July 6, 2023
It’s time for one last update from the folks out here in Croatia! Though our trip is coming to a close, the fun has not slowed at all!
We hopped off the ferry and arrived on the beautiful island of Mljet on the afternoon of day 10. On our way to camp Lovor-our campsite for the next 3 nights-Elle, Coco, Lee, and Reese picked up groceries for a boys versus girls iron chef cooking competition. While they were getting food, Chris led a quick game of pickup baseball outside! We arrived at camp shortly after, and spent the afternoon exploring the nearby beach, getting our tents set up, and relaxing at the campsite. Excited to compete, we started prepping dinner early. While the girls’ team’s burrito bowls were topped with a wonderfully fresh mango salsa, the boys team-led by Lee and Nolan-won the judges over with their chicken Alfredo and garlic bread. Dessert was a successful joint effort between the two teams; McAulay fried up some churro chips that went great with the ice cream and chocolate sauce supplied by the boys’ team. After finishing up dinner, we headed down to the pier for the nightly Moonup. Chris played us a few songs on the guitar, and we ended the evening by jumping into the ocean for a night swim.
We followed island time the next morning, opting to sleep in a bit and enjoy a good night’s rest. When it was time to get up, Bradley did a great job of waking up all the sleepy students. Fresh fruit, yogurt and granola filled our bellies and kept us cool on an especially hot day. Deciding it was too hot for the grueling hike that was planned, Chris, Elle, and Martina opted to surprise the kids with a trip to a sandy beach on the island. Abby and Bradley, the LODs for the day, did a great job of keeping the secret as we headed out to our destination. We arrived at the beach to cheers of joy, and immediately got set up in some lounge chairs. After a quick detour to a burger joint nearby, we spent the day relaxing, swimming, and hanging out by the beach. Adelaide and Davis spearheaded a hole digging competition, and Finn led the charge burying Lee in the sand. We played lots of water games, including birdie on a perch (Davis and Burton continued their winning streak) and jackpot. We spent plenty of time relaxing too-Mary Brooks and Bradley took naps in the sun. After a full day of beach activities (and plenty of ice cream), we headed back to camp to shower and get ready for dinner. Our dinner was a treat-we dressed up for a lovely meal at the restaurant near our campsite! After filling our bellies, Chris and Nolan played a few rounds of ping pong before we headed to the pier for Moonup.
Our fun in the sun continued the next morning when we woke up early to head for our next excursion: sea kayaking! We spent the morning paddling around the island of Mljet, admiring the scenic views (and impressive yachts!) The sea was so inviting, and we took many swimming breaks to enjoy the cool water. We headed to a cove where Alex, Finn, Davis, Burton, and Read Elizabeth took full advantage of the snorkeling opportunities. Hungry for lunch, we began paddling back to our put-in. Chris and Abby jammed out to Taylor Swift the whole way back. We arrived to a beautiful spread of meats, cheeses, and freshly caught tuna and anchovies for lunch. Though originally skeptical about the anchovies, Reese and Lee ended up trying and really liking them! After lunch, we headed back to camp to cook up a 4th of July barbecue! We chowed down on hot dogs and fried rice, then headed back to the restaurant for an ice cream treat to end the night. After Moonup and music, we ended the night by sleeping on the beach under the stars.
Excitement was high the next day as we packed up camp and got ready for our town day! We caught the ferry in the late morning and arrived to Dubrovnik right around lunchtime. After dropping bags at the hotel, we enjoyed a delicious pizza lunch before taking the bus to Old Town. We entered the historic city walls and marveled at the historic city structures. For the next few hours, we shopped and explored the city, buying souvenirs and trying as much gelato as we could. The group met back up to climb the city wall and see the city in all its glory before heading to a cliff jumping spot! The kids- led by Lee, Coco and McAuley- jumped fearlessly into the water impressing many spectators. Next up was dinner at Pantarul- a 2018 Michelin rated restaurant! The kids devoured the amazing food, enjoying their final dinner all together. We prepared superlative awards for each kid, and the group agreed that Lee’s was the most spot on; “most likely to open up a restaurant”. We then walked over to the pier for sunset and Moonup, where we reminisced on the unforgettable memories this group has made.
