A hot and humid afternoon end of july, in southern Croatia, three tramps finishing what was left of a 20 kilo watermelon not without effort, come on people, one more slice each!
by the side of the road while sticking their thumbs out. A dutch caravan stops, the first time for me in one of these, seen hundreds of them and dreamed about getting a lift in this living rooms on wheels, but they usually don’t pick me up. It was a young a couple with a small dog and they went all the way down to Dubrovnik, it meant we managed to get to our destination before the night fell and wouldn’t have to spent another night on the road.
The road going the last 200km followed the coastline, view on all the islands and hills, the water glittering in the afternoon sun, Croatia is so beautiful, I don’t have words! We had to cross Bosnia for some 10 kilometers, I had not known before that Bosnia had this patch of coastline there. So more traffic appeared and we stood in line for the border thing, customs, aduana, passports, are we leaving the EU again? After all the kilos of watermelon all of us had to pee, but no one said a word, we suffered in silence when the car bumped over all the holes in the asphalt.
The queue advanced and finally it was our turn, standing under the border station roof, suddenly a heavy rain and hail came down, the sun never stopped shining and after 5 minutes it was sunny and dry again.We handed out passports of five nations and of course were asked to stop over and let them search the caravan. Police asked the drivers if they knew us and instead of simply saying yes, they told them they had just picked us up standing on the side of the road. The police then wanted to search backpacks for drugs or whatever, even when it was obvious that we were just traveling through leaving Bosnia again 10 kilometers down the road. Luckily our drivers took it easy, they had plenty of time, they didn’t need to pee. We asked the police for toilets – negative. You two, come with us. They led my two companions in one of their offices and didn’t come back for a long while. I was kind of worried, I knew they didn’t carry anything forbidden, but maybe they would get involved in some kind of political discussions or the police would be trying to tell them about the dangers of hitchhiking, what else could take them so long?
They came back and we went going down the road to Dubrovnik. Jason pulled out his phone and started playing a video. It was him playing the ukulele in front of two border police men in uniform, filming him with their cell phones. When they saw he was traveling with a Ukulele they asked him to follow them into one of the rooms, closed the door and asked him to play “Somewhere over the rainbow”, so one of them could film it and show it to his new born daughter, which he declined, but played some other song instead. That’s Balkans!
When we arrived in Dubrovnik (where you could walk around the old stone wall of the city for just 10eur, which some drivers recommended us), we jumped out of the car and before even saying goodbye to the drivers each found a tree to relieve themselves. The Kupari beach (beach of abandoned hotels) is a beach which now is kind of attraction to “alternative” travelers and photographers walking around the ruins of the big hotel complexes bombed in the nineties during the war, along with locals enjoying the beach. We found our friends at first sight, they were camping on a kind of abandoned terrace, few meters from the beach. So many friends we hadn’t met since last years Hitchgathering in Slovakia! They had beer and fruits and vegetables and each had all the stories from how they came hitchhiking to Kupari.
There were people who came all the way from Portugal, and some new faces also. We talked and talked and when the sun went down started cooking a nice and rich dinner for 12 people on two small gas stoves. It’s a pity the place was so dirty, We had to clean up a lot to be able to put our sleeping bags somewhere, you count walk barefoot because of all the glass lying around. The night was warm, so we slept right there without tents, some of us in the hammock. But according to our friends the last days they got pretty wet and cold. In the morning I sat on the wall by the water writing a letter, people one after another woke up and jumped naked in the water. After a while I followed, the water was transparent you could see the stones on the floor and all the small fish diving through with open eyes. Outside the sun dried us in few minutes, we started sweating and jumped in again. We washed all our clothes in the salty water, this summer could go on forever!
With one of the guys I went to the market to charge my phone and buy a watermelon for everyone. When we came back we saw a police car, apparently they come every day to tell the young people it was dangerous to be around this old building structures and that they didn’t want us to consume alcohol and drugs, and if we would be still there in the evening they would charge us a fine, maybe hoping for some euros to convince them not to come back. We didn’t want to crash this visit, so with the watermelon in our hands, but no knife we waited for them to leave the camp, which took like half an hour, Meanwhile we went to explore the yellow abandoned hotel, with trees growing inside already, where someone had sprayed “Hotel California” on the wall in shaky letters. I love abandoned places, although this was already a tourist attraction you could still see so much of its past and yet its taken over by nature, plants, wind and weather tearing it apart, slowly.
We passed our day swimming and talking and laughing at the beach. Eating watermelon. In the afternoon the police came again, pretty angry that we were still there, searched some backpacks, but found no drugs. In Croatia every thing is so cheap and it was even possible to dumpster dive some fruits and vegetables at the supermarket.
An old woman in bathing suit sat right next to us, coming closer, when we stood up, she sat right where we where, until we gave up, leaving the place to her. Where we then saw her from sunrise to sunset, defending her place on the wall by the beach!
After two nights we left, because, the police got more more annoying, and if we wanted to be in Albania by the official beginning of the Hitchgathering we didn’t have so much time left. Someone suggested to meet at a beautiful place in Montenegro where theres the ruins of an 14th century castle next to a huge lake and national park, where we could meet all of us and camp a night or two. So we did this. We split in again different teams, 10 people starting to hitchhike along the same road, meeting again randomly 20km further close to the Montenegrin border, where we met the same Police car that had visited us every day again, they shouted greetings and waved at us.