New Years Eve is always a strange day for me.
Thirty eight years ago this evening my family became a part of Australian National Road statistics. My mother was killed. I suffered multiple broken bones, was rendered unconscious for five days and spent three months in traction. My siblings were also smashed to smithereens and left with injuries from which they have never really fully recovered.
‘Time’, they say, ‘heals all wounds’.
I am much less certain.
…. time and Time ….
One thing I know for sure about Time is that dwelling on, or living in, the past is futile.
Despite humanity’s cruel, wasteful, bloody, egotistical, xenophobic, war and gore filled litany of error that comprises our historical records, the future is where hope still resides.
So I’m all about hope and the future unwritten.
Our hope for our immediate future when we wake late on this cool and cloudy New Years Eve morning is that we will find the entry to the rocky trail we have observed zigzagging up the steep slope of Mt Srd.
For sure we know where it ends however we have no idea where it begins.
I guess Googles has not deemed it map worthy and even the tourist maps we have obtained offer no real clue other than a squiggly white line traversing the distance between Mt Srg cable car terminal and the major road Jadranska Cesta that traverses the length of Dubrovnik.
As we leave our apartment and head up the stairs and out Buza Gate again music echoes up from the stage that has now been erected alongside the Ponza Palace on the Stradun.
The frequency of the loud fireworks that have accompanied all our journeys in Dubrovnik thus far is redoubled in preparation for the, hopefully frenzied, climax this evening.
Dubrovnik locals are pouring into the Old City. As we climb past the fire station and turn left along Zagrebacka Ul the road is at a standstill with cars full of families hopeful of getting a park in the already full to bursting car parks that line the dry moats surrounding the Old City walls.
From the beginning our route is one of ascent. We climb further away from the Old City along Zagrebacka Ul where traffic is log jammed at a standstill all the way up to the roundabout at the junction with more major roads where we turn right and start walking up Ul Pera Bakica.
Coming to a major intersection comprised of vehicular tunnels and overpasses that have no footpaths, where we should turn left from Ul Pera Bakica onto Jadranska Cesta has us at a loss. We have seen staircases heading upwards between dwellings on Ul Pera Bakica however we have no idea where they lead to.
Today ……… we take the tunnel.
Curving up to the left there is a narrow border of gravel behind the cats-eye poles lining the bitumen road. Drivers swooping around this bend are coming in tight so we stick to the gravel, cross our fingers and set off.
Pam is rightfully protesting ‘this cannot be the best way’ and we are both relieved to surface unscathed in the bright fresh air lying just up around the corner.
‘We are definitely finding a smarter way to descend’ I say to placate Pam’s obvious concerns.
Stepping over the metallic traffic side rails we rejoin a footpath on the far side of a little side street that follows the exterior curve of the tunnel construction.
At least we are on the correct road now. We scamper across the three lanes and commence walking along the grass path on the Mt Srd side of the road.
A few flat concrete steps disappearing into the tree line with no signage are close beside a little bus stop not far up the road. According to the paper tourist map I have in my pocket the squiggle representing the fire trail to the hilltop above us joins the road somewhere close to where we now are.
‘Surely there would be some sort of sign if this was the trail’? I ask rhetorically.
A lady who looks like she knows what she is doing begins to walk up the stairs.
We ask her if this is indeed the route to the top and she laughs ‘yes, but you would never know it unless you lived here’.
Our mission for today is complete, now we just have to find a safer and hopefully more attractive return route.
Setting off along the grassy way beside the road, we have walked a couple of hundred meters when it becomes obvious that we are on the road to nowhere.
Tunnels and overpasses with no footpaths lie ahead.
Four young people have been following us on our misguided return route and when we turn back, ask us perplexed ‘if we know where the entry to the Mt Srd trail is’?
Like us, they had walked past the innocuous concrete steps without realising that this was indeed the mysterious start to the trail they are seeking and were following us after mistakenly assuming that we knew where we were going.
We all turn back and Pam and I cross the busy three lanes again as our four young friends disappear into the trees.
There is no option left other than to explore the side street next to the tunnel in hope that it would somehow take us to the road below. We soon reach a dead end and turn back. Maybe one of the staircases leading up between the apartments that line this little street?
