It started, like so many stories, in the bar. There was me, New Zealand, England and Lebanese Rob. We'd ended up in a small bar in the old town where Rob had had success getting free drinks with his Lebanese connections. Never one to pass up an opportunity, I was Lebanese for the night too — Pierre Dabbus from Beirut.
We met a couple of girls in the bar and the conversation turned to the cliffs at the end of the beach — I was the only one to have jumped off them, and naturally I suggested that we finish our drinks and go jump off them in the dark.
Somehow I managed to make this sound like a good idea, and, apart from Rob who stayed to drink, we headed down towards the beach. The cliffs are at the end of a semi-circular bay, rocks rising steeply to the trees above — it's probably the nicest beach in Budva, although the hordes of Russian tourists mean that it's mobbed during the day. It's a private beach so it's locked up at night, although it's very easy to climb around the gate. I don't believe in private beaches, so I have no qualms about a little night time trespassing, but as we carried on from the gate we hit our first obstacle.
A little shrivelled old man was sitting listening to the terrible local music on the radio and as we walked past he started shouting at us — he was obviously the beach's night watchman. I played the dumb tourist card, but no matter how much I misunderstood him and gestured innocently down the beach, he was determined to be a spoilsport. After he had threatened us with the polizei we decided that it was time to back off and reconsider our plans.
So we climbed back around the gate.
Shall we swim it? I asked New Zealand — there was an outcrop of rock halfway down the beach,
the path going through a tunnel to the next beach; I figured it would be dark enough there to
get round without being seen, especially as the far beach was shadowed from the moon by the
New Zealand was up for it, and somehow, I'm not entirely sure how, I managed to convince the others to come too. I seem to be pretty persuasive when there is illicit adrenaline at stake.
It's only a few hundred meters swim, I told them,
In fact the cliffs were perhaps half a kilometer away across the calm water of the bay — we'd swim on the otherside of the buoys that marked the designated swimming area for the sunbathing sheeple of the day.
We hid our clothes in a cleft in the rocks and silently entered the water. Quietly and without splashing, we began the stealthy swim across the bay.
The moonlight reflected of the warm water, leaving a trail of light towards the cliff. The water rippled gently, and five black silhouettes of heads drifted slowly across the horizon.
Behind the rock I'd thought we'd get out at was another beach hut with a light — we'd have to swim right the way across, but we were halfway by now, there was nothing we could do.
About 20 meters from the shore I scraped into a rock — the water got shallow really quick. This was awkward. The rocks around here are covered in thorny sea urchins, whose razor sharp spines cut effortlessly into skin and then snap off. It's not serious — they're not poisonous and all you have to do to treat them, according to the local wisdom, is dab on olive oil and let the spines fall out, but stabbing yourself sucks.
Once we'd got to the shore there was another hundred meters or so of sharp boulders to scramble across to get to the jumping cliff. It was at this point that I realised that I may have exaggerated the easyness of the trip — I think the girls hated me quite a lot at that point.
But then we were there, standing on top of the precipice, looking down at the black water. It's not a particularly big jump — perhaps 6 meters or so — but the darkness made it seem higher — a drop into a watery void. As I was the only one to have done the jump before, I went first, jumping out into that second of delicious freefall before the water rushes up to meet you.
New Zealand followed, and then the others, some landing more gracefully than others. None of us managed much grace as we clambered out of the water among the urchin strewn rocks, to climb back to the top of the cliff.
We sat there for a while, shivering a little in the cool night breeze, watching the lights of the old town shimmer and listening to the water ripple against the rocks below us; savoring the rush, and toasting the watchman's failure.
We decided it was easier to swim directly back from the rock, so we plunged into the sea once more, and began the journey back. I floated on my back and watched the stars drift behind the few wispy clouds. The moonlight road stretched away beneath my feet, and the salt crackled in my ears.