From Hahlić dom, you can see the ocean. The sun sets over it in a pink and purple blush. I can see all the way down the dark green coast of Croatia, curled up like a spindly dragon. We’ll be walking along it’s spine for the next month and a half. It sounds like a long time, but what strikes me from here is just how small these countries are.
Hiking up the last two kilometres to the hut required a lot of focus today. Even though it was past 6 pm, it was still quite hot, and I was sun burnt and sweaty. So we’d been hiking above the treeline a good twenty minutes before I finally thought to look up from my trail of limestone breadcrumbs. The landscape fell away towards the sea. “Oh,” I think I said. “The ocean.”
We officially crossed the border this morning; left Slovenia and entered Croatia. Our route through Slovenia has been long and meandering; today marked a decisive stab into Croatia. Straight for the hills we went, like a fencer jabbing out his sword.
Our last few hours in Slovenia were along the main road again, towards the border. We left the Pension early to get this section over with as quickly as possible. It was both dangerous and monotonous. Cars flung themselves past us like great slingshots. I’m not good with my lefts and rights at the best of times, but I find it particularly scary here where they drive on the other side of the road. I’m never quite sure where the cars are going to come from. Are they even on the right side of the road?
I’m also, however, a bit of a scavenger on the track, and the side of a busy road is a gold mine of discarded things. By the time we get to the border, I’ve found a pair of clean, unwrapped stockings (pre-filter for the water pump, plus a tourniquet), a 20 cent piece, and buried in mud and leaf litter, a weathered inner tube (back-up tourniquet?) wrapped up with 280 Kuna! So it wasn’t all bad.
An hour later and we’re at the border. We hop around awkwardly through the cars, trying to get our passports stamped without getting run over. I’m not too nostalgic for Slovenia at this point – it feels like we said goodbye yesterday.
We leave the crossing and pass through increasingly smaller towns as we begin to climb. The hike up into the mountains is hot and sweaty. Croatia suddenly seems so dry and dusty, like an entirely new climate from beautiful, pea green Slovenia, despite being only a few kilometres south. It’s too hot here; it’s just not the same. My nostalgia swells a bit.
When we finally peel over the ridge and see the mountain hut, I’m exhausted. It’s been a monstrous day of 34 km. The hut is closed, with all water and possible shelter locked well away, so we trudge down to share a water hole with the wild horses instead. I guess hikers here don’t have emergencies on Mondays?
But the view is beautiful, and the evening feels cool and soft. We’ve hiked a long, hard day. Who knows what Croatia will bring?
Slovenia and Croatia, Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 (alternative route to Risnjak National Park)
Start and end points: Pension Gostilna Potok near Mala Bukovica (Slovenia) to Halic dom (Croatia)
Approximate distance: 34 km
Villages: Mala Bukovica – Rupa – Lipa – Klana