Split to Supetar on Brač Island, via ferry; Supetar to Bol via bus; Finding the campground higher than we'd hoped; Camping under the almonds, grapes and olives; Surrendering our passports under protest; Victims of an advertising hoax; Mediterranean beaches just ain't right, even when people do have their clothes on; A horrible fat man obliges us to move our tent; Tortoises!; Figs, oranges, pomegranates and plums

We’d decided to take the ferry to Bol on Brač Island, since it was home to the famous Golden Horn beach, which looked amazing from photographs (more on that later). There was only one ferry from Split direct to Bol each day, though, and it wasn’t until 4pm. Rather than waste the day in Split, which we felt we’d already seen, we decided to take one of the hourly ferries to Supetar instead, which is on the north side of Brač Island, - and take the bus to Bol.

The ferry was fun. I can never really get enough of ferries, especially when you get to ride up on the deck like we did this time. The sun was beautiful and the Adriatic coast slipped by on our left as gulls hovered just off the railing. The trip was only an hour and we arrived at Supetar just after noon. As luck would have it there was a bus to Bol which left soon, so we hustled to the bus station. The trip to Bol also took an hour, and was 40 kuna for both of us (about CAD$9) as opposed to the 30 for the ferry. Economies of scale at work, I suppose.

Bol is a tiny town on the seaside, completely devoted to the tourist trade. All the restaurants are ridiculously expensive and there are no useful shops, only souvenir stands. For all that, though, it’s a pretty place, with its buildings stepping up the hill and down to the water, and its grapevines and pomegranate trees. Even its harbour manages to be pretty, somehow. Our first task on arriving was to find a place to stay. One look at the town was enough to tell us that we’d never be able to afford a room there, so the original plan to find a campground was still in force. All the campgrounds, as we’d seen from the bus, were up the hill inland, so we had a half-hour’s hot, dusty, sticky walk uphill. Neither of us were used to the heat anymore, so it felt as if the sun hit us like a hammer and stole all our energy. In the end, though, we found the place we were looking for, and were shown a place under a lovely cool arbour of olive trees and grapevines. There was one almond tree too, I discovered, and since I’d already borrowed a hammer to set up the tent, I had a grand time smashing almonds out of their shells and feasting on them.

The owner of the campground was annoyingly vague about the price, quoting us something between 80 and 100 kuna per night. Although this wasn’t outrageous - 100 kuna is about CAD$23 - in return we were annoyingly vague about how long we were staying. We knew it was overwhelmingly likely that we’d be staying at that campground the whole time we were there, and also very likely that we’d be staying three nights, we somehow felt it necessary to assert our independence. Also, he demanded to hold our passports during our stay, which practice makes me very nervous and unhappy. It was a long-establishd and reputable family business, so I could be fairly certain our documents were at no risk, but I still have being parted from them for even a second. One of these days I really need to get around to photographing all its pages, just in case the worst happens.

Since it was early enough in the day, we decided to take ourselves off to the beach. Bol is home to the Golden Horn beach, which is a triangle-shaped point poking out into the Adriatic, the tip of which changes shape over time - how, I’m not sure, since the Med has no tides. From its publicity photos the beach looks fabulous - beautiful yellow sand and wide beaches on both sides of the point. I was so enchanted by the idea of a sand beach at last that I didn’t look closely enough at the photos to notice that the colour balance was all off, and everything in the picture was way more yellow than it really is. You can see where this is leading - the beach wasn’t sand, it was rocks just like every other Mediterranean beach. Call me a sucker, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. Don’t get me wrong, it was nicer to be on a beach than not to be on a beach, and the sun was lovely, and I felt we’d earned it after Romania. But there’s something unsatisfying about Mediterranean beaches - it could be the rocks, or the lack of surf, or the hordes of chain-smoking Europeans, I’m not sure. Part of the problem, I think, is that I’m used to Caribbean beaches, all sand and seashells, and a big drift of rocks and cigarette butts just isn’t very appealing to me.

The other part of the problem, of course, is all the naked people - yuck. I made the mistake of following Sheryl outside of the public beach areas into the more secluded coves. Never again will I make that mistake. I’m all for attractive young naked people, but there aren’t any of those in Europe. If I saw one naked great-grandmother, I saw a thousand, not to mention all the old men. They cover the beach like elephant seals basking. The worst part? You can’t tell which ones are men and which ones are women. They all look the same. For heaven’s sake, nudity taboos exist for lots of good reasons. Sheryl thinks I’m an idiot for being grossed out by all this - she’s welcome to her opinion, naturally, and she thinks I’m an idiot for so many reasons that one more won’t matter at this point - but I’m not about to change my mind. I don’t want to see your genitals unless I ask, and I don’t think that’s really very unreasonable.

Anyway, I digress. We spent three days on Brač Island, more or less going between the beach, the supermarket and the campground. The campground itself was comfortable, though we were horrified to discover on returning from the beach the first day that a morbidly obese man had set up his tent not a foot from ours. This made us cringe because we knew his snoring would be hideous and keep us awake all night. This was confirmed when we saw him empty his pockets and put down his asthma inhaler beside his cigarettes. It was too late to move the tent though - the only available spot was immediately on the other side of his tent. We were right, we had a rough night. Such a sickening cacophany of gasps, grunts and pig-like snorts I hope never to hear again. I slept with my iPod on , the volume turned up to almost as high as it would go, to try and drown out the sounds. We moved the tent at our earliest opportunity the next day, when someone else had packed up and left. No sooner had we, though, that a German family set their gigantic tent up - you guessed it - less than a foot from ours. They were quiet, thank god, be really. What is it about Europeans at campgrounds? They put their tents as close together as they can. If you look at any campsite in Canada you’ll see the tents as far apart as possible to give people their privacy. I have a theory about the European camping experience: I think that the kind of people who go camping in motor-home parks are scared of the big bad wilderness, and so they cluster as closely as possible out of fear. I don’t know, it’s just a theory.

Lest this entry seem like an unrelievedly negative one, let me relate three happy things. First: There are so many fruit trees in Bol, it’s wonderful. I felt like I could have just eaten off the trees and not bothered with the supermarket at all. There were olives, grapes, almonds, figs, oranges, pomegranates and plums. Only the figs, almonds and grapes were ripe. I tried a fig and surprised myself by quite liking it. Second: Our last night there we were chatting with an English couple and they gave us honey, which neither of us had had for ages. Third (and most important): At the campground there was a sitting area with tables and a single plum tree in a stone ring. Inside that stone ring lived two tortoises! The big one never moved very much, that we saw, but the little one was always trundling around and eating lettuce. He was so cute. We got a picture of Spidey riding him, and then thought it was only fair to get a picture of him riding Spidey. Neither of them enjoyed that experience, so it was short-lived.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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