“You can live in a place for years and yet not know what is on your doorstep,” said the helmeted rider next to me. Yes, that’s right “helmeted rider,” and no I wasn’t astride a scooter or Harley Davidson. “I have lived here for seven years and never knew that this existed,” I replied. We were invited for a day of off-road fun in Zupa. Exploring the wilds of my adopted home on the back of an ATV.
“Are those like those quad bikes that we once rented on Mljet,” asked my wife when I proposed the adventure. “Yes, but that was years ago,” I replied. I knew where she was going with this line of questioning and was trying to block her path. Many, many years ago we rented a battered quad bike on Mljet hoping to explore the island. It was a mistake. The quad was about as stable as a rodeo horse and had the hidden ability to veer off in whichever direction it wanted without any prior notice to the drivers, in other words my wife and I. We spent twenty minutes trying to keep the rogue quad out of the undergrowth and out of the sea, and we had only got a couple of hundred metres up the road. Needless to say we gave up, returned the death machine and took two bicycles instead.
So quite clearly this distressing memory was still embedded in my wife’s memory. However when we arrived at the starting point for our Zupa safari it was immediately obvious that the world of quad bikes had moved forward considerably. These things were monsters, but monsters that could be controlled.
The group strapped on their helmets and like modern-day cowboys set out from the ranch for a day in the Wild West. Within a few minutes we were off-road, yeehaw cowboy! I felt a tap of the helmet, “is it going straight,” asked my wife sitting behind me. “As an arrow,” I should have added an Apache arrow just to keep up the cowboy theme. We were up close and personal with nature and it was exhilarating. I was humming the Easy Rider soundtrack “Born to be Wild” in my head...get your motor running, get out on the highway, looking for adventure, or whatever comes our way! The track, which was just about the same width as our monsters, led through farm land and untouched nature.
We then pooped out onto a road, then back onto another track, and before long we were climbing to the top of Srd Mountain. By the way you get a great view of Dubrovnik from a quad bike as you ride to the peak. We futuristic cowboys stopped for a break at the top, these horses are great they don’t need food or water. But we did. Onto the next stop, a light snack, prosciutto, cheese, bread, salad, and we were off again.
Now I was really getting into the cowboy mood, I felt confident and wanted to push my horse a little harder. So when we got out onto a long straight stretch of road I slowed down to let the metal horse in front of me to move away and give me some space. With enough room in front of me I opened up the monster to full volume whilst shouting Born to be Wild! Blimey! As we picked up speed rapidly I heard a voice in the wind from behind me, “slow down, what is wrong with you!” I tried to ignore it but as the countryside whistled past I was then greeted with a slap on the helmet and “if you don’t slow down I am getting off!” I wanted to ask how she was planning to jump off the quad monster at his speed but instead I harnessed my adrenaline and slowed down, still humming Born to be Wild. “That was fun,” I shouted. No answer.
On our way back we went a little “off-piste” to a track that we hadn’t followed before. We climbed up a small hill and in the middle of nowhere, literally, we came across a strange looking construction. “This is a water collection plant that was built in the early 1900’s by the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” explained out group leader. Fascinating. The water from a group of small natural springs had been directed into a central well system. It still had the Wasser markings clearly written in the decorative stonework. It looked like nobody had touched it since the Austrians shuffled back to the Alps. A little historical gem which was now an overgrown graveyard. From Ciro to this, those Austrians were certainly not lazy; I wonder if they would come back for a few centuries and fix all our other infrastructure problems.
“We spend all that money on travelling to tourist destinations and yet we don’t know the hidden diamonds we have within walking distance of our own homes,” concluded one of the cowboys. As John Wayne once said, yes we are keeping the cowboy theme, “Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.”