Our Croatian airport adventure ran smoothly, and your kids are embarking on the journey back to you all. We are so excited to see how the group continues to grow from the lessons this experience has taught them. We are sure some of the friendships made here will last forever.
Chris & Elle
July 3, 2023
It’s been a busy few days as we’ve moved from mountains to coast; let’s get you all caught up.
Our final day as a group in Zavizan had to be a special one. Led by Lee, Davis and Coco, the group woke up at 4:45 and trekked uphill to the mountaintop behind our hut. The next 30 minutes were pure serenity; somehow the views at this peak were the best we had seen yet! The sun rose over the eastern ridge lines of the Velebit Range, slowly illuminating the vast Adriatic waters to the west. A morning to never forget!
Today’s LoDs, Burton and Adelaide, helped move the group along as we packed up our bags and said a tough goodbye to what many in the group described as “the most beautiful place they had ever been”. Next stop: Paklenica National Park! The group caught up on sleep on the bus after an early morning and were awoken to sights of the Croatian coast and some Mediterranean pizza! After a quick run through the seaside market, we headed to Paklenica for rock climbing. Our group, led by Alex, Read Elizabeth and Nolan, were eager to climb and tackled the challenging walls with ease.
Home for the night would be Ramica Dvori, a mountain hut that has existed in this park for over 100 years! The challenge- a long 4-mile trek uphill to our hut. The group conquered the challenging terrain fearlessly! Some of our stronger hikers- Alex and Reese- encouraged the group on and kept things moving quickly despite the tough heat. About halfway up, we discovered what looked to be a swimming hole through some trees along the trail. Martina led us ahead and we quickly realized that we had struck gold. A perfect pool at the foot of a waterfall awaited us. Lee explored the caves below the waterfall as the group splashed around the pool taking pictures and videos. Alex and Chris kept exploring down the creek and found another stunning waterfall and pool deep enough to jump into. The rest of the group quickly followed as the fun ensued. This could not have come at a better time, and the group became quickly reinvigorated. Despite the difficulty, the rest of the hike was a breeze. We as leaders are so proud of how well the group handled the test, reaching the hut feeling fulfilled- and hungry! The group quickly found the regulation size bocce ball court, and the games began! Official rules were explained, and Davis, Burton, Chris, and Nolan’s team came out victorious after a tough matchup. Our host Mario’s family then took us back to “the black kitchen”, a cooking space where his family had been preparing Peka, a traditional Croatian dish of veal, chicken, potatoes, and carrots. We eagerly watched as the dish -which takes 4 hours of time- was uncovered. Our group sat all together and just nearly finished the entire dish, however we all had room for the tiramisu and apple strudel which came afterwards! We ate & enjoyed the beautiful sunset views of the Paklenica valley. Much needed showers and a good night’s sleep were in order after a long day, especially with another eventful day to come.
The group enjoyed a quick breakfast at the hut before trekking back down to the base of Paklenica. We packed up our bus and headed back for the Cetina River for a day of river rafting! Once we learned there would be 2 rafts, the group immediately vouched for guys vs. girls, and our day of adventure began! Right away it was time for raft wars; Chris started things off by taking Reese in with him, as Finn and Burton headed for the girl’s raft. Nobody was safe from a plunge into the water! Amidst all of the screams and laughter, McAulay led the charge as the girl’s boat sang all the way down the river, while MB kept the conversation flowing. Some cliff jumping and river games capped off a special experience on the river. After a change into dry clothes and a quick trip to camp, we set up our tents on the coastal cliffside. Dinner at camp was a delight! We arrived at a spread of fish & calamari, pork, potatoes and spinach. In addition, we were treated to traditional Croatian music and Take Me Home Country Roads by the restaurant’s musicians. To cap the day off, our LoDs- Alex and Read Elizabeth- had the excellent idea of Moonup in the sea! The colors of the sun setting over the Adriatic stunned us all as we gathered together for a typically humor-filled Moonup.
