Friday, June 9 (post by Janel)
We wake up on an island.
There’s a slight rush this morning (thanks, Time Beast). It’s that we’ve made plans with Islomania for a half-day’s boat excursion complete with stand-up paddle boards – and the first destination is The Blue Cave. The “fast boats” from Split arrive in droves starting at 9:30 – so to avoid a several-hour queue, it’s critical to get an early start.
There’s always time for coffee and a burek, though. I snag these from the bakery two minutes away.
Two have cheese, one spinach, and the crossaint has nougat. Most critically: they are warm.
Twenty minutes in the car gets us to Milna, the tiny bay where Islomania has its practically private dock. There’s already an intrepid paddleboarder in the water testing the winds.
Leah from Islomania asks if I’d like to try it on for size before heading out. Sure!
Like pretty much anything to do with balance, the trick is just not to think about it very much (well, that and having a low center of gravity). As long as you relax and don’t look down at your feet, it’s surprisingly easy to go from kneeling to crouching to full-on standing.
In the glassy waters of the bay, it’s no great shakes to get paddling in seconds. Nice!
Back on shore, we meet a British couple that will accompany us on the boat. The girl (Leslie?) is especially effusive, and we warm to the company straight away.
Our captain ushers us on board around nine, and we cast away towards the teeny nearby island of Biševo, where the Blue Cave is located.
It feels nothing short of SPLENDID to be back on a boat again. Leslie comments that I look like I’m in my natural state of being.
That way the wind laps at your hair on a speedboat reminds me of sunshine, salt, orange slices, scuba gear, and losing track of what day it is. I am unmistakably happy.
We arrive to Biševo in half an hour, cutting just in front of the first wave of boats from Split laden heavy with daytrippers. We disembark – you have to go by official dinghy to enter the actual cave. It’s super small, so there’s a capacity concern… plus it’s a pretty good racket given the constant stream of tourists.
We pick up tickets and quickly get on a dinghy.
It doesn’t take five minutes around the curve of the island to reach the opening. It’s so low that we all have to duck way down into the dinghy, giggling.
Once inside, the space opens up into a rocky bubble filled with otherworldly blue light, which gets filtered in through an underwater opening.
It’s lovely. Everybody Instagrams it.
We spend maybe four minutes in the cave, then turn around and go back to port. There are endless dinghys in tandem with us, an infinite stream of lookyloos with cameras (just like us, hey).
The Blue Cave is absolutely worth seeing… But absolutely not worth waiting hours in line for. We see the swarm of boats descending upon the island as we exit and pat ourselves on the back.
It’s a little choppy on the open-er ocean back to Vis – rather like a roller coaster at points – and we squeal with glee and adrenaline.
Once we get back to the island coast, there appears an opening in the rocks – another cave! Leslie and the three of us slide out on paddleboards towards the entrance.
Monk-seal cave used to be home to the eponymous critters, but now it’s just an empty secret spot. No currents in there, so it’s prime paddleboard material. We get brave and manuever past a series of rocks and low overhangs to reach a “beach” at the back where the seals used to live.
Turning back around in the narrow cave in the dark with not quite enough flashlights amongst us is fun and games. No one falls, though.
Back out to the boat. The captain slows the pace way down and asks if anyone has music on their phone they’d like to play.
I snap into DJ mode and crank up some Ratatat, St. Lucia, and Kiasmos – good boat music.
There’s a stretch of rocky cliffs for several miles here, and we drift along in no particular hurry. It’s ripe time for posing on the bow.
A mile out from Stiniva Beach (the famous one we climbed down to yesterday), the captain asks MP if we’d like to paddleboard in. A whole mile?! Maybe half a mile…
No problem. We get a bit closer then get back on our boards. Much choppier here than inside the cave sanctuary, though. Speedboats pass by constantly – a poor omen for how packed the beach is going to be – plus their wake is no fun to deal with.
