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Sali, Dugi Otok, Thursday 2 June

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No, Dugi Otok has not stressed us, but we’re exhausted this evening.

Blue water

We got up earlyish and went for a swim, with goggles. We went to check out the fish-life around the corner, just outside the commercial docks. The same immature Albatross we saw yesterday was strolling, again, along the path ahead of us. Yesterday we worked out he was going to keep walking while we did, and eventually managed to sidle round him. I’m not sure if he recognized us, but this time he moved aside and let us past. He looks ok, just young, but he should be flying at that size, I thought.

In the water the bottom drops away quite quickly, so we cruised along the shore wall. We’ve only brought masks, so we can’t really dive deep and stay long to take a photo. It’s shallow water or no photo. In the water was nothing big, but lots of fish species I didn’t recognize. A lovely red fish with a black head, some shrimps, a thing like a wrasse with an electric blue patch on its side…

Bike girl

After that we packed a lunch, fueled up with a 20 ml of espresso, and took off on hired bikes. I’m crap on a bike, so that doesn’t leave much room to give Sylvia a flattering comparative rating. There are some killer hills here, and Sylvia simply had to get off and walk it.  (I suspect I would have had to too, but she had to get off first.) I did too, encouraging her with a boot up the…no no, just joking.

We tried to follow Mr Bike’s instructions to get out of town, but ended up going through tiny laneways, backyards, past a row of old geezers sitting on a bench in the sun, through washing lines, sending chickens squawking and up-ending fruit displays…the usual Hollywood cliché. As we have come to expect, the map and the roads didn’t actually have anything in common, and we had to backtrack when we finally found a bike-track sign-post that established a) the direction we had been travelling, b) the correct direction.

Bike ride through the hills

Then it was a long uphill climb out of the bay valley where Sali lies. The island is only 5 km across, so what we did was went in a long 7 km arc that took us around a bay on the far side of the island. It brings you within the Kornati National Park area. I think all it means is no logging, and some path maintenance. Certainly the chap with the killer pitbulls was there (his pitbull was creating a furore in the town the night before).  People fish, probably illegally, I saw some tents and camping is prohibited.

Away from the coast the landscape just turns to rock. In Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow they discuss the many names and types of snow. It’s likely Dugi Otakians have 38 names for stone.

Stone fruit

Locals over the centuries have used the stone to build small orchard walls. An orchard lot might be 10 paces by 20 paces, with a one metre high, half metre wide drystone wall surrounding it. In it grow stunted old olive trees and fig trees.
Some have remnants of gardens, but we were told there’s been a drought and the vegetable gardens have suffered. Olives and figs can still survive of a diet of stone and salt.
There are hundreds of these orchards, and to some extent wealth is measured by ownership. How they keep track of it I don’t know.

stone walls hot road

And the hot rock landscape is a hard bike-riding venue. You get a bit of a breeze on a downhill roll, but hit the bottom and start up and the heat from above and around dry bakes you.
As the road loosely followed the contour of the bay, we kept stopping off for a swim, get the clothes wet and chug off again. At one pause Sylvia sparked up, and started taking photos of two-tone yellow butterflies. Amongst them were bloody enormous black bees, as big as, say your worst cockroach nightmare. (Scrap that…I’ve been to Queensland where 4 inch cockroaches fly.) As big as the first joint of a man’s thumb.

The final destination was the far side of the island, where high vertical cliffs meet the external sea. Yes, very nice, very dramatic, much what you’d expect.

Plus there is a salt lake. The town name Sali marks the fact that the island originally made a living as a high-quality source of salt. The lake is still there, but they stopped manufacturing awhile ago.

Tony Abbot on holiday

lake is within the National Park, but it’s also a ….sanctuary for donkeys. They seem to roam free, morosely mooching about and resenting the tourists who come and try and make friends. I guess it’s a dumping ground for islanders who don’t need a donkey anymore to cart wood and get grandma to the market with three carrots to sell.

Tony Abbot drops in for some quiet time when he can. He can be himself amongst his kind.

There is quite an extensive dock area, and tours come over from the mainland, everyone gets off, goes look at the donkeys, walks over to the cliffs, then sits in the café and drinks until the ferry leaves. Its quite hectic.

And like the Bad Santa at Zadar, incredibly this dock had a Bad Castaway. A man looking very similar to Bad Santa ( but with a grey flowing beard rather than white), paddled up to the dock on a raft made to look like he was a castaway…canvas box for shelter, grass decking, the raft made of sticks tied together with fibrous rope. He was suitably dressed in rags…quite a complicated production.

And like Bad Santa, he took over the dock area, and was harassing people for money for his photo. (He had a handwritten sign: 1k, about $0.20c.) But Zadar is 45 minutes away by very fast ferry, and this part of the park is literally in the middle of nowhere…where the hell did he come from?

But he was missing the main trick. A chap dressed in tan approached us, smiling, and introduced himself. He was a Park ticket seller. Admission to the Park is 25K ($5). They don’t have an entry gate, they have roving ticket sellers. I guess it makes sense when you can get to the Park by sea and land anywhere. When we paid he pulled a massive wad of cash out of his pocket to peel off the change.

Bad Castaway could have dressed up as a Park Inspector and ramped up his takings dramatically.

Back on the bikes, a roasting ride back through stony gulch and boulder valley, collapse at the ice-cream shop (who hired us the bikes in the first place), then stagger all of 5 metres back to the apartment.

I noticed the restaurant trade peaked at 8.00 last night, which is why we startled the wood-fired BBQ place last night when we lurched in at 6.30. But we didn’t last until 8.00….There is a biggish restaurant another 10 metres away. We had grilled pork stuff (neck and chops) with that Croatian paprika  sauce I love, but got out early. They were setting up for a big group, a Kon-Tiki adventure tour that had come in on a yacht.

I remember reading about Kon-Tiki, how they got started in the 60’s catering for that generation. Looks like the company has grown old with the clientele. There was a lot of grey hair in the red Kon-Tiki tshirts.

We strolled back all of 10 metres to our apartment, stopping to chat with the landlord as he shouted from the balcony above the street. Behind us a car passed (every second car here is a Yugo, a boxy Renault-like thing) , the father helping his two-year old drive the car.

We made contact with one of the dive centres today. On the phone they were surly and uninspiring. We’ll front up at 9.00 tomorrow and see if they will deign to take us for a dive.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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