Each year, HCC organises a trip abroad for interested club members. This year the destination was Croatia and I decided to join.
As the date approached I felt a mixture of emotions: how would I cope in a sea kayak for the first time? Would I be fit enough? Would there be an opportunity to drink cocktails or would it be hard core paddling from dawn to dusk? And where on earth was my travel plug…
I needn’t have worried as Andrew was at the helm. Whilst he couldn’t help me find my travel plug (in the cupboard under the stairs – phew), he had organised everything from travel to kit hire and paddling routes. We were in safe hands.
Six of us had signed up – myself, Jenny, Peter L, Derek, Norma, and Andrew. We met on Saturday June 20 at silly o’clock at Gatwick, all bright eyed and bushy tailed eager for adventure! After a relatively painless journey we arrived in Dubrovnik and were seamlessly transported into the town to spend the day sightseeing. The weather wasn’t great but we made the most of our time there, with a nice lunch and a wander around. We then caught the ferry to our main destination of Lopud, an island approximately an hour away.
Andrew had organised boat and kit hire from a company called Huck Finn and although they gave us the option to stay with them as well, we organised our own accommodation on the island at the Hotel Glavovic. This was a good choice as although the hotel we picked was basic, it was right on the sea front and in the centre of everything.
On Sunday we made our way to the beach to collect our boats and kit. Four of us were in Prijon Seayaks, and Norma and Andrew in the double Prijon Poseidon. Jenny and I had decided to take our buoyancy aids with us on the trip, and I think that this was a really sensible decision. Although the Huck Finn PFDs were adequate, we had the advantage of our own fitting us correctly, pockets for all our stuff, and all important hydration bladders.
We set off around 10.30, heading in an anti-clockwise direction around Lopud. It took me some time to adjust to the sea kayak, as there is no rudder and your knees have to be pressed at the side of the boat under pads as opposed to together. Steering involved a lot of core work.
It was a lovely day to paddle and although much harder work to cover the same distance as we would on the Thames, it was great fun. We stopped to investigate a cave and landed at Sunj beach for refreshments. The scenery was amazing, crystal clear blue waters and islands dotted around off the mountainous mainland. The last part of the paddle was challenging for a novice like myself as we had to paddle into Force 4 winds. We covered approximately 13km.
On Monday the six of us set off from Lopud and headed north to go anti-clockwise around Otok Ruda and land in Sudurad on the island of Sipan for refreshments before paddling back across to Lopud covering 7km. Although the distances seem relatively short, it is far harder to paddle on the sea than in the Thames, with wind, waves and not least the sun and heat. We were all very well prepared with the appropriate gear, which included ample water, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and some snacks. It is hard to take on enough fluids whilst battling in the waves, so my hydration bladder was a life saver. I personally needed about 2 litres each trip.
On the third day of paddling I decided to take a day off as I was suffering from rotator cuff and tendonitis issues. The other five headed out from Lopud to cross over to the mainland to Trsteno which was a 30-35 minute open water crossing both ways. They landed in a little harbour and walked up to find a café and the two 500 year old Plane trees that are famous in the region. It was force 3 most of way back on that 8km paddle and the group managed to capture some dramatic photos, including one of Jenny almost going in for an unexpected swim!
I, meanwhile, had ideas of catching up on my reading – chillaxing on the beach with my Kindle, perhaps having an ice cream, admiring the view, you get the drift. This wasn’t to be as Carole – who had joined us in a non-paddling form – had other ideas. “Stand up paddle boarding!” she exclaimed! So SUP it was. We hired two boards from Huck Finn and were left to our own devices. I have never done SUP before either, but Carole informed me it was great fun and easy. I disagree. I spent the next couple of hours cruising up and down the shallows going from sitting to knees, then back to sitting again. Carole was determined to get up on her board, but unfortunately had no success either so decided to take up a coaching role. We were fully engrossed when the others paddled back from their morning trip.
