We arrived on Hvar Island on Friday, May 25th after a two hour ferry ride from Split. We had one night left on our timeshare reservation but we planned to stay at Hotel Timun for a few nights more to get a rest from camping. We didn't really need it but we wanted to go with our original plan and stay in our little studio. The timeshare was 3/4 of the way down the 100km island on a somewhat terrifying road, in my humble opinion; Steve did not feel that the road was bad but I think that it is a much different experience when you are the one driving. The road literally drops off on the sides and sometimes next to a cliff, no shoulder at all and the road barely fits two normal size cars, let alone our van and a passing work truck...
Some of the roads.....
and the tunnels
For our first day/evening on Hvar, we had a mission and it was to chill out. After all the craziness in Trieste, Italy etc, we needed some time to just sit and stare at the ocean and that is exactly what we did. We arrived at the hotel at around 6pm, we went up to the studio, unpacked, took much needed showers and watched some Game of Thrones. It was heavenly.
The studio served its purpose for the four days and four nights and then we decided it was time to head out on the road in the van once again. Finding free wild camping in Hvar is a bit of a mission. There is plenty of paid camping for vans, but they amount to glorified trailer parks. We hunted for free camping every night after our first four nights. The first night we ended up staying on a road to a climbing area in Milna, near Hvar Town. As we drove up the road, we noticed the road getting skinnier. Steve jumped out and hiked further to see if it was worth it. There was a great clearing at the end of the road but the actual road had a portion that just seemed a little too thin for the van...so, we had to turn around, which was a mission but we found a bit wider area of the road and made our 23 point turn...we then just decided to park on the road but there was waist high greenery on either side, which meant everything stayed in the van...when it is raining or in this type of situation, maneuvering all of our belongings while still in the van is quite a challenge; we first attempt to move anything that we can into the front, then we pop the top and start storing things up top. When we have some room outside, our food bin and our crash pads go outside...this time, all was in...cooking dinner was a bit of a challenge. Luckily, it was an easy pasta night...since the spot was only seconds from the road, cars and headlights were a constant throughout the night.
The next night was a little bit better as we found a spot down another dirt road. It was immediately next to a farmers plot of lavender. It was a bit quieter with only three or four cars passing by us throughout the day and night and this time, we had some room outside...ahh, a bit closer to paradise, but barely.
Our third night of "wild camping" was a bit more adventurous. We decided to head of to the south side of the island closer to Vela Stiniva. We found a road that seemed to head down to the beach. Unbeknownst to us, the road was a bit forlorn the closer we got to the coast. At one point, I gasped loudly and practically grabbed Steve as it seemed like we were going over the edge. Of course, that didn't make the drive any more relaxing...but the road was small and steep with crazy switchbacks. At the end, we reached a house that seemed to have been abandoned but did have locks...we just weren't sure but since we drove all the way down, we decided to stick it out...I mean what is the worst thing that they could do? Kick us out...then we would just drive back up...we stayed the night with no interruptions but how relaxing can it be when you just aren't sure whether or not someone is going to kick you off...however, this night was even one step closer to paradise, despite the oven that was left to rot 10 meters from our parking spot...
For our last night of wild camping we went back to one of the areas that we had seen previously on one of our drives. We had saved it as a favorite on Alice (our GPS). We called it Camp Ponds, as it had two manky ponds on it but was actually a pretty little camp with tons of buttercups. We figured that it was on some farmer's land but hey, every little piece of land on Hvar is owned by farmers...we were parked for about 20 minutes in a nice level spot, when we heard a car. We weren't far from the dirt road so we figured it was just someone driving by...Nope. A guy pulled up in his truck, opened the back and started his work. Steve said hello but got no response. The farmer said nothing, just started planting his seedlings etc. This was at 8pm. He continued working until 10pm. During this time, we made dinner, ate dinner and began to get ready for bed. After his two hours, I guess he was satisfied because he packed up and left...never said a word to us, and actually whistled while he worked! Who knew that farming was a nocturnal occupation...
The first climbing area we visited was Vela Stiniva, only a few kilometers from the studio. Of course on Hvar that meant windy, slow, often one car width roads with the imminent danger of oncoming traffic around every bend.
The village of Vela Stiniva
Stiniva was nestled down in the base of one of the many coves on Hvar. The limestone cliffs surround the small town on both sides then open out to the ocean. Development is limited mostly to the eastern facing crag but the potential for the area is very promising. The crag is known on the island for the best concentration of hard routes. Our first climb was not so great but our second was absolutely stellar and to this day, probably our favorite route of the entire trip. It's name is Lavande (lavander, one of the main crops of the island) and it is a 6b+; it's holds are easy on the hands and the moves consist of continuous laybacks switching from side to side. The rest of the crag provided great fun for the next two days, but a bit more difficult than Corinne would have liked...
Vela Stiniva cave
The supposed stellar area of climbing, Cliffbase (www.cliff-base.com), was on the other side of the island. We had some intel from an acquaintance of mine but we needed more to find the actual climbing area. So instead of climbing in the morning, we headed for Hvar Town to track down the information. Before our trip, I met this woman Rachel who told me all about Hvar. She originally went to Croatia for three weeks but ended up staying a year. She told me that Hvar Adventure (www.hvaradventure.com) was the place to go for all of our information needs. We found HA and asked for Pacho or Vese. Diana explained that both Pacho and Vese were unavailable at the moment but if we needed climbing info, Keecho (sp?) could help us out and he was at the cafe around the corner. We sat and chatted with the HA guides for several hours, where they provided us with info on Cliffbase, in addition to other areas on Hvar, not to mention Paklenica, a national park that we hit on our way out of Croatia, but more on that later. Hvar Adventure is the bomb; anyone visiting Hvar should definitely check them out. They run trips on climbing, sailing and kayaking and their guides are top notch. Thanks for all your help Vese and for being so accommodating!
Nothing is bolted here yet...WTF?!?!
Later that afternoon, we headed to Cliffbase. There are over 100 climbs in the area, ranging from 5a to 8a, in addition to an area for some deep water soloing. We went up three pitches and then called it a day, as we had to make the epic trip back to Pokrovnik...We never went back to Cliffbase, as we found the climbs at Vela Stiniva better and not to mention, free; it costs $5 per person to climb at Cliffbase, as it is owned by Miro, a "retired" slovenian physicist, who found this gem and bolted every climb there. Miro provides running water, a toilet and even rooms for those who wish to stay overnight. Though the climbs were plentiful, we decided that we needed to save our money and that we were happier projecting the climbs at Vela Stiniva...
On one of our last days in Hvar, instead of climbing, I wanted to hang out on the beach. While driving on one of the many, hairy dirt roads of Hvar, Steve spotted a perfect little beach for a visit.
But what really caught Steve's eye was the concave rock that went up over the water immediately to the right of the beach. While I laid out on the perfect pebble beach with some German kayakers, Steve hiked over with his five fingers and chalked up hands to attempt some Deep Water Soloing. Steve spent over 45 minutes scrambling and climbing...he ascertained that the climbs began with a 6a traverse into a small amphitheater with three 15meter routes, all in the 7 grade range. Though he enjoyed the scrambling, he found that his five fingers are not ideal, as the rubber is just not sticky enough and the need for closed toes is essential.
DWS fail / bail
After 7 days on Hvar, we decided to call it quits. The climbing was good but we wanted more and we were truly sick of the amount of driving that was necessary to get from one place to the other. The lack of truly pleasant wild camping was also incredibly frustrating. On June 1st, we headed north to Paklenica and discovered one of Croatia's true climbing gems, along with half of Germany.