Camino de Santiago- Francés Route

I haven’t written while on the Camino because I have just been taking it in. I haven’t taken many photos either as I’ve just really tried to stay present. Megan and I started the hike on September 18 from Saint Jean Pied de Port. We got our Pilgrim passports and began our journey. Right away I knew it’d be different than any hike I’d ever experienced. Within the first mile there was a freakin vending machine on the side of the road. Then as we climbed up the mountain passing people of all nationalities, ages, and health, we also passed food trucks. It was just too funny. A couple days into the trail I knew I wanted to hike bigger miles, as hiking a majority of the day makes me happier since I never know what to do if I’m not doing something. And Megan wanted more of a relaxed vibe and pace to her hike so after sharing our first ever Bocadillo together we went our separate ways. She has since ventured on some different paths and you can read her experience on her blog meganleedom.com. I paced my hiking pace primarily on where the Donativos were located. These are places set aside for pilgrims typically offering community dinners and breakfast and you just pay what you feel is appropriate. I really enjoy them. Getting to save money, Cook with everyone, eat with everyone, and then clean with everyone. It’s a fun experience and the food is typically way better than any restaurants. Some days I hiked 25 miles, others 35 or 36. Unlike most people I don’t feel the need to stop in every small town and sit at a cafe and spend money on coffee or booze. So since I don’t really stop, I can do bigger miles. But That meant the people I met, it was the only time I’d see them. The first few days were a joy as I met a couple other women, one from Sweden and one from Tahoe, which I immediately connected with and both want to hike the PCT someday! One of the things I love most about thru-hiking is the conversations. It seems for the most part the small talk is passed and you get right into deep shit. Before I know it I know a lot of peoples lives, what’s they’ve experienced, what they’re searching for, their fears, and their regrets. All before I even know their name. It is truly a beautiful thing. 

A couple others came into my journey at really important times, and I find little to no coincidence that we crossed paths. On a day I was hiking almost into a town when an old man was passing the other way, not a hiker probably a local. He ended up really badly sexually harassing me and grabbing me to where I had to fight myself off. I left crying and just kept crying as I walked. I’m not going to go anymore into that other than that it happened, and it’s shitty. But what came after was really beautiful. Well what came after a girl hitting me one her bike. The next morning I met a man named Mike, from Denver, and I had a beautiful conversation. We walked and talked for a couple of hours and his wisdom and insight were extremely helpful to me. He understood me, even more than most people who know me. And then later I met 2 very special men Dan from Connecticut and Aimo from Finland. 2 father in laws traveling together. They too, shared more wisdom than I could have asked for. Again the power of deep truthful conversations showed itself. We talked about life experiences, hardships, relationships, religion, Love, self-love, fear of letting go of control, and all sorts of good stuff. 

It’s like having that friend you can just sit with and talk and ask questions about the universe. To me it’s heaven. 

Since then I have just seen a couple people for a couple of days since I’ve slowed down which is fun. The views along the trail have been way different than I expected. Beginning in the desert was my favorite. Every morning the stars and moon would light my way, and every morning I have gotten to watch the suns rise. Which is empowering and almost mystical. There was more forest and walking through farms than I ever expected. Great, but sometimes the smells were nauseating. 

I arrived in Santiago on October 6, spoiling myself by getting a room for just me. I haven’t slept good once on the trail, staying in hostels is brutal. Every time somebody freakin snores. And there’s usually snoring competitions. Then some people start getting up insanely early and I just never get proper rest. I camped maybe 4-5 times and for some reason never slept too good doing that either. Which may be part of the reason I’ve come down with a cold to finish out the hike. 

Santiago is beautiful, the cathedral there and in Burgos I found by far the most impressive. 

One of the biggest questions asked on the Camino is why are you hiking the Camino? So I’ll share as I have a few reasons. 

  1. I’m in Europe so why not do it?
  2. Find a relationship with God/Universe/Great Spirit, whatever name you want to call it. 
  3. Get rid of self judgement and self hate. I really wanted to learn to love my body instead of continuing to live in this horrible cycle I have been.

