Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 9 - Dubrovnik, by way of... Hiking, Biking and Kayaking

Jesus, doesn't reading the title just exhaust you? Welcome to our last full day in Croatia! Let me preface this post by simply sharing that I am a very good friend.

Earlier in the week, when Cara and I were traipsing around like all of Dubrovnik, we met a simply adorable couple (who were from Chicago!!) while exploring the fortress we visited. Okay, so maybe we met them by asking them to take one several pictures of us hamming it up in front of the camera but WHATEVER. We ended up chatting with them for a solid half hour (GOD! I love Midwesterners) and TOTALLY bonded. Anyway, while we were chatting, they mentioned how they were going to be doing a full day "Pedal and Paddle" tour on Saturday and mentioned that there were likely spots available if we wanted to join along.

Of course (of COURSE!), Cara's whole FACE like lit UP at the contents of this full-day tour: you basically take a ferry to one island, kayak to a second island, bike through the vineyards of that island, and then kayak back. I swear, this sounded like Christmas to that girl. Me, on the other hand...

Well, all I have to say is I wish we had a picture to capture the moment.

Anyway, I don't know WHAT comes over me. I think I have a VERY skewed sense of my abilities when it comes to being all outdoorsy and active. Or maybe it's just that Cara's enthusiasm is super infectious. She's like the most positive, peppy person in all the land when it comes to outdoorsy activities. I mean, she made me feel like I could kayak the world with the accolades she gave me (which, believe me, were wholly NOT warranted) when we were kayaking through treacherous waters the other day.

A combination of all of the above will explain why we found ourselves at the pier, ready and waiting to meet our tour group for this Pedal and Paddle day-long tour. To be fair, I was only nervous about the kayaking. I figured I had the whole biking through the vineyards under control, since I bike a decent amount in Chicago.

We found our new friends (John and Ryan) almost immediately and the group rounded out with a fifth man and our tour guide. Once we all convened, we headed onto the ferry that was taking us to the first island. The ferry ride was actually pretty long, but that was just fine by me. The more time on that ferry, the less time... well, biking, hiking, kayaking and everything else in between!

They certainly wasted no time once we got to our island. Look at what was ready and waiting for us...

The tour guide was asking us if we wanted individual or double-person kayaks. All the guys were, of course, about the individual kayaks. When the tour guide turned to Cara and me, Cara looked at me (again, her face was all lit up like it was Christmas DAY or something!) and asked "What do you think?? You want to try individual kayaks??"

I swear, I wish we had a picture of my response. I just looked at her like she was outside of her mind (I seriously think she WAS!).

Needless to say, we ended up in a double-person kayak, thank you very much.

There weren't too many pictures taken of our kayak expedition to the next island, but I do have to say that the waters were a LOT calmer than the other day so I felt a lot more comfortable. Once we got to the next island, I felt totally empowered with my athletic abilities (although, let's be honest, Cara was doing most of the work... but WHAT?! She was a ROWER in college!) and ready to relax with a nice little bike ride through the countryside.

Yeah. Within the first FIVE MINUTES of this biking nonsense, I really thought I just wasn't going to make it. There are absolutely NO pictures documenting this nonsense, because the first five minutes legit were straight uphill. (It also didn't help that I had not figured out my gears by this point, so I think I made this a lot harder on myself than it really needed to be.)

I ended up walking my bike up part of the mountain we were scaling but oh well. Soon enough, I was able to hop back on and continue with this whole biking thing.

After a bit of biking through some pretty level terrain, we ended up encountering a steep downhill incline, which, quite frankly, I loved. I mean, it's sure better than going UPhill, right? After going all the way downhill, we ended up navigating through some small roads and ended up at this waterside restaurant for lunch.

