Why can we never see what is right in front of us? I was fascinated the other day with a travel video that someone had posted onto Facebook. It showed a journey half-way around the world to end up in an exotic island literally in the middle of nowhere. “Where the seas are so clean you can see the fish dance around you,” or something like that read the advertising slogan for this island, called something like Utopia or Eureka. Palm trees waved along the skyline, it certainly looked idyllic, your own island paradise. However you don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to find an island oasis, there is one much closer to home, to be precise 600 metres from the city walls.
I haven’t been for a few years, and if it wasn’t for a work commitment I probably wouldn’t have gone this year either. Lokrum, Dubrovnik’s green oasis. “How strange, where did everyone go,” questioned an English tourist as another ferry load of visitors disembarked on Lokrum in Normandy beaches style. “The boat was full but after a minute the island looks empty again,” he smiled. I was tempted to say that cannibals roamed the island. But he was right; I sat and watched the boats for half an hour. They kept coming and coming, a constant conveyor belt of picnic-laden tourists. But within minutes they were swallowed up somewhere in the natural beauty. God, Lokrum is lovely. I mean really drop-dead gorgeous.
And although I haven’t been for a few years I still saw all the old Lokrum faces. Pretty much the same “crew” sitting in pretty much the same positions, the same stones, they had done years ago and would probably do for years to come. Even the overheard conversations were the same – is your back still giving you problems – my leg has never been right again since the operation – that son of mine just won’t listen to me anymore – I made sardines today, plus a great deal of praise for grandchildren.
“How lucky these people are who work on Lokrum,” exclaimed my wife as we walked a shady path. “Why do you think that,” I answered. “Just look how peaceful and relaxing it is, and how beautiful,” she concluded. I had different thoughts. I was pretty sure that the people how worked here hardly had time to notice their unique surroundings. “I doubt they have the time,” I replied.
The proof of this theory came sooner than I could have imagined. We were off to eat in a restaurant and I got speaking to an employee. “Ah, you have been swimming,” he stated looking at my wet hair. “Believe it or not I still haven’t been in the sea this summer,” he added with a forced smile. “And how long have you been working on Lokrum,” I wondered. “Every day since the beginning of May,” came his reply. I was hoping that my wife was in earshot to hear the conversation but she was away feeding the peacocks.
I looked at him and asked, “I have a question, what was the name of the last song that was playing on the radio,” I said pointing to one of the blaring speakers. “I didn’t even know the radio was on,” he smiled, “I have no idea.” I guess the old saying of “it really doesn’t matter where you work,” was here right before my eyes. God, Lokrum is lovely.
But when something is right in front of your eyes you tend to ignore it. Just ask around, the people close to you, friends and family, when was the last time they went to Lokrum. Most answers will begin with a scratch of the head and a question mark look hanging over them. And even the Lokrum crew, the old regulars, probably doesn’t know just how lucky they are to be able to hop on a boat and get to a slice of heaven in a few minutes.
And the people who post exotic far flung islands in the middle of the Pacific certainly have no idea of where Lokrum is and what it has to offer. We sat, in fact to be more precise we lay, under the same olive tree that we used as shade a decade ago. Time moves slowly on this island. We jumped from the same cliffs and swam in the same small bay; it was familiar and as cozy as a warm blanket on a January night. God, Lokrum is lovely.
“I am sure that more people get off the boats than get on them,” I heard as we sat for a final coffee, yes it was that same English tourist filling his wife’s ear with the same story. In the “one in a million chance” that he is right I volunteer to be one of the people left behind on the island. Come back for me next year.