So far I’ve noticed some subtle changes, life is always a journey. But I also understand sometimes the lessons don’t just pop up right away. So I’m eager to see my thought patterns and perceptions change and time goes on after the trail. 

 

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Reflections of the Via dinarica and the beginning of a new Journey

The days since finishing the Via Dinarica have passed by much slower than anytime on trail ever could. It seems like another life time that I even did the trail. A very familiar feeling that I also experienced after the PCT. I still wonder how you can do something so special, accomplish something so big, and yet so quickly it just fades. It just seems like a story I’m telling people, not like I actually did it. Going back and looking at all of the pictures as well as rereading my journal reminded me of the hardships and beauties of the trail. The VD was far different from anything I could have ever expected. Within the first couple days I was already complaining. Complaining about road walks and unmaintained trail. Little did I know, that was just what it was. And if I would have realized and accepted that way earlier, I would have enjoyed the trail so much more. The last 2 weeks I loved it, because my perspective changed. I didn’t expect great trail, and so when it wasn’t great I didn’t get frustrated I just went with it. I think my biggest mistake was thinking it’d be similar to the PCT. Instead of embracing the differences between them I just endlessly compared. Always claiming one was better than the other. But now that it’s finished, now that I can look back with a different mind, I loved them both. I actually now enjoy some trail where I get to blaze a bit myself or one that has some fun rock climbing/scrambling as a part of it. 

I am very grateful for the journey, I got to see so many special and beautiful places and pieces of nature that left me speechless. It was so special to get to go to small villages that far few other travelers will ever get to see. I met beautiful people from all over the world. 

I got tested every single day. And although it sometimes sucked and got annoying, what’s a better way to grow and learn about yourself? 

The VD still has a lot of work to do if it wants to become a major thru-hiking trail. For sure by making more trail and not so much road walking, and then hopefully getting the funds to be able to maintain sections of the trail that are dangerous or don’t exist at all. I wouldn’t recommend the trail to most people for now, maybe someday in the future. 

Right now, I just miss the hiking. I miss looking to the top of a mountain and knowing I just have to walk straight up to get there. I miss sleeping between the jagged rocky high mountains. And sipping cold water from the fresh fountains along the way. 

That’s why I’m so excited for my next Journey that I will get to experience and share. As tomorrow I begin the Camino de Santiago. Starting from St. Jean pied de Port, France and heading across Spain to the Camino de Compostela and continuing on to the sea before heading south along the coast of Portugal for about 200 miles. Another journey, far different than the other 2. But I too am different, and will not compare, but just accept and live in the experience that surrounds me without trying to change any part of it. 

Greece, from beautiful views to new friends!

Having traveled now for over 2 months through the Balkans reaching Greece was such a luxury. Actual salads being sold, more vegetarian options, actual legit supermarkets with real choices of vegetables. It was like a brand new world, yet so familiar. Making me feel closer to home. Our adventure into Greece started truly amazing, as we left it all up to the universe. We stood right past the border with our hitching sign just saying “Anywhere.” We had no idea where we wanted to go, and the guy who picked us up was going to Preveza which ended up being this amazing, cute, and quaint little town along the sea. We spent our time there shopping around, eating good food, watching 10k runs, and hanging by all of the boats ported along the shore. I swam and hung at the beach and got some good runs in each day. After leaving Preveza we had planned to head towards Athens, but got picked up by this super rad guy, who we decided to just stay with as he was going to Lefkada, a cheaper and one of the most beautiful Greek islands. It’s also special because you can just drive to it. We arrived, and as a slight regret we just ate and left. The town seemed somewhat expensive and I think I was personally just slightly over being in beach towns where there’s nothing to do but lay on the beach. So we left, and ended up getting a 5 hour hitch from Philip, an owner of one of the hotels on the island, and his girlfriend Velma. It was such a funny hitch. We were stuffed in the back of their car with his cousin. But overall it was perfect and comfortable! Just quite warm. 

