Apparently we didn’t learn anything from yesterday because within the first 10 minutes of hiking we realize we’re climbing on the wrong trail. So we backtrack into the tiny village of Botazzo Botač and find the trail markings leading us through the narrow streets and through a restaurant courtyard. Eventually we’re back on a real trail and once again climb straight up. The trail reaches a road and we pass through a tunnel and see a couple men out for a morning stroll. We think we get to keep following the gentle grade of the road, but nope, straight uphill again for us. At the top we take a wrong turn again but I think we’re finally starting to get the hang of it—we learn to check our gps constantly, especially when we see any side trails. At the top we reach another tiny village. Tidy houses with beautiful vegetable gardens and a fountain with drinking water! We stop to fill our bottles and keep walking. Soon we’re at a busy road and we cross into Slovenia! The crossing isn’t really marked but we can see some old checkpoints on the main road. We walk for a while on a gravel road, pass the ruins of a old church and sit to have a snack and look at our maps. We realize we’ve underestimated how far we need to walk to reach Predjama castle where we’re supposed to meet Stats the next morning. He was part of our PCT family and is taking a train down from Switzerland to hike with us for 5 days. There’s no way we’ll get there in time to meet him if we stay in the trail so we end up road walking 3 miles into Divača to catch a bus to Razdrto—where the Via Dinarica starts. We don’t mind skipping parts of the Via Alpina, it was just more of a warm-up to get us to the Via Dinarica. We arrive in Divača with about 4 hours until the bus comes so we post up at a restaurant to have a snack and use their outlets to charge our phones. They’re running out of juice quickly with all this navigation! Me and Simon enjoy a cold Slovenian beer and get “potato side dishes” which turns out be sort of like sliced breakfast potatoes. Express orders “vegetable side dishes” and gets some kind of grilled eggplant and squash combo. We’re pleased with our meals and they give us free bread!
After a few hours at the restaurant we walk to the bus station to relax until the bus arrives. We’re excited when it does finally show up, we weren’t totally sure we had the schedule right since it’s all in Slovenian. The bus was pretty full when we got on and we struggled making it through the narrow aisle with our packs. Mine kept getting caught on the seats and slamming into the people sitting. It was super embarrassing and awkward, and I was mortified when at one point I somehow managed to stab a poor old woman in the boob with the sharp end of my trekking pole. Luckily she was a good sport about it and just laughed. Finally I made it to an open seat near the back.
We get off the bus in Razdrto and are officially starting the Via Dinarica. Our goal for tonight looms ahead, the Nanos Plateau. It’s about a 2,100 foot elevation gain and we know it’s gonna be steep. It’s definitely a difficult climb up but the views toward the top make it totally worth the effort. Slovenia is beautiful and at the top it’s vivid green grass contrasted with white rocks. We make it to the top just in time to catch the sunset. It’s getting chilly and looks like a storm is approaching so we continue down the trail to a mountain hut and stealth camp in the woods just beyond it. Just as we’re finishing setting up our tents the rain starts falling. We’re happy to be sheltered under the trees and get cozy in our tents. So far the hike has been really tough and I’m completely exhausted, but so happy and grateful to be here, I wouldn’t have it any other way.