Friday, 26 July 2013

Learning curve #2 - Birds on wheels


It's storming and grey in Luxembourg today. So it's the perfect morning to be drinking tea and writing, with the windows open (finally - a breeze!) and the sound of the rain drops cooling down the city.

As I have mentioned in a previous post (see: http://birdoftheforest.blogspot.com/2013/07/learning-curve-1-birds-of-floating-world.html) I spent the month of June travelling with a friend. And there are some stories I wanted to share here from our adventures. Here is the second learning curve from the trip.

Birds on wheels

When you don't have your own wheels you only have the options of someone else's or your own legs if you want to explore. Maria and I were always happy to use our legs. That's what they are there for: taking us places, up hills, through water, along mountain tracks, through cities. The only trouble, of course, is when you have far to go and not a lot of time. 

In this case, it was the island of Rab in Croatia. We were staying at a campsite in San Marino near Lopez at the north end of the island. The day after we arrived, their summer bus schedule was due to begin. What joy! There would be buses every 90 minutes to get us out and about. Except they didn't come. In fact, the only bus we ever saw during our time on Rab was in a bus park. Maybe Rab is more of a retirement place for buses, because they sure don't like actually bussing about. 

We decided to start walking, try and hitch to the main town of Rab and hire bikes from there. So off we went in the direction of the main road to Rab. Somewhere in my mind it was a mere five kilometres away. We walked. Thumbs out and no one was biting. Strange. No buses and no friendly drivers? What was going on on Rab?! Still walking, Maria behind me suddenly piped up.

"Look. Scooters. We could always rent a scooter."

We stopped. The previous day Maria told me a story which finished with the line, "And that's why I should never drive a scooter again." Now, before us stood a shining purple scooter. It would certainly mean we could get around the island quicker. 

"I could drive it, couldn't I?" I said out loud, convincing anyone who was within earshot. "How hard can it be?"

We asked a bemused man standing nearby the price. No sir, we want it for the whole day. Hmm. Would you take this amount instead? The cash was handed over. The deal done. Helmets found. Holy crap, this was happening. I was to be pilot of this purple scooter. Our lives, and those of innocent bystanders, were in my hands. He didn't take our names, nor any ID; there was no way of contacting each other and I had no idea what I was doing. This was how we rolled.

The first few moments on Beso (our name for the scooter) were quite scary. We were on the pavement and I was wobbling all over the place. I was trying to find a low curb to get on the road. Cars were coming. "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

OK, breathe. The tension in my arms, rigid on the handle bars, was great. Stay on the right side of the road. Use your (cracked) mirrors. Does Beso have brakes? Don't let Maria fall off. Try not to wobble. You need speed to get up the hill. Oh, this is how fast Beso goes. Avoid the lorries. Or at least give them a chance to avoid you. Beso needs help. Lean into those bends. Is Maria still on the back? 

It was 14 kilometres to Rab town, so it would have been a longer walk that I'd thought. Plus, those hills. Croatia doesn't like flat islands. That day we zoomed (slowly) around Rab and visited villages and beaches on all sides of the island. Having wheels meant we could find secret spots for picnics, skinny-dipping and general island fun. It was a freedom we hadn't had so far on the trip. Our own wheels. How special. Beso served us well and, because we are birds and birds are like that, she became part of our pioneering tribe. Like Sally the boat on Dugi Otok. 

video

One thing we did have to do was make sure we returned Beso with fuel in the tank. Having no idea how much fuel half a tank (or anything) meant, or how far we'd be going (considering our initial estimates were way off) in between adventures, we decided to top her up en route to another beach after lunch. Like pros, we stopped at the petrol station. I indicated, swung in and parked in front of the pump. We remembered which fuel. I got the money to pay, Maria shoved in the pump. I stood there, watching the Kunas (Croatian currency) rise. Except they didn't.

"It keeps stopping. I can't fill her up." 

Well, there was obviously something wrong. Maria persevered while I went to get a man who could sort it out. It's not like we were doing anything wrong. We know how to use petrol pumps. We're not stupid.

Out came the attendant and took the pump off Maria. We watched him with looks that said, See. It's broken or something.

"It's full," he said. 

Cue rip-roaring laughter, falling about the forecourt of the station giggling. Two birds in summer dresses, flip flops and helmets chuckling their heads off, with the all-knowing man and his friend (who had come out to see what all the girly hooting was about) watching in smirking silence.

After 10 hours with Beso, we were sated and full of happy memories, especially with our own
Overlooking Rab town
achievement of not killing ourselves or anyone else. We had explored the beaches and bays of Rab, its beautiful town, drank mate, swam and sunbathed and learnt a little more about who we are, what we can do and where we were. 

You can't ask any more than that: one day, one island, one scooter. 

Learning: Everything about being on a scooter - from driving it to realising that two birds don't often ride on scooters in Croatia.
Surprise (apart from no injuries/death): You can get really far on 18 Kuna's worth of petrol (about £2/$3). 


Beso. Kiss. Rab town marina.













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