The Via Dinarica Green Trail in Serbia goes through the lower mountains north of the White Trail. Those lower mountains often look like hills, peaks aren’t as prominent as in Durmitor for example (or Prokletije!), but on the other hand the route often stays around the 1000 meter above sea level. In those “hills” there are many farms, villages and weekend houses, vikendica. Therefore the Green Trail in a way is much more alive.
The rural regions between National Parks sometimes feel like a part that you “have” to cross in order to get to the next destination or highlight, but without those in- between parts the trail wouldn’t have its own character. It would be a 100% Instagramworthy route, but I wouldn’t feel (and taste) the region like I did now.
This hike is part of my trekking through the Balkans where I’m trying to connect all three Via Dinarica Trails. I continue counting days from where I left, that is Tara National Park. You can find my trailnotes of the first two parts of this trekking overhere: Via Dinarica Green Trail BiH, Hiking Jahorina Trailrun Track & Connecting the Dots, Hiking from Višegrad to and through Tara National Park.
To the trailhead, Veliki Stolac
From Predov Krst I took a short cut to get to Veliki Stolac, the trailhead of the Via Dinarica Green Trail in Serbia. Several dotted lines on MAPS.ME suggested that there was a path. Well, there used to be, but it takes quite some bushwhack skills to get through. Not sure if I’m skilled or just stubborn, but I found my way. I’d suggest to follow the road or don’t miss the signpost towards Veliki Stolac.
Like usual, the weather didn’t allow me to climb the peak. A serious thunderstorm showed me who’s the boss (NATURE) and small small me stayed on the road. A long, boring makadam road down.
Veliki Stolac – Zaovine jezero
It might have been the pouring rain, it might have been pour signs or a pour trail. Or perhaps it was me not paying attention. Whatever happened, I missed the turn to Đurđevo brdo. More makadam, more rain, more mud and then a dead end: more bushwhacking. I fought my way back to the track. Lost it, found it, lost it and took another wild short cut. Got more mudd. From the river Baturski Zrav towards Čemerišta was a horror track, a steep woodcutterstrack up with mudd to my knees. So so much mudd – really NO FUN.
Don’t know what to think of this Via Dinarica route. So far there have been a few nice kilometres (after Đurđevo brdo), but generally it was the least interesting of all the trails in Tara National Park. I’m so sorry.
Completely covered in mud I arrived at Zaovine lake. Finally a view. And a good one! I could stay at Rajski pogled apartment, because again I met incredibly generous people. Although the first day of the Via Dinarica was a bit of a disappointment, the people I keep on meeting are warm and friendly.
I often do wonder what on earth I’m doing, but I think I still like it. Despite the mud, the rain and the makadam roads without view, I’m happy to hike here. When I look at my photos, I have to admit that it all looks amazing. This is not the reality, nothing is all amazing. But I think that’s what makes it real.
And don’t get me wrong here. Tara national Park is beautiful, you just have to know where to go. I do now 😉
Zaovine – Mokra Gora
After the first somewhat disappointing day on the Green Trail in Serbia, I was destined to give the route another change. Without looking too much at the map(s), I followed the green marks. Happily enjoying the sun (finally!) and the views. Until the marks turned red. What’s wrong? Did I again miss my turn. Probably I did.
Couldn’t care though. Zborište, the peak I was supposed to go to is a green mountain without view and the road I was on was sunny. A panorama road without traffic. That’s how I ended up in Mokra Gora instead of Šargan. Oh no, that’s why, but not how. During the last 5 kilometres on that sunny road my feet had enough. I managed to do 3 more, but then I gave up. I sat down on my backpack and closed my eyes for a bit. Until I heard a car, the first one that day. The car stopped and asked me if I needed a ride. “Ohww yes I do!” Thát’s how I ended up in Mokra Gora.
Often life goes like this, the moment you stop pushing, something or someone unexpected shows up and gives you a helping hand.
I got a ride from a Russian couple who recently discovered the fun of hiking. They drove up the mountain I came from and hiked a bit around. Alone, because other than us three, nobody hikes. I don’t know why. Perhaps the lack of information, but maybe there’s no information because there’s no animo. Or not enough. Don’t know.
The Russians planned to go to Tara National Park the next day hoping to find hiking trails there. Well, since I just hiked about 100K through Tara, I could tell them where to go. Together we grabbed a beer and had dinner at the Mokra Gora train station restaurant. It turned out that they had an extra room in their apartment… Another night in a bed ánd another shower. Yay!
The day after I took a break. I felt tired and the restaurant seemed to be a good place to hang out. It was. Watching tourist, drinking coffee and writing stories. I knew there was a campsite 15 kilometres further up the road, but the owner of the restaurant pointed at the garden. “Is that good enough for you?” Me: “:)”
Šargan Eight Trainline
Despite the rest day and a good night sleep, I still felt tired. Why not take a ride on the tourist train? I sometimes feel bad that I skip “must do’s”, so I hopped on. It is indeed a great ride. The trajectory is really magnificent and the train super cute (love old stuff), but I felt a bit misplaced with my hiking gear between hundreds of excited tourists. Nevertheless I would recommend it.