We left Camp Sirena the next morning and set off on a scenic drive along the Croatian coastline. The stunning Neretva Delta was easily the most breathtaking view of our drive- which heavily featured Taylor Swift thanks to Abby. We arrived in Ston for a pre-ferry lunch, and our seafood loving group devoured an authentic Croatian spread of cuttlefish risotto and shrimp linguini. Even Bradley- who thought she didn’t like seafood- loved the ink-black risotto. We boarded the ferry to Mljet with excitement for the journey to come as we approached the final leg of our time all together.
Here are some messages from the group to you all! They miss you very much:
Abby- Hey mom and dad I love and miss y’all so so much. I am so excited for Paris and I have been having a great time. I didn’t fall out of the water raft. 🙂
Adelaide – what’s up family I’m having the best time! We’re on a ferry right now. I can’t wait for woods hole woo also hey dds anyways I’m craving Mexican food so yes!
Alex-Hi mom and dad, I’m having a great time in Croatia and am excited to see you.
Bradley: Hey guys I’m having so much fun! This place is so awesome and pretty. Love you!
Burton- Hello family, Hope y’all are doing good. I have had lots of fun hiking and climbing. I met this guy named Mario he’s cool. See y’all soon.
Coco- hey guys I’m having so much fun and miss y’all so much. I’ve made so many good friends and mems.. can’t wait to see y’all and all my friends.
Davis- greeting loved ones, I am currently accompanied by my squad on a ferry, I met this man named Zelko, he’s my bus driver and homie. Lolz later also what’s up T-bird
Finn – hi mom and dad, we’re on an island right now. It’s cool. Reese, Alex, and I are climbing a ton of mountains. Excited to see y’all and Annetta. Love and miss y’all.
Lee- Hi mom and dad I’m having a lot of Croatia and I can’t wait to see you guys. I hope baseball has been going well!
McAulay- hi mom and dad! I’m having lots of fun! I miss y’all and my amigas! Love y’all!
MB- hey mom and dad I miss y’all and am having so much fun. Tell Neely I say hi and I can’t wait to see y’all soon.
Nolan – Having a fun time. I have made a lot of good friends also. Can’t wait to see you soon.
Read Elizabeth: Hey Mom and Dad! I am having so much fun! It is so pretty here and the views are crazy. Happy late birthday Dad, and I can’t wait to see y’all!
Reese – hi mom and dad, we just got to an island and it’s really cool. I’m having lots of fun and I can’t wait to see you when I get back.
June 30, 2023
Bok (Hello!) from Croatia.
The adventures have not slowed down, and we’re eager to share with you what the team has been up to!
After finishing up with kayaking, the group headed to our new campsite for the night, Camp Slapic. Nolan and Chris opted to go explore the river, taking advantage of the rope swing right away. Meanwhile, Elle, Coco, McAulay, Bradley, Read Elizabeth, and Davis made friendship bracelets at camp while Reese dominated at ping pong. Right before dinner, we had a surprise toy sword fight. The LODs Davis and Coco chose teams, and team Davis declared victory after winning 6 of the 7 one vs. one matches. We worked up a good appetite, and headed straight to dinner. We scarfed down the yummy chicken risotto until our bellies were full. Of course, there’s always room for surprise ice cream! After enjoying the sweet treat, we all changed into swimsuits to head down to the rope swing. Coco led the charge jumping in, and Lee impressed us all with his swimming skills. Once we had our fill of swimming, we showered and changed for Moonup on the hill.