I have to say, I loved our group. We ended up just hanging out and gabbing for wayyy longer than our tour guide anticipated - but what can I say? We were having fun! SO. MANY. LAUGHS (mainly about the Tour de France thing we'd just accomplished). Thankfully, our tour guide was super chill so he let us lounge about for a bit... it was only when he threatened that we may miss our ferry back to the mainland if we didn't leave soon that I got RIGHT into action. There was absolutely no way I was missing our ticket back to the mainland!

But first... first, we had to finish our bike ride.

Yeah... I'm not even going to bother lying with that picture. Here's what the situation more closely resembled:

Well, we ended up having to scale yet another mountain as soon as we started our sojourn back to our kayaks (I mean, we did have to get back uphill). I definitely ended up walking my bike up part of it. (Full disclosure: these pictures do NOT reflect the mountain we scaled... this was basically right at the top, thank you very much.)

I wasn't the only one though!

Once we scaled that, though, it was okay for a good stretch of it. I was all about taking in the views (and, okay, simply appreciating my ability to breathe evenly) while biking along level ground through the vineyards that were our scenery. There was one point, though, when our tour guide ended up biking next to me and chit chatting.

Okay, here's the thing - I know I have a natural gift for gab and can talk to like a brick wall. I love getting to know people, what can I say? So normally, I would be all about chit chatting with anyone and everyone - ESPECIALLY about their hopes and dreams of moving to America, which is what our tour guide was going on about - he was SO excited about the prospect. I am, after all, a fan of America and immigration and stuff. But when it comes to chit chatting while working out... well, there are limits to my gift for gab.

Poor guy - I was trying to keep up with the conversation, but I just couldn't CONCENTRATE! I was too busy focusing on not like huffing and puffing outta control on my bicycle! It was the point when we were biking along and he was trying to keep up some conversation when his exact words were: "Oh man... I hate this part" - because he knew exactly what kind of terrain we were approaching. Sure enough, before my very eyes was quite the uphill slope. I literally just looked at him and, without even thinking, responded with "Jesus. Serious?"

And that, my friends, is the point when he decided that I may not actually need a conversation buddy during this entire expedition.

(Just FYI, you can't really see the huge uphill slope that was approaching in this picture. I mean, gotta defend myself to an extent here!)

God, I was so ready to be over and done with this nonsense. But you can't forget... we DID have to kayak BACK to the original island we were at.

It was during this point of the journey that I got a serious case of the giggles. I don't understand WHAT was going on (I was likely delirious, let's be honest here), but I could NOT STOP LAUGHING. As a result, these pictures are a skewed representation of what I was actually feeling throughout the day.

Cara, on the other hand, was basically ready to start the day anew. It's like the treacherous biking up a mountain thing hadn't really fazed her in the least.

Alas, finally (finally!!) we ended up back on the island that the ferry was going to pick us up at. Oh, sweet heavens - I wanted to kiss the ground. The ferry ended up picking us up right on time and we had a nice, relaxing ride back to the mainland. Once there, we bid farewell to our new friends (talk about a great day of bonding!), and headed into Old Town for dinner at this rather delicious place called Oliva.

And, of course, DESSERT!

In retrospect, I have to say this was one of the best days ever. As much grief as I've given this whole experience throughout this post, I have to admit that I felt GREAT at the end of it all (I just knew I was going to be S-O-R-E the next day!). But what a fantastic way to end our stint in Croatia. After dinner, we ended up wandering around Old Town a bit more (we were having a hard time saying goodbye to Croatia!) before... well, folks, by this point, you know what's coming...

Heading back to our apartment one last time. In case you don't remember the path throughout ALL of my other blog post references, well... here you go (daylight version). Enjoy:

And that, my friends, concludes the grand trip to Croatia! The following morning, we were up before dawn to catch our super early flights back to the States. All in all, in case it isn't clear enough from my blog posts, I ABS-olutely loved this country and would ABS-olutely come back here to visit again. The people were some of the friendliest I've met, the cities were some of the safest I've felt, the food was some of the most delicious seafood I've ever had and... of course, the scenery. Words can't even describe...

Til next time!

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