At the end of the month I’d like to look back on where I’ve been, what I did and how I felt. I’ll use my Instagram photos to do so. Here’s September’s photo story, another month in the Macedonian mountains. And a little bit of Ohrid.
Galičica National Park
When I started hiking the Macedonian Transversal from Ljuboten to Ohrid (Crvena Voda actually, but well), I thought I would totally chill on Ohrids beach for a week or so. I didn’t. Instead I walked and walked and walked. I picked up a trail from Magaro across Galičica National Park back to Ohrid and still don’t feel tempted to lay down. Guess I’m too restless. And yeah, for me it’s a little bit too busy. On the other hand I do need a break, just don’t know how or where. So I keep on walking. Hiking.
Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park
Usually I recharge when walking in the mountains. The simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other in combination with the complexity of being so freaking vulnerable amidst those almighty giants. It makes me feel so grateful. It calms me down to focus on one thing: hike. No place for worries other than where to find water, shelter and a hikable trail.
On the other hand it does cost a lot of energy to be busy almost all the time. When I’m constantly alert without a good night sleep, my battery empties quite fast. Isn’t it ironic that my solar panel sort of did the same. Instead of charging my phone, it emptied it. What the hell? I don’t believe in signs, but do realize that I should pay more attention to my gut feeling. Not because I’m doing more tricky or dangerous stuff than usual, but mostly because it can become tricky whenever I’m not rested.
From Gorna Belica I hiked up, taking breaks wherever I could. Hiding for dogs, watching the clouds. Not one single moment I felt relaxed. And to be completely honest, not one single moment I could fully enjoy. I’m driving myself crazy. Part of me wants to push, kick or shout myself forward, the other part just wants to sit and sit. Damn. I made it to Crn Kamen, even followed the ridge untill I picked up an easy well marked trail to Steblevë, but with every step I felt doubt.
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.” ~ Haruki Murakami
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami
UP & down
Where am I going? What am I doing? Why? Am I running? Hiding? Avoiding?
Past few days I’ve been moving around in circles. Walking, hiking, hitchhiking. I hiked up and down mountains, walked many many roads and accepted rides whenever the driver seemed oké…
Think it’s more like searching. Looking for a way to deal with my fears.
Obviously I’m tired and bothered. Although the weather is incredibly good, there’s this storm inside me.
Sometimes I don’t know why I’m doing what I’m doing – why I’m hiking the road instead of seeking a trail, why I can’t get up, why I turn around, why I move around in circles.
I try to do what feels good. What feels good differs from day to day. What I need differs from day to day. If it means I walk in circles, let it be so.
Hunger and Fear
From Steblevë I followed the trail to Raduč peak, made an enormous detour through the forest (arghh) to escape some approaching dogs (arghhh) and went down to Modrič. On the way down two huge white dogs suddenly blocked my way. No idea where they came from or where they were heading to but they were there. Barking.
I got so extremely mad that I started to scream with an voice I didn’t know I had in me. “GA WEG! GA NU WEG!” I picked up some rocks and threw them at the dogs. I hate doing that, but I was all alone and totally done with my stupid fears. “ROT OP!” They listened. They listened! They turned around and run away!
In Modrič I could put up my tent in the village and got to join the locals in a clubhouse kind of place – drinking beer. All night dogs were barking, two times they attacked my tent, but with my new found confidence (and voice) I yelled them away.
I’m reaching this point that I really have enough of being afraid. I’m so done with facing and fighting my fears. I know part of it is my head, that it will get better and I also know they smell my fear but on the hand, hikers are warned for the shepherd dogs. They are there to protect the sheep and somehow they do see me as a threat. Perhaps it’s different when you’re in a group, but they give me a really hard time.
I’m constantly thinking of giving up. Quitting. To go for the safest (whatever that is) instead of bravest way. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, so why go on?
It’s a fine line between hunger and fear, but as long as the hunger to explore is here, I have a reason to find a way to deal with my fears.
“I’m free, I remind myself. Like the clouds floating across the sky. I’m all by myself, totally free.” – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
From Kërçisht i Sipërm I hiked up (again) to Krchin peak on Deshat mountain. Short after the sheepfold a white dog awaited me. He looked at me. Silently. I passed by. He watched my steps and followed me. Together we walked for hours and hours until a bunch of cowboys (guys on horses) chased him away. Gone he was. 😢
Did I mention that my big, white friend couldn’t bark? Well he didn’t bark, I think he couldn’t. Not when we first met, not when there were other dogs. He did not bark. He did make this weird piepend – squeaky (?) sound, but other than that he kept silent. An huge, silent, friendly, white dog with a scary collar.
Along the way two guys on horses started to throw stones at my sweet, white friend because I told them he was not mine. The poor thing run away. I felt tears coming. Why? Why would you hurt such a sweet dog? He didn’t do a thing!
I kept on looking around, hoping to find my white friend. I didn’t.
Alone I continued.
Dogs and Detours
When I look at my photos I immediately want to go back, but when I’m on the mountains I constantly feel fear. Three times I hiked all the way up Deshat mountain, walked a few kilometers on the border and descended. Everytime I more or less had a different reason, but the bottom line is that I’m afraid.
