Actually Brac is pronounced closer to ‘Bratch’ however Pam and I have been singing the AC/DC song with misplaced lyrics for well over a fortnight before we find this out.
‘Bratch’ doesn’t fit the rhyme and rhythm so we are letting it slide.
Brac is one of the larger islands in the archipelago spread along the Croatian coastline. Here are some Brac Facts; population 14500 as of 2001 (that fact is a bit out of date); area 396 square kilometers; highest peak 778m.
Our initial destination in Brac is the town of Supetar. We sail via a Jadrolinija ferry from Split after our regular pack, check gear and walk routine we now employ when moving from one dwelling to another.
Of course our ferry was the furthest distance possible on the quay away from the apartment however to us that now means nothing.
We have left in plenty of time and spend half an hour standing on the quay after buying our tickets
The ferry is enormous, we ride an escalator to the top deck and chose to sit rugged up in our coats and gloves in the fresh cold air as we sail rather than the stifling air conditioned deck below.
Supetar is a pretty little town that lies in the shadow cast by the island hills at this time of year. My photos as we approach all turn out dark.
The escalator does not appear to descend, we walk down the metal steps once the ferry has moored, clank across the metal hull gate.
We have arrived in Brac.
The ferry moors close to the Brac bus terminal, we buy our tickets to Bol and have some fast food in the plastic enclosed patio of a nearby diner. Everyone other than us is smoking and tendrils of smoke follow us out the door when we leave the cloudy fishbowl we have eaten in.
I am left hacking and coughing as the smoke has irritated my sore throat and runny nose.
At least the bus is compulsorily smoke free.
Bol is a town on the opposite side of Brac to Supetar. The bus journey winds up the steep hill. As I look out I can see virtually the whole island has been terraformed with rocks walls in the manner I have described previously.
From close up I can see the design of the walls includes many small low circular buildings that may have been used as dwellings or for storage. Once again I am completely absorbed by thoughts about the massive labour requirements in completing the intricate design.
My minds eye winds back the years to a time when, rather than being slowly tumbled by trees now growing wild, this island would have been completely walled and terraced with olive trees and grape vines growing in the carefully managed topsoil everywhere.
A veritable garden of Eden with its large agricultural populace living amongst the walls and fruit vines.
Today Brac’s walls are often in a state of disrepair. Given time, root will crack and move rock with slow hydraulic surety. Trees, no longer tended, including olives grown wild as well as many other species are slowly pushing the walls down with their encroach.
Given time, nature grinds all of humankind’s efforts to rubble.
These humble rock walls have kept their steady purpose alive for longer than any modern agricultural method I have witnessed however …… given time.
…time and Time …
all these moments have passed through me
I have laid them all to waste
We have passed through a few pretty villages, white buildings, red tiled roofs while I have been open eyed dreaming.
I am brought back to the real world as the bus stops and fills up with teenagers returning home from the early shift of school.
Teenagers seem to be the same all over the world. Pam and I spend much of the rest of the trip laughing at their antics.
As the bus descends the winding road down to Bol on the other side of the island above us I spy a large tract of land that is being prepared to be farmed in the modern tradition. The white rocks so densely strewn everywhere have been ground by some immensely powerful machine, the largest chunks look about fist sized.
I think to myself ‘that only a tracked vehicle could negotiate this countryside’ and look even higher up the hill. An enormous bulldozer is parked far above us.
The overall effect of the grinding is that the hillside is now a steeply sloping finely ground yellow rubble field that is now traversable by wheeled vehicles such as tractors.
I say to Pam ‘would you like to lay bets on if the whole hillside is an eroded desert in twenty years rather than the hundreds or thousands of years the rock walls will keep the soil in place’.
She responds ‘no one today cares about making something last one hundred years let alone a thousand, people want to make a fast profit for couple of years and then sell it as a successful business model at a higher price to someone else’.
Guess thats our modern society in a nutshell. Successful short term business model …… long term dusty desert creating disaster.
To our left side as we descend the sun is blinding in its reflection from the strait of water between Brac and the next island Hvar.
The beautiful views restore my good humour so recently dashed by the sight of that dusty ‘farm’.
The last turn taken by the bus brings us to the waterfront and we follow along for a short while before coming to a stop at a jetty.
Craggy rocky hillsides tower over Bol which is built on the gentler slopes near the waters edge.
‘The only way is up … baby’
We consult the Googles to locate our apartment, walk a little further along the waterfront and start climbing stairs.
Our apartment turns out to be on the high side of town, we are both puffing with our heavy full packs by the time we arrive. Our landlords live in the apartment on the ground floor and are lovely however neither of them speak much English.
We end up in an extremely spacious two bedroom apartment that has a balcony with views to the sea, and the mountains, a kitchen with an oven, a king size bed, big bathroom and shower. All for 25 Euro per night, the lowest price for accommodation we have paid in Europe outside of Albergues in Spain.
Well done Pam.
Once we have unpacked we descend back to the waterline for a look around Bol. The town is obviously very focussed on tourists and visitors from the mainland, there are only a couple of cafe/bars, one restaurant and a few shops like the supermarket that are still open on a daily basis at this time of year.
We have a few drinks at a waterfront bar and watch the sun set, the waitress says ‘we are probably the only tourists in town’.
There is a lot of building and repair work being done around town in the off season. As we walk toward the supermarket to stock up with supplies a high ‘safety’ fence segment topples onto a little toddler who was walking by with his mum.
