So far we had seen the mountains on the Albanian side, and we had just gone through beautiful walks in Durmitor. It was time to move towards the Bosnia and Herzegovina border. We would be skipping the famous Tara canyon, and be heading to the top of Maglic. The pictures of that mountain had really impressed the both of us.
The short climb we had done during the early afternoon left us enough time to relaxedly drive to Pluzine and push through the first kilometers on our trail towards the peak. The road taking us from Durmitor to Pluzine drove us through endless alpine meadows and gave us amazing views to gorges and valleys. Sometimes the sceneries reminded me of Lapland. Funnily enough.
We started our sharp descent from the Durmitor’s plateau along the narrow road. It is sometimes a little nerve wrecking to get down to the gorge of Pivsko lake. The corners are tight hairpins and tunnels are plentiful. Sometimes the hairpin turns around in the tunnel and they are pitch black!
After a short pit stop at Pluzine we headed alongside the Pivsko lake to north. Our hike would be starting from the village of Mratinje. The village is every bit soviet. You see the buildings of it and the surroundings, the colors they have chosen to paint their houses with. It is rather clean Yugoslavia there. The town people seem to be just like in every other village we passed. Happy and busy at work, turning hay to dry or preparing the fence where a silly cow escaped. That region is apparently mostly populated by Serbs and orthodox Christians.
Our poor little car was suffering as we pushed our way higher up towards the foot of the climb. We dumped the noble steed at the side of the road close to where our hike would be starting. We were first met by young girl and a grand mother herding cows towards the village. They were staring us a bit oddly, with a glimmer of smile on their eyes. I think it was because our bear bells; we sounded like cows while walking. After Mratinje there was still another small village, the name of which we didn’t get to know. The villagers were hard at work at the scorching heat of the late afternoon. Some of them stopped, asking us something in Montenegrin. I guess they wanted to know our destination. A granny bursted in laughter after realizing we had no clue what she was saying. Giving a thumbs up as we uttered out the word Maglic.
We had two hours to go until sunset, plenty of time to hike a few kilometers and find a camping spot for the night. Or so we thought. The heat was suffocating, as it was combined with quite some moist. It didn’t take long until all our clothing was completely soaked with sweat. It made us a little nervous, since we didn’t know if we were going to find any water on the mountain and there was only so much we were able to carry.
The dusk was upon us and we were desperately searching for a flat spot where our tent could fit. They seem to be thin in those mountains. It was getting really dim already once I finally spotted a clearing in the woods, stamped over it and approved it suitable for camping purposes. We were eaten alive by mosquitoes while putting up camp so we skipped the dinner. A strong breakfast would have to do for the next day.
We seemed to be a wonderful attraction for local squirrels. There were dozens of them running around us in trees, making quite some noise. As we crawled into the tent, they dared to come rather close, we were waiting that some of them would even peak into the porch.
The morning brought misery. Our sweaty clothing hadn’t managed to dry at all, poor Waffle hadn’t slept more than an hour and the mosquitoes were still there. We packed all the stuff quickly and marched on. Thinking happily, that at least we hadn’t turned into a meal for a bear.
We were planning on having the strong breakfast a little bit further, in a more open spot, so that the mosquitoes were less likely to keep us company. After a while we received a pleasant surprise. A spring! Yet another Shangri La, keeping us alive. We drank as much as we could and had a full blown sitting feast with double coffee! Oh, it was beautiful there. The trail was climbing up in between two peaks, giving a great view on both of them. There were some clouds drifting in and even a bit of wind offering a relieve from the heat.
We had been warned about the trail being poorly marked and difficult to find. That was partially true, the trail was literally nonexistent at many places but the route marking was done so well, that there was no fear of getting lost. GPS tracker was for the most part useless.
A bit higher we found our next camping spot and hid our stuff under a bush to make the climb go a little easier. From that spot we would have a splendid view over the valley we were climbing from with a small lake down below too.
Our hike continued in the midst of fields with flowers, all colors from the shades of blue, pink, purple, yellow and white were surrounding us, even with the mountain breeze you could smell the vanilla and sweetness of them. Also thousands of love hungry snails were keeping us company.
It was a long but very gentle climb. Once we reached the edge of a connecting bridge we were rewarded with quite a view over Trnovačko lake in the bottom of a steep valley, surrounded by medieval forests. The lake has the shape of a heart and is, as mountain lakes always are, bright blue in color. We hoped we would have had time to get down there, but unfortunately we didn’t, that will be left for when we return to that wonderland.
The rest of the way to the peak was plain old ridge walking. The weather was cooling down and we progressed fast. The last climb to the very peak was a bit of scrambling, but noting too difficult. We were greeted by a Finnish flag on top, that of course made me very happy. We looked over to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which seems to offer endless landscape of gorges and green mountains. The silence up there was amazing, the mountains swallowing all the sound of the world below us.
We left a quick note in the summit post and headed down, back the way we came from. That was the last mountain hike for the holiday. We were feeling a bit sentimental. The rest of the holiday we would be spending at the seaside, like a pair of decent tourists. The tiredness started to eat on Waffle rather strongly on the way down. Luckily we reached the camping spot quickly and got to relax for the night.
Morning came and down we went. Through forest and fields of strawberries. Once we reached the village we left from the people turned to us and waved us happily welcomed. At their own spring they were cooling down beers for the people who were hard at work in the fields. Beautiful spot to end a hike I would say. There were also tons and tons of wild strawberries at our route and I went wild picking them, they are such a luxury when you are out in the nature.
We crossed the Pivsko damn again on the way towards Niksic. You fully realize how massive the Pivsko lake is only when you see the gorge on the other side of the dam. The dam is one of the highest in Europe and the river emerging on the other side of it is left far below your feet when you look down.
We headed south towards the coast, booked a hotel for two nights in the city of Bari and arrived in the Kotorska bay. On the way we met some very lovely stray dogs and gave them water. I would have so much like to adopt them, but yeah, not right now. We drove from the Croatian border towards Albania, passing by a holiday destination after another, with brown people crawling to their hotels from the beach. I was not happy to find ourselves from a place like that, after such a wonderful time in the mountains.
The real shock came fully in the morning. The mercury climbed to 36 degrees and the moist air was suffocating. We sought shelter in the car, it had AC and did a small road trip. Up to the hillsides between lake Skadar and the coast. Some vigorous search on Google maps showed us a calm bay in the lake; a swim paradise! There we sat in the water, with small fish nibbling on our skin and sun setting slowly behind the hills. When the local people started to gather we left to drive through the P16 that follows the western coast of Skadar. The road is listed as a dangerous road, but with common sense and careful driving it is not really life threatening. The scenery it offers is filled with wonder. The road gos through a walnut forest and quite some hillsides full of greenery. Definitely worth driving!
The last day came, we collected ourselves up from the bed slowly, packed and headed towards Podgorica. On the way there we had found a beautiful looking swimming spot, that was said to be popular among the local people. It is a river, that runs from the mountains to Skadar. On the go, it has plenty of pools and waterfalls. You can find the spot by Googling restaurant Niagara in Podgorica. That was a nice end for this trip. WE tasted some very excelelnt local wine the restaurant is making and watched people enjoying the day.
Our flight was delayed, thanks to a thunderstorm that watered the whole group of passengers waiting outside. It looked so similar to the situation back at home when we actually left from Charleroi.
So, that was it, our story from Montenegro. It was certainly one of the best trips I have ever done. Loved it almost all the way and we’ll want to return in a few years time. For a tourist who loves peace and wants to see the original unspoiled culture and nature of Montenegro, go there. Go there now!