I don’t sleep well and feel groggy and sluggish as we begin to walk. During the flat paved sections of road I close my eyes periodically for 10 to 20 seconds and try to micro-nap. Today it’s all road and mostly asphalt…ugh.
We see the source of the Cetina River in the morning. It’s around 115 meters deep and is a crystal clear blue pool with an Orthodox Christian chapel looming above. Further along we pass the largest ancient burial ground in the country. I mostly notice all the newer fancy headstones engraved with portraits of the deceased. The men’s faces weathered and tired and the women’s scowling beneath their tightly tied kerchiefs. We see an old shepherd in a field, hunched over with his cane walking with his sheep. It’s all so idyllic and the air is so warm and heavy. I’m sleepy.
We stop near the side of the road for a quick snack break. A man bikes by, passes us, sees us, flips a quick u-turn, and drops his bike to come over to talk. His name is Ivan and he lives nearby. He’s real chatty and runs around picking different weeds and leaves and berries growing around us. He shows us a leaf that lowers high blood pressure and says he can cure any disease including cancer in 14 days. He learned everything from his grandfather while hiking in the mountains as a child. He gives us his email in case we have any plant questions. We return to the road and he slowly circles us on his bike as we walk. He stops every now and then, running excitedly to a plant to tell us what he makes with it. We’re loving it and hoping he bikes around us all day to keep us entertained. But suddenly he turns in the opposite direction and bikes away yelling “Bye!” Goodbye Ivan the Medicine Man.
The road more or less follows the river but stays pretty high above. In the afternoon we reach a spot where the road finally dips down to the water and there’s a perfect beach to swim and rinse out our clothes and dry in the sun. These are the lunch breaks thru-hikers dream of.
I feel recharged after the swim as we head back down the road, but the feeling doesn’t last long. It’s so hot and the pavement reflects all the heat making me feel like I’m in an oven. There’s no shade. I’m so thirsty but my water bottle is getting blasted by the heat, making my water so hot it’s anything but refreshing.
Two guys in a car pull up next to me as I’m walking and one flashes a police badge. They’re not in uniform or anything and are just driving a regular car. They ask me what I’m doing and where I’m going. At first I’m worried I’m in trouble for something. Is it illegal to walk with a backpack along the road in Croatia? I soon realize they’re just curious and of course they’ve never heard of this darn trail we’re hiking, no one has heard of it! The interrogation ends with them asking if I’m scared of the wild animals. Why does everyone keep asking me this? Should I be?
The hot afternoon drones on until we reach a little town by the river. There’s a tiny market with a park across the street filled with men drinking beer. They have stacks and stacks of empty bottles around them, it’s insane how much they drink here. We buy a few snacks for dinner, I discover an amazing treat called the Kontiki popsicle, and we find an open field next to the river to sleep for the night.