Two weeks on the trail surrounded by mountains, flowers, cattle and flies. I’m hiking on my own (da, sama). I carry everything I need in my backpack and I’m free to go where ever I feel like going. Of course, I try to stick to the white trail, but sometimes the weather, the conditions of the route or people on the Via Dinarica change my plans a bit. It’s a fantastic journey and there is much more to come!
First I have to make clear the bad and ugly are far in the minority. Sometimes they pop up to make me aware, to keep me focused and they help me find a balance. This is life, not just the highs, but like the mountains – ups and downs – together they make it real.
I feel privileged to be here, to walk around, to be able to walk around in these brilliantly beautiful mountains. To go slow. I stop and stare, can’t believe that I hardly meet other hikers. The people I meet are shepherds mostly. Or locals who wave when I pass by. Sometimes they invite me in for coffee, rakija and a slice of cheese. It’s impossible to get hungry, people share what they have. Their food, cigarettes and their living/bedroom. I never ask for anything and don’t have anything to give in return besides my time and smile.
People on the Via Dinarica
The people here are curious and surprised to meet a Dutch girl in their mountains. They take my hand and show me around. I am curious too, I don’t know how to milk a cow or how to make cheese. I never cooked on a stove that runs on wood (don’t know what it’s called), never even made fire on my own.
I always had my own bedroom, running water from the tab and a toilet that flushes. There was food in the fridge and a supermarket around the corner. I don’t know how to grow veggies and I never had to take care of twenty cows or hundreds of sheep. I’m actually a bit afraid of animals, because I don’t know how to behave or how to treat them. Nevertheless, people respect me. They don’t ask for anything and put on some make up when I ask if I can take a picture of them.
Because of all these good, meaningful moments, I’m extremely positive. I believe that it’s this vibe that leads to more positivism. Maybe I’m naïve and I forget about the bad and ugly, but unfortunately it’s what other people are complaining about or warning me for.
The rubbish, for example. That’s absolutely very ugly. High in the mountains it’s not really a problem, but wherever people live, there is waste. Plastic bottles, cans and all sorts of litter on a big pile. Sometimes they try to burn it, which gives a disgusting smell, but often they don’t seem to care.
It’s a sign of poverty, I think. Those people have other things to worry about and there is no rubbish truck coming their way to pick up or clean up their mess. I hope that it will change in the next couple of years, but it takes time. There is no awareness and those who are aware, don’t have the power to do anything about it.
I don’t know what to say, it’s hard not to judge, because it ruins nature. It’s ugly and smelly and I find it disrespectful behaviour. On the other hand, I come from a very clean, well-organised country. I can just not imagine what it’s like to live here.
And some bad
Then there was a bit of a bad experience yesterday. I already walked 30 km and was in doubt if I could make it to Žabljak, another 10 km. It wouldn’t be wise, but I had enough time and it was an easy asphalt road. The village, Njegovudja, wasn’t quite inviting to spend the night and I really, really wanted to stay on a comfortable campsite.
At a little bar I had a coffee and gave my feet some rest. The moment I walked in, I felt uncomfortable. People were staring and drunk. A drunk man started to talk to me, but could only say “gentlemen, I’m sorry”. I could not think of a witty reply.
Another guy kept on saying that he loved me, took a selfie of me and him and bought me another coffee. He wanted to give me a ride to Žabljak, but I of course refused. The way he looked at me didn’t feel good. I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to stay at that place, so I got my stuff and prepared myself for the last part.
I like sex you
It was an empty road, no traffic and no other people. When I heard a car coming that slowed down a few meters behind me, I knew it was that guy. He again tried me to give me a ride, but I still preferred walking. He drove a bit further and turned around. Then he stopped, got out of his car and walked towards me. I kept on smiling and said that I didn’t want to cheat those last kilometres. He didn’t understand and came up with a new sentence, “I like sex, you”. The look in his eyes changed and he got angry that I didn’t want to come.
I turned around and told him that we could talk in the bar. “Room sobe you me”, he replied. “OK alright, see you there.” I had to get back to that place among other people. Not make him more angry, so I played the game along. Still smiling. Fortunately he didn’t touch me and got back in his car.
At the bar, I walked straight in, ignoring the guy. He had his motor still running and yelled something at me. I asked the lady to call her daughter, so I could explain what happened. They were surprised, but protected me and the guy to leave me alone. The daughter, Olja offered me a ride to the campsite in Žabljak. “Hvala!!” And I finally stopped shaking.
Nothing happened, but I felt unsafe and very vulnerable. Although they told me this guy would never do anything, I wasn’t so sure. The first moment he started to talk to me, it didn’t feel good. I felt it right and I think in the end it was a good decision to go turn around.
Back to the GOOD
On the campsite I met a young Dutch couple, Freek and Dianne. We started to chat about the Balkans, the mountains, the people. About travelling, the tourism “industry” and ended the evening looking at fire flies (vuurvliegjes) while drinking Montenegrin wine.
I didn’t forget about the bad, but I could put it in perspective. There is so much more good! I’m not afraid, I will continue alone, but I am a bit more aware. Until now 99% of the people were amazing, this guy wasn’t. So be it.
I’m still positive and looking forward to the next part, Durmitor!!