Pam had seen the fence begin to fall and despite being quite far away was the first to react. By the time we get there however the fence has been lifted and the howling child is being comforted. There don’t look to be any real injuries, the child is crying from the shock of suddenly being pinned to the ground more than anything else.
We take care negotiating the area after witnessing this. OHS is not as lax in Croatia as in Spain however it definitely pays to keep your wits about you.
Looking out across the town from our balcony the next morning we are bathed in blue. Blue skies above, blue seas below.
It is another beautiful day in Croatia, we have had a run of truly spectacular weather since Zagreb.
Our mission today is to walk to the apparently world renowned Zlatni Rat beach.
We wind our way down through Bol once more, walk along the harbour and waterfront and join a wide clean footpath beyond the corner that the bus had taken bringing us into town.
The concrete tile footpath follows the waterline through an arch of trees that provide a shady canopy. Every hundred meters or so statues carved from the local white stone grace the waterside of the path. The far side of the path is a continual line of large modern resort units and hotels, all closed.
A statue of Princess Leia in an inner-tube on a jetty has us both giggling.
The path climbs a little rise, in the small beach below watercraft for hire have been dragged above the high tide line. Signs advertising wind surfers, boats for hire, scuba diving classes, all closed.
We are completely alone for a kilometer or more as we stroll along the path.
Pam says ‘Bol is a ghost town full of empty apartments’.
For sure it is at this time of year however we can both see the closures are deliberate, the town looks very prosperous, all the closed buildings and gardens are well maintained, there are new apartments being built up in the hills and much restoration work is being completed on the waterline back in town.
It is not dead, just in stasis or hibernation.
Nothing like the ‘ghost towns’ we wandered through on the Camino.
By now we can clearly see the Zlatni Rat beach ahead of us. A pine covered promontory ending in a smooth pebble beach that sweeps around a pointed end.
It is like a stony incisor tooth biting into the water.
We come across a series of signs that give me mixed messages as we make our way down through the pines to the beach.
The stones roll and crunch beneath our feet as we stride out to the water. Our feet sink deep with each step, it is hard work. Similar to and completely different from, at the same time, walking on soft sand.
Footsteps from previous passerby’s remain however we have the entire beach to ourselves.
We round the point of the ‘tooth’, now for the moment of truth.
The clear water becomes irresistible to me, we have the beach to ourselves.
For a second time I swim in the Adriatic wearing the same clothes I was born in. This time it is no rushed and hasty dip, the water is cool and divine.
I take my sweet time. Diving deep and floating low. Mountain magic falling down, dissolves in the blue sea. There is no finer place in this blue world for me to be.
I have forgotten to bring my sandals and by the time I go to climb out my feet are well and truly pruned by the salt water. Pam nearly dies laughing as small waves disrupt my balance while my feet sink grinding deep in the cold wet pebbles.
Despite my pain I can see the humour in the situation and laughing as hard as I am is not helping my balance. I can’t make it out of the water as the pebbly edge crumbles beneath my soft and slipping feet.
Pam eventually takes pity on me and comes to the waters edge, offers me a hand and drags me up the sliding pebble slope.
At least we have thought ahead enough to have brought the sarong Pam has carried since Brisbane with us. I dry off and re-apply my veneer of civilization.
While Pam was waiting for me to have had enough in the water she has found some little shells of sea snails (called lucky stones by the locals) which she has read bring good fortune to the finder. She has kept one for her and one for me.
As I pull my shirt on we see a man leave the pines and make his way to the waters edge to commence fishing.
Our good luck has brought great timing with it.
We are laughing all the way back to town.
Pam has all the symptoms of my Split cold coming on the next day. Her energy levels are low, running nose, sore throat. We decide to take it easy and don’t really get out much for the next couple of days other than to have a drink at the bar on the waterfront to watch the setting sun.
Every cloud has a silver lining, I get a lot of work done bringing the blog closer to up to date.
On the second last night we stay in Bol we hear a knock at our door. I answer to find our landlord standing politely on the stoop. He has brought us up a platter of delicious cheese and cold meats along with a jug of cold white wine.
Once again Croatian locals have gone out of their way to make us welcome in their town and country.
Pam and I feel very fortunate and humble.
We have a delicious meal at the only restaurant still open in the off season on our last night in Bol and Pam is starting to feel like she is getting over the cold by the following morning. We are long packed, checked and ready to go by our 11:00 am checkout time and wish our lovely landlords all the best before starting down the slope from our apartment for the last time.
We spend the afternoon at the waterfront cafe/bar, our Jadrolinija catamaran to the next island Hvar does not leave until 5:20 which is well after sunset.
Thankfully the trip across the glassy water is short and smooth.
Pam does not handle boats well as she is prone to motion sickness and after a long afternoon of drinking wine …. well things could have been a lot worse.
The contents of our stomachs intact, we arrive in Hvar at the town of Jelsa in the dark. We orient ourselves under the light of a streetlamp and consult the oracle Googles.
Our apartment is on the outskirts of the small town, we hitch up our packs and set off along the road which has no footpath once it passes the few shops in town.
We have probably made it half way to the apartment when a car coming the other direction stops in the middle of the road beside us. The driver winds down the window and asks ‘are you Pamela’?
Our landlord has come to meet the ferry and pick us up.
The lovely Croatian people just keep on giving.
Mick and Pam