Pam selects the most likely looking option which turns out to be a steep and narrow staircase that leads directly down to Ul Pera Bakica quite a distance prior to the tunnel through which we had misguidedly walked on the way up.
On the tourist map I have seen a little narrow walking street that I hope will provide a more direct route back to the Old City than the winding road route we have already taken.
This narrow road begins almost directly opposite us across the four lanes of traffic between.
Pam is skeptical however when we see two young ‘dressed to impress’ girls who are obviously heading for the Old City celebrations enter the street we decide to follow them along Gornji Kono.
Gornji Kono turns out to be our best option for at the lowest point of the narrow traffic free street, flights of broad stone stairs return us directly to the T intersection across the road from the fire station.
Not only have we found the trail entry we have also found the shortest, safest and most scenic route to return.
This is important as we plan to walk the zigzagging trail to the top of Mt Srd everyday we remain in Dubrovnik in preparation for the mountainous Lycian Way in Turkey.
I have never been one for New Years resolutions however it has become obvious to us both that we would be well served by reducing our alcohol intake in conjunction with our physical preparation for the trails to come.
We agree that we will only drink when we dine out in the New Year.
For the coming evening our resolve produces the happy side effect of needing to empty our remaining ‘supplies’ back at the apartment.
We are ‘three sheets to the wind’ by the time we make our way down to the busy Stadun.
The Stradun is full of happy celebratory locals, everyone seems to know everyone else, handshakes and double kisses float between the adults as children weave around their legs.
Making our way down towards the stage area the crowd density reaches a point of no return and after watching the talented band pump out some English language covers we make our way round the corner via side streets and find a bar in front of the harbour gate that still has some vacant seats.
We sit at a high table on bar stools, it turns out we have secured the best seats in the place. The bar’s exterior seating rapidly fills after we sit down and we are left with an unimpeded view over the heads of the crowd, of the band playing on the Stradun corner stage.
Young people are filling the street, girls obviously not so familiar with their towering heels totter down towards the stage area hanging onto each other for support.
A very young boy has discovered centripetal force in the street and is spinning a toy at the end of a long string around his body over and over. He has cleared a circle in the middle of the street however no one seems to mind.
Croatian’s are kind to their children and pets. Its another big thing about Croatia that we really like.
Handshakes and double kisses are offered everywhere.
Cigarette smoke blends with the smoke from exploding firecrackers being released by laughing teenage boys.
Pam orders a ‘fancy’ cocktail, Champagne with Brandy and Cointreau. I have a Cointreau on ice.
We each have another of the same.
At half past eleven the cover band is replaced with a hyper-energetic octet of dancers and singers who start chanting Croatian rap to the appreciative crowd.
We go back to our standard round of beer and wine.
The moment of climax approaches, the countdown commences.
We cry out our appreciation for the cacophony of man made stars bursting against the backdrop of the billowing smoke filled sky.
‘Finally some sparkles to accompany the big bangs’ Pam yells.
After hugs and kisses and best wishes for the New Born Year we forge our way back through the crowded Dubrovnik side streets.
Inside the Pile Gate, hanging lights remind me how old I am becoming.
I take the time to project my hopes for the New Year out into the Universe at large, where all possibilities hover.
May 2014 be the year where humanity finally sloughs off its bewildering, shimmering, vanity hued cloak of grandiose self delusion that binds us sticky, stationary in a pompous pointless web of intrigue, agenda, vendetta and secrecy.
May 2014 be the year that we fully embrace our species obvious potential for collective intelligence and free ourselves from the tyranny of the vile illusion of Value that currently enslaves us all.
Ready to dream ourselves a NEW worthy and worthwhile gestalt.
Ready to freely redirect and re-launch our somersaults of imagination whereby we drag our dreams into reality.
May we awaken, naked and humble, viewing this wondrous world through child’s eyes.
Ready to encourage the survival of all species to thereby ensure our own.
Ready to intelligently, communally, compassionately and peacefully rejoin, repair and rejoice in the entirety of LIFE on Earth.
Climbing the suddenly precipitous stairs back up to our apartment, for me is task enough for the moment.
Lets get started on the big stuff later in the morning.
I live in hope.