We arrived in Athens to stay just one night in a hostel, from then on we stayed with our first Couchsurfing host, Nenad! And he was perfect. We couldn’t have felt safer or more at home. We came out of this with a new friend! I got to go workout at a local Crossfit gym, which was super fun. We went to Indian food, sushi, outdoor Cinema movie, watched people dance in the park, took evening strolls in the most beautiful area where locals sold handmade jewelry and every restaurant table was only lit by candlelight. It became my favorite part of town, as you could also see the Acropolis glowing behind you. 

Then I spent 3 nights camping on a nearby island, Agistri. It isn’t a well known touristy place which made it super nice. I enjoyed running around it, relaxing on the beach, and getting to sleep in my tent again. I slept better than I have in so long. Just being outside under the stars, the New moon, in my homey and safe tent, made me feel so perfect and cozy. I miss it so much. Beds are nice, but sleeping under the stars always wins in my book. 

But this island is definitely worth checking out! There’s great sandy beaches, a nude beach with really awesome people, kayaks to rent, good food to eat. Just a score! Just if you go camp there please be respectful and clean your stuff up! Otherwise camping there may not continue! 

Overall, Greece so far is my favorite place we have seen. It is so so beautiful, the sea is so blue, the food is so good, the people are so kind! I can’t wait to go back sometime. 

The Albania Riviera

From Theth—Valbona—Shkoder—Durres—Seranda—Ksamil, Albania was never short of spectacular and just outright beautiful. The mountains were by far my favorite, but the sea is holding its own. The days following the end of the Via Dinarica were weird. Nothing is quite as strange as figuring out what to do when you’re not hiking. I’m also just not the greatest “traveler” in the sense I hate spending money everyday, on food and accommodation. So it doesn’t take long for me to miss the thru-hiking experience where you can just camp for free. Beds, showers, and not having to pack anything up in the mornings is nice as well though. We have had our fun mix of transportation along the way. Multiple hitch hikes, busses, nice ones and cramped slightly janky ones, and a ferry. Filled with models! Not real famous model, but everyone on that ship had their own photo shoot along the way. It is so funny. But I can’t help but have so much respect for people to just not care and get themselves in some good looking pics. However, the ferry was quite long and some people took pictures literally the entire time. I definitely just love people watching and the Komani Lake ferry is definitely the perfect spot for it!!! The views themselves weren’t too shabby either. About everyday here since leaving Valbona has been spent seaside. Laying, reading, relaxing, and tanning. The beaches aren’t the greatest for activities and don’t have any SUP board rentals, beach volleyball, or anything at all. Most beaches are pebbles and slammed with people and seats just laying in rows and columns along any space on the beach. It’s quite annoying. Albania is for sure a popular destination for Europeans.  

Each town seems different, yet extremely similar. The markets all carry the same things. Every restaurant in every town all offer the same foods. Pizza, basic salads, pasta, lots and lots of meat, and some pitas. I’m not even hungry much anymore because nothing sounds good to eat. They don’t seem to use much seasonings here in the Balkans, everything is just bland and boring. The salads will just be some tomato, cucumber, and cabbage, or just one of them. Or a Greek salad, which unfortunately was my go-to, but since I got food poisoning from one in Saranda I cannot even think about eating another one without feeling sick. 

As a vegetarian my choices are heavily limited here. I’m sick of bread, sick of yogurt (well kinda), sick of lame meals. The food is making me incredibly home sick. 

Theth and Valbona both just hosted some small mini-markets and a couple of cafes and restaurants. They’re mainly just a spot in the National Park where people can find places to stay as they hike around. If you’re ever in Albania I can not recommend this area enough! I have literally never seen such beautiful mountains, and the hike was a breeze! There’s even cafes on your way up/down the mountain!

We only spent a few minutes in Shkoder, but had an amazing experience. These men at a cafe bought us coffee, bottles of water, went all around asking when and where we could find the bus we needed, and drove us to the bus stop. We were also offered a free place to stay, but had already booked something in Durres so missed out on the special offer! So good people there, and a lot going on so I’m sure it’s a fun town to check out!

