Here is a collection of the best moments from activity holidays in Croatia organized in 2018. It's a mix of moments that sparked our inspiration, distilled insights about adventure, moments of raw local island life in Croatia and things we believe are worth sharing with you, discerning traveler.
Real adventure takes time to happen. Our minds also need time to digest and make sense of these adventures and activity holidays in Croatia or elsewhere. When you look at it from the macro point of view – one year is one adventure.
I am just sitting here, at my desk next to the window. Looking at people freezing outside as they cross the street. Air gets cold and snow starts crumbling under our feet. The mind somehow tunes down our senses and we start to look inside and begin digesting stuff we've done and seen in the year behind us.
What I always found surprising at the end of the year is that there is just so much of life that happens. We can barely process it all, let alone remember it. Taking time to reflect on it and draw the wisdom from it really is an intentional endeavor, but much needed one. It's kind of like an Asian ink wash painting: you need the white blank space to make most out of the actual brush strokes.
With this piece, I just want to share with you some moments from 2018 which I honestly believe are worth sharing. It is either an insightful snapshot that encapsulates island life, an observation of history happening, a moment from one of our activity holidays in Croatia or just insightful take from our personal adventures on Balkans.
1 / Heavy snowfall in the Alps (winter activity holiday)
Winter of 2018-19 has seen some of the biggest snowfalls in a while. One of the more memorable ski touring trips was a climb on mountain Cmir with epic views of surrounding Julian Alps in Slovenia.
2 / One of the coldest kayaking activity holidays in a while
Along with the late snow, this season has seen an Arctic front sweep across Europe. We saw it on one of our activity holidays in Croatia organized for a few Finnish paddlers. The temperature was -5 degrees Celsius paired with strong Bura. Combine the two and it feels like probably -20. Some of the cliffs we go to in summer for deep water soloing were now a garden of ice flowstones. Epic. Read more about and see video from this kayaking trip here.
3 / Lošinj sea kayak circumnavigation
Early in the season we always reserve a week for paddling expedition with camping gear. A way to explore new areas and possible ideas for new activity holidays. This year it was island Lošinj circumnavigation. A somewhat demanding paddling terrain, but the weather treated us very kindly, leading to a number of stunning sunsets. Read more about this trip and see video from it here.
4 / Još će nas biti
One of the big social challenges that islands are facing is declining population. Fewer people are choosing to live on islands permanently. The main reason is the lack of employment opportunities and schooling. This little post box that I photographed on Dugi Otok sends a very clear message. First there is an unusual but cozy list of names of all the people in the family. Then, at the bottom of the list, there is a line saying: 'Još će nas biti...' It means: 'There will be more of us.' A sign of resilience or perhaps grit. That's what the islands need. Anyway, good for the postman to know.
5 / Military caves
One of the paddling routes, during one of the activity holidays, took us to island Ilovik north of Molat. I roughly knew there were 'some tunnels' on Ilovik. I just didn't expect to find several kilometer long systems of tunnels with crossroads. Inside, it feels like someone is air conditioning space and circulating air. It may be useless construction from Cold War period but it's damn well built.
6 / Spotting dolphins
There is a little reef just north of island Zverinac. Reefs are often causes of stronger current, which then leads to more flora and more fish life. It's the spot where we often paddle past fisherman throwing their lines. It's also a place where we spot dolphins most often. Here is one snapshot from the paddle there on one of our activity holidays this year.
7 / Summer snow
The only thing more exciting than seeing snow is seeing snow in June. Even more so if it happens during a paddling week. Here a patch of snow on the north-facing slope on top of Vaganjski Peak in Paklenica National Park. Shot in June.
8 / Silba sea kayaking activity holiday
This year we've lead an activity holiday based on island Silba for some of our returning paddlers. It's a beautiful little island with a big village (200 souls in winter and some 2.000 in summer, with all the travelers and vacationers visiting). No bikes though. At least its forbidden to bike between 10am and 7am in the morning. Supposedly for safety reasons - there are tons of narrow streets with sharp turns. Otherwise, tons, literally tons of small beaches and little picturesque towns. Paddling there is super relaxed. Life is good.
9 / SUP yoga activity holiday
Our friends from California came for a yoga retreat and activity holiday again on island Molat. Here is a glimpse of one of our early morning SUP yoga sessions.
10 / Local life on island Molat
One morning after the yoga session in June, the sea remained very calm. We were packing our yoga mats. At that time, Joško, a local fisherman, anchored his boat in the little cove nearby. It's his standard spot for cleaning fish. An opportunistic seagull just earned his breakfast. This is what undisturbed life on the islands is all about. Appreciating the small things. If you want, you can read and watch more about what it's like living on island Molat.
11 / SUP activity holiday in Croatia
One of the weeks we had a group of 12 strong girls who came over for a paddle. The week was an immense amount of laughter but also resilience, determination, and eagerness to learn skills and learn about local life. This is just a reminder of how inspiring outdoors is; how it enables us to move our limits while staying humble and how great outdoor community is. Long live the adventure. If you want, you can read more about SUP touring trip.
