At the end of the month I’d like to look back on where I’ve been, what I did and how I felt. Usually I upload my Instagram photos in the “Looking Back” blogpost, but the second half of October I hardly had any internet. So, no Instagram updates. Because I want my posts to be chronological and it took me quite a while to catch up, I delayed this post. We’re halfway November, but here’s me looking back on October where I’m leaving North Macedonia to start hiking the Via Dinarica Blue Trail in Montenegro.
From Artic Cold to Indian Summer
After the Artic cold-weather-front-wave-thingie in Mavrovo, summer got back. Although the days rapidly getting shorter and the long, much colder nights are a fact, it always gives me this “enjoy the moment” kind of feeling when October suddenly gets warm again. You never know how long it lasts. Just like one year ago. First there was a really early snowfall, but right after that temperatures got up to 25 degrees again. Indian summers, definitely my favourite.
I swapped the Macedonian mountains for Montenegrin ones where I continued on the Via Dinarica Blue Trail in Montenegro, the Primorska Planinarska Transverzala (PPT) or Montenegro’s Coastal Traverse – a hiking trail through the mountains that connects Rumija, Lovćen and Orjen. Phenomenal views & prickly plants, sweet solitude & dirty cisterns, cows, churches, wind & wilderness. Just what I needed.
Mavrovo National Park
Looking back on an ultimate relax week, or two – lost track of time. Here’s THE CAVE in Mavrovo National Park where we went rockclimbing. And no, I didn’t climb this wall, but there are easier routes behind me 😉
Someone said it’s too hot for Prilep now. We thought we could give it a try anyways. And so we did. 😍
Meet Bela. Or Bella. This little dog accompanies climbers in exchange for food. She guards your camp at night (bring earplugs) and leads you to the boulders during the day. She’s loyal, but doesn’t listen. She knows the way, but doesn’t care when she’s in your way. Once I had to pick her up and throw her away, because she simply wouldn’t want to move from the crash pad. That upset her, what made me feel bad. As you might know, I’m not really a dog lover, but after a few days I got so used to Bela’s company that I have to admit that I started to like her. I even felt a little sad to leave her behind.
Got off the ground, made two moves up. Tried something that’s supposed to be an heelhook. Damn this rock has teeth. A small ridge-thingie, 1 – 2 – 3 and then something with the feet. But no, gravity wins. 📷 @guidedpopov
The last night of our boulder trip we camped near Treskavec monastery, a brilliantly beautiful place. Actually it was my last night, the rest of the crew stayed, but I felt ready to continue hiking. Ready to be on my own again.
Pelister National Park
Small lake on Baba mountain, Pelister National Park. Last detour before I’m heading to Albania.
Been two weeks offline, what a bless. Quietness. Planned to hike the Via Egnatia through Albania, but I didn’t like it. After 25 kilometers someone fixed me a ride when I told him I was on my way to Elbassan. “That’s cheating” part of me thought. The other part didn’t think, but got in the car. From Elbassan I went to Shkodër from where I continued on foot. To Montenegro. In Montenegro I immediately walked up into the mountains towards the PPT (Primorska Planinarska Transverzala or Montenegro’s Coastal Traverse) and made a start with the Via Dinarica Blue Trail. “eat-sleep-hike-repeat” A challenge, but fun. A lot of fun. Thanks @cosivmeer for the beanie, I needed it. Just like the warm jacket DE TREK OUTDOOR gave me. 💛
Suddenly I lay on the ground. My head had hit a stone and my knee was bleeding. First I was surprised, there was really nothing difficult about this part. I simply slipped. Must be the leaves. Then all sorts of negative thoughts crosses my mind. Isn’t it stupid to be here alone? Am I able to hike this trail? Could this be a sign? I checked my forehead. A big bump. I looked up. A beautiful blue sky. A beautiful day on a beautiful mountain. No, it’s not stupid. I’m not stupid. And I’ll never know what can or can’t do if I won’t try.
Have to admit that I’m a bit lazy if it comes to water. I kind of prefer to carry more water than I need, because I don’t like to stop at every cistern, fix something with an improvised rope and filter the crazy dirty water. No, I only stop at the nice ones, drink as much as I can and carry more than enough to survive the rest of the day. It actually surprised me how many cisterns there are on the PPT and all of them still had water, but it also surprised me how unapproachable and dirty they were. Finding this beauty felt like a luxury. And that’s something that makes me happy. I’m happy to be happy with water. Superhappy.