Durres- cute town! We were down past the ferry and it wasn’t very crowded which was nice. The sea was lined with cafes and restaurants open pretty much always. Offering different types of cuisine, even sushi! And one spot serving a couple Mexican food options. So extremely rare here. We got to stay in a perfect apartment just over 100m from a small beach which is where I spent a good chunk of time. I am not really sure what else to do out here besides lay by the beach. It’s free so I keep doing it. 

Durres comes more alive at night with lots of carnival games, and vendors selling grilled corn and some with doughnuts. It was cute. 

Saranda- Luckily we only stayed one night, and only because we had a really long bus ride to reach it and decided to stay. I hope to never return only because it was-quite touristy and pricey, and mostly because it gave me food poisoning. But it is the main place to head on over to The Greek island, Corfu. As it’s just a short ferry ride. 

Ksamil- we snagged a place to stay that was only $10/pp each night! I loved Ksamil, but the beaches were way to crowded with all the beach chairs. If I ever return to Albania, which I hope to, I will no longer come to any beach towns until into September when there are far less people. What good is a beach if you can’t run on it? Juggle a soccer ball, do handstand, draw in the sand, not hear pounding house music? I’d like to avoid all of that. But the best was the last day when for less than $5/pp we rented a nice swing that hovered over the sea and just lay all day reading. And I swam out to a couple of the islands off of the mainland. One took me over 20 minute of straight open water swim to reach. For me that is a huge deal! It was fun fitness for the day!!!

Our last moments in Albania will always stand out to me as an important lesson and moment in my life. We both wanted to go to Greece, but no clue where. So we hitched back to Saranda then from there our sign just said “Greece.” A couple cool guys snagged us up, and even bought us coffee along the way. Because our hitch couldn’t get us all the way to the border we got to walk across which only felt natural to us!

The only unfortunate thing is that I have no Albania stamp in my Passport. Since we entered in the mountains we didn’t pass a border crossing, and they didn’t give us an exit stamp. Which is so sad, but I guess it just means I have to return someday!

And now…….GREECE!!!

The final days, creating the most epic moments

Within just a few minutes of hiking the next morning we entered Albania. The trail has us go through a very small section passing through a town called Vermosh, before heading right back into Montenegro. The trail from the lake was nice, guiding us into a forest, through tall trees and some muddy trail. You couldn’t even see the lake from here, it was covered by a thick sheet of fog just stuck within the mountains over the water. The trail into Vermosh turned into our consistent trail, gravel road. It passed by some really beautiful houses. Albania so far is just epically beautiful. The mountains are breathtaking. We stopped for a quick drink at Cafe Nyetra, which was on our maps as a waypoint, known for their bar treehouse. It was a nice chill spot and we even collected some apples from their apple tree! I love love love all of the fresh fruit we have gotten to forage on this trail. Soon we found ourselves back in MNE, heading towards Gusinje. Passed the border patrol where we got our stamps which is always so exciting to me! I can’t wait until my passport is just full of them! We got into town, both of us with just 1-2 bars left in our packs. It was lunch time, and everything was closed. It was a Muslim holiday. Markets and restaurants were all closed. We got nervous and luckily came across a cafe that was open and asked some locals about a place to get food. A nice younger guy named Dumir ended up offering us a ride to a restaurant in the National Park. Sat with us as we ate, drove us to his house, where he made us dinner to go. Homemade Burek, apples, candy, bread, pate. Then dropped us off to begin walking again. So so grateful! Literally asked for nothing. And he had such a beautiful soul. The way he talked about life and the importance of quality time with family and friends was really special. He even stopped while driving and passing a friend and they got out and hugged and chatted for a bit. It’s so cute, I love it! We got to pass a waterfall dropping into a cave as we headed into the mountains for our second to last day. The vastness of the mountains is epic. The lake we planned to camp at was totally dried up forcing us to walk a few extra miles. On the way up the pass we crossed a donkey. It’s keeper running up to it a bit back from us. When we were at the top of the pass we heard the guy yelling and turned around and saw him throwing big rocks at the donkey….then with a big stick smashing it against the donkeys back. What did the donkey do? We didn’t get it. It made our stomachs hurt and I so badly wanted to run back and take the stick out of his hands and hit him with it. But I know better than that and wasn’t looking to put myself into danger. So we eagerly just hiked faster over the pass to get as far away as possible. I still hear the sound of that stick smacking in my head as I try to go to bed. We found a nice campsite with literally views of mountains all around us. It was cold

