I’m not much of a mile-maker, but last few weeks I’ve been walking in circles, exploring, climbing, bouldering, jeep touring and most of all: I’ve been chilling so much that I’m up for some real long distance hiking again. I want to get back to my hiking rhythm. EAT SLEEP HIKE REPEAT. Also, if I want to finish all Via Dinarica trails this year, I’d better get on moving, because days are rapidly getting shorter.
Thought it would be nice to hike the Via Egnatia to Durrës, but I didn’t like it. (for a longer version see my latest blog: Day 123) Maybe I should have given Albania more time, maybe I shouldn’t have had too many expectations. Or wishes. Should have, would have. Maybe I wasn’t that motivated after all. Before noon I hiked over 25 kilometers on this Via Egnatia, not bad, but I didn’t like any of it. Too bad.
Long story short, I hitchhiked to Elbassan, Tirana, Shkodër from where I crossed the border on foot. My way to the Via Dinarica Blue Trail in Montenegro – the Primorska Planinarska Transverzala (PPT). From lake Skadar I walked up, followed a mountain ridge to the border and then made a detour via the official checkpoint. For some reason I didn’t dare to just cross it. From the border checkpoint I made my way up again, camped in a village called Ostros and the next day I walked the road to the alternative PPT trailhead in Gorna Biskra.
Montenegro’s Coastal Traverse
It’s autumn full on. There are rosehips, pomegranate, mandarins, walnuts, chestnuts and those other two (beukennootjes en eikeltjes). Leaves are falling, everything is either yellow, orange, red or brown and the days are short. At the same time it’s still 25 degrees, I’m sweating more than I did during the summer. But it’s nice. I truly enjoy this Indian summer. A warm sunny day is perhaps the best when you know it can be the last one. Turned out to be several days until the temperature dropped. Happy days.
Those sunny, warm, happy days I hiked across Rumija to Lovćen National Park. It felt great to be on a real trail again. Even though it’s wildly overgrown and the first stages have more forest than I expected, it’s beautiful. Views on the Adriatic sea, the white karst mountains with churches, chapels and ruins of fortresses. Small limestone walls and old limestone “roads” near the old abandoned villages. Here and there a “farm” with a few cows, goats and horses, but other than that it’s quiet. So quiet. 💛🍁☀️
Eat Sleep Hike Repeat
If it comes to the trail, the PPT, I don’t know what to think yet. It has potential for sure, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Nevertheless it was exactly what I needed. Being in the mountains, alone in nature. No WiFi for almost two weeks, no people asking me why I’m alone, (almost) no people projecting their fears on me. (Yeah but: bears, wolves, snakes, cold, wind, people) Just me finding my way. Hike.
When the temperature dropped and the wind showed up, the clock went one hour back and dark clouds covered the blue sky I knew I had not much time left to finish the trail. At the same time it was impossible to go faster. Water scarcity, the weather and the condition of the trail forces you to carefully select your camp spots. The nights got cold, but not too cold. Days got short, but not too short. Until I reached Vrbanj. One more day to go. THE day. The day where I had to climb the Subra’s amphitheatre, the most technical and challenging part of the route.
That night I could camp in someone’s garden in Vrbanj. The forest didn’t feel good, neither did the open field in front of the amphitheatre. I’m so happy I choose to head to the village where I met three friendly people who opened the gate for me.
As soon as it got dark the wind got crazy. It really felt like explosions on my tent – non stop banging on my tent. Left, right. Front, back. Everywhere. The Bura was supposed to come during the weekend, it was only Thursday. No mercy. I had to hold my tent with both hands to keep it on the ground. In the meantime the wind pulled the pins that were supposed to hold my tent, out of the ground. With one hand I collected my stuff and packed my bag. The other one still holding the tentpole that dangerously swung back and forth. When I opened my tent to get out, it almost blew away. Almost. I tried to get in control by laying on my tent. While laying on my tent I collected the pins (haringen). Some were missing.
Unfortunately I had nowhere to go. The people left me the keys of the gate, but the house was closed. With all my strength I grabbed my tent together and moved to other side of the house. I tried to make a shelter, but I had to face it, there was only one wall to protect me from the wind. From the other side the wind still got me. Luckily there was no rain. I crawled back into my sleeping bag and slept under the clear sky. Clear, but freaking windy.
Well, I didn’t sleep. I waited 7 hours until it got light. Made it through. Only lost a few stakes (tentharingen) which makes it difficult to put up my tent next time, but that’s for later. First breakfast. I walked to a restaurant in Vrbanj, a super cozy place. Eat. Think.
The wind is still present, Subra’s amphitheatre is waiting, but I’m not so sure what to do. It is a very difficult, if not tricky section that could be classified as a klettersteig. There are some steel cables, but it’s very very exposed. I’ve been looking forward to this part of the trail a lot. I love scrambling, climbing. It’s supposed to be the highlight, but is it worth the risk?
Tonight it’s going to rain they say. The weather gets worse. I know it’s not smart to push through and so I won’t.
But what now?