Chris and Davis woke up early once again the next morning for a polar plunge. Once they returned, we ate breakfast at the camp restaurant (with AMAZING croissants) and then packed up our tents and belongings for the next adventure. While waiting for our bus, we played a couple of games of birdie on a perch. Burton and Davis declared victory in the first round, and Lee and Alex were the winners of round two. The bus pulled up and we all hopped in. Our destination: Zavizan Mountain Hut in the Velebit mountains. After a quick grocery stop and lunch in the van, we arrived at the picturesque hostel. White limestone peaks cut dramatically through the green grassy hillsides, and wildflowers of all colors dotted the landscape. To our right, we could see the calm waters of the sea. The beauty was impossible not to appreciate. Wanting to see more, Finn, Lee, Alex, and Elle decided to go scramble up some rocks behind the hut. Meanwhile, Nolan and Chris cooked up dinner….did someone say taco Tuesday? Nolan’s cooking skills shone through, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the evening meal. After cleaning up, we headed to our first of three Moonups in the Velebit mountains. We tucked in early, tired from the day’s travel and excited for what was to come.
The Velebit mountains, while incredibly beautiful, can also bring unpredictable weather. Fog and wind dominated the landscape when we awoke the next morning, so we decided to take the opportunity for a much deserved sleep-in day. Once the weather cleared, Reese cooked up some French toast for breakfast while Mary Brooks and Coco prepped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch on the hike. Despite the later start, our team hiked quickly, and before we knew it we had put two mountain peaks behind us! We returned from the beautiful hike right around four o’clock. Coco, McAulay, Lee and Chris started on dinner prep and we celebrated a successful hike with steak and potatoes! As they worked on dinner, Bradley, Abby, Read Elizabeth, and Elle soaked up the sun and read outside. Finn, Reese, and Alex continued exploring and climbing behind the hut. Once dinner was ready, we all sat down for a well deserved and delicious meal. But our day was not yet over! We trekked to an overlook for Moonup during a gorgeous sunset. The wind was howling, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying a few Zach Bryan songs played on guitar by our very own team leader Chris! After Moonup, we all headed back and got to bed early.
The weather was on our side the next morning, so we decided to take advantage and get hiking! We enjoyed a filling breakfast of Nutella pancakes and eggs. Once again Adelaide, McAulay, and Coco prepped us lunch packs! The hike was longer this day, but the whole team charged through and reached the peak in record time! We ate lunch with a beautiful view, and spent an hour on the peak napping, soaking in the sun, and exploring the surrounding areas. We trekked back the same way we came, enjoying the vibrant colors of the wildflowers, plants, and limestone rocks all the way back. When we returned to the mountain hut, we spent the afternoon making more friendship bracelets, relaxing, and playing cards. Our wonderful outfitter, Martina, prepared Burek, a Croatian specialty, for dinner. Hungry from today’s adventure, we were all grateful for the cheesy noodle dish, and enjoyed it with salad, pesto pasta, and stew. After finishing up dinner, Finn and Reese helped start a fire for s’mores while Nolan, Lee, and Alex helped teach Elle how to play chess. Once the fire was going, we all headed down for the surprise treat! We filled our bellies with roasted marshmallows and chocolate coated biscuits, enjoying the Croatian twist on a common comfort food. After all that sugar, we had lots of added energy, so Coco and McAulay led an impromptu dance party! Up next on the agenda? Limbo! The victor? Mary Brooks! After finishing up with limbo, we headed outside for Moonup and were greeted by a band of horses! We spent some time saying hello, then headed to our overlook for Moonup. We were met with a warm and windless sunset, and after Moonup and more music from Chris, we headed back to the mountain hut. Our alarm was set early as we were waking up for sunrise the next morning!
That’s it for our second update! We’re having a blast here in Croatia and are looking forward to our next section of the trip!
-Chris and Elle
June 27, 2023
Hello to all family and friends from Croatia! We are Chris & Elle and are thrilled to be the leaders of this special group for the next couple of weeks. This country is beautiful, and we are so excited to share a once in a lifetime experience with this group. From the high mountain peaks, fast flowing rivers, stunning national parks, and luscious green islands, this group will see the best Croatia has to offer.
