I have been very remiss in not doing a blog of my trip to Croatia in July 2013. Regular readers of this blog will recall that I wrote about my time in the UK prior to starting as a tour guide. After I left England I was lucky enough to be posted to the lovely island of Prvic in the Sibenik archipelago nestled in the Adriatic Sea in the Dalmatian region of Croatia. I was there for six weeks from late July to early September during the long hot summer.
The island is tiny covering an area of around 2.5 square km, with a permanent population of around 450 people, making it the third most densely populated island in Croatia. There are no vehicles on the island apart from a few tractors and quad bikes. I stayed in the village of Prvic Luka which is a beautiful fishing village on the southern side of the island.
I was there to guide open water swimmers on a six-day swimming holiday around the islands close by. The swims were a mixture of coastal swims, or crossings from island to island, with distances ranging from 2 km to 4 km, depending upon the weather conditions and the ability of the swimmers in each group. The great thing about this location is that it is possible to get a swim in most days, regardless of the wind direction.
Each day would start around 6 am with a swim with my fellow guide in the dawn light, before we had breakfast and made lunches for the day. We would board our boat around 9 am and head out for a morning swim, the location of which would depend upon the prevailing weather conditions. After that swim we would head off to moor in a cove or go to one of the islands for lunch on board the boat. Sometimes we were lucky to have freshly harvested mussels cooked with sea water, garlic and lemon to accompany our prepared food. After lunch we would then have a swim in the afternoon, before heading back to Prvic Luka. We would then clean up, do some paperwork, prepare for the next day, and head out for dinner. Once a week we would do the grocery shop on the mainland with a twenty minute trip in the rigid inflatable boat, surely a much better way to do it than battling traffic in a car at the local shopping centre.
Now swimming in Croatia is simply divine. The water is warm, quite salty (which assists with flotation), visibility is excellent with at least 15m in some parts, there are minimal tides, there is no swell or rips, and there are no sharks. The biggest risks are the sea urchins on the rocky shorelines, and the wasps. The risk of a brush with an urchin was diminished by the deep water start and finish points for each swim via the boat.
Each week would see us guiding up to 15 swimmers with a large range of abilities and experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the times with the swimmers who all shared a love of open water swimming. We had fun, and I was impressed with their willingness to swim twice a day in the hot sun. Some weeks the better swimmers would swim 30 km or more.
Some of the places we swam included Prvic, Zlarin, Kaprije, Zirje, Zmajan, Obanjan, Tijat, Lupac, Sibenik, and Kakan. After several weeks I still struggled with the correct way to pronounce some of these names. Needless to say I often had to resort to pointing on the map when discussing the day’s swim with our excellent boat captain.
It was great to be living on the island for six weeks, enjoying the rhythm of island life, picking figs, getting to know some of the locals who made me feel very welcome, even if I had this habit of trying to follow the Ashes cricket from England ( at least Australia had qualified for the 2014 World Cup of Football in Brazil at that stage, unlike the national team of Croatia who only qualified in November), and learning about some of the long history of this part of the world. I loved the weather as it was hot and dry, and the sun by Australian standards was quite mild, though some of the Irish had issues.
But all good things have to come to an end, and after only six weeks my posting was over. It was hard to say good-bye to the friends I had made, but at least there is the possibility that I could come back in summer 2014.