Here are 20 most inspiring moments from our activity holidays in Croatia in 2019. Some moments are snapshots of aynthing from night winter mountaineering to turquoise Adriatic paddle. Other moments are reflections about tourism and outdoor life.
This post is a reflection on what we’ve done, where we’ve been and where we’ve seen and how we make sense of it. At it’s most simplest, it is a visual journey through best moments. At the same time – more for those of you with a nice big cup of coffee or tea steaming next to you – there are some insightful comments with plenty of links and content to sparkle your curiosity for this holiday winter time.
1. Night ski touring
Our adventure activities traditionally started with some winter action. Our first trip of the year was with a group of experienced ski mountaineering friends. We left the car just where you see it on this image and started our ski touring precisely at midnight. A night navigation exercise to locate and dig our way into a bivouac covered by 2m of snow. Read more about it in the post about that ski touring trip or just watch a video about the trip.
2. Winter alpinism in Slovenia
Some weeks later, we climbed again in Slovenian Alps – Lenuhova route on the way up and skiing down Centrana Grapa on Begunjšćica. For more about this trip, check out this link.
3. Hiking adventure activity holidays in Croatia
In the outdoors, there are days with rain and wind. Then there are days with sun and crystal clear air – the result of rain and wind. On those days you see all the beauty of Paklenica National Park with stunning views of Anića Kuk – home to some of Croatia’s most impressive multi-pitch climbs up to 350m and 11 pitches. In the distance, you can see islands south of Zadar.
4. Paddling into vineyards of history
During our activity holidays in Hvar, we circumnavigated half of the island. One of the breaks was on one of the beaches not far from Brusje. The beach was surrounded by slopes circling it almost like an amphitheater. A man was working in his konoba. We had a casual chat and pretty soon we were talking about the history of the area, phylloxera – an insect that killed the vines in the last century, size and design of tools to work on the land, 2000-year-old green church ruin. It is all a part of the standard narrative, as casual as chatting about what you had for lunch yesterday. Everything green (pretty much) you see on this photograph used to be vineyards before.
5. Clandestine wildlife
Off the beaten path is about timing as much as it is about geography. Perks of paddling in the last few months of the year when cephalopods work their way to shallow waters. Octopus moving just under the place where we dropped our kayaks this day.
6. Via Ferrata meets vineyards
Confluence of alpine-style climb and vineyards of Chasselas around Vevey in Lausanne. That is what an epic via ferrata around Sv.Nedjelja on Hvar is like. Small wine town with vineyards radiating uphill on all sides. A ferrata with a hanging bridge and views of open sea. Highly recommended. Read more about it here and watch video about climbing the ferrata (and paddling in winter) here.
I have spent all my childhood summers in a place where the only visitors were people who owned the houses. Actually, there were more soldiers than tourists there then. I remember how you couldn’t tell tourists from a local (or solder for that matter). Tourists, locals, and solders caught fish, met up for vigorous discussion (less vigorous when soldiers were there) at 11h at the central square and all discussed the wind, currents, and fish. Life felt very sustainable for the local culture.
It was later in life when I’ve seen tourism in big numbers how interactions between locals and visitors can shape experience in both ways. It is far from sustainable not least for local culture. Based on those observations, I decided that we want to replicate the sustainable small scale travel off the beaten path. The kind of travel where locals say hi to visitors because they are a part of the village.
That is only possible away from the mainstream. Read more about where the main tourism flows are here.
8. Beach clean-ups
There is nothing particularly glamorous about beach clean up. It is trash and us. The trash gets broken down by the sea and the waves. Particles are so small that they get in cracks between rocks where only your curse words can reach them. Cleaning those microscopic particles just enhances the feeling of futility that comes from knowing that with next Bura wind a new wave of trash will come back again.
But we keep on cleaning it because we left the world a bit better than we found it.
Interesting fact: trash is only getting smaller. I don’t remember those small particles when I was a kid on the islands. The big fisherman plastic gear is now replaced by small plastic packaging of yogurt, shampoo and fruit wraps and an endless amount of footwear. Croatia has the largest fleet of charter boats in the world. That might explain it.
9. Learning to rock climb
The first time you do something is always magical. It is like walking through a little hole in the roots to discover that a completely new world exists. It is either your first kayaking trip, first SUP trip, and first rock-climbing trip. Here a group of fierce ladies discovering the world of rock climbing in Paklenica National Park as a part of our kayaking and hiking trips.
10. Turqoise day – kayaking activity holidays in Croatia
Just one of those moments that got engraved in our mind and luckily, in our camera sensor. Perfect day, perfect light, perfect crowd. Snap. A photo from our Lastovo circumnavigation trip.
