Travel: Getting active on the Croatian island of Vis

The view from a bike on Vis
The view from a bike on Vis
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Tom Peterkin goes way outside his comfort zone on a mountain bike, slack wire and paddle board for a health boosting week on the Croatian island of Vis

With the sunbeating down on my bald patch, my bicycle crept up the mountain road. My lumpen legs were drained of energy as they pushed down on the pedals to inch round yet another hairpin bend. The toddler in the baby seat behind me was fast asleep and couldn’t hear my muttered obscenities. A shaking hand released its feeble grip on the handlebars to wipe my sweat-lashed brow and I looked up from the road.

Spread out in front of me was the most gorgeous view. Far below in the distance was the picturesque coastal town of Komiza. Beyond that the Adriatic glistened. And best of all, I had finally reached the highest point on my two-wheeled journey across the Croatian island of Vis. A feeling of achievement swept over me as I contemplated a long, glorious, exhilarating, freewheeling descent.

As someone whose idea of fresh air and exercise normally amounted to a stroll to a beer garden, I had found myself on an unaccustomed trip – a holiday based on outdoor activities. Gathering momentum down the spectacular road, I began to get in touch with my inner Bradley Wiggins. This was exercise at its most fun.

A couple of days before, I had been slightly apprehensive when I arrived in Croatia with my wife Sinead and our 16-month-old daughter Iris. Would my lamentable fitness levels be able to cope with the exertions of a holiday specialising in mountain biking, hiking and sea kayaking? I need not have worried. Our hosts Xania and Craig Wear proved wonderfully laid-back mentors when it came to sharing their love of the outdoors.

As one might expect of a couple who met while studying physical education in Cardiff, their fitness levels were enviable. But the philosophy of their “relaxingly active” holiday catered for a wide range of abilities. Everyone in the small group enjoying one of their WearActive holidays made the most of the superb range of activities on offer. But we did so in a pressure-free environment where we were able to pick and choose our activities. Nothing was compulsory. Those who wanted to cycle could choose between a 22km or 11km route and stragglers were waited for patiently. Somewhat to my astonishment I managed the longer version. Admittedly, my performance was more impressive on the gravity assisted sections. But the superb gears of the WearActive bicycles meant that the uphill stretches were manageable.

Our adventure began when we took advantage of one of the many direct flights from Scotland to Split. After a few hours exploring the Byzantine and Roman architecture of the Dalmatian coastal resort, we got on the ferry to Vis. There we were met by Craig, who drove us in his WearActive Land Rover to the delightful home he and Xania have made in the village of Rukavac. On their terrace we would spend the next few nights with our fellow guests dining alfresco. Underneath a canopy of stars we enjoyed beautifully prepared cuisine that complemented the spectacular surroundings. As a committed carnivore I had been sceptical when advised that the healthy aspect of the holiday extended to a vegetarian menu. But the meals prepared by Xania won me over with ease. The most delicious and imaginative recipes were washed down with the wine from the local vineyards.

On a wall in their house was a picture of their spectacular mountain chalet in Austria, which showed another aspect to their enterprise. Craig and Xania also offer Austrian holidays based around their formula of healthy exercise in relaxed surroundings. Downhill skiing, snow-shoeing and yoga are just some of the activities on offer in breathtaking surroundings. If our Croatian experience is anything to go by, the Austrian version would be well worth a shot.

On Vis, a typical day began with a short early morning walk to the shore. On a flat rock overlooking the crystal clear sea, Craig or Xania would take an ashtanga yoga class as the sun rose to the sound of the waves.

After breakfast, there was a chance to test one’s balance on a slack wire fastened to two trees near one of the many secluded beaches within a few minutes stroll. Craig was a master of this circus-style skill, which involves walking along a sort of flexible tight rope. I was hopeless.

Particular highlights were two kayaking expeditions. On a calm and beautiful day, Sinead, Iris and I put on life-jackets and eased ourselves into one of these flat-bottomed crafts. Unfortunately Iris wasn’t much good at the paddling. But Sinead and I just about managed to keep up with the rest of the group as we made our way along the flat calm sea to various charming, mainly pebbled beaches. It was on a rare sandy beach that we played the Croatian game of pitzygeen, a ball sport a bit like keepie up – except that you use your hands. As one might expect of a Yorkshireman who has represented Croatia at cricket, Craig’s hand/eye co-ordination meant his contribution was impressive.

There was also the chance to try some paddle boarding. I proved marginally better at this than the slack wire – although I still managed to come to grief, falling off in the most inelegant way imaginable.

The exercise, sunshine and gorgeous healthy food meant we felt much fitter and truly cleansed by the end of our week. It may have been an atypical holiday for us, but we thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

FACT BOX

Jet 2 (www.jet2.com) have direct flights from Edinburgh to Split (on Thursdays and Sundays); prices for June, for example, run from £144.

WearActive holidays run Saturday to Saturday and staying a few nights in Split is worth doing prior to arriving at Vis island.

WearActive prices for June start at £820pp and then there is a 20% reduction for 15 years and under. See website for prices. (www.wearactive.com)