THE ROAD TO CRES : Saving the Vultures of Croatia~Part Ten

Leaving was looming so I extended my stay from a week to ten days. Then the idyll began to sour a little. In a way it was the perfect end to a perfect holiday. I would have found it so difficult to leave had everything been as it had been at the beginning. Two things made the leaving easier. The first were Bonks’ friends (Bonk being a ludicrously named silent volunteer with an equally silent young son). They were a group of crusties with children and a ‘fairy chair’ in tow. They had spent a couple of years making this ‘fairy chair’ to donate to the Eko-Centar so they decided that this arduous project exempted them from cleaning up after themselves or doing any work at all. It didn’t seem to occur to anyone that making the chair might have taken so long because there may have been a lot of time spent investigating the wonder of a fingernail, dancing about in moonlight shadows or talking to wood shavings. They dominated the dinner table, talking loudly in Croatian, making no attempt to mingle. To add insult to injury they had brought their didgeridoos with them. The peace was broken. Goddamn Hippies.

Then to top it all a group of eight Hungarians, another family, arrived. They, by dint of being a family, were also somehow exempt from the round of chores.

Molly, Marina, Sandra and I, four single women-are doing the cleaning for 15 people. I am furious. I am so sick of being discriminated against because I am alone and female.

I am still convinced that was part of it. The ‘family’ is a formidable thing to face down so the powers that be at the Eko-Centar let all the work fall to those who had no ‘excuse’. If I ever regret not having kids it is primarily because they seem to be a great excuse to act in ones’ own interests (while getting tax breaks, houses, extra leave and extra money for it). If only we could’ve reneged on our responsibilities too. The irony is that single, childless people get called selfish on a regular basis…

…oh look, eight years later and I can still work up a good rant but I had specifically gone on that holiday as I was a lone traveller, to meet and work with others, not to slave for them or be ignored by them. Cleaning toilets for a bunch of tossers never sits well with me and having a child or making a fairy chair does not mean you ain’t a tosser. It was like a microcosm of the nuclear family centred society at its worst. I didn’t realise how annoyed everyone else was too until, on a visit to Zagreb to see Marina two years later, I was tickled to find she was still referring to the chair as ‘That Stupid Chair’.

This was the downside to the relaxed period the centre was going through. No one had the gumption to enforce any rules. Looking back we were extraordinarily lucky to get the week out of it that we did. The second thing that happened, may have been an indirect result of this. Alenka in her role as volunteer manager was determined to show us she was in charge by imitating one of Francs legendary outings even though we tried to talk her out of it.

The day began to disintegrate before lunch as I tried to get a last sign done but kept getting distracted. An Irish couple arrived and I ended up guiding them so we didn’t finish the kitchen until 2:30, the excursion was at 3. We spent five hours in a baking hot car to see a lake, a watchtower and a village.We did see a school of dolphins through the binoculars from the side of the road from Beli to Cres but the whole day was not worth it.

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Pod of dolphins…very far away…

There were four of us, Alenka, Molly, Quentin and me. I remember my feet burning up on the floor of Alenkas’ tin pot car as it bumped along the dry, rocky roads to the point where I was swapping feet, propping one up off the floor and then the other. I was car sick a lot of the time too. (I had a similar, or even worse, experience on a trip to Sicily one time, trapped in a car during a heat wave on an enforced day-long educational tour following a couple of mafiosi around…but that’s another story). It was like being back at school. Only really, really hot. The only thing missing was Vivien Pogge in the back seat throwing up her banana sandwiches…16

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Fire Watching

Looking at the photos now it is hard to see it as a nightmare. That’s the thing about photos I suppose. Still, I am glad I got to see more of the island. We visited some fire watchers in their tower above Lake Vrana which supplies water to the south of the island. There is no swimming allowed in this lake and it is in fact a preserved area and bird reserve.

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Click to embiggen!

The village was Lubenice, a famous spot. It is an ancient fort town built on cliff top and dates back to Roman times. It is a UNESCO heritage site. It was nice but Cres town and Veli Losinj were just as nice I thought and there are quirkier towns with narrow streets and less modern renovations around the Mediterranean. I guess the history makes it interesting but we didn’t have time to hang about.

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Me and Alenka at Lubenice

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At the foot of the cliffs there is a famous swim into caves. As I am afraid of deep water and I was told I couldn’t swim off the beach down there I didn’t push to go down. Now on Googling it I see there’s very nice beach there. Oh a swim would’ve been so nice! We met Marina and Sandra here and they did go down to swim in the caves. This was the thing that frustrates me when I am travelling with others. I hate being forced into an itinerary. Sicily was the most extreme example of that (and that’s another story) and it’s a reason why I prefer to travel alone…or with people I can push around…

Back in Beli for 8pm, had to pack, clean up paints, help with dinner. We did go for a beer, Molly, David, Sandra, Marina and I, in the pension up the hill, but we were all shattered.

The previous evening I had gone for a swim. I wrote in my diary on the beach…

As I was leaving the center, two of the crusties were taking out their digeridoos…argh. Before this family arrived it was different, people came together. Now we have a narrowly defined group in our midst…its’ like my holiday is over already…

I miss the drama of the Irish skies. Not looking forward to going back but not really wishing to stay either, what a relief.

But then…

The sea deep turquoise, ripples in a molten silver, blushing pink, reflecting the dusking sky above..

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Tomorrow: The Road Home.

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