Though, and for the first time on trail I am going to bed wearing every piece of gear I have. Even my gloves. 

Then the last day of the trail. I can honestly say the trail left the best for last. I couldn’t have imagined better views for the ending of a crazy journey. We hiked first on a long rocky downhill into Theth, passing many pack horses and their owners. Into town we walked along a large dried up river bed where the rocks had been shuffled around to make a road. From Theth we tried a couple routes from MapsMe both of which failed us and made us have to keep turning around and restarting. Finally on trail we went up. We have to go up and over Valbona pass. This area is very popular for hiking and it shows. I saw more hikers this day than I have seen then entire trail, like more than 10x that amount. There were people everywhere. Either making their way down or up the pass. Moving quite slow if I must say so. The uphill was easy and fun. And the top provided the best views I may have ever seen. Albania has officially won my heart. On this descent I met Victor, from DC, but he has lived in Europe for about 5 years now. Germany and Poland. Super super cool guy. We talked about hiking, life, blogging, marketing, traveling, etc. it was so nice to get to be able to chat with someone about things I love. He hung with us as we breaked at Cafe Simoni. It was loaded with hikers, and seeing packs lined up all against the fence brought back some nice memories of the PCT. Vic hiked with us all the way down into Valbona, before we said goodbye at his guesthouse. Definitely blessed to have met this rad guy, and stoked to continue following him on his special journey. The pass is so funny, known for hiking it has built and developed cafes along the mountain. You’re just walking and randomly you’re at a small cafe/guesthouse. We stayed at Quku I Valbones Farmhouse. A great place that let us camp in the lawn, it’s super cute and it was great to interact with the others at the hostel. Met some people from Germany and New Zealand. I do miss this about traveling and staying in hostels. They were all such kind beautiful people. The breakfast has made this place the best ever. Homemade bread, cookies, jam, yogurt, granola, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs, coffee, mountain tea!!!! All for only 4E and it was a buffet. And we enjoyed it. I sat and ate pretty much the entirety of the buffet. I have never eaten so much yogurt and granola it was just so dang tasty! Anyways, the trail is over. We finished it before dinner at the Rilindja Restaurant. The random stopping point of the trail. I am not sure how I feel yet, or what I think about it ending. The PCT was so emotional and I felt so confident and accomplished. But so far I just kind of shrug about it when I think about what I did. Is it because I have already experienced such accomplishment with my first thru hike? Or is it because the trail was so much shorter? It seemed tougher in many ways, but it was still only less than 2 months, in comparison to over 5. 

I’m not sure, I’m still trying to process things. And I will be writing a follow up post on the experience, but plan to read through my journal to remind myself of the hard times, and the lessons I learned along the way. The things the trail taught me about life and myself that I can carry with me as my soul goes through this human experience. Overall, I know I am blessed for this trip. To have had a rad bad-ass partner, Megan, with me along the way. Blessed for her even finding this trail and letting me join in on it.  Blessed for finishing it safely without any big mishaps or injuries. And it is pretty freakin cool to be able to say we are the first American women to ever complete this journey, and to be able to say I did a continuous footstep thru-hike!! 

