Nothing short of an Ordeal

Our destination is the Kornati Islands and we intermittently cruise and then sail up to find an anchorage at Statival, an embayment on northeastern Kornat.  As the boat flows along we gaze anew at the now familiar, spare, landscape of low-lying islands with their gently rounded summits and occasional minor peaks.  The only angles are those of the dipping limestone strata which have been folded and tilted in eons past.

We see few vessels during the day, and I read on the foredeck, in the shelter of the sail, with a balmy breeze running across the deck.  When the wind strength drops we glide noiselessly, save for the gentle lap and slap of the sea against the hull, moving smoothly over the water.

We arrive at a suitable anchorage some time just before 4.  We’ve not been here before, it is peaceful………. even though we are in the middle of a veritable auditorium of singing cicadas.

(Male cicadas have loud noisemakers called “timbals” and their “singing” is not the sound of two body structures rubbed against one another as in insects like crickets.  The timbals are regions of the exoskeleton that are modified to form a complex membrane.  Contracting the internal timbal muscles produces a clicking sound as the timbals buckle inwards. As these muscles relax, the timbals return to their original position producing another click.  The interior of the male abdomen is substantially hollow to amplify the resonance of the sound. Each species has its own distinctive song. The diversity of animal structure and behaviour never ceases to amaze.)

It has been warm on the boat so we have a brisk, cooling swim and after I cook supper which we eat in the cockpit.  Afterwards an episode of Foyle’s War – Nigel has the boxed set.

Waking at 6.30 I go back up into the cockpit to read.  Three of the crew from the Austrian boat which followed us in the evening before, row ashore and start to climb up the hill which has one of the typical walled olive grove enclosures on its lower slope.  Each at their own pace, I note the most corpulent of the 3 brings up the rear.  When Nigel rises he suggests we do like-wise as a good pre-breakfast exercise.  I agree but Nick demurs.  He is not a great walker.

Nigel rows us across and we c limb out onto the heavily karstified limestone ‘shore’, scramble up the bank through a vegetation of long fine reedy grass tussocks and low prickly twiggly shrubby flora.  There are loose blocks of limestone to stumble over all over the place, with occasional horizons of limestone strata, running as seams laterally across the hill which make high steps to clamber up.

I have to stop several times to get my breath back.  The heat is draining.  I take pictures, rest beneath the shade of an occasional tree.  Once at the top there is a clear view down the western flank of Kornat Island and north to the inlet at Telascica.

There are two large crucifixes fashioned out of limestone blocks and laid out on the hillside, in memory of 12 firemen who were killed when attending a grass fire in August 2007.  The climb has been nothing less than an ordeal but endured with the promise of an easier descent.

Not so in this case, the descent is tough over very uneven terrain with limestone bedrock, loose blocks, scree and tussocks and vegetation disguising depressions into which a foot can so easily land awkwardly.  I do slip, grazing my legs and cutting the palm of my hand.  At least I am carrying a prize – a rather fine piece of natural pumice.

Half way down I feel I am reaching my limit, worried I may not have put enough sunscreen on, thankful I have my hat.  Relief is reaching a sanctuary, and the walled olive grove at the foot of the hill is such.  Nigel and I find our way along a track beneath the low olive trees and are very soon on the bank above the dinghy.  Back on Philippides V I down a glass of water but have no appetite for food right away.  A swim sets the process of recovery in motion.

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