Trip Updates

Croatia 1 • June 11-June 24, 2019

A Fond Farewell!

June 24, 2019

Sadly, this is our final update. When we last left you we had just arrived on the island of Sipan by boat. We settled into our hotel rooms and obviously hit the beach! This little excursion held us over until we could really dive into the water activities in the upcoming days. The next day we woke up to hotel breakfast and threw on our tennis shoes. We caught an early ferry over to an island called Lupod. There, we hiked up to the top of a hill where a fort used to stand. It was a breathtaking view. We could see the whole island of Lupod and many surrounding islands scattered in the blue water beneath us. Marin explained to us that the fort guarded the water between the island and the mainland so that they could transport salt safely through the channel. It seemed that now, the only thing the fort was useful for was a refuge for a family of goats. Emma spent most of the time chasing them around the ruins ha-ha! Passing old churches and farms, we began walking back down through the trees.

Eventually, we found ourselves walking through a colorful garden of flowers and vegetables that led to a pavilion. We sat at a table underneath the grape vines and enjoyed bread with vinegar and homemade olive oil. Our hosts then brought out veggie soup and homemade lemonade. David probably had four cups he was so thrilled. We thought the meal was over until they brought out platters of fresh vegetables including tomato, red cabbage, cucumber, onion, and pepper. Ella was relieved to see some vegetables and declared the red cabbage her favorite. Shortly after the veggie trays, more trays filled with fried chicken, hot potatoes, and peas with bacon were delivered to the table. At this point we were almost in tears because of the delicious food in front of us. Maya was regretting eating so much soup! A good meal must end with desert so, of course, cake was then served. This farm lunch was unforgettable, and we had to sit under the vines for at least thirty minutes until we were mobile again.

We trotted down the hill towards the beach with full bellies. We wanted nothing more than to dive into the turquoise water! After the beach trip, it was time to ferry back to our temporary home on Sipan. We showered off the salt and ate on a patio at the edge of the bay for dinner. We gathered for Moonup as we watched the sun sink behind the mountainous islands on the horizon.

The next day, we woke up to sea kayak! We loaded the boats and paddled around the bay frequently getting out of the water to swim. Maura, always documenting our excursions, took videos of everyone singing, laughing, and splashing around. Yoav was scooping trash out of the sea which became a contagious act. We were so happy to watch them love on the earth. The group concluded that this may have been their favorite activity of the trip! We felt our bodies becoming hungry so we paddled back to shore and ordered pizza from a restaurant near the harbor.

We soaked in the last few hours on the bay and packed our backpacks to head to a farm for an overnight camping adventure. We hiked up a small hill to a farm that overlooked many fields of crops and the rocky cliffs pointing to the sea. We had, you guessed it, goulash for dinner! Over supper, we reminisced and laughed about our favorite memories from the trip. Rising early the next morning, we packed up camp and hiked down to a different harbor. We were waiting for our ferry to Dubrovnik but because it was Sunday, the ferry doesn’t operate.

A catamaran pulled up and we boarded the boat feeling like the most famous 16 year olds in the world. As we were the only ones on the boat, Lucy immediately began tanning on the deck and everyone else quickly found spots to sprawl out around her. It took two hours to get to Dubrovnik where we docked and had lunch immediately upon arrival.

We booked it to the hostel after lunch so we could have plenty of time to explore old town Dubrovnik which is the little town inside huge stone walls on the edge of the sea. It used to be a castle! Some may know it as King’s Landing from the show Game of Thrones. Madison was the most excited about seeing the filming locations from the show and filled us in on the scenes and plot lines. We explored the nooks and crannies of the castle buying ice cream, stickers, candy, sweatshirts, and Croatian jerseys and flags. Henry seemed to be more interested in the churches and history so he spearheaded the idea of touring and learning about the city as much as he could.

We shared one last meal together and headed back to the hostel to prepare for an early travel morning. Our last Moonup was sentimental as Ellie asked us about a pivotal moment in our lives and shared a poem from one of our favorite writers. We woke up before the sun and quietly loaded the van to head to the airport. The flight to Zagreb was quick and most of us slept. Just like we started the trip, Harry and Thomas grabbed carts for our luggage and loaded our bags. They are always so helpful without being asked! We said we very teary goodbye to Garrett and headed on to Paris. There, many more tears were shed as we exchanged information and parted ways to our different gates. This group has become a family over the past two weeks. The goodbyes were some of the hardest that we have ever given. Each student brought something that our group needed and it would have not been the same if we were missing any one of them. We loved going through this adventure together and cannot wait to see how much further our relationships will blossom in the future.