The Mountains of Montenegro

It always strikes me as funny that the shorter and deemed easier trail days feel the toughest. It just goes to prove that mindset plays a massive role in our perspective reality. So many life lessons continuously being thrown at me out here, or anywhere I suppose. Just out here I’m more receptive to them. All day was pretty confusing trail wise. We were following old roads, but so many seemed to branch off in a million different directions it was continuously confusing. Walk, stop, check GPS, ok no roads for a bit. Walk 2 seconds, where did this road come from? Where is it going? I guess I’ll walk for a bit and see if the gps says I’m on the right trail. Over and over and over again. But I didn’t let it get to me! Just kept taking in the views of the rolling hills that surrounded me. What’s funny is that this stage is called the Mountains of Montenegro. Before, I thought this last week or so of trail was going to be tough. Lots of time in the mountains, long breaks from towns, lots of elevation change. And the stage name would certainly make you guess that. But no, it is walking through low lands viewing the Montenegrin mountains. We made it to Srvinsko lake around 10:30am and I went for a nice swim and we got to hang for a bit. I had skinny dipped and nobody was there when I did so, but legit when I got out like 6 jeeps filled with people pulled up to the other side of the lake. We are learning consistently that there aren’t really any “backcountry” attractions here. Everything can be driven to. We met 2 groups of people today who legit made us feel famous. We laughed and laughed about the absurdity of it all. The first group, ladies with a couple kids. We’re videoing us walking up and taking pictures and selfies and videos with us. Meg made a funny joke that they are going to put it online and say, “Come to Biogradska NP, where you can see real life hikers!” Haha. The next was further up the road, a couple of jeeps filled with people who just parked and walked maybe 2 minutes to the summit of Sveta Grada. They too were all chatty to us, and one man insinuated that these mountains were like the Appalachian. We disagreed, but continued on. After a steep downhill on the CT1 following under ski lifts we reached our destination, Mountain Lodge Vranjak. We sat and ate some Burek and yogurt. And I have been wanting to work, and spend less money. So have talked about doing dishes or some cleaning to pay for food and housing. So I went to the kitchen and just started cleaning, I didn’t ask since there was a language barrier. But the woman, who we later named Mama V, didn’t mind at all. We ended up getting to camp for free, not pay for lunch, got free tea and coffee in the morning. And actually at night some guys were there and bought a bunch of food and ended up giving us some. So that was a win! The ladies who took pics with us earlier also showed up, and took more pictures. And as I was outside doing handstands a crowd suddenly appeared and I basically became an entertainer for a bit. It’s quite strange. I loved this time at the lodge Mama V is so so kind and genuine. It’s in these moments I truly wish I could speak the language as I feel an even better bond could have been created. 

The next day we had a quick gravel road walk to Trenjevik, a small but cute town. Offering a couple cafes and a place to stay. We hiked on passing a couple other hikers and a few mountain bikers. The 3 miles from there to Stavna was nice. A road surrounded by forest. Stavna was great! I had a delicious veggie omelet and we just hung for a few hours. My maps have been disappearing off my phone lately so I had to redownload them all, it has since happened again. But luckily we’re almost done. The trail after Stavna was an actual mountain trail! I loooooved it! The slippery mud and rocks felt so foreign again, but so much like home. We were surrounded by the beauty of large, rocky Mountains. I wanted to go up Kom Kuchki, but knew a storm was coming so there was no time. I never would have made it safely. So on I went. To Katun Carine where we planned to camp. The Katun was so legit! It had water, coffee, cookies, fuel, stove, candles, wine, all kinds of stuff. We killed a bottle of wine and hung out on rocks watching the sunset and the storm come in. And boy did it come in fast. All of the sudden we just heard hard pellets on the roof above us. It turned out it had hailed quite a bit, now I’m even more happy to be in this shelter. We slept inside, again thinking it’d just be a normal night but again, we were wrong. Not sure what time it was but a truck pulled up with 2 men. They got stuck in the mud and for quite a long time kept trying to get it out before giving up and just going to sleep out there. As much as I wanted to help, we didn’t think it was a good idea to expose ourselves as 2 women alone in a shelter with no where to go. The hut was locked from the inside, and they never even tried to open it so I felt safe

