Many many wild plants were in my way. If I had known which I could eat, I perhaps would appreciate them more. I’m a city girl, but I’m getting more and more used to the wilderness. Still most of the time, the plants are in my way. Wilderness. Wild Balkans. Of course I also feel thankful that nature actually allows me here. When it’s wild and rough, completely overgrown it shows who is the boss. And that is absolutely not me!
On my Vibram FiveFingers I gently step my way through the fields and the forests. Carefully I climb the rocky mountains, constantly aware of what’s below my feet. I feel everything, much more than I can see. Because hey, the plants are still in my way!
No mountain hut?
I made it through Zelengora without getting lost and without losing my phone (or finding one). Proudly I arrived at Orlovačko jezero where I met three men. “Planinarski dom? Huhh, no Planinarski dom.” No way! I was looking forward to a place where I could dry my clothes and drink a strong cup of coffee. Now these men were telling me there was no mountain hut. No way!
Eight men and one girl from Amsterdam
I thanked them and continued hiking to the place where I believed the hut would be. “Heeey!” They shouted. “Kava?” Haha, hell yeah! And I slowed down to join the three men on their Saturday afternoon walk. “Polako…” they of course said and I slowed down a bit more.
The funny thing was that they were heading towards the exact same place I planned my coffee stop. They might not call it a mountain hut, but to me it was. At the hut, there were two more men and more and more kept coming. “Eight men and one girl from Amsterdam”, they repeated all evening.
I have to admit that I felt a bit intimidated. Especially when one of them tried to steal a kiss when his friends were not watching. I’m not used to people touching each other the way they do here. You easily get kisses, not only from men. And men are hugging and kissing each other as well. It’s nothing to be afraid of, most of the time their intentions are good. But this men went a bit too far, I don’t want kisses on my mouth and when I say no, I really mean NO!
No touch, no kiss
At one point I thought it would be better to go back to the lake and camp there. I wanted to sleep in the hut, but I didn’t want to sleep between eight snoring men. They were having their men party and I had no idea what time it would end or how drunk they would get.
You should have seen the disappointment on their faces, they were totally surprised that I was about to leave them. “No you stay!” I thought it would be best to be honest with them and I explained that I didn’t like the touching and kissing of the men who seemed to be in charge of the hut. They understood and promised me that there would be no provocation. “No touch, no kiss, no provokatie. You room, sama. OK?”
“OK, I’ll stay.” Of course they were making jokes about it, but it was all in a friendly way. Of course I was way out of my comfort-zone, but somehow this was an interesting learning-zone. Like I’m getting used to the wilderness, I’m getting more and more used to wild men. I have to be clear about what I do not want, but I also have to be able to move along and trust people, even when they behave different than I’m used to.
In the kitchen
The kitchen was outside, since I was the only woman, I had to cook. I tried to tell them that I’m bad with cooking and that I would do the dishes instead. But they saved themselves the trouble by using plastic plates and cups. I had no choice, I had to help preparing the meal. Grill. Telling them that I had been a vegetarian half my life didn’t help neither. They gave me some BBQ tools and suddenly I was in charge of the meat. Flipping it, put it in a pan when it was done and add oil and luk. Onion.
Oh well, that wasn’t too hard, except that I was in the cooking team with mister – kiss – stealer. I warned him that I would use the BBQ tools to flip him on the grill. That worked. It became our joke. Slowly I started to feel more relaxed and could actually enjoy the evening.
When I walked back into the common room, a handsome man had joined the group of eight wild men. Politely he introduced himself in English. Wow, how did he end up here? “Same way you did”, he answered. He met three men at the lake and they invited him to come over for a drink. This new man, Aleksandar, was at Zelengora to hike and explore, searching for edible plants. That’s his thing, surviving on what nature has to offer. On what the wild Balkans have to offer. I couldn’t help being impressed. And a bit ashamed.
All day plants has been in my way and my backpack is full of food. While treating myself on a cup of coffee was what kept me going, this man was moving with nature. I’m fighting it.
I know I shouldn’t blame myself or feel guilty that I know nothing about the environment I’m trying to find my way through. There are many different ways, many different adventures. I can’t do it all at the same time. And I surely have to learn a lot before I can even think of feeding myself with wild plants.
But I it did inspire me. Aleksandar inspired me. He has been teaching his daughter about plants since she was two years old. How amazing! How many kids learn those things these days? Enthusiastic I accepted his invitation to meet him again next morning. He wanted to show me how to find some good plants and roots, if I had time.
Time, hmmm. I was a bit worried that I couldn’t tell my friends in Sarajevo that I would be much later in Umoljani. I already was a day behind on the schedule I had send them and was afraid that I couldn’t meet them anymore. At the same time, this was exactly what I was trying to avoid. Hiking on a tight schedule and letting the non-polakoness take over.
So, I decided to spend the day with Aleksandar. Decided it with my head, choose with my heart (yeah that sounds cheesy), but could feel the restlessness in my body. Unfortunately the weather was bad again. We could not go up into the mountains. Cold after sitting for an hour making and drinking wild tea, we went to the hut to warm ourselves. Without success, the eight men wanted some private time. Waiting the whole day in the cold without knowing that it would be better the next, was too much for me.
Out of my comfort-zone
I realized that I had been out of my comfort-zone for too long. My flexibility was at it’s end. I needed to do something I new I could. Hiking, even if it was the macadam road instead of the White Trail through the mountains.
I said goodbye and left Aleksandar in the cold.
I felt sad somehow, but at least my feet were warming up. All day I thought about what it would be like if I had stayed. I know I choose the easy way. Struggling to let it go and trying to enjoy the hiking. Trying. Wondering, pondering completely in my own world I marched thirty kilometers without taking a break. Almost like I was punishing myself with doing the complete opposite of what I could have done. Really? Why! I absolutely don’t know.
I’m not going back to the lake and I try not to regret my decision. OK, I accept. I really do. Although I felt sad, I kind of enjoy the fact that I can allow those feelings and fully feel them.
What did those Wild Balkans teach me?
So, what did these wild men and wild plants teach me? That I am constantly moving out of my comfort-zone? That I need time to recharge every now and then? And that all of this, my journey, my adventure is in fact my learning-zone?
I don’t have to regret any decision, but be proud that I made one.
Cheers to that!
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