Thursday, 20 September 2012

Day 287: Gaaarrrrr!!!!! (15/08/2012)

When the sun rose over Luka Bay the phosphorescents retired to recharge their batteries, exhausted from last night's displays.

Far across the bay was a single white building, shimmering in the rising heat. The pilot book made no mention but judging by the small crowd of yachts jostling for position off shore, it was a sound bet that they had something we wanted.

The perils of overloading the inflatable had been all too obvious in Vis so we decided to motor over and join the throng. What was waiting was no casually constructed flop house but a rolling hacienda worthy of a film star. Row upon row of fresh vegetables grew up rustic trellising. Freshly watered peppers glistened in the heat. Giant tomatoes hung pendulously. A single crisp lettuce sat imperiously in the middle of a perfectly hoed patch of dark earth, protected by a dry stone wall.

Perhaps out of respect for its beucolic charm or perhaps because there was bacon and egg on the menu, the perfect vegetables were given a reprieve as we breakfasted in what has to be a top five eatery. Mindful of the extra calories accompanying the high fat option, departure was delayed for Simon, Adrian and John to perform a series of increasingly improbable mid air contortions while diving off the pontoon.

5.5 said Clare's score card. Nul Point answered Simon's red back as he slapped down with an agonizing yelp.

Leaving Luka Bay, we bid farewell to our tiny nocturnal sparkling friends and crossed the Brac channel to Ormis Harbour on the mainland. The trepidation we all felt at approaching Croatia's premier 12th century Pirate Stronghold soon found expression in something the former denizens would heartily have approved of.


What started out as a minor navigational disagreement about the position of the infamous sand bar that guards the town, soon escalated. By the time we had moored in the ancient harbour, the crew was in open rebellion, possessed by the blood-thirsty spirits of a thousand years of brigandry.

Menacingly overlooked by an Eagle's Nest fortress and a series of razor backed cliffs, the scurvy dogs had stripped me bare and pegged me out to die in the relentless heat of the mid-day sun. Proving that there is no honour amongst thieves, they looted my luggage, murdered the cabin boy and turned on each other as they squabbled over the booty.

Only the threat of withholding cocktails in a harbourside bar brought the piratical scum to heel; that and the prospect of facing down the gnarled old fisherman who came on board with a suspicious bulge in his trousers, offering 'something for the ladies'. It turned out to be a bottle of his home made palm based hooch, but as John diplomatically ventured, more or less to his heavily tattooed face, his single minded attention to Jess and Clare's exposed flesh suggested date rape rather than date wine.

Never the less, we took his wine and unceremoniously shooed him off the boat before booking and then boarding a river boat. It took us through a labyrinth of unconquerable gorges into which generations of pirates had  routinely retreated. Over the centuries, when the disruption to trade became too bad, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottomans and finally the Italians had tried and failed to clear the pirates from their Adriatic headquarters. They all eventually settled for bare-faced bribery. It always worked for a while but in the long term merely succeeded in stimulating the appetite for destruction that it sought to satisfy.

As a result, at various times in history, pirates ruled the Mediterranean.

We dined at a remote restaurant, far up the river, where everything was cooked on an open charcoal grill. Periodically, when you could venture within 10 feet of the grill without blistering, it was recharged by the shovelful from a mountain of red hot embers at the back of the kitchen.

A hot night wind funneled down the snaking gorge as we returned to Ormis. Rounding off our day as only true pirates should, we ate Red Bull ice cream and sat drinking grog late into the night, in a bar that used to be the Pirate King's private arsenal.

And how big was our hangover in the morning, I hear you ask?


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