I’m one of those people who can sleep indefinitely in the dark, but snap irreparably awake with the slightest hint of sunshine. So when the first timid rays peek through Jezerce kuća’s lone window, my body wakes in seconds – though my brain takes a little longer. Twisting carefully so as not to fall off my narrow sleeping bench, I wriggle my sleeping bag over to check on the fire. Completely dead, but I’m gratified to see that it took most of the wood with it; my fires don’t go down without a fight.
We breakfast quickly and head outside, carrying nothing heavier than a water bottle, for this morning we’re climbing the highest peak of Prenj, Zelena glava, before returning to the hut, and there’s no need to take our heavy packs along for the ride. Mmm, my shoulders are glad to hear it, and this crisp mountain air is glorious. Yesterday’s rain is long gone, and while the sky is full of clouds, they’re the nice, fluffy, ride-over-a-rainbow kind.
From a distance Zelena glava looks like it’s made of cliffs, so I’m slightly disappointed to learn that the track works its way to the summit via an intelligent route that somehow avoids any need for rock climbing. The most trouble is had avoiding the huge snow drifts which have settled over the track, crinkled at the edges like giant slime mould. It’s steep, but before I know it we’re munching on lollies half a kilometre in the sky.
You get a panoramic view of Prenj from up here, impeded only by Zelena glava’s twin peak, Otiš, which is just eighteen metres lower. Just there, poking through the clouds is Cetina, which we climbed yesterday. And there, that’s the mine suspected valley that we spent forever walking around in the rain. Prenj’s limestone peaks froth around us like a choppy sea.
We take a few photos, and then skip back down to the saddle from where we can climb to Otiš. Having the lesser honour of being Prenj’s second highest peak, the track up Otiš is less travelled, but just as fun to climb. A few tufty switchbacks and we’re up, looking at the missing piece of the view. It’s actually a surprisingly different panorama, and we take our time, feeling pretty good with how quickly we got up here. We heard these were challenging climbs. Pssht.
A more sobering thought: Prenj formed part of the front line during the war in Bosnia, leaving behind mines and other military debris that haunt the mountains to this day. It’s hard to find out much information, but it seems that there were combat positions as high up as the shoulders of Otiš – i.e. the saddle we just walked through.
After finishing off our snacks, we bumble our way back to the hut, ticking off land marks as we go – the sign post, the snow drift, the pine forest. Having depleted our morning energy, the walk defeats the adage and somehow seems to take longer on the way back. And I’m building up a mighty hunger.
Back at the hut, we pack, have an early lunch, and set off again, lugging along our rucksacks this time. This stretch of track will take us to the edge of Prenj, where we’ll meet up with roads leading down to the base.
I’ll miss this mountain. I really feel like I could spend weeks up here exploring the multitude of peaks and valleys. The mountains we’ve been walking through recently – Vran, Čvrsnica, and now Prenj – just enchant me in a way that few other landscapes we’ve seen have managed.
That, however, doesn’t mean that the descent is anything special. A long snake of steep vehicle tracks leaves us weary-footed and sore-knee’d by the time we roll into Boračko jezero (a lake and a town) at the base of the mountain. It’s a holiday town, and we can hear a big group of kids running around, their yells punctuated by the whump of a flat soccer ball being kicked. Probably some sort of Scout group we decide.
Our plan was to wild camp, but this is way too built up, so we go to one of the real (paid) campsites instead. We’re just setting up Terrence the tent in a lovely spot by the lake when a dog lumbers over, the same size and colouring as a small cow. Unfortunately, not the temperament. Azuz, as we come to call him, is the most annoying dog I’ve met in a long time. He playfully bites anything that moves, including our hands, feet, tent, clothes line… It never seems to stop. He also had no discernible owner, and the only way I can get rid of him is by having him follow me to get other side of the campsite (being bitten along the way) and then quickly hiding when he goes off to sniff something. Oh Azuz.
Why do we call him Azuz? Because he’s the exact opposite of our lovely friend Zuza.
With camp set up, we wander over to the restaurant where the only vegetarian food we can manage to get is chips and salad. Oh well, it’s still nice and hot. We read our new books, pat the friendly camp cats, and massage our long suffering feet. They’ve carried us about 1750 metres down from this morning’s peak of Zelena glava, and they deserve a reward too.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stage 32 (alternate route to Boračko jezero from Jezerce kuća which skips the road walk around Ruište)
Start and end points: Planinarska kuća Jezerce (Jezerce mountain shelter) to Boračko jezero
Villages: Borci – Boračko jezero
Features: Planinarska kuća Jezerce (Jezerce mountain shelter) – Zelena glava (2155 m) – Otiš (2097 m) – Boračko jezero – Mini market at Boračko jezero – Campsites (Eko Selo, others), restaurants and guesthouses in Boračko jezero