Before starting this hike, we bought ourselves a Trangia stove, assuming that methylated spirits, the fuel of choice, would be as easy to get in the rest of the world as it is in Australia. Apparently not. In fact, that fuel seems to be more or less illegal here.
The upshot? Despite still having to carry a stove, we’re effectively stoveless. So we decided to use yesterday’s rest day in Delnice to pick up some food that could be eaten cold. There’s not much pre-cooked stuff here, so what we’ve ended up with is a bit on the heavy side: 2 tins of kidney beans, 3 tins of corn, 12 tortillas, 3 loaves of bread, a giant bag of muesli, milk powder, cherry tomatoes, 4 apples, 3 capsicums, 2 oranges an avocado, a pomegranate… Needless to say, we really felt our packs today.
I was feeling a bit sleepy, so it was easy to let Kris take the lead as we scurried through a gauntlet of roadworks lining the way out of Delnice. It’s always hard, after a rest day, to get back into the swing of things again, and the dusty service roads we were following into the hills weren’t very inspiring: we made heavy use of the snacks.
I think we must have walked through some sort of unmarked hamlet, because for a kilometre or so we were surrounded by makeshift huts and caravans. There were no people in sight, but plenty of animals: dogs barked frantically through their cages, a cat’s ears poked up amongst the long grass, an apathetic donkey turned his head as we passed, two horses peered at us from a roadside grove, the crazed eyes of a goat peered through one house’s window. Playing spot the animal was a nice break from the monotony of service roads, though we were walking fast, and soon the hamlet disappeared behind us.
It’s easy to complain about road walking, but it does help you cover ground, and soon we’d left the quarry roads behind and found ourselves in a string of pretty villages. It seemed a little Scandinavian with pitched roofs and coloured walls, though once again they were deserted, with only the endless chorus of barking dogs and the distant sound of an unseen lawnmower to confirm that people did indeed live here.
At the end of the last village, Tuk, we took a track behind the graveyard, through fields of humming wildflowers, and up into a new brace of hills. These mountains felt a little more real than the last – you could get lost up here.
The ground grew steadily craggier, until it was clear we were walking into a huge limestone formation. It was an exhausting roller coaster of a track, as we climbed in and out of sinkholes and over thin stony ridges, eventually finding our way to Ratkovo sklonište.
Perched half in a cave, this little shack is like a more modest version of Predjama castle. Water drips down onto the metal roof from the cave above, sounding like footsteps. As I write this, Kris is lighting the stove. I’m up on the top bunk, and it’s getting pretty smokey, but I’m glad for the ambiance. It’s been a long day – over 30 km – but it’s easy to relax here. And our cold burrito dinner actually tastes pretty good in the end. One less can to carry tomorrow!
Croatia, Stage 7
Start and end points: Delnice to Ratkovo sklonište
Approximate distance: 31 km
Villages: Delnice – Lučice – Mrkopalj – Tuk Mrkopaljski – Tuk Vojni