12 / Never stop exploring
Molat archipelago is, as are most islands in this part of the Adriatic, made of limestone. Its topography is characterized by karsts: 'topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks (limestone). It is characterized by underground drainage system with sinkholes and caves.' In short, there are tons of caves on the islands. One thing keeps surprising me. Even though we paddled the entire area there on numerous activity holidays in Croatia and snorkeled even more - you think you've seen it all. Then you stumble upon a new underwater cave. Yuhuu. A reward for one's endless curiosity. This very much reminds me of one of our motos: 'adventure is where ever someone is trying to find it.'
13 / (Over)fishing
Another big (social) issue impacting life on islands is overfishing. It's a topic that deserves a more in-depth analysis. For now just a few facts. Fact 1. The main source of local people's protein come from fish. Fact 2. When my father and I went fishing in the 80s and 90s with fishing cages, we would come back with 1-3kg of fish every day. Today, my father goes alone (I am paddling most of the time). If he catches 1 fish that is above 30dg once every two weeks that is an exception. Fact 3. A number of commercial fishermen are pulling their nets (with small 'eyes') along the seabed. They are catching fish - ever time and commercially viable amounts. After that, they shovel out kilos and kilos of young dead fish. Hard to argue about the validity of this observation when you paddle pass their main fishing ship early morning and see it in action. That's the action you are seeing on this image. Not everything that looks picturesque is necessarily picturesque.
14 / Love for paddles
We have a saying in Croatian: 'Apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. This summer, our one-year-old has clearly indicated his love for paddles. In a pile of paddles, he will always go for his favorite - the carbon ones. His second pick - the wooden Greenland paddles. It's a small observation for mankind, but a heartwarming one for our little family. That's what MA all about - a family of likeminded paddlers. This is our youngest paddler ever. :)
15 / Sea kayaking perspective
This photo is here because it embodies something I personally find true about sea kayaking. So, I often get asked by some people: 'Marko, aren't you bored when you repeat the trips week in week out?'. Other (climbing) friends ask: 'aren't you fed up with sea kayaking. It's the same thing all the time paddle-left-paddle-right?' They never get a serious answer. :) But the thing is, most of the trips are not the same. We are blessed to paddle in areas so diverse that you can change and tweak what happens above and under the water daily. Secondly, the trip is as much about paddling as it is about people who paddle with you. Sometimes I think of it as having a meeting and exchanging ideas, just doing it on water. Or, to make it more Croatian: it's like chatting over a cup of coffee but instead of the bar, we do it as we paddle between islands. Take a look at the photo. Its two-and-two guys chatting away as we paddle along the coast on island Molat. Happy days.
16 / Hiking activity holiday in Croatia
High up on Velebit mountain range, which we look at daily from the islands, there are dozens of really stunning places we've been to. This year we connected the dots and tied it all into a new itinerary. I personally very much recommend the route. It is moderately to highly demanding (depends on what you want to see). Coming out soon. Stay tuned.
17 / Plivarica
During the new moon (when entire moon is completely in Sun's shadow), sardine and anchovy fishing boats are out. Locally, these boats are called 'plivarica'. They are our out all night and collect the harvest early morning just before the sun rises. What follows is a steady and slow ride back to Zadar as they slowly organize and pack the catch in smaller boxes. Here the boat just passed in front of our paddling group. See the photo story from the angle of the fisherman in this photo essay.
18 / Indians and spider webs
English term for unseasonably warm weather in September and May is 'Indian summer'. Croatian term for it is 'bablje ljeto'. It comes from 'bapske vlasi' (grandmas hair) referring to the threads that spiders cast as they fly between trees. This weather pattern is no longer an unseasonable exception' but more of a rule. Spiders still cast their nets. A snapshot from one of those super warm days on the descend from one of the trekking trips in late October.
19 / Mountain life
If you take any topo map of a mountain, it is likely that mountaintops will have names. So will the valleys. Perhaps a few saddles. Things are a bit different on Velebit. Take a topo map of any part o fit, particularly South Velebit. What you will see is that literally every slope and every hilltop or just part of a slope towards a hilltop has a name. It is a testimony to how populated this area was in history. People give names to the area when they use it heavily. We're talking 18th and 19th century. AT the time the biggest source of income was trading animal products from sheep and goats. In the same fashion, every cave was used for keeping livestock. On this image, one of the caves in Paklenica National park with drywall that was used to keep livestock therein. It looks even more surreal today when you run into it, like many other more elaborate buildings scattered along the terrain that is now wild and connected with small trails.
20 / Keep walking
When the snow falls, the avalanche danger in the Alps is in 5s and 4s. Humid air that comes from the nearby sea makes it difficult for layers of snow to merge. Our ski touring destinations are then less steep slopes or forest-covered slopes. The image above is from the trip up on mountain Mrežce. The approach leads through a little summer hamlet. Little huts scattered on the plain and covered with fresh powder. Simple and beautiful.
Complement this piece with a photo essay about island life in our main base on Molat which nicely connects to reflections about adventure travel and art of slowing down.
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'Conversations’ isn’t necessarily about the things that we talked about on our trips. It is about all the topics that you wanted to know about or ones that we promised we’ll look into. It’s about that constant pursuit of Croatia’s and region’s adventure secrets, insights, history, and lifestyle. It’s about enabling you to dive behind the obvious and get the best of your travels – challenging the status quo and celebrating cultural and natural diversity.