It seems no easy task to write about the definite highlight of my trip – 12 days in Croatia sailing across the coast and to the islands and driving inland to the Plitvice Lakes National Park and to Croatia’s biggest city, Zagreb. It’s rare that I find myself able to get such an in-depth look into a country, but Croatia was definitely the place to do it.
I started my time in Croatia with a weeklong sailing trip through Sail Croatia, which happened to be doing a two-for-one promotion on my trip. I had originally learned about the sailing trips through an Irish girl I had met in Budapest named Shaunagh, and we had loosely planned on going together from then on. When I told her it would be $600 total for both of us, it was pretty much a done deal, and she booked a complicated flight from Morocco to Croatia (I myself had to spend a night in Belgrade, Serbia to make it there from Greece without shelling out $500 for a direct one).
The first day on the boat really set the pace for the week, with most of the people on the ship getting out the beers as soon as we set sail. There was a really nice deck on the top that we would all lay out on in the mornings when we sailed (or really motored – they weren’t actually sail boats), often having drinks or working on our tans. Yes, I do still have a nice bronze glow going on and it’s probably not going anywhere for a while. Aside from Shaunagh and me, the group was largely Australian, with a few Kiwis (New Zealanders) and South Africans, and two other Americans would join the boat a couple of days late. Although the trips are known for being a lot of 18-21 year olds, our boat had an older range, with most people being in their mid-twenties and up to 30.
It would be hard not to describe Sail Croatia as a booze cruise. Our days were spent lounging around the boat, exploring cities like Dubrovnik or doing excursions like an island buggy tour (really exciting) and white water rafting (reeeeeeeaaally cold, but also exciting). Our nights, however, almost always revolved around having some “bevs,” whether throwing a party on the boat or going to a bar (some of the islands were quieter and didn’t have much of a nightlife, other places were closed due to the season winding down).
A highlight of the trip, we spent a day wandering through the walled city of Dubrovnik, AKA King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. I used my student card (even though it’s expired…) to get a cheap ticket to walk on the walls of the city, which I highly recommend. We tried to find Sansa’s garden to no avail, but we saw many places where we were sure different scenes of the show took place. Pretty much the entire afternoon was spent talking about Game of Thrones.
After our afternoon wandering the city, we had a little party on the boat before heading to a couple bars in Dubrovnik – Skybar and Revelin. I have a Yoncé tank that I wear as pajamas and underneath my button-down shirts (I did start this trip at a Beyoncé concert), and at one point in Skybar, “Crazy in Love” came on and I ended up in my tank with a stage and a little crowd… The rest of the night was a blast, although a Kiwi tried to fight me over a hat I was wearing, which I timidly declined.
Another highlight was on an island called Mljet, which has a national park where you can hike, bike and rent kayaks. I rented a kayak for an hour and explored the peaceful saltwater lake on the island before heading out on a long hike with the two American guys on my boat. We hiked for an hour before we realized there were no operating water taxis or ferryboats and that we would have to walk all the way back. Maybe five minutes into walking, a car drove down the narrow bike/pedestrian/car path and on a whim I stuck out my thumb. The driver pulled over, and after some miscommunication (he didn’t speak English), we figured he was telling us we could come in and we did. We motioned for him to let us out before he turned off the path we were taking, still leaving us a 30 minute walk but saving us considerable time and giving me my first experience hitchhiking, if the brief ride counts. A couple friends of mine have actually hitchhiked from London all the way to Croatia.
The excursions I mentioned earlier, buggy riding and rafting, were not free but were a good excuse to do something other than lounge around during the day. The buggy driving was really exciting – Shaunagh and I shared one, though I drove, and basically the entire drive was spent accumulating dust in my eyes even though I had sunglasses on. We drove pretty fast around the island, and it was even a bit scary sometimes. The buggies didn’t have power steering, so you had to really pull at the wheel to go anywhere. The rafting was a longer experience, about three hours on the rafts, and the weather had drastically changed to cloudy and cool the day before. Definitely the coldest experience of my trip, but it was really fun and we got completely soaked and had a great guide.
The trip was absolutely made by the people on the boat, who were all really fun and all got along really well, especially Shaunagh. This was the first time for me to meet up with a fellow traveler, and our friendship definitely cemented in our time together on the boat. The best part about traveling with fellow travelers is that we understand going solo and don’t have to be attached at the hip – some days I was keen to get exploring in a city while she wanted to relax on the boat for a bit, and it was perfect that way. But it was nice always having her to come home to.
Next time: Shaunagh and I rent a car with two other friends after Sail Croatia and drive to Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb.