I can barely bring myself to leave.
If the legend is true, then I can fully understand why Odysseus ended up spending 7 years here, for the stunning Emerald Isle has kept me captive for way longer than I had intended. I was due to leave yesterday, then I re-scheduled to this morning, and as things stand, I have missed 4 ferries today.
I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.
Oh yes, that’s it…. “I don’t want to leave!”.
Every time I get closer to the ferry port, I see a new turn in the road, and even if it’s marked as a dead end, I know it won’t be. It’ll just be another slice of Mljet magic for me to enjoy, and further delay going home.
There’s been magic at every turn, and that’s because on day 1, I decided to ditch all my plans and just go with the flow. I just love that space in time of “nothingness”, just a blank sheet to fill up with who-knows-what, and Mljet is the perfect place for this.
As the charming man at the Tourist Information Centre in Polace tells me -
“There’s a space for everyone by the lake”.
Of course it’s not just the lakes, which form part of the National Park, the whole island is an abundance of space, and untouched natural beauty. No need to get down early to reserve your sunbed, no need to worry about imposing on anyone else’s territory. You just find your own spot, just for you.
It turns out my space is on the small lake, in a one-person kayak, reclining against my rucksack with a travel pillow supporting my head. There’s no wind, no tide, not even another soul on the water, just me, floating on a sea of bliss. There’s not a cloud in the sky, and not a cloud in my mind, and it was from that moment of bliss, emptying out the mind and body of all stress that the magic started to happen.
I find a simple pension, Matana Pomena, as close as I can to my spot on the lake, which has all I need and great value for money. It’s run by a woman called Inka, who is the embodiment of health and wellbeing. Not surprising as the garden is full of leafy greens, even the goats seem happy.
I discover the best spot to enjoy the sunset, Konoba Adio Mare, literally a couple of meters from the water, with a glass of wine and some fish soup. The owners proudly tell me they have been together for 35 years, and when they look gratefully to the view they enjoy every day from their restaurant, I think it’s as close to marital bliss as I have seen.
There’s no need for fancy, or expensive luxury touches, there’s a beauty in the simplicity of it all, but I must admit that my eyes are drawn towards a speedboat, which reminds me of how I loved my rib rides with my friend back home. I take a photo and send it to my friend, joking that I’m going to find out who it belongs to, and catch a ride.
The next day, I had made zero plans, but as I wake up, I am suddenly inspired to go and find Odysseus’ cave – the place he apparently spent 7 years recuperating from his epic voyage while being captivated by Calypso.
It’s a car journey down to Babino Polje, and there’s a walking trail to take you down to the cave, where you can jump in and swim into the cave itself. Easy-peasy, I think.
A gentle saunter, it isn’t. More of a scramble in places, down a rugged path, and I have “snake anxiety” the whole way. I’d been told there are only a few snakes left on Mljet, as they’ve mostly been eaten by the mongoose/mongooses/mongeese (I still don’t know which it is!). Still, a “few” is still a “few” too many for my liking, and being the only soul on the path, I am convinced they are going to find me, so it’s not the relaxing of walks.
When I arrive, I’m one of the first people there, and although I get straight into the water with my snorkel and mask to swim into the cave, for the second time, I feel slightly vulnerable on my own. I’m halfway into the cave, in the darkness, and I’m convinced that something just bit me, and I’m regretting being so much of a lone wolf.
Then I realise I’m not alone. There’s a group coming up behind me, 2 on a paddleboard, and 2 in the water. I swim in alongside them, and I feel much better. The light coming through the cave hits me, and I feel so alive, and I think of Odysseus and how he must have felt arriving after was a much tougher journey than mine!
It was the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m braver now and I happily swim out of the cave on my own. Then I see the boat. It’s the one I took a photo of the day before, so I know it’s come from Pomena.
As tempting as it was to take the “snake path” back, the offer of an exhilarating ride home with Mljet Explorer was just too good to turn down, especially as the kind people on the boat offered me a lift to my car the next day. Thank you Kristoff and Zuzana – until the next adventure!
Again, I know how Odysseus must have felt – leaving the cave in a much better state than when he arrived, taking time and space to recover, accepting the help of others even though he’s a lone wolf, and only leaving when he’s good and ready!
Aah Mljet…. Still here.
Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Konavle. A professional Wellness Consultant she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo.
To find out more about Gillie go to www.behappyfit.co.uk
Read more Gillie here