Tag Archives: Hiking

Hiking in Bled

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Wednesday 2nd July, 2014

I had heard that the bus to Bohinj goes 20 past every hour.  I am all set to go by 8.20am except there are no staff members about to unlock the door to the terrace where my sneakers are airing. Tres annoying. Albeit there is no one about except 12 18 year old British girls that are passed out on every surface of the common area having arrived at an odd hour I’m assuming. I awkwardly crunch on my muesli among a sea of sleeping ‘beauties’.

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At 9am a staff member shows up. At 10.30am, after getting off at the wrong bus stop and asking four people for directions I think I am standing at the bottom of the track that I want to conquer. There is a gondola in operation up the mountain and the guide told me yesterday that I could walk up the corresponding ski piste. One of the kind people I had asked told me that the track is called Zagarjev Graben and it was marked. Thank god she wrote it down – always get them to write it down!

It wasn’t signed with the name of the track, but it was marked as a walking track with the familiar red and white circles every few hundred metres. The only other piece of information I’ve got is again from yesterday’s guide who said, when the track forks, take the left because otherwise you will go all the way around the mountain.

The initial traverse is not steep, but long, taking me far right of the gondola. After my experience in Montenegro, I was expecting to zig zag all the way to the top and not really lose sight of the gondola. After half an hour, the track still hasn’t turned and I am convinced I am on the wrong path. But, it’s going up, I’m getting a workout and I’m surrounded by bush so I’m happy and proceed regardless. Within this time the only sign of human life comes rumbling down the mountain in a trank (that’s a truck-tank).

As I walk I constantly imagine how my surrounds look in the winter and envision happy kids flying down this path and the trees on either side overloaded with snow.
I really should have made the most of this half hour while the going was good. I  round a bend and see what I’m in for (not that I knew it at the time) for the remainder of the journey. It’s damn near vertical and the gravel underfoot is made up of rocks of all sizes, but mostly stones that would fit in the palm of my hand. These factors make it tough going as I take one step forward and slide a few inches back. I end up kicking my foot into the gravel to try and get a good hold. After scaling a particularly challenging 50 metres and giving myself a mental back pat I pass a mountain biker on his way down.  I point upwards and say “gondola?” He nods and repeats the turn-left-at-the-fork mantra. I ask how long and he shrugs and says “I don’t know, I like coming down! But maybe an hour”. Saweet. The next step is taken with renewed confidence and purpose. Up and up I go hearing only the crunch of gravel and the chirping of birds. The sweat is dripping down my face and dropping off my chin. After a while I see a couple above me that I guess are about my parents age. I catch up to them within 20 minutes and exchange a brief hello.

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Looking back down
Looking back down
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Really useful signs (for English-only speakers)

Soon after, the spits that have been spitting start getting that much spittier. Did I check the forecast yesterday? Yes. Did it say there would be a thunderstorm in the afternoon? Yes. Do I have a rain coat in my bag? No.

I switch my pack from my back to my front in case the skies suddenly open and I need to protect my electronics inside. This actually makes a lot more sense anyway because gravity is now on my side, so should I lose my balance which I have a couple of times already I am more likely to fall forwards than backwards, that’s how steep we’re talking.  I look at the mountains behind me. They are in a fog of rain. I reckon I’ve got 20 minutes at the most before I too am engulfed. At least I have forest on either side of me. I scan my brain to see if there is any information stored in the ‘how to build a bivouac’ section from my form 1 camp. Nada.

I trudge on, a little quicker this time, and hope for a miracle.

My prayers are answered.  The sun soccer punches the rain in the face and carries me in its warmth for the rest of the journey.  Thank. You. Sun.

My only other human contact is another couple in their late 50s on their way down the mountain with their beautiful dog. I ask them how much longer they think I have to go and they estimate about half an hour.

I continue with renewed zest and a packet of gummy snakes. For this last stretch I am envisioning victory; getting to the top and seeing a bunch of people in the restaurant, some standing outside watching my gruelling final steps. There are cheers and high fives and a comment thrown out there about how I’m crazy for doing this.

