Mljet with Marie and Simon

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August 15th 2011
Published: August 17th 2011
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“Oh no, they’re French, they’ll smoke, and that means after a beer, or seven, so will I.” That was my response to Michelle informing me that we (she) had agreed to have a communally cooked dinner that evening with a French woman (Marie) and her partner Simon.

She had just met Marie outside the unisex shower block at the bottom of the rustic camp site we had pitched at on the island of Mljet. Little did we know that this chance meeting would be the start of a brilliant three days spent as a group of four on the stunning and remote Dalmatian Island.

That morning Ante, from our guesthouse in Dubrovnik, had kindly dropped us at the ferry port via a camping shop to get Butane for our stove. After queuing for an hour with hordes of August tourists we boarded the catamaran Nona Ana for our high speed one hour crossing to the port of Sobra. The sky was a dazzling blue, the kind of blue that you see on Caribbean holiday brochures and it was mirrored by the almost unreal crystal clear Adriatic Sea.

We were the only backpackers who disembarked at the tiny port of Sobra. The ten or so other passengers who alighted had suitcases and headed straight for their waiting hire cars. We waited for the bus. Sobra was made up of one cafe and a few fishing boats. After half an hour I approached a lady who had arrived in a tired old VW Golf who informed the bus left ten minutes before we arrived and that there was no other way to the campsite that day. Thankfully she followed this up with a recommendation of a smaller, cheaper campsite which had access to it’s own beach, and a generous offer of a free lift to Camp Sobra. Croatia was continuing to show it’s hospitable side, despite it being packed to the rafters due to it being August and prices being hiked by thirty percent across the board.
Halfway to the campsite we were left with a Slovenian couple who were camped at the site and they kindly drove us to Ropa where after a little deliberation we set up camp under an Olive tree to shelter us from the fierce summer sun. The campsite was small, friendly, and apparently cheap at 130kn per night, for us this is £17. This was not as cheap as planned but was infinitely better than a hotel. From the campsite lead a steep path down into a tiny high walled cove. The volcanic rock dropped steeply into turquoise aquamarine seas, beautiful. Our afternoon was spent lying on wooden pallets under the shade of the native pines and swimming in the clear blue sea.

That evening we met with Simon and Marie on the communal terrace. We pooled our supermarket bought stores and got to know each other while cooking pasta and vegetables together. The two of them are artists based in Lyon and, like us, appreciate the simple joys of life; good food with good company and with any luck, good wine. We had luck, the owner of the campsite brewed his own delicious fruity red wine. It was served cold and was light and refreshing whilst being full of flavour, at only 23kn (£3) for 1 litre, it was easily enjoyable.

By midnight we had been joined by three French youth workers leading a four week adventure trip around the region for twenty six fifteen to seventeen year olds. It was a great night and a great start to our adventure, it was what travel is all about.

We agreed to meet Marie and Simon the next morning for an excursion to the National Park part of the north of the Island. The park was stunning, as was the swim in the clear salt water lakes within it. We had a great hike through the park and a fun boat trip to a Monastery on an islet in the middle of the larger lake. The minor negative was again the August pricing, in my 2011 guide book it stated entry to the park was 40kn – for the month of August this is hiked up to 90kn per person and a cold beer on the Monastery Island was 22kn for a 33cl tin – in a supermarket on mainland they are 5kn – bonkers! This unnecessary price hike for all tourists for just one month I do not agree with. I believe in paying for things but inflated pricing just to take advantage of a Monaco-esque traveller in August is slightly galling for us budget travellers. Still, we did decide to come in August I suppose.

On leaving the park around 6pm having eaten only ice-cream since breakfast we were all pleasantly tired and looking forward to relaxing together again that evening with some good food and some more home brew vino!

Once again we were quickly shown the good nature of Croatians when a holidaying couple offered the four of us a squashed up lift in the back of their nice clean car. We gleefully accepted and the four of us jammed on the back seat for the 6k drive through the hills back to our campsite. By the time we jumped out after they insisted on showing us Odysseus’s cave en-route the car was slightly less clean smelling on the inside, but we incredibly grateful to another set of kind people. Their justification was that they hoped when they were in London people would do the same for them. Good Luck was all I could think.
It was 9.30pm when we eventually sat down to our home cooked chicken and pasta, it felt well deserved after our action packed day, and the cold red wine tasted, if possible, even better than it had the night before. The French youth group topped off our evening by making us Crepes Chocolate washed down with Rakia, a great end to a great day.

Today is Monday, and after the four of us had a day of sleeping, reading and swimming at the cove, our new friends have just left for their return journey to France. True to my prediction on hearing Michelle’s initial announcement, I did smoke with our new friends. However with them we had shared an amazing weekend on the scenic Island of Mljet, we spent too much money, lived well in the sun, and set ourselves on our way on this adventure.

Tomorrow we take the ferry to the Island of Korcula, how long until we head for Amsterdam is still unsure but the adventure is proving very good fun so far.....

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