HCC members are pretty game, so all the other five wanted a go on the SUPs. I was disgusted when both Peter and Jenny – also newbies – got up instantly to their feet and started floating around. This inspired me to do the same (there’s nothing like a sense of competition to get me going). Then Norma and Andrew both had a go too, it was great fun. Reluctant to get out of the water, Andrew suggested we practise rolls and self-rescues, which we enthusiastically agreed to. I was very happy that I managed a deep-water self-rescue, and Andrew, Derek, and Peter all did rolls (with varying degrees of success!). I felt an element of smugness as we had an audience on shore, with people no doubt thinking to themselves “wow, look at those professionals, they are so at one with their boats and the water…I wish I was like them” – BOOM! – HCC rock! Just saying…
Wednesday came around and the weather was not good. We had planned to go to Sipan to stay for two nights but the forecast was ominous. Derek, Peter, Jenny and I took a walk around the island whilst we waited for the weather to clear up but on the way back we got caught in the storm. It was quite a spectacle, we watched it getting closer and closer until we realised we would be right in the middle of it and sure enough, we got drenched by torrential rain.
Fortunately it cleared up as quickly as it came, and the scary white tipped waves that I had been eyeing up nervously in the morning had dissipated. We packed our gear and headed off around 16.20. I had already started to love the sea kayak, it really gives you a sense of independence as you can pack loads into it and just head off on your adventures.
We paddled past Otok Ruda and stopped at a beach café on Sipan. It was hard work on the last leg as the sea was a bit rough from the storm and we were heading into F2-3 winds and the setting sun, making it very bright in our eyes. Jenny started suffering from sea sickness, which a few of us also felt over the next couple of days. We turned into the bay between Jakljan and Sipan, arriving in Port around 20.15 – a hard day of approximately 16km.
We were staying at the lovely Hotel Sipan which put on a great and comprehensive breakfast, which is definitely needed for paddling and all the fresh air! After brekkie we set off to go and look for a nice beach as both Jenny and I had dreams of a relaxing day and Kindles again, but we failed to find one. The island is very rocky and difficult to land anywhere. Instead we continued to paddle up the north end of Otok Jakljan, turning to port and paddling along the Adriatic side and coming back to Sipan bay to land at a private beach for ice creams and a rest. The bar owner was less than impressed at the arrival of six kayakers, and told us in no uncertain terms that “this is a beach”. We weren’t sure what to do with that revelation, so Jenny did her best to improve foreign relations by assuring him we would be buying lots of ice cream.
We messed around in the surprisingly cold water, took some unsuccessful underwater photos and then pootled back at a slow pace to Sipan. After this hard day of 15km, we all met up for dinner at a local restaurant where Andrew ordered soup but didn’t get any cutlery. He improvised and drank from the bowl, causing much hilarity around the table and some embarrassed looking waiters!
Then before we knew it, it was Friday, our last paddling day. The six of us set off at around 09.30 up Sipan Bay then turning to port to run with F2-3 winds behind us along the Adriatic coast of the island back to Lopud. This was a hard 12km paddle, the waves were big, and once we had committed to the journey there was no turning back. I was tired, a bit seasick, and had eaten too close to starting paddling. This resulted in me throwing up whilst in the boat (this is a warts an’ all account), which is no mean feat when you are going up and down in one metre + waves!
It was quite sad to load up the boat rack for the last time, return our paddles and check out of the Hotel Glavovic, but it had been an incredible holiday. There was a perfect balance of amount of paddling versus free time, and although we spent a lot of time together as a group off the water as well, there were no hard feelings when we needed time to ourselves. (By this I mean Jenny and I going for a cocktail. Okay, two cocktails. Once during the whole week. Okay okay, every night. I really don’t understand the need to count…).
I can genuinely say that it was one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on, the company was great, the paddles fantastically organised and in safe hands, and the place was stunning. All I can say is “roll on next year!” I hope that even more HCC-ers join us next time!