We stay mostly on our knees the whole time, which is more stable but hard on the ol’ quads. Leslie and MP try a couple times to stand, but quickly (and elegantly) bite the dust.
Paddleboarding is a very slow form of travel. Feels good to be inching along on our own power, though. When we finally reach the bay of the beach, it is unbelievably crowded with boats – like ten times more than yesterday, and more zooming in every minute. We are the only paddleboards, and the boats have little to no respect for us.
We entertain the thought of a beach flyby for about a minute before deciding nah. Seen it. Good thing we enjoyed it yesterday.
MP and I clamber back into the boat. Dad gives standing up on the paddleboard the ol’ college try, and succeeds several times. He also takes a few great nosedives into the turquoise water.
Our last stop on this tour is the Green Cave, where a hole in the ceiling causes a sunbeam to reflect off the bottom and dance on the ceiling. It’s greenish.
We get about 15 seconds of it gloriously to ourselves – then about five other boats enter all at once. Yikes. Time to skedaddle.
We leave the boat where we first got on back in Milna bay, commenting continuously on what a great excursion it was. Unhurried, happy, and with plenty of sun to boot. And Kiasmos was a sweet cherry of a soundtrack.
Paddling in the sun has built up a huge appetite, so we zip across the island to Komiža, the other “big” town besides Vis itself.
We get ourselves wedged way down by the water before realizing the only real parking is back up at the edge of town. We ditch the car in a dirt lot, then head down to a restaurant that Google picked – but then have the thought that maybe we can hit up our dinner destination (Konoba Bako) for lunch instead. It’s on the other side of town, which is just far enough to be a hike when you’re hungry.
Alas, when we arrive, we find it’s only open for dinner. Uh-oh. More than “hangry,” the word is “exhausted.” Google makes one more suggestion – some generic place by the waterfront that I figure will be tourist fodder – but calories are calories.
After we make a selection from the huge menu, the waitress tells us that actually she only has two kinds of fish, gildhead and bass. Sure, okay. We order lifesaving beers and try hard not to eat too much bread + olive oil as we wait.
The fish emerge, a grilled beauty on each plate. Given what I think I know about tourist spots with the menu in five different languages, I have been bracing for fish fingers.
But the fish – the fish! It is OFF THE CHARTS. Unbelievably fresh.
It quickly becomes finger food for me and Dad – we go after every little morsel clinging to the bones.
The island sun shines upon us once more. Happiness is a fish on a plate.
We drive back to Vis town and crash into our beds for one of those good naps that seem to last a whole week.
Upon waking, it’s almost time to eat again. What? We have our priorities in order.
We mill around and blog a bit, some nipping on the homemade rakija that our host has kindly left for us.
We hop back into the car and climb over the hill between Vis town and Komiža. The sun’s setting and the whole island is bathed in colors.
I manage to lead Dad in the first wild goose chase of the evening down a back road that might lead straight to the restaurant but might also lead down a set of stairs. We eventually turn ourselves back around and park in the same dirt lot as before – whoops.
Making the second trek out to Bako is absolutely worth it, though, even if only for the view on approach. They have a seriously great spot overlooking the Komiža bay. Birds circle overhead.
The wooden sign outside of the restaurant proclaims prowess in grilled lamb. Yes and please.
You already know this song and dance: white wine from the island (dry, fruity, lovely!), buttery fish pâtè, slices of smoked tuna, meaty olives and capers. Then the big guns: a platter of grilled lamb with ajvar and a whole red snapper.
Yes. Two fish in one day. Happiness soars.
And yes, we close up the place. Our rhythm together is just right.
We like Vis, love Croatia, and are already musing about what all we’ll get up to when we inevitably come back for seconds.
I get a wild hair on the way back to the car and take us on a detour through the residential back streets of Komiža.
After a couple good low-light photo ops, eventually we emerge back onto the main drag. Who needs Google Maps?