11. Expedition style trips – camping
For a couple of years now we have been organizing limited edition sea kayaking expedition-style trips. The goal is always to circumnavigate a different island in Croatia in early spring. It is reserved for level 3 star paddlers. If you want to find out more check out our trip to Lastovo, trip to Lošinj, trip to Hvar and drop me an email if you want to hear about the next planned expeditions.
12. Skills course
It is easy to get lulled into comfort paddling the calm Adriatic seas. So, we travel north every year for some fun in the swell, surf, and some rock hopping. This year it was a trip to the most northern part of Ireland. We paddled Malin’s head and had a pint of Guinness in the most northern pub in Ireland. We paddled north from there. This means that missing our goal – Inishtrahull island – next stop could have been only Scotland. Find out more about the trip and watch the video from the trip here.
13. Cloud iridescence
On one of the SUP touring trips in Croatia, we witnessed cloud iridescence – diffraction phenomenon caused by small water droplets or small ice crystals scattering light.
14. Olive harvest
On an exploration trip in Hvar, we made a wrong turn (navigated by a local). We had to turn back. To turn our van I chose a little plateau in front of an old stone house that looks unassuming from the outside. It turned out it was an olive mill and we were there in the middle of the olive harvest season. We peeked in and before we know what happened we were standing with olive oil filled glassed sampling the oil fresh from the press, chatting away about the stages of the olive harvest. When life gives you lemons, it means it’s just time for lemonade.
15. Night paddle
Sometimes when I teach people paddling forward I ask them to close their eyes as they do it. It enables the paddler to get a feel for the stroke and become more conscious of what your body does. Very useful if you overthink the stroke. During the night paddle – that happens by default. Midsummer full moon night paddle also called in for a warm summer night swim.
16. Young force
Our youngest adventurer in the family has turned two. Year one was all about playing in the kayak and insatiable will to play and hit things with the paddles – with a special spark in his eyes if he got his hand on a carbon one. Year two has been all about chilling on the SUP board and scooter. His favorite – downhill scootering. Perks of idyllic island life on Molat this summer.
17. Swarm of wild bees
This year we’ve spent some time in Paklenica National park. On one 8hour hike to Vaganjski Vrh – highest peak of Velebit mountain range – we hear a sound similar to formula 1 racing not far from us. The first road was 1.200m below us and we were 2h away from the nearest hut. It wasn0t a formula 1 racing car. It was a swarm of wild bees.
Swarming is a natural way for bee colonies to duplicate. Queen bee signals the rest of the colony to produce several queen bees. It does that by emitting a certain hormone that is then distributed in a form of intense scent between the bees. Once the queen bees are ready to come out of their cells, the queen bee sends another message. All right guys, pack up, we are swarming. The strong bees take up as much honey as they can fly with and head out with the queen bee. That is what you see in the image above. The formula one racing sound was really buzzing of several thousand bees. Then, all the bees gathered around queen bee to protect here – that looked pretty much like a big football stuck to a tree branch high up 10 meters above us. The explorer bees scouted the area and returned with a direction to their next home – most likely a trunk of a tree. They went there, created combs, collected more nectar and honey, created more brood, bees, stocked up and next year in the middle of the main harvest, they will repeat the same process.
This is what outdoors is all about – developing the skills to move deep in the wilderness and seeing life unfold in front of us.
A number of seasons has gone down from four to two. Spring and autumn don’t happen any more really, at least if you look at it meteorologically. Long gone are sequences of days with rain or those crispy spring mornings when it’s cold enough not to be warm and warm enough not to be cold. Instead, we just go from summer to winter and back. If you want to get your dose of the autumn and spring in Croatia you need to head to the forests. Here a beautiful foilage display on our October hiking trip on Velebit mountain range.
19. Islands and mountains
If I had to outline just one thing that makes hiking Velebit mountain range unique in the world. One thing only. It would be the proximity of islands and mountains and stunning birds view of the archipelagos under the mountain. Ancient beech forests (that have not been cut by humans ever in the history) – you mind find this in a handful of places in Europe. The carbonate rock formations – maybe you find something somewhat similar in the region or the Alps. The human history of living so high up in the mountains – some places around the world. Mountains rising directly from the sea – you have this in other places, too. But islands and mountains – that’s the one thing. Here on the hike – views of island Rab.
20. Year to celebrate
It’s the small things that make your life. Your life is what happens in between your big plans and big goals. Likewise, it’s the gap between the two sounds that give them context and turns them into music. The same principle has it that your trip is not just a few days in Croatian outdoors. It is more than that. Your outdoor adventure is what puts everything else a context. It puts you in perspective: human as a part of nature, a person as a part of the community, yourself as a part of something bigger (which we don’t necessarily have to understand). That perspective is what we are grateful for. It is something to celebrate.
I wish you all the best in the year to come. I wish you a lot of time out in nature, that you discover new skills inside of you, that you spend time with likeminded friends and laugh a lot! I look forward to seeing you somewhere in the Croatian outdoors.
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.