It was August. It was hot. It may not have been the best time to go hiking. But I’d heard about this day hike. I’d seen photos of this day hike. I’d been looking forward to this day hike. I was going to do this day hike! So I set off with a guide and two other ladies. Even though we left Sarajevo early, by the time we arrived at the start of our hike, it was already hot. And we were all feeling it. Our guide Saud said he always tests people in the first 10 minutes. From where we parked the car it was a steep climb up to the official start of the trail…
I think we all failed miserably, but let’s face it, this was the worst warming up ever. When we arrived at the top we were all already sweating and panting. We stared at the trail markers. We were now on the Via Dinarica, a long distance trail that goes from Slovenia to Abania, crossing the Dinaric Alps through the Balkans. The trail is designed so you cross the highest peaks and see the rural mountain life, passing through villages. We looked at the signs. We looked up. Not a cloud in the sky. That’s when Saud decided we’d walk around the mountain.
First we had to cross a field, passing herds of sheep along the way. Saud pointed towards the mountain top: “That’s what we were going to do, but we’ll make our way back over the mountain from the other side.” It was too hot to be climbing up mountain sides without any trees to provide us with shade. Instead we walked all the way around the mountain to the village of Lukomir. For a big part we were covered by the forest and we had the most amazing views over the valley and to a mountain village on the other side, where another part of the Via Dinarica continued. Saud told us about all the paths they built while we sat on a rock sticking out like a viewing platform.
It was an easy walk and this was the perfect warm up. It gently went up, with only small slightly steeper sections. We saw beautiful wild flowers. The nature here had a lot to offer, with many plants being edible, available for anyone who was interested. In Lukomir we walked to the end of the village for a feast of burek with salad and lemonade. I love burek. We got a huge pan of it and Saud just kept filling our plates until it was gone. How on earth were we going to climb a mountain now? We watched some people take off on quad bikes. Maybe they had the right idea?
I did a quick hike up to the top of the village to see it from above and look out over the valley. This village is only inhabited in the summer time. During winter, the people move to the warmer valleys. Tourism is now actually a big part of the village life. The people offer food and accommodation to hikers. We filled up our water bottles in village fountain and continued our walk. We were going local. Saud said he knew a trail that was used by the locals to cross the mountain. I’m glad he knew the way, because at times it was hard to see any trail at all and we seemed to be making the trail. We passed several shepherds with their flocks of sheep. Then some people having lunch in the shade, taking a break from cutting the long grass.
This is where it started to go up. We walked through the cut grass and disappeared into the trees. It was quite steep, but so magical. There was nobody around, only the fields, the trees and many butterflies. We walked through tall yellow grasses with loads of purple, prickly flowers that attracted bees and wasps. It was the prettiest sight. I almost forget to look back. Behind us were the fields and the shepherds, getting smaller with every step.
When we were almost at the top, there was a little valley, like huge halfpipe, filled with blueberry bushes. We filled our hands and then we walked to the edge. We sat in the grass and stared out over the other side of the mountain. We saw the path where we’d started that morning. What and incredible place! It was a long way down, but still the mountains surprised me. We took a small path with big slices of stone that were real ankle twisters. I thought of people who walk here with their packs. We’d come back onto the hiking trail. We followed a beautiful valley down to the road and came back to the signs we stared at in the morning.