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Korkula – Mljet, Wednesday 15th June

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Mljet upper lake

I think we are running out of puff.

Today we were at Mljet, a small island north, but close, to Korkula. Us and eight French travelers went via a speedy speedster speedboat. It was the hyped-up rubber dinghy you might expect the Lastovo henchmen from the James Bond secret underwater military base to drive. Instead of seats you had a saddle/pommel, and you rode it like a horse.

Or donkey, to put it into local context.

I take it you’ve been in a boat before? When they go fast, they bounce across the top of waves and sometimes hit harder when dropping into a trough. Well, when you are French you scream at each instance, and (I am not making this up) say “Ooo, la-la!”.

I was sort of hoping for a “zut alorrrgh!” when it got rougher, but the Adriatic played nice today. Still, we sure flew. On a map the trip looks to have been 40km, and it took 40 minutes or less. The boat owner pulls in $500 to take 10 people there and back, so he drives for half an hour, sits around all day and then drives us back. Pretty good job, but it’s only for a few weeks. Then he’s back to scrabbling with the other water taxis for the scraps.

Mljet is a national park, with plenty of people living there, driving, fishing, farming. No hunting though, and no FKK swimming….there’s signs.

It’s the sort of fantasy island you might design in a daydream. In the middle of the island are a series of daisy-chained lakes that link by channels out to the sea, so they are salty and tidal.

In the middle of one of these lakes is a monastery. So you have an island within an island.

Mljet Monastery

The parks service run ferries to get you across the water to the monastery island. It was a bit of a bunfight getting on. It’s not very far…we talked about swimming back, but we had too much stuff to carry and keep dry, but it’s do-able…we swam across anyway for the fun of it, but later they got out a bigger ferry and it became more civilized.

At the top of the island are some fragments of a Roman settlement. We had lunch there, in the shade, sitting on a comfortable stone bench.

It all sounds glamourous, and it looks spectacular in aerial photos, but on the ground you are too close to it all to get the scope of it.

See…I am tired! A few weeks back I would have raved about this.

After lunch we walked back down to the water. The “best” locations were all taken…the Europeans like the spots in full sunlight…baking on concrete, for example. We sat in the shade that no one wanted. (In Korkula you can sit and watch the sunburn go by. Last night we saw one chap who’d recently had a haircut. The skin newly exposed had burnt, bubbled off and we could see a neat rim of skinless flesh tracing where his hair had been. Nice affect. On Mljet pale people lay in the sun, and if you look away and look back 5 minutes later you can see the color difference…much redder.)

The water was lovely, warm and clear, but not much in it. One or two types of fish, but not much else…no urchins, anenomes…nothing. There were some razor clams which I guess are here because it’s a national park and have been fished out elsewhere. But on that logic we should be seeing quite a bit of diversity. (Later I read on wikipedia that the monks cut the channels joining the lakes, to power a mill via tidal flows and to make deliveries easier. Changed the bioscape from freshwater to saltwater…but that ruination was awhile ago. The monks also introduced mongooses to the island to kill the snakes. The mongoose ate everything else too. No birds lft now in the national park.)

At the end of the day when we walked back to the “outside” water to be back in time for the water taxi, we swam in the colder water and there was more variety to see, but it is still quite limited. There’s a red fish with pop-eyes that I keep seeing but it’s very shy and I can’t get a photo, but otherwise the same fish species as we saw on the first snorkel weeks ago.

Dinner was basic…pizzas. The night before, we had dinner in a laneway seafood restaurant. The family catch and cook the fish. They do one-twentieth of the business the restaurants on the esplanade do. The view towards the Dalmation coast and mountains over-rides all food quality judgments. Our food was great, but they only had one other table while we were there. One dish was some chunks of fish pan-fried initially then finished off by poaching in a tomatoey stock, served with a scoop of ice-cream textured polenta. Really nice, as you slurped up the polenta, fish pieces and fish stock.

The fish, I was astonished to be told, was the poisonous fish that look just like our scorpion fish. Not sure how they eliminated the poison, but obviously they did….I wouldn’t have chewed on the bony bits as much if I’d known.

The other dish was cuttlefish ink risotto, (so black the white bits were black), that humourously stained your lips and teeth black.

We’ve already paid for one more night in Korkula, so we have another day to go. There’s some museum stuff, but I think we’ll be more likely to go swimming again than do anything with our brains.

We spoke to the dive shop, a refreshingly competent English couple were running the show. But the dives they were doing sounded like “safe for beginner’s” fluff and we decided not to follow up.

Our mini-bus is booked for Dubrovnik, in two days. Already Korkula is starting to swell, more and more people pouring in. The rush is starting. We should have gone to Dubrovnik a week ago.

Written by wurstofvienna2011

June 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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