At the end of the month I’d like to look back on where I’ve been, what I did, how I felt and what was on my mind. I haven’t been very faithful to my blog lately, think the last post was in May (oeps) and therefor I’ll squeeze three months into one post. With this slightly delayed photo journal I hope to give you an impression of my three months in Mavrovo National Park.
The 5th of May I arrived in Mavrovi Anovi, at Ski Hut Gorica to be precise. This mountain lodge has been my home base for May, June and July. In the first place I helped out with the usual things like cleaning and making the beds, but there were also quite a lot of other projects such as painting and gardening for example. And then there are mountains with lots and lots of trails waiting to be explored. No reason to be bored.
Of course I did not randomly walked into this place. Or well, in a way I actually did, but that was last year. Last year when I hiked the Macedonian Mountain Traverse, I spend one night at Ski Hut Gorica which is located on the trail. I stayed in touch with Dimitar, the owner, and Cosima, his girlfriend. Later Cosima joined me for a few days hiking on Deshat mountain and instead of continuing on my own, I decided to take a break and have some relaxing time at the Ski Hut. I liked the place a lot and decided to come back to stay a bit longer.
Soon I realized that North Macedonia is on the edge of the same timezone as the Netherlands. This makes an huge difference. Although I miss the long summer evenings, at 21.00 it’s dark here, I more and more believe that time doesn’t really matter. It’s a concept that actually stands far from what I would call my natural rhythm. In the end it doesn’t matter what time it is when I wake up or when I go to bed. Only problem could be when your surroundings have different “opening hours”. Although a problem, I’m a morning person and I love to have a little (lot) alone time. Love early mornings when all is quiet except the birds. Having different opening hours maybe is more of a blessing rather than a problem.
Anyways, living in the mountains, in a mountain lodge, makes it easier to sleep when it’s dark and work with the light you have. Love this.
Can’t say I’m entirely over my fear of spiders, but I at least am now capable of catching them with a glass and piece of paper. Still scream while doing it though. NOT a nice way to start the day, but hey it’s part of the hut life.
Cats cats cats
If I would have been a cat lover I would have more photos, I took these in the first week, but believe me they were part of my life in the hut just as much as the spiders, the guests and all the other living creatures were. First there were seven of them, but then one day Kotle disappeared. We never saw him again. I honestly felt sad. Also when Shara didn’t show up for food the other day, I immediately feared the worst. It turned out that she often leaves for a few days, she probably charmed the neighbors with her pretty face and gets food wherever she wants.
Although I love reading, I often feel too restless or simply am too tired. In Ski Hut Gorica I have all the peace I need. Adio kauboju by Olja Savičević is a book I found in a bookstore in Amsterdam. The cover writes: “It’s a poetic arthouse-western, situated in the mysterious alleys of contemporary Split.” A crazy good read if you ask me, recommend it!
Last winter when I was in Sarajevo, in mountain hut Jure Franko, I met a guy from Belgium, Kobe, who read a book about Kosovo. That book seemed to give a good impression of what’s up with this country and according to Kobe it was not a difficult or boring history book, but nicely written from different perspectives. I wanted to read it, but couldn’t get my hands on it. One of the first things I saw when I arrived in Ski Hut Gorica was that exact same book. Kobe left his trace and I could read Kosovo, de uitgestelde oorlog by Raymond Detrez. And he was right, I really liked the critical but non-judgemental style. Definitely a good read, if you master the Dutch language.
Then a friend from The Netherlands came to visit me and she brought me another book: De dochters van de kapitein by María Dueñas or Las hijas del Capitan, not sure if it’s translated to English. It felt a bit like an Isabelle Allende roman, family roman, or how do you call it. A page turner for sure. Loved it.
Maybe my friends think I don’t have enough to read (which absolutely isn’t the case, I’m still carrying four more paper books around…), but another friend send me an e-book about Albania. High Albania by Mary Edith Durham is published in 1909, imagine a woman traveling in Albania more than 100 years ago. That seriously was a different world. I’m fascinated by this woman, by how she writes and of course by her adventurous travels through Albania’s mountains.
Ski Hut Gorica
“A Mountain Lodge located 1300m in the Mavrovo forest, sealed in the mountain laps above the Mavrovo Lake in Mavrovo National Park, Republic of North Macedonia.” ~ Ski Hut Gorica
Working in the garden
Instagram post from Cosima: This spring/summer @evadinaricaproject and I installed the garden house in the front yard @skihutgorica_mavrovo. 🌱 I bought it when I was in Hamburg from a Bauhaus for a good price. 🌱 Since we are at 1300masl elevation here, I am confident the veggies and herbs will survive longer, especially with the raised garden bed inside I will post about next…
Next project was the garden itself. First there were some (!) deep rooted plants we had to get rid, a job that took me over a week to finish. Then the new seating area could be created. Unfortunately I won’t be there to see how it looks with grass, but I’m already pretty proud of what we’ve done so far.