An occurrence early the next morning reassured me that we made the right decision by not going out to help the men. As we were walking Down the road a car pulled over with 2 guys. One very obviously checking me out up and down, not trying to be discrete at all. He keeps saying something, but I can’t hear him. Then I do, and so does Megan. Sex? He says….wtf is wrong with people. I was so disgusting. Part of me wanted to say yes and have him get out of the car just to kick him in the balls. But instead I sternly said no and immediately walked away. Only feeling safety from the fact there was a car behind them and no where to turn around. After that mess we entered back onto normal mountain trail. First going through forest then up to the top of Maglic peak. We have summited 2 Maglic mountains here. Both on the border, or very near, to country borders. The first Bosnia/Montenegro, and this one Montenegro/Albania. It was BEAUTIFUL! And a perfect snack spot. The mountains were just so vast and endless and rocky and jagged. We can see Albania from here. The descent was fun, some ridge walking followed by going up and over and down little humps along the mountains. Then weaving through and around rocks until we met the road that brought us to Rikavako Lake. Like usual, we enjoyed ourselves for a bit. Swimming and doing some laundry. Looking forward to relaxing and lounging. When some horses decided that wasn’t ok. They came over to us and started going at our things, licking everything of Megan’s, stepping on equipment. And just being annoying. We couldn’t get them to go away. So instead we packed up all of our stuff and we moved. Something always happens when we think we’ve found the best spot. The rest of the day I was bored then suddenly very tired and endlessly hungry. I ate most of the food I had left and want to just keep eating. The days we hike and do less my body just aches for more food. Must be another reason I like hiking all day instead. Now only just over 40 miles left. 

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The end is near…but the appreciation for the trail is just beginning

After leaving Zabljak we ended up doing some bigger mile days than expected. Since it was mellow road/gravel walking it didn’t seem to irritate Megan’s knee much so we were able to knock some easy miles out. I enjoy easy miles, something I love about knowing exactly how long it’ll take to get places. Not much of the unknown factor there. But I also miss the mountains and the trails. And I know that no growth comes from within the comfort zone, so as much as I enjoyed these quick days, I was ready to head back into the wilderness. First day out of town we hiked about 25 miles, gravel road all day. Super easy and just going through valleys and pastures. Just spent the day chatting, and listening to music or podcasts. The only struggles on these days was the fear we get each time we get barked at, and some times run down, by dogs. They are super aggressive here giving us anxiety each time we encounter them. And no owner really seems to care much as nobody comes out to stop them. Luckily, our trekking poles make descent shields and weapons if needed. It rained and stormed on us the last few hours of hiking. There was no where to hide as it was just exposed pasture land. We got a brief break from it as a family invited us in their home as they got us water. We ended up camping just randomly in the grazing pasture land during a quick break of just sprinkling so our stuff didn’t get soaked as we set it up. We laughed this day about how this stage we were in we planned to take 4 days….and it will only be taking us 1.5 since we rerouted to hiking mountain bike routes instead. Too much food being carried for sure!

The next day we hit 24 miles. I’m really enjoying the hiking lately and doing so by purposefully being positive and present with each moment. Gravel road and some non-existent old roads led us to the town to Mojkovac. Here we just hung out a few hours eating, wifi-ing, researching, and doing nothing. But I did buy a small soccer ball which I’m stoked to get to carry and have something to do during breaks and on early camp days! And Burek for a snack!!!! Always a win, it’s literally all I want to eat. I wish they delivered it like pizza. We left town around 5 and hiked 6 miles to Dom Dzambas hut where we camped just outside. A spot with a nice area nearby to see the sunset. This was the first time in the last few hiking days we actually hit any trail, it was a fairly steep uphill but I had so much fun doing it. The challenge felt good on my legs. Going to bed with only 85 miles left of trail, our plan is to do just 15/day to not rush. And also, that’s where it seems some of the best camp choices are. But we will see. Things seem to change a lot out here. 

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