In an optimistic summer-holiday-mood I got off the bus in Sarajevo. Okay, there were some thunderstorms on the road and okay, the weather forecast showed rain, rain and rain, but because of the super sunny summer weather in The Netherlands I simply couldn’t believe it would really get that bad. I had prepared myself for intense heat, packed a thick tube of sunscreen, but instead of a mercilessly fierce shining sun, I got mud and mist on the Jahorina trail run track.
Jep, I’m hiking again. From Sarajevo I’m heading East on the Jahorina Trailrun Track to Višegrad. Although this track has not been used recently, it is still more or less marked. The Jahorina Trailrun Track connects Trebević, Jahorina and Romanija, the three mountains north-east of Sarajevo, and continues through the Rogatica region to Višegrad. An incredibly green route, perfect for the Via Dinarica Green Trail. Maybe this ís the Green Trail?
Sun or rain, I start my journey anyhow. From the centre of Sarajevo city I slowly work my way up the steep streets at the foot of Trebević mountain. Still optimistic with my sunglasses on my head. I said it before and I’ll probably keep on saying it, because it’s truly fascinating how fast you leave the busy city behind. Within ten minutes you’re in a completely different world. A village world.
I pass by a big white rock with some houses underneath. In front me two people slowly stroll through the street. The old man vividly tells a story to his younger companion, his hands move much faster than his feet. A bit further a woman with a cloth tied around her head is cleaning the carpets. She nods and smiles. Chickens run around, cats play and dogs, the dogs bark. Another ten minutes and I’m in the mountains.
On Trebević I choose a route which is new to me. The route takes me to Napredak dom, an huge hotel-restaurant-complex. I could have a coffee, I can always have coffee, but decide to continue. Shortly after Napredak dom I pass by mountain hut Trebević, planinarski dom Trebević. It starts to rain. And thunder. Unfortunately the hut is closed. More thunders. Then mister lightning joins. Great.
Okay, I hurry back to Napredak and have a coffee after all. I stay all afternoon, until it’s time to find a place to sleep. Mountain hut Trebević is still closed, but there’s a roofed terrace with couches. That’s where I prepare myself for the first night in the misty, green wilderness.
Mist and cows
In thick mist I hike to the top of Trebević. From the top the trail goes down to the other side. It’s sort of a path, but not really. Here the trail-searching begins. A vague trace of plastic ribbons combined with beer cans attached to branches show me the way. Every now and then I come across a path that looks like a trail, but mostly those are cow tracks. Paths cows made. I hear them roar somewhere down, but can’t see them. It’s still misty. Then I remember a story about a dangerous wild bull during the trail run event two or three years ago. Unintentionally I start to hike faster.
I hike through forest and more forest. There’s grass and there are bushes. More grass and more bushes. A muddy path up. I loose the track. A muddy path down. I try to find the ribbons and beer cans and then, then I suddenly see red and white trail marks. Yes, back on track. The marking leads me to a road that lingers along a few farms and brings me to a bigger road. When I cross the big road a dog starts to bark. The dog guards the terrain I have to cross according to my GPX track. Damn.
Road walk to Jahorina
The man who belongs to the dog walks towards me. “No, there’s no path here. Here’s only forest.” He gestures that there are bears in the forest. I know that, but he doesn’t listen. “I’m a hunter, you know.” The man invites me in for fresh juice. His daughter explains through Google Translate that the route is dangerous and overgrown. I have to walk the road, she tells me. For some reason I don’t have the energy to defend my plan or beg for permission to cross their land.
So, I walk the road to Jahorina. At least it’s not muddy. Still wet though.
Jahorina is a mountain known for skiing. In 1984 the Olympic winter games were held here, but of that glory is very little seen now. Ski resorts make me sad, especially in summer. The rain and fog made it even more shadowy. Deserted buildings covered with graffiti and bullet holes. Also here I lose my way. I walk around the desolated ski village hoping to find an acceptable place to camp, but no. When I descend one of the slippery ski slopes my eye catches a more or less flat area below the cable car. Time to call it a day.
The next day I wake up in the fog. Again I pack a wet tent. Mweh. At the bottom of the piste I find a macadam road, then there is an overgrown but marked footpath through the woods. This path takes me to another ski slope, Ravna Planina. I’m surprised to see people taking the cable car up, into the clouds. Why? I have seen this place on photos, in winter it looks cosy, but here too very little of that cosiness can be seen now. I head over the restaurant at the foot of the green ski piste and treat myself to a cup of coffee.
Trebević is green, Jahorina greener, but Romanija is absolutely the greenest. Via Pale I hike towards Romanija. A long road with pretty houses. If the people weren’t so cold and all gardens had not looked that incredibly inaccessible, I would have asked if I could put up my tent somewhere. I did not. I don’t like Pale, so I keep on walking. The asphalt road turns into a forest road, frequently used by sheep. Mud with poo. Great.
