We are underway. The walk has started. Toto, our dog, is leading the way on the next 1,100 km, as we walk the South West Coastal Path. And something occurred to us on the very first day, could Toto be making Croatian history? Is he the first ever Croatian sheepdog to walk the path?
We have met literally hundreds of dogs on the first few days of our walk, this is truly a dog-friendly country in every sense of the word. And of the many walkers we’ve met along the way the majority have had their four-legged friend with them. And Toto has been drawing attention. “Really, I didn’t know Croatia had sheepdogs,” is the normal response we get as our super friendly dog jumps into the arms of another stranger.
And Toto is very much the opening into our “Where are you from and what are you doing the walk for” questions. Firstly, there are many people walking, but very few, well exactly none so far, who are walking the whole route. When we explain that we’ll be hiking for the next two months (at least) we are usually met with raised eye-brows and comments of “well done” when they realise why we are doing it. And then the Croatia question. The responses have been mixed to say the least. We’ve had everything from “I bet you hate Putin,” to “Oh, I went their on a stag night,” to “I heard that Dubrovnik is really expensive,” (in fact, we get that one quite a lot), to “I went on a cruise there once and it was really busy.”
One that really shocked us was a little surreal. We were in the middle of nowhere on our daily walk (a place where we often find ourselves) and one man stopped to talk to us. “Oh, yes Dubrovnik, I have heard that you guys go across the border into Bosnia to go shopping and eat in restaurants, to save money,” commented this total stranger. Weird. Surprisingly correct. But nevertheless, weird.
The walk is teaching us lessons the whole time. Lessons about ourselves mostly. We are so far out of our comfort zones that we’ve almost found a whole new zone. Drinking from streams, washing in lakes (yes, we are rather smelly), wild camping on mountain tops, walking along some of the most incredible coastlines we have ever seen, avoiding wild horses, cooking with a small gas fire, and pushing our bodies and legs to the extreme.
But all the time learning. Learning how important, and how stunning nature is. Learning that when you push your boundaries you find a whole new world. Learning that our day to day worries are really unimportant. Learning not to worry but to live. Has it been easy? No. Far from it.
On just the second day we, probably overconfidently, pushed too hard, much too hard. Imagine carrying a 15 kg rucksack and climbing from the Banje Beach to the top of Srđ, that sounds tough. We did that four times in our second day. We ended up wild camping on top of a mountain. “What’s that noise” said my wife in the darkness. “Don’t worry, it is only a couple of wild horses eating,” I answered. That noise. The grind of horse teeth ripping grass up was the one that followed us into a deep sleep.
We awoke early to see a spectacular mountain-top sunrise and the most manicured patch of grass that I have ever seen in my life. These are experiences that make you see the world in a different way.
Wi-Fi and mobile connections are limited, well non-existent, most of the time. When we do get some kind of connection we inform friends and family of where we are. But that’s about it.
We upload some photos onto the social media channel Travels With Toto 2022 every day, just to let everyone know that we are alive. And a huge thank you to everyone who has donated to our two humanitarian causes. The amount of people that we’ve met and have been generous is amazing. I have no idea what is happening in the world.
If it wasn’t for the flags and pictures and commemorations for the Queen everywhere I wouldn’t have known she had sadly passed away. We are in a media blackhole. Probably the best place to be.
Our long journey has just begun. We are still in the foothills of our mountain climb. But although it has just begun it is clearly a journey that will change us forever. Keep following us and keep sending your messages.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to