I am a puddle of minor ailments.
It’s been this way my whole life. Little, irritating, mildly painful injuries seem to plague me. Unsexy things, like minor ear infections or splinters in bizarre places or mouth ulcers or knee pain or skin rubbed raw on my toes (oh baby). And these pollen allergies, which leave me itching and sneezing. Things that eventually and infuriatingly go away without explanation. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive. Maybe I’m a whinging hyperchondriac. Whatever it may be, the fact remains that on this hike so far I’ve had all of the above plus a few solid headaches, blisters, spontaneous hives all over my legs and now, this:
It’s been building up for a few days, but today, it hurts. I put my pack on and one little muscle strip feels like it’s burning. The rest of my back just feels out of whack, like when your shoulder or hip suddenly feels in the wrong place, and it won’t click back and it’s just so uncomfortable and difficult to explain.
But anyway. The walk must go on. We take a quick photo of Ivica, our lovely host in Prisoje, and head off.
Bosnia has been building up, too. The fantastic hiking tracks, however, won’t really start until tomorrow, when we climb up Orlov kuk. So for today, we head out from Prisoje, up and over a small ridge, and then onto a service road which has been blasted out from a long, rocky ridge overlooking Duvanjsko polje, ‘polje‘ meaning ‘field’. It’s essentially an enormous, level valley. From the ridge, we can see fields and fields of wheat and grass in thin rectangles across the plain. It’s incredibly flat, as if it were a liquid filling up the spaces between mountains rather than earth. It makes up for this slightly miserable road, which is wide enough to fit three lanes of traffic and made with a brilliant white gravel. The glare is so strong that I experiment walking with my eyes shut. It’s actually very enjoyable. Callum gives me a nudge every now and then when I veer too close to the edge.
The ridge should take us most of the way to camp today, firstly past a couple of caves and then to a monument to a famous figure from round here called Mijat Tomić, a famous hajduk (rebel or freedom fighter) from the 1600s who fought against Ottoman rule (remember him – he becomes more important in a few days…). Past the monument, we drop off the ridge to pass a spring, another cave, two small towns, Bukovica and Omolje, and lastly our intended campsite – a picnic table said to be near the last town.
We first pass by the caves, Mali Samograd, Veliki Samograd and Dahna, which are famous for their huge limestone chambers containing old Roman pottery and the remnants of ancient cave bears. Unfortunately, hiking isn’t the way to properly see or explore them. We peek our heads into the huge sinkholes which mark their presence at the surface, but then have to walk on. The cave entrances are far from here, and you need a local guide in order to gain access and explore them. Ah well. On we go.
Before we can get to the next stop on our list however, the hajduk monument, an enormous wind farm blocks our way. This explains the service roads. NO PHOTOS, a sign says gruffly. But I have to take just one. Some sacrilegious dot-maker has dotted one of their transmission towers. Nothing is too good for a dot it seems! The wind farm is fantastic, but seems to have been built right over the track. We take many a wrong turn on the roads but eventually end up back on track. We have lunch, then head up to see the monument of Mijat Tomić. It’s a very large statue and pretty cool.
From here, we descend over a muddle of paths – some of them through fields containing alarmingly large cows – to a gushing spring. Springs, within their stone-walled shrines, have been a truly special part of our hike so far. All through the mountains they spurt a never-ending stream of fresh, cold, pure water. Free taps for hikers! It’s quite magical. This one, called Nozdrec spring, is particularly lovely, surrounded by luscious grass, perfect for camping, with small stone seats and a table. It’s with reluctance that we leave – but we have to be getting on.
On from the spring, we enter the town of Bukovica, which is famous for it’s own eponymous cave, also known as the Great Cathedral Cave. It’s huge mouth trickles fresh water. We peer in from where water comes but cannot go too deep.
We reach Cafe Lovre, which we have been told is Via Dinarica friendly, with free wi-fi, and is situated just near a small shop. The shop turns out to be incredibly well-stocked, having great fresh food and even powdered milk, the latter which we’ve only seem twice in the past month. The cafe is lovely too. I do some writing and Callum draws a flower. My back is still in a bit of pain, so I’m thankful for the rest.
Eventually we clear out, and walk a brisk five kilometres across the fields to Omolje, the second little town. We have heard there is a lovely campsite with a picnic table somewhere nearby… but there’s also quite a large mountain, Orlov kuk. We don’t know which side of the mountain this campsite is on. Unfortunately, if it’s not this side, we’ll just have to lump it in the flattest of grass we can find, dreaming bitterly of the campsite, out there somewhere…
Murphy’s Law stands true. At about 7:30 pm, with no picnic table in sight, we pitch the tent in the lumpiest patch of grass I have ever laid eyes (or body) on. My back does not appreciate it one bit (I’m sure it will feel mysteriously better by tomorrow though. Typical). Either do my allergies. I spend the night sniffing and tossing and turning. I guess no-one ever said hiking was glamorous…
But it’s okay! We’ve had a great day, regardless, and have ended up more or less where we intended. It’s different in Australia, I’ve found. You often need to reach a specific place for the night because it will be your only source of water. But here, it’s not so dire. And so, as I like to tell the six-year-old inside me who gets cranky that things haven’t gone exactly to plan:
“We get where we get, and we don’t get upset.”
Start and end points: Bošnjak Household in Prisoje to the side of Orlov kuk peak on Lib mountain
Approximate distance: 32.5 km
Villages: Prisoje – Bukovica – Omolje
Features: Bošnjak Household – Mali Samograd, Veliki Samograd and Dahna (caves) – Duvanjsko polje (Duvanjsko field) – Monument to Mijat Tomić – Bukovica Cathedral Cave – Well-stocked market in Bukovica (Supermarket 6 Bakovic) – Cafe in Bukovica (Cafe and Salon Lovre) – Lib mountain