It started out like many days often do. I couldn't have known where the day would take me.
A gentle drizzle could be heard falling outside the window, a soft glow indicated the sun had already begun its daily route cloaked in the safety of rainclouds.
I checked my phone for the time and realized it was an hour later than we’d planned to get started. Again. I listened for signs of life on the other side of the wall, but couldn’t hear whether Charles had woken yet. A quick glance next to me confirmed Emma was still sound asleep.
Today, I had strict instructions to get the day going if I woke up first.
I stepped out of bed groggily to make my way to the bathroom, but paused in front of Charles’ door. After a moment of hesitation, I knocked lightly.
“The weather is terrible,” his voice grumbled. “It’s raining.”
Considering the natural beauty of the surrounding Croatian beaches, I understood his frustration.
The morning rolled out slowly. We prepared our cameras, debated the merits of umbrellas, reveled in underwater camera technology, and finally rousted Emma for breakfast at a local café.
We soon found ourselves heading out for the day.
I got things started with a bang by slipping down the slick steps of the hotel entry way, proceeding to tweak my back, smash my side, and slam my wrist hard into the concrete as I broke my fall. Usually you get that weird falling sensation right as you go down, but the whole experience felt rather flat, as if my adrenaline really needs something serious to be bothered these days.
After brushing myself off and bemoaning my now-soaked butt, we continued onward to the beaches.
The rain ensured us an empty, if not treacherous, pathway to the all but abandoned shoreline. We walked through cobblestone streets lined with warm shops and people scuttling from one overhang to the next, clinging to their umbrellas as if they held the answer to life itself.
We reached, and passed a nudist resort. The beach lacked nudists, as anyone you could manage to spot in the distance sat huddled and completely clothed.
Hut-like covers dripped water over vacant wooden lounge chairs that looked over the vast aquamarine sea. It was the idyllic scene one usually sees on brochures, only overcast, missing bikini clad women and iced cocktails sweating in the sun.
A short rocky hike past the scenic ghost town and we found ourselves descending onto an open beach all our own.
Low cliffs hugged the wide inlet, jagged crevices jutting up from dark bases into light gray stone as if the rocks would break open at any moment. Beyond the sea and the mist you could see low laying clouds in rings around mountains looming out of the water. The Adriatic Sea itself was clear and brilliant, even under the gray skies. Bright, smooth stones led to the water’s edge. There was a small wooded area that led back inland.
When one reads wild tales of pirates and mermaids, this is the very image one has in their mind.
Among the trees was a wooden structure that provided coverage for our belongings. I stripped off my pants, leaving me in a tank top and my underwear as a swimsuit. I’d forgotten to pack a real one.
Our shoes were left behind as we trekked through the stony pebbles to the water. It was somewhat painful, but not so bad once you reached the waterline.
I yipped as I touched my feet in for the first time. It was a bit colder than I expected. Charles and Emma were already swimming around, taking photos with the underwater camera.
It took me a while, but once I was finally in, it was one of the most glorious experiences I’ve ever had. The water was quite salty, and lent itself to keeping you afloat, so you didn’t panic about suddenly tiring out and sinking into oblivion. There were beautiful fish swimming underneath your feet, and you could see large colorful stones lining the bottom of the ocean below.
My only regret was not having goggles.
A couple hours later we decided to try to find Mali Raj, an intimate beach with a name that translates to Little Heaven in Croatian. It would require another short hike over the side of the rocky cliffs.
It was at this juncture I began to second guess my decision not to bring any change of clothes. I didn’t want to entirely soak my pants since we were going to continue swimming, so I left them off and draped them over my camera bag with my towel.
I was quite the sight with my bright red Tommy Hilfiger underwear, neon blue tank top, and shoes hiking my way around the steep cliffs by the sea.
It wasn’t till about halfway to the next beach that I realized that my pants had fallen off my pack somewhere along the way. Great. The going was rough and I didn’t know where exactly they had fallen. I knew we’d be coming back this way, so I sighed and figured I’d find them on our way home rather than double back unnecessarily.
Both Emma and Charles got a good chuckle out of my situation.
