Sutjeska National Park - Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Ah.... the hiking day, and what a day that was. I had a chat recently with a friend who pointed out that the stories you tell from your travels are usually from parts you hadn't planned at all. Whether it be about people you couldn't have known you'd meet, places you didn't know existed, or that one time you got stranded on a mountain for 2 hours, 20km away from any form of human life. You know, casual.

Long story short: the mountains were unexpectedly covered in 45cm of snow completely out of season, the guy in charge of the refuge quit (maybe cause he has hella cold) meaning we couldn't stay in our accommodation since there was no heating or electricity, the snow made it impossible for us to climb Maglic, we hiked to the lake below it anyway, we got stranded 20km from any form of life for 2 hours, hiked an extra 8km after already hiking 13km, reached our car and then almost ran out of gas.... BUT it was awesome and I shall illustrate with pictures.

It all started with a rather dodgy 45 min ride in a Land Rover back from the dead:

Our driver dropped us at the beginning of the trail and sent us on our way. We hiked through forests, on cliff edges, on mountain slopes and through fog and snow. This made for a truly breathtaking scenery that doesn't quite translate on camera. Probably because our fingers were too cold to take non blurry pictures...

Hiking to Trnovacko Lake
After hiking a good 13km and feeling rather proud of ourselves (and cold) we were looking forward to getting back to the Land Rover where our lunch awaited us... except the car was nowhere to be seen. There had been a misunderstanding between us and the driver, neither of us speaking each other's language, who thought we'd be back within 3 hours when in fact it was a 4 hour hike. We didn't know this at the time, but after seeing us missing after three hours he decided to go fetch the ranger for help. This took him another 1h30 which is pretty much the length of time we were stranded at the meeting point, in sub zero conditions, thinking we were gonna die (ish). Anyways, we hiked towards the hotel, 20km into the forest, until he turned up and we found a warm car, our lunch, and all was well. 

Driving from Sutjeska to Dormitor National Park
Once we made it back to the hotel we got back in our car and began the drive to the other northern National park, which is across in Montenegro: The Dormitor National Park. This was an amazingly scenic drive as we crossed mountains, corniches and canyons. 
Tara River
The drive between the parks was only 40 km but crossing mountains is the operative phrase here... We expected the drive to take around 1h30 and not to use much gas, but how wrong we were! Since we were driving through hairpins constantly, the drive took a lot longer than expected and used up a lot more gas. Which is when we almost ran out, risking being stranded on a random mountain for the second time that day. Being my father's daughter however, and quite used to almost running out, we employed the "go downhill for 20km without pressing on the gas pedal" technique and got home safe after all. 

I must say that, in hindsight, this is one of my favorite memories of the trip... although we weren't so joyful at the time!

Tara River Canyon
Next time: Crossing Montenegro to reach the Bay of Kotor

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