The ticket guy allowed me to go for a second ride which got me almost back to the Via Dinarica trail. So happy I didn’t have to hitchhike or even worse, hike the road. At Šargan another thunderstorm took me by surprise. Dwelled in self pity I changed direction to the campsite in Kremna. What a sweet place!
Camping Viljamovka gave me a warm welcome and proudly let me taste their award-winning rakija. A mini camping with everything a tired hiker (or any other traveller) needs. Plus a good view. Before dinner I went to bed, plugged in my earplugs and had a good 12 hour sleep.
Now I’m in doubt. Pack my bag or stay another day? It’s somewhat frustrating that I’ve been hiking in circles the past two weeks. I’m craving for making more distance southwards. On the other hand, why care?
Before I started this trip, I told myself to take two days off each week. Five days hiking, two days writing and reading. It doesn’t happen daily that I find a place where I would actually like to take a day off, but camping Viljamovka was excellent. I stayed, posted a few stories, finished a few new ones and then day was already over. Days are shorter than I’m used to. It’s summer right? But at nine it’s completely dark.
Kremna towards Zlatibor
Next day I had a hard time leaving the camp. It rained all night and would do so all day. The only “good” thing about so much rain is that I can give up the hope that it will be better the next hour or day. Or week. I just have to face it, it’s a shitty summer. The wettest in 40 years I read somewhere. Almost a month has passed without one single dry day. I had some sun, but only for a short bit. I’m so done with this, but well just told myself I have to face it, right?
From Kremna I hiked back to Šargan, to the train station where I continued on an unpaved into the forest. To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for this section. The route towards Zlatibor followed a biking track which usually means makadam an muddy forest roads. For the first 5 or 10 kilometres this was true, but it was anything but unpleasant.
Over the hills
The route went on over the hills, across several “peaks” and slowly the trees made place for grass. Views! Still rainy, foggy and cloudy, but every now and then I could see the landscape. So beautiful! The forest road disappeared and I got a real hiking trail instead. Sometimes low expectations help. I felt the energy coming back. Yes, Tara and her forests are incredibly, but I think I can say I prefer wider landscapes. The route towards Zlatibor gave me that.
At Velika Gruda (“peak”) the marked trail stopped. This is where I depended on the rough GPX track of the Via Dinarica Green Trail. This track is a suggestion, but it is far from from detailed enough to blindly follow. So, the game is on! Now I’m exploring.
Around eight found a little hunters place in the forest where I allowed myself to climb over the fence and use the sheltered pick-nick table. I pitched my tent in the garden and had the most quiet night so far. Completely dark. Completely silent. What a blessing.
Somewhere in the mountains near Zlatibor – Tornik
From my somewhat illegal bivy spot at a hunters lodge, I followed an unpaved road down to an asphalt road. The road to Zlatibor. To my surprise I accidentally picked up a marked trail, no idea where to, but as long as it’s sort of my direction and not on asphalt, I would follow it. The marked route went up through the forest, curved around the mountain, joined a mountain bike trail, crossed the river, passed several farms and then suddenly signs with “Tornik” showed up. Tornik aha, the peak with the ski piste. Dobro.
I personally don’t think this peak itself was really worth the climb, but everything for the view right? The hiking trail after the Tornik peak down towards the East on the other hand is one of the best parts of the Green Trail so far. A well maintained, well marked beautiful ridge hike. Love ridges! And views. View, view, views! Finally 🙂
The evening sun made it even better. I pitched my tent at the end of the ridge hike just before the route would go down to the road. Can’t describe how happy I felt to be able to sit in front of my tent, preparing dinner and hang my socks to dry. A luxury, but also the realisation how important it is to find a moment to recharge. And how scarce those moments where so far. Alone in nature, a remedy for nearly everything.
Tornik – Murtenica – Zlatar lake – Uvac
The next day I crossed Murtenica. Not a great hike, but I found a lovely vikendica where I could put up my tent and again had a sunny evening. From Murtenica I headed for Zlatar, the lake. The GPX track was a bit of a mistery, so I followed roads. Makadam, mud and asphalt. In random order. It looked like I had to make a huge loop around the brenches of the lake, until a local told me there was a boat. Great!
Although that boat didn’t take me where I planned to go, it was a nice ride. From Kokin Brod I hitchhiked to Nova Varoš from where I hiked back towards the lake. Here I found another amazing mini campsite, kamp Uvac or Auto Kamp Lukovic. Perfect place to take half a day off.
Kamp Uvac – Šaponjski vrh – Villa Uvac
Tried to get to the other side of the Uvac via Šaponjski vrh. I only had to find a shipper who could bring me to the dam or somewhere close to the hiking trail I planned to follow. Didn’t succeed, hiked around in circles and ended up not far from where I started, BUT I did get to see the Uvac from above.