Along the way we met a couple who turned out to also be from California. When we asked whether they had found the beach we wanted, they told us it was just around the corner. “See that fishing boat? Right beyond there. We watched him catch an octopus, actually.”
We finally breached the edge of the cliff and carefully made our way down onto the tiniest of beaches. We had found Mali Raj. And a little heaven it was: The small pebble beach sat maybe fifteen feet across, and the water was even more clear and beautiful than before.
At first we were disappointed, the fisherman was still just off the shore in his boat, which would ruin the background of the photos we were hoping to take for our shoot that day.
We managed to make do on one side of the beach. After a few minutes the fisherman drew near.
“What is he doing?” we wondered, a little irritated.
Then the fisherman called out. He and Charles bantered for a few minutes after figuring out their language differences, and suddenly Charles began laughing.
“Emma, do you want to pose with octopus? He said we can use the octopus he caught for our photos!”
Emma said, Sure, why not?
The fisherman got a big grin on his face and rowed over to the tiny shore. He pulled out a white plastic bucket from the bottom of his boat. He pulled off the lid with a flourish, reached down and then held up an octopus dangling off his index finger. He said something else, then reached down and produced two more octopus, all hanging off his fingers.
What came next was a blur. Emma wanted to put an octopus on her head for the pictures, which Charles related to the fisherman. The fisherman seemed beside himself with happiness, he proceeded to make an example of how to do just that by placing an octopus on his own head, draping the tentacles down the sides of his face as the whole octopus itself began sliding down his forehead.
For every idea we had to do with Emma for the photo shoot, the fisherman was more than excited to participate in whatever way he could. He seemed to have an endless supply of octopus he was very eager to share.
We finally exhausted ourselves and wrapped up the shoot with the octopus. The fisherman continued conversing with Charles.
“He wants to show us around the tip of the island on his boat, is that okay?” Charles asked us.
The idea was thrilling. I glanced down at my state of attire. “Definitely, as long as I don’t need pants.”
“Ah, that’s right. You should be fine.”
We gathered our things and piled into the boat. A few more words were exchanged and we were suddenly making our way back to the cliffs where I’d lost my pants.
“Can you see them?” Charles asked me. We all looked intently, but with no luck. Then we saw a couple hiking along the trail. Charles shouted up, “Do you speak English?”
“Yes!” they stopped, and the woman answered us.
“Have you seen a pair of black pants?”
I couldn’t stop laughing and wanting to hide out of embarrassment. No way had they seen my pants.
“Yes!” she shouted back. “Just back that way!” She pointed back down the trail a ways. We still couldn’t see them.
“Would you like us to get them for you?” the man asked, and had already started back. I felt mortified, as I watched him hike almost the entire way back before he finally bent over and held up my pants triumphantly. “These?”
“Yes! Those are them!” I was dying. Here I was, sitting in a small fishing boat in the middle of the Adriatic Sea in my underwear with a fisherman, a photographer, and a model — having a German couple I’d never met toss me my soaked pants off the side of a rocky trail where I’d dropped them.
There are some things you can never really predict in life.
And thus we recollected my pants. From the side of the cliff. In a fishing boat. Off the island of Krk in Croatia.
The fisherman proceeded to show us around the length of the island, which was even more beautiful with every turn. The water was deep, but still clear so you could see the beautiful rocks at the bottom. Giant rock formations rose from the water, deep crags and caves sprinkled along the edges. It was a kind of desolate beauty.
Emma was tired and cold, but the fisherman rectified that with some whiskey he kept on board.
After stopping in a cave for one last photo shoot, we were about ready to call it a day. We hadn’t eaten and it was growing late. The fisherman wanted to show us a local treat before saying goodbye.
He gave us shell necklaces to remember him by. We finally made our way back to the docks and scrambled back to stable land.
He led us down the boardwalk to a small shop where we were delighted to find the Croatian version of langoš awaiting us. It had been one of our favorite snacks in Hungary.
The deep fried dough slathered in sour cream and freshly grated cheese was the perfect snack to end such an exhilarating day.