|HIKING TO LUNCH FAR BEYONG THE VILLAGE PICTURED HERE|
Ante waited for us at the entrance gate when we arrived. Picture this: four dusty, thirsty, hungry hikers sitting at a table situated among a grove of olive trees, drinking ice cold beer and scarfing up oven hot, thick crusted bread lovingly made by hand. Ante knew the owners well -- a relatively young couple whose main goal was not only to cook quality food, but to do so in a slow-food movement style with all ingredients organically grown, either in their adjacent garden or in someone else's nearby. Their specialty was a veal roast cooked over an outdoor charcoal fire and simmered inside a ceramic dome. Granted the food was fantastic, but it was also the rural setting -- the ancient stone house, the outdoor kitchen, the graciousness of our cute waiter who started every sentence with I'm sorry, which I took to mean I'm sorry about my English, which was actually pretty good. Better than my Croatian. Then there was the charming chef, who invited us into his outdoor kitchen so we could watch how artfully he prepared the food, smell the aroma coming from under the ceramic dome and watch the pastry chef make semifreddo for dessert, although that was for dinner and not for our lunch. weep, weep.
|LAMBIK RESTAURANT ON THE ISLAND OF HVAR|
|THE ROASTED VEAL SIMMERED WITH VEGETABLES|
The next day we did the hike to knock your socks off. It wasn't as challenging as the last part of the Ronald Brown Pathway, which I wrote about in my last post. Instead, it was probably the most beautiful hike I have ever done -- ever. First, we were dropped off at the highest point (3500 feet) on the island of Hvar and told to walk along the ridge, follow the red circle markers, and eventually make our way down to the sea. Walking down hill might seem like a cop out, but keep in mind that this is Croatia and that means rocks, lots of them, and at times the path was narrow and steep with dropoffs. So, while the trail meandered down hill for a good part of the way, you still had to be careful not to slip on the rocks. We learned that most hikers take between six and seven hours to complete the circuit, so we knew it was going to be a long day, although the actual mileage was only about 8 or 9 miles. We stopped often to take photos and admire the views. With the exception of Bruce, the oldest, Mary Jane, Glen and I wore bright blue velcro knee straps that worked wonders in keeping our overused patella from wobbling around. The weather gods favored us with a bright blue sky, moderate temperatures in the low 70s, and a light breeze that kept us comfortable the entire way.
|THIS WHERE WE STARTED. NOTE: ROCKS. BIG ONES! AND ANOTHER CROSS. IT SEEMS THAT AT THE TOP OF EVERY MOUNTAIN THERE IS A CROSS.|
I'm as happy as a pig in shit. That's what I told Bruce as we made our way along the ridge with 360 degree views of jagged mountains and the bright blue sea with highlights of Caribbean-like aqua colored water lapping at its shore. And there was this delicate vegetation called fairy grass and white daisies. Now how beautiful is that.
|DAISIES LACED WITH DELICATE FAIRY GRASS|
|A VIEW OF THE ISLAND OF HVAR. THAT IS THE CROATIAN MAINLAND ON THE OTHER SIDE.|
|LOOKING DOWN TO THE END OF OUR HIKE|
Yes, I was happy as a pig in shit. How could life be better? Here I am in one of the most beautiful hiking spots in the world, with the man I love, and new friends I am beginning to love, enjoying the sounds and smells of nature, and not only hiking and feeling strong, but eating fantastic food too. Okay, reader, I promise to stop writing about food because, honestly, after that roast veal in the olive grove, nothing came close. Oh, wait a minute. This is not exactly true. The roast lamb cooked on the spit at the little outdoor restaurant near Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina came close. And the lunch of roast chicken and princess donuts at Apartment Ada in Gracac came close because we were enjoying it with our new Croatian friends -- Boris and Gordana. And what about the Prsut in Montenegro, and the grilled sea bass in Dubrovnik? They all came close too. Life is good, and now I'm on a diet. Well, sort of, not really.
|WORKING OUR WAY DOWN|
|DID WE REALLY COME DOWN FROM THERE?|
|THE FIRE ROAD WAS MUCH EASIER TO WALK ON|
|FOUR HAPPY PIGS IN SHIT WITH THEIR SOCKS KNOCKED OFF|