Much love,

Garrett and Lilly


Greetings from the Zrmanja River!

June 20, 2019

Checking in again!

We are continuing to have a blast here in Croatia, it seems that every day gets better and better. When we last left you we were headed to the river and let me tell you that it was everything we dreamed and more. Upon arrival to our river campsite, we explored the area to find a grassy meadow where we set up our tents. The river roaring beside us, we walked to the edge to find the water pouring over the side of a ten-foot cliff. We couldn’t stand it so we found a still part of the river to jump in. The Zrmanja’s River is crystal clear and has a turquoise tint. Really beautiful but fairly chilly. After hiking in the mountains, we didn’t care and we needed to “wash” our hiking clothes anyways. Ellie was the first to jump in and the rest of the girls, plus David, quickly followed suit. We changed into dry clean clothes and hung our wet clothes on a line. Enos were hung with haste and we naturally gathered among the circle of hammocks. There, we rested and chatted of books we wanted to read. Emma shared the plot of “Into Thin Air”, her current literary conquest, with us. Marin, our fearless guide, came to camp and barbecued chicken wings and sausage for us. We wrapped the sausage in bread and used ketchup to make little Croatian hotdogs! Harry especially enjoyed the BBQ and commented that it was very fitting for our first night on the river.

A little stream that ran into the big river created islands in front of our campsite that we hopped around on until we found one that our group could fit on. We watched the water as it was sucked off the falls 20 feet away from our little island refuge. Garrett let us listen to his speaker and Lucy was inspired by some of the new tunes. Everyone in our group has been so eager to learn and open to new experiences we couldn’t be prouder. That night at Moonup, Maya asked us to recall one of our happiest moments. We all laughed and reveled in the joyful topic. We crawled into our tents and slept as late as we could. The next morning, we threw on our swimsuits and hiked up the hill to a farm where we would be eating for the next couple of days. The farm is crawling with chickens, dogs, and goats. A sweet woman named Nana fed us at her home that her family had inhabited for over 200 years. The table was filled with fried eggs, sausage, hot bread, homemade cheese and jam, pancakes with Nutella. We were overwhelmed by the feast, and feast we did. After breakfast, we traveled to the part of the river where we would gear up and put our inflatable kayaks into the water. Yoav and Maura shared a kayak and showed their comfort in the water by paddling and steering together with ease. We paddled down the river and stopped for lunch at a green meadow just past the bank. Marin led us to a secret waterfall where we jumped off of rocks into the blue water. We tumbled over each other trying to balance on boulders beneath the surface. The whole time we were laughing about how chilly the water was. We ate salami and cheese rollups warming ourselves in the sun. The remainder of the river was more dynamic as we paddled down small rapids looking up at the rocky cliffs on either side of us. At one point we had to exit our kayaks and hike down a little cliff while our kayaks were sent off of the tall waterfalls. Henry helped Marin catch the empty kayaks in the water at the bottom. You would have thought he was a river guide by the way he maneuvered the task to get everyone back into their boats!

The finale of the river voyage was safely jumping off of a ten-foot waterfall while the jumpers partner got to paddle down it! This was completely safe and the kayak was as long as the drop. Ella got to film her jump with the go pro and we are all excited to see the footage. That evening after drying off and changing into our clean camp clothes we napped hard in our eno hammocks. Dinner was early so we walked back up to the farm to find warm goulash sitting on the supper table. Madison was thrilled as she said it reminded her of one of the dishes her mother made their family at home in Texas. After dinner, we watched Thomas chase a chicken around the farm. Much to his dismay he was not successful in catching the hen. Nana walked up and snatched a chicken up with ease as she called us inside for cake. We all laughed as we hurried back to the table to enjoy some warm apple pie. We woke up this morning to travel to the Elaphiti Islands and are happy to report that we have made onto Sipan island. Can’t wait to tell y’all about our next couple of days.