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In reality, I reach the top and see a bunch of people with their backs to me admiring the 360 degree view. I stumble into their midst, awaiting applause. Nothing. I take a few snaps for myself and walk a short distance to the restaurant. It is filled with chatty rugged up folk enjoying a warm meal. I’m a blatant stand-out with my active wear and salty face but I could have been invisible. I am filled with a sudden urge to jump up on a table and scream “I WALKED UP HERE PEOPLE!!!”  But of course I order a bowl of chips and eat it in deflated and exhausted silence, watching the happy families around me.

I take the gondola back down and head to the cafe to ask the details of my trek, still not sure that I went up the track that yesterday’s guide told me of. I discover that the mountain I just climbed was called Vogel and it is part of the Julian Alps. The starting point of my trek was about 520 metres and the end point around 1550 metres.  It took me 2 hours and 15 minutes.  I also ask directions to the Savica Waterfall. I’m waved a direction and told it’s only 2-3 kilometre walk.

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Perks of the gondola – slightly better views!

I’m not sure if this woman had her facts wrong or if my body was just so exhausted from the morning or maybe it was because the waterfall was also at the end of an upward climb, but it takes me at least an hour to get there, maybe even an hour and a half. Had I known what the terrain was like before I embarked I definitely wouldn’t have done it. The only saviour was that I could get on the return bus at a much earlier point than anticipated so I was spared the majority of the return walk.

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Oh and the second saviour was that it was all very beautiful

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Savica Waterfall

I chill back at the hostel before meeting two of three of my favourite Aussies at a highly regarded local pizzeria. I inhale the majority of a huge vegetarian pizza and take the rest home in a doggy bag having planned to meet the girls for adventures tomorrow morning before my train goes.

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Hiking a Mountain in Kotor

Thursday 19th June 2014

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My mission for today is to climb that mountain.  Usually a very active person at home, my body is craving exercise.  I had no idea what the mountain or the trail was called, just knew it had to be conquered.  I wake up at 8am to unrelenting sheet rain.  I fluff about for an hour undecided on my course of action. I had misplaced my umbrella on the night I ended up sleeping in a bus in Cavtat and had not yet acquired a raincoat of any kind.  No matter how I leave the house, I am going to get wet.  But alas, the heavens looked fondly upon me and the skies clear.  I take a hike to the bus stop in Tivat and ask about a bus to Kotor.  The lady takes my money and points behind me at a waiting bus.  We set off in the wrong direction.  After it is plainly obvious that we aren’t turning around I ask a guy next to me “uh, so is this bus going to Kotor?” He told me we were going the opposite way that I was used to, around the bays, but yes we are.  After chilling out and taking a look out the window I have never been more appreciative that we were taking the long way.  I guess it was similar to going round the bays in Wellington, except here the buildings were all hundreds of years old.  I see fat fisherman sitting on jetties hoping to get lucky, brightly coloured rowboats in need of a paint job and churches.  Quaint stone churches at every turn.  All this set against the green canvas of the lulling ocean.

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The journey fuels a desire for a more simple life than the one I know I’m going to have, and it’s not the first time.  I couldn’t count the number of occasions in the past three weeks that I have daydreamed about owning only hippy pants and opening up a hostel of my own on an organic farm.  But I guess the one thing I have learned is that everything in this world is about balance.

When I arrive in Kotor, half an hour later than I was expecting to, I was so angsty about climbing the hill that all sensible thoughts involving such things as rain jackets had escaped from my one track mind.  I arm myself with three apricots, two packets of chips and two chocolate bars to last me through the day.

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Not the most nourishing body fuel but I was in a bit of a rush.
Pre-walk selfie - you can just see the zig zag trail in the top left.
Pre-walk selfie – you can just see the zig zag trail in the top left.

