We’re packed up and walking by 6:30 am. We have to walk the highway for at least 10 more miles until we pass the village of Otok and start a pilgrimage route called Our Lady of Sinj. We pass lots of houses and snag a couple apples from a tree hanging over the road. People are out tending to their gardens and sitting peacefully on their terraces enjoying the views and morning air. We pass a small market and stop to buy breakfast. We sit on a curb outside with a group of older men, us smelly and dirty eating yogurt and muesli, the men barefoot and smoking with their 8:00 am beers.
We reach Otok just before 10:00. Our first 10 by 10 of the trail. 10 by 10 means hiking 10 miles by 10:00 am. This was our goal on the PCT and we usually had no problem achieving it, but for some reason it’s been harder for us to do out here.
As we walk the road we pass some houses and a man behind a fence starts speaking in Croatian and motioning for us to come into his yard and have a drink. We’re on a mission today to hike 33 miles to cross the border into Bosnia and reach a lake where we hear there’s good camping. I hesitate at the man’s offer because I know we can’t take too many breaks if we want to make it to the lake before dark, but for some reason my gut tells me to say yes. We walk into the yard and he’s so excited and calls some women over who speak English. They usher us over to the patio next door and start setting a table. They bring out an enormous spread of food and drink. Orange juice, coffee, mineral water, cookies, prosciutto and pancetta that the grandmother cures herself (the best I’ve ever tasted!), homemade cheese and bread, fresh tomatoes from the garden. We can’t believe it! It’s all so delicious. The teenage granddaughter sits down with us since she speaks the best English. She lives in Split and is on a break from school visiting her grandmother. All her aunts live here too, they have houses next to one another. They are so kind and generous and we feel blessed to receive such spontaneous hospitality on our last day in Croatia. Before we leave they run out to the yard to pick a bunch of plums for us to take with us. Ridiculous!
Our spirits are lifted by the unexpected lunch break and we hike happily along the pilgrimage route which is just more road. The afternoon is dreadfully hot though and there’s zero shade and I start sputtering out and feeling woozy. We’re running low on water but luckily come across a well. The water is way down there and there’s nothing to retrieve it with but I’ve been carrying a collapsible bucket and rope in my pack since the start especially for this scenario. I’m so happy we have cold water to drink and I finally get to use the darn bucket and rope I’ve been lugging around for a month.
We plod along in the heat, climbing up and over a steep hill dotted with wind turbines, the Croatia-Bosnia border checkpoint in the distance. My feet are starting to hurt and I can feel a blister forming under a callous on my right heel. It’s been a long day of hiking in the sweltering sun and we’ve taken hardly any breaks. We finally reach the border just before 6:00. It’s weird walking across, there’s not a place for pedestrians so we just stand in line with the cars while people give us weird looks. The crossing is uneventful, the officers stamp our passports without any questions. We have just a few more miles left to hike. We make a pit stop at a tiny gas station market for some food and finally reach the lake after a 33 mile day. We set up camp near the beach just in time for a beautiful sunset, thunderstorms booming all around us.
First 10 by 10, first 30+ mile day, first time using my bucket and rope, first time being invited in and given food by strangers, first night in Bosnia and last day in Croatia. The trail is halfway over!