We take a day off in Zabljak so I can rest my leg. I basically sit in bed all day and eat snacks. We venture out in the morning for breakfast and to resupply and then later I walk the five minutes into town to buy ibuprofen and a bag of frozen peas so I can ice my leg. It storms all afternoon, heavy rain and violent thunder. I’m happy we’re in town today and not out hiking in this! Sometimes the unexpected days off turn out to be the best thing that could’ve happened.
My leg is feeling a bit better in the morning, still sore but I think it’s just a muscle strain, so nothing major. The walking is easy, it’s overcast and cool and we wind through fields and pastures along a gravel road. We pass lots of hills with sheep grazing in the distance, their bells jangling. In the afternoon the landscape opens up and it’s endless rolling green hills and white rocks. Occasionally we’ll pass an abandoned house or tiny hamlet but otherwise there’s nothing out here.
The sky is looking ominous and out of nowhere a cold wind picks up and it starts dumping rain. We quickly throw on our rain gear and pick up the pace. We hear thunder booming around us and pray it’s not heading our way, there’s nowhere for miles to take shelter. Luckily the downpour turns into a heavy drizzle and the storm seems to shift direction. It’s cold and muddy sloshing along the road in the rain. We need water so we stop at a couple rustic houses along the road. At the first house a group of young girls shyly comes out to meet us, giggling as they run to fill our bottles. At the second house we’re invited in to sit while the wife fills our water. There are three generations living there, all sleeping in the same room. It’s tiny and dark and damp in the house and smells like a campfire. The man offers rakija to help us hike faster but we decline and head back out to the rain. It’s been a long day, over 20 miles of walking, and we’re ready for the rain to stop so we can set up camp. Finally the rain lightens a bit and we walk through grass littered with cow and sheep poop just a short ways off the road. We get our tents up and crawl inside to get dry and cozy. I fall asleep to the sounds of sheep and cattle grazing in the surrounding hills.
Everything’s wet in the morning but the rain has stopped and the sun is burning off the low fog. It’s beautiful to see the mountains that were hidden by yesterday’s low clouds and rain showing their faces. It’s a nice walk on the same muddy gravel road, winding through tiny hamlets. Every time I near a house, multiple dogs start barking. Most of them are chained up but a few aren’t and they always put me on edge. They’re very protective of the sheep and I know they can get aggressive if you get too close. I keep my trekking poles at the ready, just in case I need to fight one off.
My knee is feeling much better and I’m so happy to know that I’ll be able to finish the trail. I won’t have continuous footsteps, but I only missed 15 miles of road walking so I don’t feel too bad about it. I’m just grateful that the knee pain is nothing serious and the day off along with some ice and ibuprofen seems to be working wonders.
In the afternoon we reach a fairly large town called Mojkovac. We walk to the center of town and find a cafe adjacent to a grocery store that overlooks the town square. Our tents and shoes and socks are soaked from the rain last night so we lay them in the sun to dry on benches around the square. We sit outside and drink beer and coffee, catch up on WiFi business, and I ice my knee. At one point I see a stray dog sniffing our wet shoes and socks. I watch him for a bit and he runs away, but I see he’s got one of my socks dangling out of his mouth! I jump up and chase him to the end of the square. Luckily he’s excited to see me and drops the sock without a fight, but continues to follow me and jump on me all the way back to the cafe.
We hang out at the cafe for a couple hours and leave in the early evening to find a place to camp outside of town. We plan to just hike for an hour or so, but it’s steep terrain and there’s nowhere decent to camp. We end up hiking about 6 miles to a mountain hut called Džambas. It’s closed but we find a grassy spot nearby to set up camp just as it’s getting chilly and the sun is setting.