There is no one else about and I start out on the zigzags.  Although the hill is high, there are many turns, meaning the the terrain is deceivingly easy walking.  I keep a steady pace but also take my time, frequently stopping to listen to what might be rustling in the bushes, looking at new plants, admiring the view etc.  As I’m about to round another corner, there is a sudden SLITHER of movement in front of me. “F*******************CK!!!” Is the first, very loud thing to come out of my mouth as I hastily stumble backwards from a skinny brown SNAKE that I have disturbed during his morning sunbathing.  Now we don’t have snakes in New Zealand and although I’ve lived in Australia for the last two and a half years, I have never encountered a snake in the wild.  I quickly go back the way I have come, but the snake is probably more alarmed than I am and after doing a bit of hissing, slithers away between the cracks. Now the practical thoughts are a-flowing. I have no idea what to do with a snake bite and I’ve got no clue what the number for emergencies is in Montenegro. At this point I pick up a rock.  It’s my snake rock for any future encounters.  I’m thinking it will at least buy me a few more seconds if I find one that actually wants to eat me.  From now I take a second glance at every single stick in my path and I’m not so keen on investigating every single bush rustle.

My view looking down.
My view looking down.
My view looking up.
My view looking up.
Lunch stop.
Smoko time!  You can clearly see the old city walls where Soph and I adventured yesterday.

I stop for a snack after about an hour. I’m now looking over the old city walls and admiring some goats grazing nearby. I’m pretty stoked with my progress.  The lady at the info place said yesterday that this would take me 5-6 hours but I reckon I’m nearly half way and it hasn’t even been an hour and a half.  I climb and climb until I’m level with the clouds.  The old town has now disappeared and I feel a bit like I’m in Avatar – all cliffs and fog.

Goodbye Kotor!
Goodbye Kotor!
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Welcome Avatar land

I can’t exactly see the top but I’m pretty sure it can’t be far away.  I’ve now spotted another hiker about 500 metres below me who dropped onto the trail from the old city.  Nice to know should shit really hit the fan.  I get to a small fence that blocks off the trail.  Is this designed to stop people going further? It isn’t hard to get around and there’s no way I’m turning back before I get to a peak so I plod on.  A few hundred metres after this was where I thought the peak was from my view yesterday. Not so much.  I round the other side of the mountain and see another challenge. I would say I see another summit but the fog is so low that I can’t.  By this time the scenery has changed pretty drastically.  Where before I was hiking zig-zag style up an open hillside, now I am looking at a very green forest.  The trail changes from stones to dirt.  I’m a little bit nervous about proceeding. I’ve got no idea what’s up there. In my head there are lots of mountain cats waiting to get me. No one knows I’m here and I’m not sure if I’m event meant to have come this far, although the trail markers are reassuring.

An unforseen change in landscape.
An unforseen change in landscape.
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The exact point where I made a great decision.

At the entrance to the woods I decide I need to make friends.  I wait for my fellow traveller to catch up.  Meet Scott, a 27 year old social entrepreneur from Texas.  I like him instantly.  I also like that he has a raincoat and the kind of backpack that says “I got this hiking business down”.  Scott tells me we are hiking the Maraton Trail and he had had it recommended by a friend.  We only have to go about 100m before we meet a fork.  And a sign posted fork at that.  This is the first signpost I’ve seen.  The signs indicate two summits, both about the same distance away.  With no idea which path to take Scott takes a stick, spins it in the air and we take the direction it points upon landing. Left it is, and our peak is 1657m.  Not too bad considering we started at sea level.

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The chat comes easy as we hike through the woods, see streams and scramble over rocks.  I think we are both glad for the company.  I am doubly glad after passing a red sign reading “danger” pointing in the direction that we are going.

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We are well and truly in the clouds now and when we look down, we can’t see the way we have come.  It is also a lot colder up here.  I start to notice a few curious things; an abundance of old tires and car ruins down the cliff side, a man made bridge when I thought we were ages away from civilisation, general rubbish and, is that a car I can hear?  Our path leads us right onto a road.  A very foggy road.  So foggy that when we hear cars coming, we can’t actually see them until the headlights emerge about 10m in front of us.  Unfortunately this is as good a summit as we are going to get.  We sit on the wall and stare at the view we are never going to see and compare our crappy lunches.  No complaints though, it all tastes good when you’re dripping with sweat after 3-4 hours of hiking.