A few kilometres before the hamlet of Jelovci I find an open space in the forest. A place where they let sheep graze and so there are mini wooden benches for shepherds. Awesome. Satisfied I pitch my tent between the ferns and bind the bear bell on the outside. Just in case. Bears and boars usually don’t come close to people, but you never know.
Crazy green Romanija
I walk in rain, in mist, in mud. Frequently I miss a turn or loose the markings. If there are markings at all. I’m cold and I’m wet and my mood is everything but optimistic. It is what it is, but do I recommend it? Do I recommend hiking the Jahorina trail run track? If you love forest, yes. If you don’t, no.
The adventurous steep climb up on Romanija mountain is fun though. In the middle of the forest I have to go straight up through that beautiful green wilderness. Unfortunately I miss my turn short after the awesome climb and end up on a endlessly long macadam road down. Personally I don’t mind, it’s the combination of complete wilderness and “road” hiking I actually like. Just like I do enjoy walking on asphalt in rural areas.
A few hours later I sit down in front of an unfinished mountain hut a few kilometres before Ravna Romanija. I’m tired. Although it stopped raining, everything around me is wet. Everything is wet, but there’s no water. I try to pull myself together and walk back to the village to fill my water.
I want to want it
I’ve been advised to leave the Jahorina trail run track after Ravna Romanija, because the section between Romanija and Rogatica is supposed to be a whole lot of trouble. No track, no markings. No nothing except a muddy forest. Don’t think I feel like exploring that right now. I want to wanna go. I want to want it, but I don’t. Don’t want it. And thus I don’t go.
In Ravna Romanija I follow the road-road to Sokolac. After Sokolac, small village roads lead to the next real hiking trail. Walking from village to village between Sokolac and Ziličina was despite the fact that it was on a road, definitely a highlight. I really like this region. It’s so friendly and quiet ánd there are sheep everywhere. Love sheep! It’s a lovely walk and finally, finally I get to see the sun.
Beyond all expectations I reach Ziličina before dark. Local food, home-made rakija and Bosnian coffee are waiting me. With a big big smile and a well-filled stomach I crawl into my little green tent, tuck myself in and fall asleep almost immediately.
Two days later I leave the lovely Ziličina paradise behind. From here the trail is very well marked, somewhat overgrown, but it’s marked and it’s a trail. The owner of this “Seoski Turizam Ziličina” restaurant and B&B, Slobodan Brkic, turned out to be a trail run enthusiast himself. He actually marked the Jahorina trail run track from Ziličina to Višegrad and he’s the first person I meet who’s familiar with the Via Dinarica. “Yes, this is the Green Trail” he proudly smiles. I’m surprised, if the Green Trail indeed exists, why isn’t there any information online yet?
With the sun on my side I leave the lovely Ziličina village behind. From here the trail is very well marked. Again a combination of makadam roads and forest trails. A bit overgrown here and there, but doable. Today there’s even a peak on the program. Ivica. I smile, I’m looking forward to a little climb.
Before I hit the trail I come across a village where a man who’s cutting the grass around his house randomly asks me for my papers. Claiming he has to know who’s crossing his village. Sure. His eyes scan my body while he lifts the scythe he was using for the grass – as if he tries to warn me. I ignore him and keep on looking for the trail into the woods, hoping he’s not in for hike. He wasn’t.
I might be officially on the Via Dinarica, the people I meet are still surprised (and worried) to see (female) hiker (alone). Guess that’s part of the Via Dinarica experience. You get to be alone on the trails, but you also get the looks when walking across a village. I don’t mind, usually the looks are friendly. Most people are just curious and invite you in for coffee rather than asking for your documents. There’s way more good.
The last stretch to Višegrad is suddenly overgrown again. Argh. Warning signs for mines tell me not to leave the path. Okay there’s something worse than ski slopes, mines are the ultimate sadness. Reaching Višegrad takes me much longer than I have water left. Around noon I finally reach the viewpoint with the view on Višegrad. The sun shines bright, the Drina river is green. It’s beautiful. Really, everything everything is green. I smile.
It might have been a whole lot of mist and a whole lot of mud and it might have been hard to stay on track a little more often than I would say is fun, it also was an almost two hundred kilometre long incredibly green and wildly beautiful start of an adventure that only just began.
On to the next part, cheers to that!
Jahorina Trail Run Track vs Via Dinarica
These are the Jahorina trail run tracks I combined into a “new” route: Jahorina Midi Trail 2016, Jahorina Ultra Trail 2015, Jahorina Ultra Trail 2016. Near Ziličina I came across Via Dinarica sign posts, but I’m not sure if this means it’s part of THE Via Dinarica Green Trail. I hope so, because I definitely do see potential. Curious? Have a closer look on the map below where I added my GPX track with Points of Interest and information about water sources, resupply options etc.