I’ve been afraid of dogs all my life. During my travels this has become so so much better. Imagine biking through Romania where’s many many wild dogs. I’ve been scared, but I simply had to manage. I didn’t get over my fear, but I learned how to deal with it. As in, what to do with the dogs. Streetdogs in BiH last year drove me crazy. It was so sad because they all were sick and super hungry. Because of this hunger they actually went for chickens and other small animals, turned (back) into hunters. Roadhikes were a hell, so I hitchhiked back into the mountains.
Here in Macedonia it’s a whole new situation. It’s the mountains where I feel unsafe. The shepherd dogs are just a little bit too much for me. I believe I can learn and grow and that in the end it’ll make me stronger, but I also believe that sometimes you have to take a few steps back before you can go up again. I’m taking a little break, will do a bit of easy hiking to hopefully gain enough confidence to continue what I started, hiking the High Scardus Trail to Korab.
One week off
“Things outside you are projections of what’s inside you, and what’s inside you is a projection of what’s outside. So when you step into the labyrinth outside you, at the same time you’re stepping into the labyrinth inside.” ~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
One month ago I stayed one night Skihut Gorica in Mavrovi Anovi where I met Cosima. At that time I was on the West Macedonian Transversal, but we talked about Korab and actually it was because of our chat I got even more excited to hike the ridge from Deshat mountain to Golem Korab.
It was hard to except that the fear of dogs was in my way, but I think it had to be like this. The moment you let go, new opportunities appear. New doors open.
While I was in Kališta Cosima texted me and asked how I felt about having her joining me on Deshat & Korab.
I hitchhiked back to Bituše where we teamed up. Together we walked towards Velivar and pitched our tents at a ruin right underneath the mountain. A perfect camp with a perfect view on a perfect mountain. Honestly.
Apparently September is known for stable sunny weather. No thunderstorms to worry about, just a little bit cold during the night, but as long as you don’t mind going to bed at eight, there’s no problem. We didn’t mind.
We also didn’t mind slow mornings. Although I wake up when it gets light, I easily spent a few hours in front of my tent. Especially on mornings like this.
Days are short, nights are getting colder. The season is changing, but Korab is coming closer.
Women who hike
Somewhere below Ploča peak we made our second camp. It was clear that it would take us one or two more days to reach Golem Korab, because neither of us liked to rush and both of us had enough time. Easy going, nice talks, good laughs, home baked bread and beautiful mountains – what else could one wish for?
Unfortunately it got pretty clear that Cosima’s old knee injury returned. Out of all possible scenarios that could keep us from succeeding our Korab ridge hike, this never crossed my mind. It’s so annoying when your body says no, but there was no other way than except it. I think I even said the day before that whatever happened it could not take away the good time we already had. And that turned out to be very true.
Next day we slowly walked down to Žirovnica (a beautiful trail) and camped at Govedarica mountainhut (beautiful camp spot). It was much warmer so we could actually enjoy the cristal clear sky with an almost full moon. We sat and talked and talked. Although I again had to leave Korab for what it is, I felt positive. Grateful to have this wonderful little adventure together.
Mavrovo National Park
Instead of continue on my own to to Korab mountain, I excepted Cosima’s invitation to come to Mavrovo. Mavrovi Anovi to be precise. Also there was this Artic-cold-front-weather-wave-thingie coming which meant that the temperatures would drop to -13 on the mountain. Although it was still sunny, it’s unbelievable how cold the wind got. I tried to chill a bit on the yoga platform, but within 15 minutes I was totally frozen. Hanging on the couch with a warm blanket and a cup of tea seemed the best thing to do. And so I did.
Mavrovo. Dayhike. Artic. Selfiesmile. Went for a walk on Bistra Mountain. To Medenica peak. Not alone, but the we you cannot see. Just like the crazy cold wind or the peak. But I was there. On top. Medenica. Selfie. Smile.
Happy I got the chance to go back to Šar Planina. Explore Macedonia, stare at Deshat and Korab mountain. Jeeprides aren’t that bad 🙂
Also happy to hugs some rocks. It’s been a while, I almost forgot what it’s like, but as soon as I touched the wall I stopped thinking. The focus, the play, the moves. Missed it, but didn’t loose it.
The last week of September I’ve been (and still am) hanging out with Dimitar and Cosima and their friends. I totally surrendered to a new rhythm: chilling. In the mean time I actually do get to see quite a lot of Mavrovo National Park. It means a lot to be among people I totally feel comfortable with. To be somewhere I feel I could easily spent a few weeks without being bored. Share passions, have adventures, chat, chill and dream. Just like last time Skihut Gorica is a place I feel calm and peacefull.
I will finish my hike for sure, but first got some more climbing to do. And bouldering 🙂
De Trek Barefoot
This year I’m sponsored by De Trek Barefoot, an barefoot minded outdoor store in Amsterdam and Hoorn, The Netherlands. Since I’m hiking on Vibram FiveFingers and Vivo Barefoot sandals for years now, De Trek Barefoot is a perfect match. Besides barefootstyle shoes De Trek Barefoot provided me with clothes and gear which means a lot. So, thanks for supporting me and my journey.
The 17th of February I’ll give a presentation about long distance hiking on Vibram FiveFingers. It will be about the how’s and why’s of barefootstyle hiking just as much as it will be about my trekking through the Balkans itself. Keep you posted!