We’ve been on the trail for just over three weeks now. We have just about 100 miles left to hike in Croatia and then we enter Bosnia. We’re looking forward to entering another country. Croatia has been beautiful but the trails haven’t been the most ideal. I’ve read that almost all of the Via Dinarica is complete in Bosnia and actually marked! It’s also nice to have milestones when you’re hiking long distances to keep you motivated. I’ve likened Croatia to California on the PCT—it’s the longest stretch of the trail and we’re just ready to move on.
This morning we head up a steep rocky road to an area called Crnopac. It’s known for its steep white limestone columns and pits and caves. We reach a mountain hut after a few miles and there’s a bunch of day hikers there. We get rain water from the pump and drop our packs to hike a loop called The Little Prince trail. A guy told us it’s the most beautiful trail in Croatia so we definitely want to check it out. It’s a neat trail, lots of ups and downs through the rocky columns. There’s some good rock climbing sections and places where they’ve installed cables and rebar, but it’s not really necessary because the rocks have such good natural hand and foot holds. We have fun climbing around, it’s kind of like a playground, especially without our packs on, but we both agree that we’ve seen way more beautiful trails on this hike. We hope we’re not getting too spoiled. People will tell us about an amazing view and we’ll see it and think, “meh, we’ve seen better.” There’s just been so much beauty everywhere and every day, it’s become the norm.
After we finish the loop we grab our packs and head back down the rocky road. The trail takes us along a super busy highway for a few miles. It’s terrifying, cars are flying past and there’s hardly any shoulder. It’s really unfortunate and dangerous that the Via Dinarica takes this route. Hopefully in the future they will suggest an alternate because it’s just not safe.
We finally reach the town of Gračac. We’re so happy to be in town. We’re hot, sweaty, smelly, dirty, and hungry. We stop at a cafe near what we think is the center of town. There’s not really much here, a lot of abandoned buildings but there a lot of people around. We ask at the cafe if they have a room we can rent for the night and the bartender grabs Mario, the owner of the bar. He rents us a room above the bar for 30 Euros and it’s super nice! It’s newly built and modern and so convenient because the cafe with WiFi is right downstairs and the market is just across the street. Mario is super kind and gives us a ride to the only restaurant nearby which is about 3/4 of a mile away. We walk back to our room after eating some delicious food and I ask Mario if there’s anywhere we can do laundry. Our clothes stink! He ends up taking us to his house after first having us drink a glass of chilled red wine with him while he tells us of all the amazing waterfalls and rivers nearby. He also tells us that Nikola Tesla is from the area and his mother’s house is just 3 km from here. We finish our wine, are given a shot of his friend’s homemade booze (really strong!) and go to his house. We sit outside while his mom does our laundry, feeling a little buzzed from the booze. We meet his four daughters who are so beautiful and he brings us orange soda and slices of a fruity whipped cream cake his wife made. It’s so delicious and we’re overwhelmed by how kind and generous the people are here.
When our laundry is finished he drives us back to the bar where we stare at our phones for a few hours to catch up on everything we missed while being away from civilization for the past week. It’s so nice to be away from technology while we’re hiking but so stressful when we do get WiFi. There’s so much to research for the trail ahead, family and friends to check in with, blogs and social media to update. Sometimes I wish I could just turn it all off forever.
It’s a blessing there’s no WiFi in our room. I read a few pages of my book (a story about Albania in WWII I found at a mountain hut—so hard to find a book in English here!) and fall asleep almost instantly.