Much Love – Lilly and Garrett

Harry – Croatia is so much fun! Thanks so much for sending me and I can’t wait to see y’all when I get home.

Maya and Ellie- We’re having a great time and we miss you. It’s so amazing here and we’re grateful for this opportunity. Love y’all and hope everyone is doing good!

Henry- I’m having a great time and thank you for the opportunity. The Hiking and Kayaking has been fun and exciting. Love y’all , Henry

Thomas- I’m having a good time here, all the sights are really cool. We just finished hiking and are driving to the ocean. Love you, Thomas

David- Hi Mom and Dad! Croatia has been a blast. It’s everything I thought it would be and then some. I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I’ll see y’all when I get home. Tell everyone hello. Love y’all, David

Yoav – Hi! So far being in Croatia has been really fun. The people are amazing and so is the country. Sadly the hiking portion of our trip ended, but now we are on our way to explore Croatia in a different way, with Kayaks! I can not wait to tell you guys everything when I get back home. Miss you guys – from Yoav

Maura- hey mom, dad, and Dublin! I’m having such a great time in Croatia, and everyone here is great! I love y’all and I’ll see y’all soon! Love, Mo. Also Drew you said you were going to read these haha so hi 🙂

Lucy- hello mom & dad! I am having the time of my of my life in Croatia. It is beautiful

here. You guys would be so proud if you saw the mountains I hiked. We are on our way to the coast right now, and I couldn’t be more excited. I am so grateful for this experience. love y’all so much and tell Andrew I said hey!

Ella- hi mom and dad! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to come to such a pretty place and meet so many cool people! I am having an amazing time and I can’t believe how fast it’s flying by. We have finished the hiking part of the trip which has been very challenging but has come with some beautiful views! Now we are going to kayak and explore the coast. I can’t wait to tell y’all more about my experiences! Tell Will and Nash I say hi! Love and miss y’all:)

Emma- hi mom, dad, and Abbie!! I miss you tons but I’m having so much fun here!! It’s beautiful here! We’ve gotten to do so many amazing activities and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Thank you so much for letting me go on this incredible trip, I am so lucky to have such an amazing family! I love you guys so much!!

Madison- Hi mom, dad, and Matthew! I’m having SUCH a fun time! You really should’ve come Matthew 🙂 For the beginning part of the trip we hiked up not the mountains of the Paklenica National Park and in total I think we hiked more than 30 miles in 4 (ish) days! The hikes were crazy hard but the views from the summits were so beautiful that the pain was way worth it. Yesterday we went duckying (ha) down the Zrmanja river and I, like the absolute buffoon that I am, only sun-screened my face and shoulders so I am currently the color of an especially ripe tomato and in pain. But hey! Duckying was still super fun! Also, the food here has been delicious but I don’t think I’ll be eating bread for the next 10 years after this trip. I love you all sooooo much and I’m so excited to see you guys when I get back!! Give Winnie kisses for me!! <3

 


Majestic Views All Around!

June 18, 2019

Bok!

Garrett and Lilly here again. We have been having the time of our lives up here in Paklenica National Park crushing the trails and taking in the majestic views. We started this portion of the trip by starting at the entrance of the National Park and making our way to Ramica Dvori, the mountaineer hut where we’ve been staying. On the hike to the hut, we were valiantly led by our LOD’s Yoav and Maura who kept the energy high and the fun times rolling. During the hike we took in several natural springs and pools that were just too scrumptious, so we ditched the socks and boots and jumped in one of the pools! Henry and Thomas stayed in the longest as they basked in the freshwater while the group laid out in the sun, what a treat! That night, we were treated to some pasta and beef stew which really hit the spot.

The next morning, we rose early to take on Golić Peak. While the trail was steep our group took it by the horns and crushed it. Since we weren’t carrying all of our clothes and food, not everyone needed to carry a pack so we only brought four as a group. Emma was always the first to ask if she could help or switch out with someone to carry a pack. While on the trail, we taught our group how to purify water when needed. Once we reached the top, Harry and Ella (our LOD’s) made sandwiches for everyone. The food and short rest at the top were welcomed with open arms as we read the group poems and invited them to appreciate the view, take deep breaths, and listen for all the sounds of the mountains that they found themselves in. After making our way back to the hut and having dinner, the LOD’s prompted us with the Moonup question: what was the hardest thing that has happened in your life? The group’s responses blew us away as we were once again awed by their maturity and thoughtfulness. After Moonup, a group of reflective journalers were led by Maya before hitting the hay.

