Kris jerks to a stop. I’m walking just half a pace behind, and barely manage not to step on her heel.
“Look!” she hisses urgently.
I cautiously peer over her shoulder, dreading the sight of an upset bear or rearing snake.
At first I don’t notice anything, but without the heavy sound of our footsteps I begin to make out a soft snuffling. And there, clustered right on the track, is a litter of wild boar piglets. They gossip about in little bundles, nosing the earth with their tiny snouts.
We take a few steps closer, and see two parent boars in the long grass just a little further up the hill. Where the piglets are a soft downy brown with white stripes on their sides, the adults are darker, with thick bristling fur.
A couple of the piglets are looking our way, but somehow the boars haven’t noticed us. Kris snaps a few quick photos before one of the boars suddenly lets out a high pitched squeal.
“Oh no,” I say, “I hope they’re not feeling territorial.” I’ve read enough fantasy to know that wild boars can be dangerous, though these don’t look too threatening.
We stay dead still, trying to look small, as the family of pigs careen around in panic, bellowing, and even charging a few metres in our direction. I hold my breath. But then they sort themselves out and lumber off into the trees, a few of the smaller piglets trailing behind.
I can’t help but grin. We’ve seen wild boar!
We walk on in a better mood – the pigs provided a much needed burst of excitement in what’s been an otherwise fairly routine day. It’s been easy walking out from Alan – we’re still on the red carpet of the Premužića trail – but last year a bush fire burnt though this section, leaving it completely exposed to the sun. The lack of trees means we get a near constant view of the beautiful Croatian islands (first Rab, and then later the spindly leg of Pag) but it also means that there’s never any surprises (roaming boar families excepted).
After taking lunch in a cool pocket of shade by a natural spring, we walk into Skorpovac sklonište at around 2 pm. Our plan was to push on to the mountain lodge at Ravni Dabar, but that was before we realised how nice it is here. There’s comfortable beds, a kitchen, a working water pump, cosy tables, and even a book shelf with two (two!) English language books (the lesser known works of Edgar Allan Poe and a surprisingly interesting kids science book). I curl up in the shade of an outside barbecue area and start working on one of Poe’s creepy stories while Kris fixes a cup of tea. We call it a day.
Before long our fellow hikers Tomislav and Goran, whom we met yesterday, come trundling down the path. They’re staying here too, and it’s nice to have the chance to talk to two local hikers. Amongst other things, Tomislav clears up the hut nomenclature, which has been confusing us for a while. Basically: ‘sklonište’ means a simple, unmanned shelter which is free and always open; a ‘kuća’ is a bit fancier with meals, but probably not electricity or running water; and a ‘dom’ is the most comfortable of them all, more or less a remote hotel.
At one point we tell Tomislav, who knows this area well, about our plans to head over to Ždrilo tomorrow, and Zavrata the day after that. He seems a little surprised. “Perhaps,” he suggests, “you might want to take an extra day or two.” I’m not sure, but I get the impression that he thinks we might be a little optimistic in how far we can get, at least if we want to enjoy ourselves along the way. But we’ve only got a limited supply of food, so there’s no turning back now. Let’s hope it all works out okay.