How to make a raised garden bed?
First, I bought the wooden material in a raw form – cut, polished and painted it myself with the help of volunteers @skihutgorica_mavrovo. Then I assembled it and stapled a pond liner to the sides. The bottom is free so the water can exit into the ground.
The next step is to layer the raised garden bed – you start with a layer of wood (big logs and stems as well as wood scraping); then a layer of old leaves from the forest; after that add a layer of compost; and lastly a layer of soil good for planting seeds or seedlings. 🍂🍁🍃🌿🌾
The raised garden bed + the garden house have many upsides, especially in a colder climate: 1) It creates more heat; 2) it has a self-composting mechanism within, so you don’t need to add any or much more nutrients to the soil; 3) the garden house filters out some UV rays; and almost most importantly 4) it keeps out the cats that would otherwise use it as a toilet (as well as other animals)! 🏡🐈🐀💩😂
Oh and one more tip: Use collected rain water to water the plants so they can absorb nutrients from the water as well! 😉
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Day hikes in Mavrovo National Park
What many people don’t know is that lake Mavrovo is only a tiny little part of Mavrovo National Park. The lake surely is nice, but there’s so SO much more to see. For example Bistra mountain, Deshat, Korab and a part of Šar mountain are all located in the National Park. I made a few day hikes of which I share a selection here. Maybe I’ll write another blog post about day hikes in Mavrovo National Park, but for now I will have to point you to the NP Mavrovo website for more information. For hiking and mountain biking they have a pretty complete list with maps and short route descriptions. For GPX tracks I use Wikiloc, it’s good enough for the most common day hikes in Mavrovo National Park.
Because the mountain lodge where I’m staying is IN the forest, it’s easy to go for a hike. Behind the hut there’s a hiking trail to Koža peak. It goes straight up for about an hour and a half with a painfully steep start through a crazy green gully. It’s nice. The forest here is super nice, even when it rains.
First we biked from the Ski Hut around the lake towards Nikiforovo where the hiking trail to Sandaktaš peak starts. I hadn’t been in this part of Mavrovo National Park and since I’m practically looking at Sandaktaš day in, day out I thought it would be nice to go up there.
Nice it was for sure. Super nice! The higher we came, the better the view on Korab with its snowy peaks. Love snowy peaks. But also the route through the forest was lovely. Super lovely and super green.
Although everybody said the route is perfectly marked, we’ve been struggling to stay on track after we left the forest behind. Not that it really matters, the terrain allows you to navigate your own route through the hills and to be honest, that’s what I love most. With a little extra loop and a lot improvisation we almost made it to the top.
I’m not really a peak-chaser and because the both us didn’t want to bike back in the dark (no headlamps) we choose a random pile of stones to be our peak.
When the snow starts to melt, waterfalls appear. June is a great month, probably the best month to hike to the waterfall on Korab. From Ribnica it takes about four to five hours, the way back goes faster, but it’s a pretty long way so I would say you still need four hours. Maybe a little less. When we arrived I wished I took my tent, would have been great to sleep there. Me and day hikes. First I enjoy the lightness, but when I have to walk the same way back, I realize the heavy backpack is worth the effort. Nevertheless, when you’re in Mavrovo National Park in June, check out this waterfall!
“I’m not leaving before I hiked Korab, Golem Korab.” Last year I tried to reach Korab from Deshat mountain, but had to turn around because of bad weather, scary dogs and bad knees (not mine). In the Netherlands we say “driemaal is scheepsrecht” ~ something like the third time you’ll succeed. Although this was basically the fourth time I pointed my arrows towards Korab, it did feel like I had the right to pass. We choose the classical route from Strezimir, an often hiked and well marked trail. I wouldn’t say VERY easy, because it’s still a long way up and you’re still in the MOUNTAIN-mountains, but without dog, weather, navigating or knee stress it almost felt like a walk in the park.
Second time on Golem Korab
Never had the ambition to become a mountain guide for many different reasons, but when I assisted Cosima on a tour to Golem Korab I really really liked it. We guided an American couple who recently discovered the magic of hiking. Although the weather was a bit rough on us, it was such a great experience. An adventure actually. Afterwards I felt thankful and proud, tired but totally thrilled. Maybe it’s time to rethink my ambitions 😉
Mini Shara Traverse
Although Shar mountain and this Mini Shara Traverse is only for a little bit part of Mavrovo National Park, I wanted to include one multiple day hike in this blog post. For more hiking adventures on Shar and Korab mountain check out my Instagram. (And maybe later my blog)
We started in Popova Shapka and included as many peaks as possible on our way back to Mavrovo. The photos below are taken by Dimitar and Cosima, except for the selfie, that’s mine.