It feels like we’ve been on the road a long time. Packing up the tent, putting on my hiking shirt that hasn’t been washed since Jablanica, and possibly won’t be again until we reach Montenegro. Gently toeing down the steep bank, back to the road where we left off yesterday. In a few minutes it feels as if we never stopped. But surprisingly, it’s not in a bad way.
There aren’t a huge amount of books about hiking in the world – lots of adventure and mountaineering ones, but only a few hiking. I’ve read a few of the popular ones in the last few years, like Wild, A Walk in the Woods and Walking Home. But for me, none of them quite capture what hiking is like. Every step we walk, we walk. Most of our time is not spent doing anything else but walking. In writing, all the ups and downs naturally come to the fore – the beautiful campsite, the drenching rain, the delicious food, the adorable puppy. The gaps are compressed. Perhaps that’s how I’ll remember it, too. But living it is very different. All parts of the day are more equal in real life and, because of that, most of my conscious time is spent in the midst of walking. It’s like looking at a timeline of world history and remembering that humans occupy the most minute fraction, the rest of it being filled slightly with dinosaurs, but mainly without the big things that seem exciting or important or enduring to us today. So too is my day – a few dinosaurs, but mainly just a lot of space and time.
Anyway. It’s what I’m thinking about as we walk down the road.
It’s a peaceful walk this morning, along the gravel road from Ljuta towards Vlaholje. No cars pass. Springs abound on the roadside, so we sip from those instead of our own water, just for the pleasure. Mine warning signs appear on either side of us and persist for a long time, so we’re glad that we stopped last night when we did. We pass a happier sign reading ‘Kalinovik’, the town we should hit tomorrow for a resupply, which assures us we’re on the right path.
A short while later, we hit the turn-off to Lukavak. Lukavak is a peak we now get to climb, our little taste of mountain for the day. An old vehicle track, which quickly thins out to a foot pad, extends up the hillside to our left. We climb upwards about 300 m in altitude to the summit. It’s a nice quick climb, refreshing to be out in open meadows again. We cook up the last of our polenta at the top and eat with it half a cucumber. The joys of hiking. Sighs.
But it’s okay. I’m driven on by the knowledge that tonight we reach Simovića, our long-anticipated B&B in the small town of Vlaholje, just outside of Kalinovik. The Bosnian section of the Via Dinarica is known for not only being a great path through the wilderness, but also an insight into traditional culture. So far we’ve seen some tiny little villages, wandered past shepherds and farms, through flocks of sheep and fields of cows, tasted amazing traditional food, cordials, coffee and alcohol. I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Bosnia. This evening only serves to strengthen that.
We hike along the open ridges past Lukavak, watching cows stroll in single file across the valley. We angle down steeply to reach Vlaholje after a few kilometres and are immediately waved over to the first house by a friendly looking woman, whose name we later learn is Slava. She has a lovely, comfortable smile, inviting us to sit, shaking our hands and bringing us out some tea and cherries. We rest happily on the balcony, drinking rakia and reading through one of the many copies of the Via Dinarica guidebook which Slava has.
We’ve heard a lot about this guidebook, so it’s so nice to be finally flicking through a physical copy. Interestingly, it only covers the Bosnia and Herzegovina section of the Via Dinarica. Before starting out, this seemed really strange to us. Why bother only doing one part of the huge walking route?
But now we’re here, it makes a lot more sense. The route in Bosnia is a lot more developed than in Slovenia and Croatia. Funds have been allocated towards establishing B&B households like Simovića; the mountain ranges like Prenj and Vran are truly special, with great hiking tracks. It’s a really special hike. If you could only do one part of the Via Dinarica, I can see why you’d pick Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dinner tonight is a huge spread of mushrooms, tomato, hot chips, bread, capsicums and cheese. We’ve entered a different world of flavour. On what planet can our miserable lunch and this amazing meal be placed in the same category? We finish with a glass of hot, fresh milk. So comfortable…
I generally wouldn’t call myself a person for whom food is a great love. Sometimes it seems like just a time-consuming obligation, which extends forever and ever into the future. So many problems across the world with ethics and supply and maldistribution and wastage… I’d be the first person to sign up to a clinical trial making humans photosynthetic.
But tonight, I shamelessly fall asleep dreaming of breakfast…
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stage 35
Start and end points: Roadside near Ljuta to Simovića kuće in Vlaholje
Approximate distance: 21.5 km
Villages: Ljuta – Budovići – Vlaholje – (Kalinovik, 3 km further)
Features: Lukavak (1768 m) – (Veliki Treskač, 1969 m (cool-looking side-trip)) – Simovića kuće