Yes, I did it again... I got on a plane and buggered off from Cambridge slap-bang in the middle of the exam period, just like I did last year. Cambridge this time of the year is boring as hell, everyone is stressed, and most importantly, I haven't seen Aisling for a long time, so it was time to do some travelling. I have already written about why I went on the trip, but I thought it would be worth writing about what we were up to in Hvar in a bit more detail. Hvar is super touristy, but we decided to explore some places that were off the beaten path... and when I say off, I mean far off!
But let's start at the beginning! We started looking at options for travelling somewhere in May a long time ago, searching for places for a cool, low-buck camping holiday. My Dad jokingly sent me a link some time ago about a nomadic off-grid camp on Hvar island in the middle of nowhere, saying that this definitely would be my thing. I took the joke seriously and booked a few nights, so this is how we ended up in Cast Away. EasyJet had dirt cheap flights (seriously, the Luton-Cambridge bus cost about as much as the Split-Luton flight!), so that was sorted as well.
I hopped on the flight to Split where I would later meet Aisling, however I first had to face a major disappointment: Cambridge had way nicer weather the day I flew than Split. Split greeted me with cold winds, heavy rain and for a while it looked like even a storm might develop. Certainly not what I expected, but Split was only a stepping stone on our way to Hvar, so it didn't really matter. Aisling arrived around 2 am after a super long bus ride from Budapest and the next morning we jumped on a ferry to Stari Grad on Hvar island. Just after sailing out of Split harbor, the weather turned lovely and sunny and it stayed that way for the entire duration of the trip.
We stocked up on food and Cockta in Stari Grad and the owner of Cast Away, Didier came to pick us and our fellow camp-dwellers up with his van. Since the tunnel through the hill was closed, we had to go the long route, along the coast on narrow dirt roads with massive cliffs to the side. Certainly not a place where you want to make a mistake! But Didier is a fine driver and we soon arrived to camp.
The camp consists of 10 little beach huts, which are simple A-frame structures out of plywood with a comfy mattress inside. There is a house which is currently being expanded to provide a bit less nomadic accommodation as well. Many cool little tables and seating areas are built out of recycled pallets, there is a grill with a sea view and some hammocks too. It is directly on the seaside with the beach about 30 seconds away. It is also sure that you will be able to unplug here - no WIFI to disturb you and electricity is only provided for a few hours each day through a generator. Definitely my type of place!
Did I mention how amazing the view was? I don't think I've ever had such a nice sea view directly from my bed. Not kidding, even the little window on the toilet in camp had a better view than most 5 star hotels! It is also out in the middle of nowhere. It's just next to the village of Gromin Dolac, but it's a bit of a euphemism to call that place a village: it's just a few houses next to each other, with literally nothing there. 4 km on the dirt road takes you to Zavala where there is currently one working restaurant and one bar, but the rest of the places are still closed as it is out of season. That one restaurant is rather pricey, but the food is damn good and the portions are the size of small mountains.
But you don't come to this place to go to restaurants and go shopping, you come here to escape civilization, to climb hills, to ride mountain bikes, to swim in beautiful places and to cook for yourself on a grill with a sea view. The only reason you might want to use things like mobile internet is to send a few pictures to your friends who are sitting in the library studying, to make them feel even more shit about themselves (sorry!).
The day after we arrived, we set off on a long hike up the hill just above Zavala, climbing from sea level to about 600m, which is not bad at all considering how small the island is! While it's not peak summer heat yet, it was certainly blazing hot and we trundled all the way up to the top, constantly amazed turn after turn by the beautiful views as the road snaked its way up the hillside. One of the best moments came as we were nearing the top of the hill and for the first time, we could see the sea on both sides of the island. Aisling was a bit sick, so for her the climb was a little less thrilling, but she decided that we should push on to the top and I think it was certainly worth the effort in the end.
While there is a taller peak on the island a little further called Sveti Nikola, that would have been a bit much for a single day and that's only about 20 meters higher. This peak already gave beautiful views all around the island, across the ridge that runs along its whole length and out to sea in all directions. There were also some interesting remains of trenches and a half-collapsed little wooden tower, so I think there was some sort of a small military observation station here at some point.
The way down was much easier and we stopped to pick some wild sage and rosemary (which grow all over the hills) to spice up the grilled dinner. The rest of our time at Cast Away was mainly chilling at the camp and its beach and just walking around the area. On the last day, I rented a mountain bike and rode it all the way to Ivan Dolac, which is a village further away. I found some pretty cool abandoned cars and a firetruck. I also decided to buy some wine which the locals sell by the road to go along with the grill dinner. Wine also happens to be the only thing you can buy, as the shop is closed here as well. 16-17 km may not sound like much, but there were a lot of uphill bits, so I arrived back with very tired leg muscles. Grilling sausages and vegetables along with the Merlot made for a fitting dinner for our last night on the island and we had plenty to share with the other guests at the camp.
The next morning was a bit sad, as we packed up and headed to the ferry, but we still had a day in Split afterwards. We certainly felt we could spend at least another week or two in this secluded part of the island. This trip was a special experience because I've been to Hvar many times before, but I was always around Hvar town with all the tourists, and here I got to appreciate the potential of the island for sports, for hiking and biking and not just the lovely beaches!
Sadly all trips like this must come to an end at some point, so after a day exploring Split, Aisling and I had to say our goodbyes and we both headed back to the inescapable boredom of exam preparation.