Lovćen National Park
I arrived at the chapel just before the rain did. Lucky me. Planned to hike the first bit of the next stage, but when I saw this church I knew I would stay. Such a beauty. The village is not more than a collection of ruins. Except for one loud bull and a few cows there’s nothing out here. It’s quiet. A strange kind of quietness though. As if all sounds disappeared. Life disappeared. The rain, the clouds, the overgrown ruins and the old abandoned church surrounded by gravestones. All together it could feel spooky, ghost town-ish, but it didn’t. It’s just quiet. The all-sounds-disappeared kind of quietness.
View on Mali Zalazi and many Montenegrin mountains. I believe this is still Lovćen National Park, but I’m not sure. And I’m also not sure if you can already see Orjen (answer is yes), but does it matter? For me it was one of my favourite stages. You’re relatively close to the coast, but totally surrounded by mountains. 💛
Above the Bay of Kotor
When the temperature dropped, the wind showed up 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 force you to be careful. You have to carefully select your camp spots if you’d like to get some sleep.
The nights got cold, but not too cold. Days got short, but not too short. The wind got strong, but not too strong.
To avoid the disappointment of “not succeeding”, I think it’s important to realise what you have. #cliche All those mountains, all those views. All the trails I’ve already hiked, all the places I’ve already explored. It would be crazy to feel disappointed. I’m happy for every day, every night I get to spend in the mountains instead of feeling bad about or being afraid of what I might miss out on.
View on the bay of Kotor right above Perast from the Sveti Andrija Fortress.
Orjen National Park
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.
The night before 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 happy I choose to walk down to the village. Although still sunny, I kind of felt something coming. As soon as it got dark the wind exploded. Wind explosions banging on my tent. The Jugo wind or storm was supposed to come during the weekend, but I already had to hold my tent to keep it on the ground.
I had to find a different spot. With one hand I collected my stuff and packed my bag. The other still holding the tent. When I opened my tent I realized that there would be no chance my tent would survive this wind. A different spot wouldn’t make a difference. I had nowhere to go. The people left me the keys of the gate to the garden, 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 cowboy camped.
I made it through, but started the day deadly tired. The wind still present. Just Subra’s amphitheatre. She waited. I waited. In doubt. Tired, scared. It’s unbelievable how strong wind can get. It scared me.
With pain in my heart I turned around. I’ll come back, but not today.
Herceg Novi surprised me. A lovely old town with narrow streets, beautiful facades, heaps of hidden alleys with stairs, nice bars, restaurants, churches and of course the fortress at the sea. Unfortunately no campsite, hostel or other cheap place to stay. Turned out that you have to find someone who has a room ánd a big heart. When I was about to give up, I met Jasna. She saw me and asked if I needed help. I told her I was looking for a room or a place to camp. She asked what I was willing to pay. I got the room or appartement actually. The appartement was fantastic. I had a kitchen, a bathroom and a balcony with a view on the sea and the fortress. Couldn’t wish for more.
A big thanks to all the sweet people who treated me to a cup of coffee, it really really means the world to me. Not only am I welcomed almost everywhere I get with a good strong coffee, also people who read my blog frequently buy me a coffee. Because of all this generosity I’m able to do what I do, so THANKS. 💕
The area of Dubrovnik
This is the last stretch. The last part of my Via Dinarica journey. Next few weeks I’ll be hiking the Blue Trail in Croatia. It follows the Adriatic coast all the way to Slovenia. I try not to think about the distance too much, but enjoy the miles I get to hike. Day by day I try to make my way. I hike as long as I can. As long as the weather allows. When it’s done it’s done. When I’m done, I’m done. We’ll see. 👣
And about the shoes, yes I need to replace them. I’ll have to go to Mostar to pick a new pair that I send myself ages ago. But not until these are totally done.
My oh my, days are short! I’m on my way to Dubrovnik, but it looks like I have to pitch my tent somewhere on the rocky shore 🤔
FiveFingers & 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. Thanks a lot for supporting me and my journey!
And just for the record, I’m not getting paid to make advertisement or say positive things. Everything you read, see or hear from me comes from me.
The 17th of February I’ll give a presentation (in The Netherlands) 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!