I’m in my tent. Camping at a wonderful place next to a church in the middle of a forest. There are picnic tables, there’s water and a lot of grass. In two months there will be a guest house as well, but for now that building is an unfinished building. They’re working on it though. I met the guys in charge earlier, they gave me permission to put up my tent here.

No idea how long I slept, but it can’t be more than 3 hours. The sound of a car woke me up. Slowly it’s coming my way. I hold my breath. The car stops, but the motor doesn’t. As quiet as possible I try to breathe. A door opens and closes again. My heart beats like hell. I’m sweating.

Maybe it’s random people doing random stuff in the forest. If it was the forest near Amsterdam, I could have guessed what. Here I’m not so sure. Why is that motor still on. And the headlights. Strange. Why don’t I hear no one, is it someone alone? I don’t dare to look. I don’t dare to move or to make any sound at all.

Perhaps they’re waiting till the coast is clear. For what? I think of all plausible explanations that don’t have anything to do with me. Thieves coming to steal building material. Lovers. Hunters. Security. But why would they leave the car running? And why don’t they make any sound. I can’t calm myself down.

I force myself to focus on my breathing. Don’t panic. I think of the guys I met earlier. The guys in charge of building the guest house. They’re the only ones who know I’m here. One of the guys came back alone. No idea why, he forgot something. He seemed friendly, but a bit uncomfortable. Must be the language I though then. Then. Now I’m not so sure.

It’s not the first time that I’m scared. The difference is that now the fear, this state of being super alert is not going away. It’s exhausting. Minutes pass. Minutes turn into hours. Really. I curse myself for putting the bear bell on my tent. With every movement I make, it rings. I can’t quietly open my tent. Arghh.

Who could possibly spend so much time in the forest. In a car?! Maybe it’s a camper van. Maybe it’s not the motor, but the heater I hear. But why the headlights? And I’m absolutely sure I didn’t hear them turning the motor off. The guy who came back alone had issues with his car. He couldn’t turn the motor on. Maybe he came back again and left it on so he could get away faster. But why would he wait to do whatever he could do for hours?

I decide to send a text to a friend in Sarajevo who sort knows where I am and what I’m doing. And who knows hikers who know this region. My message went along the lines “I’m so scared don’t know what to do.” and my exact location. I wanted at least one person to know where I was last if something happened. Pfff.

Luckily I didn’t wake him up.

As soon as it got light I took the risk and opened my tent.


Why didn’t I think of that? Police. Border police. They literally told me they hide in the forest hoping to catch immigrants. Refugees. Really. Hiding in the forest in a car with the motor on. How on earth are you going to catch anyone? Better if you ask me, but still. Stupid.

Angry, I crawled back into my tent. They didn’t even see me. Damn. I closed my eyes. I finally closed my eyes and tried to sleep. I heard a door slam. Someone threw something away and pied. Later I found empty beer cans. Hmpfff.

Couldn’t sleep, but at least I could calm down. Get rid of the adrenaline.

Definitely the worst night ever.

Worst night ever
Worst night ever
Unexpectedly great camping spot with unexpectedly unpleasant company
Unexpectedly great camping spot in the forest

1 Comment

  1. Mooi he, die ouderwetse Nederlandse gezegden: “de mens lijdt nog het meest, van het lijden dat ie vreest”.
    Kleine anecdote uit m’n eigen leven dan, om je een beetje op te vrolijken:
    Met geen cent te makken nam ik mijn vrouw op onze huwelijksreis in oktober naar de bossen van Fontainebleau, waar we eerder al eens waren om te boulderen.
    Koepeltentje, het pas getrouwde stel en een doodstille nacht in de bossen, totdat……..
    Denderend geraas, angstaanjagend en nog geen mobieltjes om iemand te informeren over ons nakend einde.
    Afijn, het ging voorbij, letterlijk zelfs, toen die troep wilde zwijnen verder getrokken was.
    We leven nog, we zijn nog steeds samen, en het koepeltentje is vervangen door ons stevige huisje midden in de Kroatische natuur bij een klein gehuchtje in de bergen achter Omis.
    Wilde zwijnen…. ook hier, maar ook jagers :-).

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Hiking & Biking the Balkans

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