It’s been a long day. Kind of a hard day really, the sort of day that makes me question why we do this, why we hike.
We’ve just checked in to a highway inn about 5 km from the Croatian border. It’s a big, old fashioned room, with fake wood paneling on the walls and a sticky lino floor. That’s where I’m sitting, as I feel far too gross to sit on the bed.
Today was a day of two halves. The first half, this morning, was perfect: we woke early, went on a scenic detour to visit a ruined mountain-top church, got invited to a cycling festival and stopped for second breakfast at a hillside cafe. In short, all the things that characterise a great day on the Via Dinarica.
The second half was less nice. A few kilometres on from the cafe, we resupplied in the small industrial city of Ilistrica Bistrika. Sheltering from the rain outside the supermarket, we didn’t really know what to do next. We were too far from the border to stop walking, but not close enough to make it to Croatia tonight. The phone was about to die, but if we found a cafe to charge it in we’d have to wait around another hour and a half for it to finish… And then it’d be too late to hike much further.
It wasn’t the indecision that made it such a low point, but the sense that no matter what we did we’d be walking as a means of transport, rather than hiking for its own sake. Not hiking through Slovenia, but towards Croatia.
Eventually we decided to charge the phone, and settled on a little cafe out of town. Sitting in a dark corner, we watched to royal wedding as the rain drizzled to a stop outside. We were pretty much the only customers, but it was a cosy place, the kind of place where it would be easy to become a regular.
With the phone charged, we made for the border, only to discover that the road we were following was just a curb-less highway with messy undergrowth stretching to either side.
It was a little stressful, inching along the narrow shoulder as cars zoomed from one country to another. Not a road made for walking. The usual assortment of roadside rubbish littered the ground, and the warm exhaust fumes of heavy traffic clung to our skin.
Despite still being in Slovenia, the wall of mountains to our back seemed to be wishing us farewell. The geological border, if not the political one, was behind us.
As the day drew to a close, we searched for somewhere to camp. What had looked like a blanket of forest on the map was really a scrubby mess of private fields. Nothing promising, so we called it a day at one of the many highway stops, the Pension Gostilna Potok. We really didn’t walk very far today, but it was after 7, and we didn’t have much choice.
And that’s how we ended up here, in an overpriced inn, cooking up lentils on the bathroom floor. It’s low point, but I’m optimistic. Tomorrow we’ll be in Croatia, and hopefully back in the wild.
Slovenia, Stage 1
Start and end points: Trnovska bajta to the Pension Gostilna Potok (on the Dolenje pri Jelsanah road) near Mala Bukovica
Approximate distance: 22 km
Villages: Ilirska Bistrica – Dolnji Zemon – Mala Bukovica
Features: Sveti Ahac – Črne Njive (bar/cafe/restaurant) – Supermarkets in Ilirska Bistrica (SPAR, Mercator, others) – Okrepčevalnica Zemonska vaga Andrej Primc (pizza restaurant/guesthouse) – Pension Gostilna Potok