Part 1: Country Pancake
There are a few flies buzzing around my face, so I pull my hat down over my eyes and concentrate on enjoying the sun. I’m lying on the thin bench of a picnic table, using my pack as a pillow, but it’s kind of hard to balance. Not as relaxing as I’d like.
We’ve only been walking an hour or so, but I’m feeling lazy. Just twelve kilometres further to go today; we can take our time.
So far we’ve walked the four or five kilometres down the valley from last night’s camp at Štirinsko jezero, passing mostly through expansive grassy fields. The long stems of pale yellow grass fold into waves that give life to all those metaphors of a grass ocean. We should be pretty close to Orlovačko jezero, but it’s still out of sight. For now we’re just resting outside the hut of the same name.
Giving up on my dreams of comfort, I swing my legs around and sit up, knocking my pack onto the grass in the process.
“I’ll go fill up the water bottles,” I say to Kris, who’s dozing on the other picnic bench. She nods absently.
Reaching over to my pack, I haul it back up to the table. I’m immediately hit by a damp, fertile stench.
When my pack fell off the bench it landed right in a fresh cow pat. Worse, when I just picked it up, I dragged it through the offending pile, and now it’s everywhere: on the harness, on my water nozzle, the solar panel. Even on my arms. It’s not good.
Thankfully, being near a hut, there’s a spring I can use to clean up. I thoroughly destroy an old rag as I attempt to clean out all the cow poo. It seems to have worked it’s way into every seam but, after several trips to the spring, I think it’s all gone.
Kris, who’s been cleaning the solar panel and offering moral support, announces that she’s going to go have a sniff around the hut. I decide I’ll finally go full up those water bottles.
Leaving my pack safe, sound, and relatively clean on the picnic table, I thoroughly wash my hands and fill my water bladder from the spring behind the hut. Upon returning to the table, however, I see something truly terrible.
My pack has fallen back into the cow pat.
And somehow, it’s even worse this time.
Part 2: Lost and Found
We ended up spending over an hour at the hut (mostly cleaning), so now, trudging along the steep, unmarked climb to Bregoč peak, the day seems to be passing rapidly. It really shouldn’t be that much of a climb, but I’m finding it a bit dispiriting. A little while ago we realised we’d drifted off route, so now we’re just hoping that the track we’re on links back up with the trail up Bregoč. But it’s seeming less and less likely: in fact, it really seems a lot like we’re angling towards Kozje strane, one of the many peaks we don’t want to climb.
As the track makes yet another turn away from Bregoč peak, we decide to call it: we have to go back, giving up our hard won altitude. This is what we get for not turning around as soon as we realised we were off course, a mistake we’ve made a few times now.
But we’ll have lunch first. Sitting in a meadow, looking down at the drifts of sheep in the valley below, it’s actually quite idyllic. The pastured hills roll in gentle, weather-worn curves that mark crisp lines with the blue sky.
Lunch is our usual salad wraps: cucumber, capsicum, carrot and cheese with a tiny sachet of mayonnaise. We wash it down with some Cedevita, which is a powdered vitamin drink that people seem to go crazy for around here. You can buy it just about anywhere. It tastes like a sugary vitamin C tablet, but it’s refreshing on a hot day.
Time is passing and we’ve not yet come far today. Hopefully we’ll get to the top of this mountain soon.
Part 3: Bearly Moving
The summit of Bregoč turned into a stunning ridge walk. In the distance are the craggy peaks that line the border with Montenegro, but here, it’s like walking in a park. I’m enjoying the stroll so much that I forget to pay attention to the map, and completely miss that we’re supposed to be angling down into the exposed gully to our right. This isn’t good news: we’ve got another peak to come (albeit a smaller one) so I want to stay up high. And it’s so beautiful up here.
But the track must be obeyed, and so we delve down into the forested slopes, exchanging our grassy vista for dappled woodland. It’s still quite nice, though the odd singing nettle is a bit of a dampener. After an hour or so, with Kristen’s back flaring up, we plop down our packs and sprawl in a sheltered saddle, looking up at the slopes of Bregoč, with the more modest peak of Uglješin vrh behind us.
I’m just unwrapping the last of the chocolate when Kris exclaims, “Is that a bear!”
I jolt up nervously until I realise she’s gesturing at a slope a few hundred metres away. And there, sure enough, is a bear. At least, I think it is – it’s lumbering around in a very bearish way, lifting it’s head curiously every now and then but keeping it’s shoulders slumped. Too big to be a dog, too slow to be a deer, not a cow.
I think it’s finally happened. We’ve seen a bear!
Part 4: It’s Getting Lake
What is it about today that seems to make everything take a long time? Even the little peak of Uglješin vrh, at which we hardly even stopped, took a good chunk of time, and now, heading down from the mountain an hour short of our intended camp, it’s getting dark.
I’m not very good at changing plans on the fly, so it takes a bit of convincing on Kris’s part, but eventually I agree that we should just call it a day at Gornje Bare jezero, which is at the bottom of the hill. I’m also a little influenced by how lovely last night’s impromptu lakeside camp was. I have high hopes.
When we reach Gornje Bare jezero, the sun has dipped below the surrounding cliffs, but the mountains still reflect beautifully in the still waters. If we’d been an hour earlier it would have been a great place to swim, but it’s getting a bit cold now. Kris makes tea and I try and light a fire, but the wet wood and wind have other ideas. It’s no Štirinsko jezero, but its a beautiful place. I’m not too sad that today was short.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stage 36
Start and end points: Štirinsko jezero to Gornje bare jezero
Approximate distance: 22 km
Features: Štirinsko jezero (Štirinsko lake) – Planina Lelija (Lelija mountain) – Planinarski kuća Orlovačko (Orlovačko mountain hut) – Orlovačko mountain shelter – Planina Zelengora (Zelegenora mountain) – Orlovačko jezero (Orlovačko lake) – Campsite at Orlovačko jezero – Bregoč (2014 m) – Uglješin vrh (1859 m) – Gornje bare jezero (Gornje bare lake)