I accidentally ended in Villa Uvac. I just wanted to sit down and drink coffee, got a enormous lunch, great company and a room as a bonus. There are days I don’t want to be bothered by anyone and there are days I enjoy the fuzz of friendly people to the max.
Uvac – Sjenica jezero – Rasno
I took a turist boat on the Uvac river and got off halfway the meanders. A ranger took me with his boat to the trailhead to Moltiva viewpoint, where I hiked up. From there there’s a great hiking trail towards Sjenica lake, my destination for that night.
Since it was again a grey, rainy morning, I hitchhiked to town, to Sjenica. By then I realised I would have hike back to the (concept of) the Green Trail or take another route. I choose the latter. Away from the forest I hiked across the Pešter plateau where I actually missed the nature reserve (Pešter field) and the most prominent peak (Krstaca I believe), but I got a pretty good impression of the region.
Pešter – Tutin
Pešter is famous for their meat and dairy products that are produced there. Despite (or due to) the hard work, people a calm and healthy life. There’s cattle grazing everywhere and so there’s cheese everywhere. Tenting was no option, they simply don’t let you. “Why sleep in a tent?! – I have a room for you!” I met families who invited me for coffee, for lunch, for dinner and for breakfast. At the end of the day I got a shower and a bed ánd palačinke for desert.
A few kilometres from Rasno where I slept, a car stopped and offered me a ride to Tutin. It still feels weird to go so fast, but to be honest, I didn’t mind skipping the 40K hike on makadam roads. I’m sure there must have been a more scenic route, but I enjoyed myself watching the countryside from the car.
Tutin – Beleg
By going to Tutin I made my change of direction kind of definitive. I left the Green Trail and headed for Kosovo without the detour via Zubin Potok (which is also in Kosovo, but a bit more east). In Tutin I met a local mountaineer who helped me planning my route and introduced me to more local food. On top that I could sleep another in a bed and had another shower.
The next day he drove me with his jeep upon the mountain. I wanted to explain that hiking is what I do and that I don’t mind a road day, but on the other hand, why not? Saved myself 25K and could almost see the border(s) when I was dropped at the trailhead near the mountain hut. If only the clouds could disappear.
Not a chance. On the second (?) highest peak of Serbia (Beleg) which is actually on the border with Kosovo and Montenegro I didn’t see a thing. The transversal was impossible. Grrr. But well, instead of being grumpy about it, I focused on something else: the fact that I made it to the border. That I just finished another stage of my Balkan thru-hike.
I waved Serbia goodbye and descended.
The first steps into a new country always feel special. Not that I really noticed I crossed the border, but my GPS told I’m in Kosovo. Maybe because nothing changes it’s special. I don’t know. Right after the eufory, reality kicked in. Eva, it’s freaking foggy, you can’t see the terrain, let alone try to read it to find a way over the mountain tops. No. I couldn’t. Someone told me there’s a mountain traverse from Beleg peak all the way to Hajla peak, but I couldn’t even make it to the next unnamed peak. I had to face it, I had to go down.
While searching for the most logical route and avoiding the dwarf pines, I bumped onto a marked trail. The trail to Beleg, but then from the Kosovo side. Thankfully I followed that trail down. Down to an open space, a saddle. The trail continued towards Montenegro, not where I planned to go. I had no idea if it would curve around the mountain and go to a mountain hut or descend all the way down to a parking lot. Since it was heading towards a forest, I choose not to follow it. Had enough forests the last month.
A grassy track lead me to a makadam road. Left or right? I choose the latter, because it seemed to go in the direction of mountain hut Sejnova. It probably didn’t, but I will never know.
A kilometre or three further I came across a sheep farm. Or well, a house with 140 sheep (and two dogs). I asked where the road was going. “Kaliçane”. Hmm, also not what I wanted. The man told me I could try to find my way around the mountain, but it was kind of late and he wondered where I would sleep. “In my tent”. His eyes looked worried. “But there are wolves here…”
I accepted the coffee and went inside. During the summer months he lives up in the mountains with his son. Together they take care of the sheep, cut wood for the winter and calmly kill time together. He prepared a room for me, I didn’t mind. I would try the next day.
Jeep ride down
The next day was even worse. Misty, windy and cold. No way I would wait another day, but I also did not feel comfortable to navigate in the mist. The man and his son were going down and offered me a ride. Well what to say? I hopped on and enjoyed an almost two hour jeep ride back to civilisation. From kaliçane I walked to Radavac, joined the tourists to see the source of the White Drin and found a camp spot in front of a restaurant.
So far so good. The people in Kosovo are extremely friendly and the mountains look promising. I might have cheated my way down, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to miss it. Hiking is one thing, it’s my thing, to let that go is difficult for me. At the same time these encounters are just a much part of the adventure. And I think the combination makes it one of a kind.