Airport day was as smooth as could be. The group arrived tired from travel, but eager to get the journey moving. We left our arrival city behind as we headed for Plitvice National Park; a campground just nearby would be our home for the next 2 nights! Reese quickly got a game of tips going as Nolan and Finn showed off their impressive Frisbee throwing skills. Elle used the human knot game to help the group learn each other’s names, and Alex and MB led us through to victory superbly! Dinner was followed up by our group’s first Moonup. We found a beautiful spot in the middle of a grassy field with a picturesque view of Croatia’s rolling hills. The group spoke about our goals for the journey, while Moondance veterans Lee and Abby were picked as the next day’s Leaders of the Day (LoD’s). After a long 24 hours of travel, a good night of sleep in our bungalows was much deserved. Our first full day together would be spent on a hiking tour around the world-famous waterfalls of Plitvice National Park. Our fantastic guide Martina showed us around as we stopped to marvel at the stunning views and translucent turquoise waters. The water is so perfectly clear you can see fish and plants up to 10 feet deep! Our strong group breezed through the 5 miles of dirt trail, wooden bridges and bamboo walkways before taking a tram down the hillside to our bus.
When we arrived back at camp, Chris took the group down for a swim in the river while Elle snuck off to grab a surprise for the kids. The swimming area in camp is part of the same river that flowed through the national park, and the kids found a perfect spot to jump in from! Reese, Coco and Burton fearlessly led a big group plunge into the clear and calm river. Kickball, frisbee and a soccer game ensued afterwards, and Elle popped in at the perfect time to surprise the group with ice cream bars! After a short break, the soccer game continued, where the girl’s team won thanks to Read Elizabeth and McAulay’s impressive skills. Off to dinner we headed, where a burger and risotto was served at a restaurant near camp. Moonup round two commenced shortly after, but not before a trip to the market for snacks and a few games of hacky sack. We trekked to the same Moonup spot as the night before but were treated to quite the surprise. The question asked by Lee was “What is an important life lesson you’ve learned”, and as Finn explained his answer of “living in the moment”, beautiful fireworks went off in the distance. We took a pause and marveled at the special sight. Abby made the perceptive distinction that the only place we would have been able to see the fireworks at our campsite was from the exact spot we chose for Moonup! The kids stayed up a bit later to enjoy each other’s company as well as appreciate the amazing stars on display. I think we’ll have a few shooting star firsts on this trip!
We could feel our adrenaline seekers start to get a bit antsy, and our next day’s activity brought us just what they were looking for! Chris and Davis started the day with a polar plunge in the river, and thereafter the group enjoyed a buffet breakfast of eggs, bacon, croissants and fruit. We packed up our camp and headed towards the Mrežnica River for our day of river kayaking. After a safety briefing from our guide Billy, the group split into twos as we braced for some waterfalls and rapids. We started out with a bang- a 10-foot waterfall drop in kayak, and a high jump from the top of a waterfall into the river! The group showed tremendous courage and bravery, with everyone choosing to jump from the higher of two points; 24 feet! Once we found ourselves in calmer waters, Nolan, Burton and Bradley got into the splash wars, which led to some flipped rafts and tons of laughs. 8 waterfalls, 3 rapids and one jump into water from the top of a waterfall later, the group was weary to say the least. Naps on the bus to our new camp were in order for many, while Adelaide did a great job on the aux playing some Fleetwood Mac & Futurebirds.
That’s all for now! We can’t wait for the excitement to come.
Next stop – Zavizan Mountain Hut in Velebit National Park.
-Chris & Elle
June 24, 2023
Hello CRO 2B friends + fams,
We just heard from our leaders that all your kids have made it to Zagred and are with Chris + Elle. They are so excited to get this adventure started!