The next day, we once again rose early to hit the trail: this time to Black Peak. The trail was steep and long. Madison led the pack and set a comfortable pace that everyone was pleased with. We were blown away by the group’s resiliency. As we emerged from the trees we were surrounded by other mountain peaks and ridges. We could even see the Adriatic Sea! The trail was a loop so we got to descend through a beech tree forest where we stopped to read another poem for reflection. This was a very peaceful moment that David was especially moved by. As a group we are finding solace and peace in nature: whether it be the trees being blown by the breeze while listening to poetry, the views of the mountains while we take deep breathes, or the stirring streams while we crunch leaves on the trail.

On our last full day in the National Park we, yeah you guessed it, rose early. But this time we had a different goal in mind: rock climbing. We took the hike to the base of the park in stride, led by Lucy setting the pace, and met our climbing guides and they were awesome. The group loved the new challenge and absolutely rocked it (see what we did there) as the guides set up new route after new route while Ellie gracefully made her way up the rock faces as we watched in awe from below. The guides were quick to dish out compliments to us about our group as they told us how great they were and, more importantly, how kind and polite young adults they were. We are so lucky to have them!

Talk to you soon! We’re headed to the river!

Much Love – Lilly and Garrett


Turquoise Waterfalls & Lots of Laughs!

June 13, 2019

Bok!

We have made it to Croatia and we are so thrilled to finally be together in this beautiful place. After gathering everyone we could in the Atlanta airport, we set out for Paris. It was a long eight hours but we slept, listened to music, and watched what movies were available. Finally, in Paris, we were thrilled to welcome Madison and Yoav onto our travel team. Everyone was itching to meet them! Maya lead a much needed card game to entertain us while we waited. From there, we embarked on our journey to Croatia. It was a short ride to Zagreb and we all easily went through customs to the eagerly waiting Thomas and Ella! Our group finally felt complete and everyone immediately fell into friendships. Harry helped to take charge and load our luggage onto carts to get them to the van. We exchanged our US dollars to Croatian krona and set off to explore the country! The van ride was awesome and took us mostly through rolling hills of neighborhoods. Ellie compiled a playlist of the groups favorite songs that we could enjoy throughout the trip. We arrived at our campsite for the evening and got our keys to tiny bungalow homes. It was such a treat to shower and unwind. We got to try a traditional Croatian dinner of a dish called cevapi. Talk about diving into the culture! We had our first Moonup and slept hard with full hearts and tummies. The next morning we woke up and threw on our hiking clothes. David indulged in some morning coffee while we ate cereal, eggs, bacon, and chocolate croissants. Plitvice National Park was right around the corner so we gathered outside of the gate to talk about being aware of our surroundings and being respectful to other people on the trail. Immediately when we walked into the park we came upon the first group of waterfalls cascading into various turquoise pools. Lucy kept approaching us telling how unbelievable it was. We were absolutely awestruck by this beauty. In the park, there are 16 different lakes on top of a limestone base. The lakes are positioned like steps so we hiked up to see all of the different falls that the mountain had created. We worked up an appetite so we  stopped to have a picnic lunch along the way. Maura and Henry have been consistently helpful with suggesting water breaks or lending a hand with bags or food. We ended the day traveling to Paklenica where we set up camp for the night. We had some delicious spaghetti bolognese for dinner and got our packs ready for our five day trek! We hung around in our enos and Emma recited all 54 presidents of the US to us. We decided it was time to sleep to prepare our bodies for the days to come. We will check back in when we get out of the mountains!

Much love –

Garrett and Lilly


Safe Arrival in Zagreb

June 12, 2019

Hello Croatia Families!

We are here to tell you all students and leaders have safely arrived in Zagreb and the trip has officially begun.

We can’t wait to see where this journey takes them!

-Moondance HQ


Students

  • David
  • Ella
  • Ellie
  • Emma
  • Harry
  • Henry
  • Yoav
  • Thomas
  • Maya
  • Maura
  • Madison
  • Lucy

Staff