"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own" Sri Chinmoy
Mountain Hike, Kotor, Monte Negro, December 2017
Keen to trek while I was out here in Montenegro, I hooked up with regular hikers Moni and Daulot from Seattle on what was forecast to be the last decent day of weather before 3 days of rain. In fact rain was expected from around 4pm and sunset was at around 4.15 so setting off at around midday was ambitious in terms of getting in a good hike before it got too dark to see the trail. The drive to Kotor from our base at Budva, delayed slightly when we were pulled over by the busy Montenegran police, got us there for about 1pm, parked in a back street near the footbridge to the old town and ready to go.
Within a few hundred metres we were off the road and on to a dirt track then a stone trail that began to ascend quickly. It was only a few minutes of effort before we were under the looming walls of the fortress and gazing back down at Kotor Bay and the old town on its shore. The rain was threatening and much of the mountain top was in cloud. It wasn't clear where we were heading - just up and up! We wanted to avoid returning in the dark so we had a max of 3-4 hours to play with.
After the seemingly endless but enjoyable climb on the switchbacks of what was probably an old packhorse or shepherd's route, we entered into the silence of the misty, rainy pine forest. All dampness and muted sounds. We were hot from the effort and felt hotter still in the forest - outside it was probably around 6 degrees celcius but if felt a few degrees warmer among the trees. We pressed on as high as we could, topping out at around 900m where the trail crosses a mountain road, then it was time to wrap up ready for the cooler descent and head down, hoping to catch the end of the trail before it was pitch dark. I had a feeling we had left it a touch too late but Daulot had a head torch and I was trusting to the flashlight on my phone to get me down the wide pathway if needed. As we came out of the forest on the way down the tinkling of bells announced a herd of bullocks who had wandered on to the route - one in particular seemed keen to own the trail so I had to shoo him off so we could get past. After a photo of course...
The light began to fade but not before I caught this panorama (that's Moni on the left) of Kotor Bay.I'm not used to that function on my phone camera so I cut out Kotor town sadly.
The switchbacks began and I remembered how long it had taken to ascend them. On this same trail 2 days before Daulot had taken a fall in the darkness so we all pressed on at a good pace, racing against the dusk.
Even as night was falling the ambient light diffusing up through the mist from the valley seemed to light up the pale stones of the trail so it was possible to do it all without torchlight. As we descended past the fortress the daylight went completely but we could still see the way down and were treated to the sight of the lights around the bay in the last few minutes of the hike. All in all it was 4 hours of brisk effort and I really felt it in my leg muscles afterwards!
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