understandably discouraged -- but there was no way we were going to walk back up that hill and hope that a bus going north would pass by. It seemed to me the only course of action was to find someone with a car who was willing to let two strangers hitch a ride with them. The first person I asked said yes without any trace of hesitation -- perhaps our luck was improving? 
The ferry left more or less immediately and only took 12 minutes to cross from the mainland to Rab Island. During the ferry ride and the subsequent journey in their swanky Mercedes, we got to know our "hosts". They were a lovely couple about our parents' age who spoke English more or less flawlessly and were headed to her hometown to visit their children for a few days. They heaped advice on us about the island, going so far as to walk us to two different tourist agencies in Rab Town to try and help us find accommodation. We felt bad they were being so helpful and said we would continue the search on our own from there, bidding them farewell and a pleasant holiday.
As usual, Konrad sat with the bags and I looked around town for a room. There weren't too many options that I could see: two expensive hotels, one 40 euro a night plain room, one 30 euro a night even plainer room, and one 55 euro exceptional apartment. I was able to bargain the last down to 45 euro a night, and it became a no-brainer. We moved in and checked back home to see what news they had for us: no updates. It was still early, so we had a little hope, though it was waning by this point. After a pizza dinner (as usual, but this one was quite tasty!), we returned to check again and still hadn't received any updates.  Hmmmm.....

Day Two: 
We woke around 8:00am and checked to see if there was any news. Nothing new. Sigh. Since there was nothing we could do that day (already too late to get to Zagreb and fly home), we decided we should make the most of our time and head to the beach. Konrad had done some research on the island and had decided that we should explore the northern coast near the town of Lopar. It was quite a ways from our apartment, so we hopped on the bus and sat back while we watched the island's beautiful scenery float by us on the drive. 
Rab is a gorgeous island, boasting a wide variety of terrain. To the south are pine forests, beaches and coves; in the northeast is Lopar Peninsula where the island's best sandy beaches are; and mixed in with all of this is the lovely medieval town of Rab where we were based. We mistakenly got off the bus in San Marino, but after some wandering in the wrong direction, we found our way to the beach Konrad had highlighted for us. To get there, we had to hike up and downhill through a shady pine forest which was perched above the beaches and water below. As such, we had excellent views of the crystal clear Adriatic as we neared the beach. 
There were a mere 10-20 people on the beach when we arrived, all spread quite far apart along the beach's wide, sandy arc. It was a perfect spot to spend the day sitting on the fine sand and wading in the very calm, extremely shallow water -- you had to walk at least 200 yards out to get knee deep. The beach turned out to be the perfect antidote for our sensitive souls; at one point I think I did manage to put the Diego madness out of my mind for a few minutes -- but never for very long, of course. 
 We discussed what our best course of action was, and I suggested going home on Friday, which would give Neysa one more day to search on her own (which it seemed she really wanted), but also would give us the full weekend to devote to the cause before we started work again on Monday. I really felt hopeful as I sat there that Neysa would find him. As I looked back on it later in the week, I regretted that decision and suggestion, instead wishing we'd just gone home on Monday. Writing this now, many months later, I realize that no matter when we'd gone home, it would have been too late. Diegs went missing about 24 hours after he disappeared and there were no sightings after that (a fact which we didn't realize at that point in time). Knowing that, I think that he was gone (hopefully picked up by someone in the neighborhood) more than 12 hours before Neysa even discovered that he was missing. As such, it didn't really matter when we got home -- it would always be too late.

But, as I said, we didn't know any of this then, and considered the different options while we sat on the beach that day, and while we sat in our apartment that night, making dinner and enjoying the Croatian night air. We decided to try and get everyone together for one final push and emailed all our friends to ask them to participate in a giant search on Thursday, then went to bed feeling cautiously optimistic.

Day Three:
I woke in the middle of the night feeling very negative and unable to sleep. Konrad later said the same, but unfortunately we couldn't get home on Thursday because we were too late for that early morning bus. We were both in bad moods and very touchy, neither of which were helped by the lack of news that morning.
With the only options available to us sitting around the apartment and fretting or going to the beach, we opted for the latter, in a desperate attempt to buoy our lagging spirits. As the bus arrived in Lopar, we started freaking out and desperately started texting everyone we knew to beg them to join the search. We both felt awful again as we walked without much direction, finally ending up in a perfect spot by ourselves on the boulders near Stolac Beach. 

It was another beautiful beach and another perfect day, but it was so very hard to enjoy. The feeling eased a bit as the day went on, so much so that when we got back to Rab that night we allowed ourselves to explore the town before sunset. The town of Rab has a population of just 592, but has four beautiful churches whose bell towers rise up from the ancient stone streets below in a perfect line along the water. The churches mainly date back to the 13th century, and we spent a little under an hour wandering from one to the next and taking photos.
Knowing that it was our last night on the island, in Croatia, and in the Balkans, we threaded our way through the town's night market, purchasing a number of souvenirs and enjoying one last dinner before retiring to our apartment and dissolving into negativity again. At least we knew that we would be back the following day and could do more than just call, text, and email people -- and with that thought, we fell asleep.
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