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Not the kind of summit we were expecting!
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Not the kind of view we were expecting either

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Buuut at least we're smiling
Buuut at least we’re smiling

It’s so cold that I put on my piss poor excuse of a jumper, anxious to keep moving again. We think the spray painted writing on the cliff face is telling us to walk down the road.  We decide that maybe it would be easier to hitch back to Kotor.  We try, but of the three or four cars that are going in the right direction, none stop for us.  We probably walk for about 500m, passing through an eerie cave-like tunnel before another makeshift sign tells us we need to pop back onto the mountain side.  We figure this is the other peak option, and that this part of the track is just a loop.

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We start heading down and about ten minutes in the skies well and truly open right up.  I hastily take my jumper off so at least I have something dry to change into when this is done and Scott kindly offers to attach my backpack to his and wear them both under his jacket.  What a guy!  I am left wearing a singlet and gym leggings.  Within about ten minutes it honestly looks as though I have jumped in a lake.  Everything is glued to my body. I’m not freezing so there is nothing to do except laugh.  For about 15 minutes I just giggle to myself.  Hiking 101 = coat.  IDIOT.  We trek for nearly an hour in the water.  I’m devastated we don’t have any photos of exactly how wet we are.  Operating non water proof cameras or i-Anythings weren’t an option unfortunately!

We decide to link up with the old city walls, the way Scott had come, instead of taking the trail to the bottom. I’m glad because this route has a goat infested derelict church and mine didn’t.

Beautiful scenery on the way down.
Beautiful scenery on the way down.

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Aaaand here is the herd of goats we stumbled upon.
Aaaand here is the herd of goats we stumbled upon.
This photo might provide some idea of just how wet it/I got.
This photo might provide some idea of just how wet it/I got.
And so friendly!
Going in for a cheeky nibble.
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So friendly!
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Too friendly.
Clearly not the first time these guys have been happened upon by unsuspecting tourists. These guys know how to work the camera!
Clearly not the first time these guys have been happened upon by unsuspecting tourists. They know how to work the camera!

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Inside the church.
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I can imagine the goats climbing that ladder!

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By the time we arrive back at Scott’s hostel we are both ravenous.  And freezing.  We inhale two colossal pizza slices and I take myself to a cab.  10 x the price of the bus, but I think the buses run relatively infrequently and after my round trip this morning I don’t want to risk it.  Just too dam cold. At my hostel, I see Mr Romania chilling in the common area.  I assumed he would have checked out by now.  I pour myself some hot water, swallow my pride, bite the bullet and go and make friends with the most intimidatingly good-looking person I have ever seen in my life (sorry Adrian!).  Meet Jack.   British born and playing rugby in Romania.  We swap a few travel stories thus far.  He tells me he went out last night with an Egyptian guy that he met on the bus on the way here.  Well, there can only be a certain amount of Egyptian guys en route to Montenegro and yes re-enter Mohammad, the guy I had met at the bus station in Dubrovnik a few days earlier.  Jack says he has plans to meet up with him tonight to watch England v Uruguay (soccer world cup) with some others he has befriended in the hostel.  I invite myself to the party and in about four hours time we have one Dane, a French couple, Jack the Brit that lives in Romania, a Croatian diplomat based in Montenegro, Mohammad the Egyptian and me, a Kiwi living in Australia.  If only we had a pub quiz to go to I’m sure we would clean up. We watch the English get defeated then after a few more rum and cokes head back to the hostel.  There is a bit of chat going on in the common area.  I stay for a bit but escape to the piano from the smokers then bale shortly after when I struggle to remember the chords to the one song I can remember.

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A Dane, a French couple, Jack the Brit that lives in Romania, a Croatian diplomat based in Montenegro, Mohammad the Egyptian and me, taking the photo, a Kiwi living in Australia