Good part of the most beautiful top bit of Southern Velebit, our mythical mountain seems to be more of a mine field. We were hiking over the beautiful Bunovac plateau towards the Struge mountain shelter. There are wide green meadows there surrounded with impressive steep slopes that end somewhere in the clouds, but our steps were restricted to a narrow footpath bounded by poles marking the safe, demined corridor.
Scars of war are still visible in Lovinac, place at the foot of Velebit, where we had spent the night. This small place has, just like whole of this area, been through an awful lot during war times. Mother of our host Djurdjica, reckons that Lovinac itself, with its surroundings, had lost over 1600 people during the First World War and the Civil war. Nonetheless, we were very touched by the hospitality and warmth of the locals. Djurdjica took us in to her lovely „hacienda“, and since she and her family used to live in Venezuela it is no surprise she calls it that. D. and T., who asked to stay anonymous, called us over for breakfast, serving us home made bread, prosciutto ham of deer, organic eggs and other delicious foods from Lika. I was very touched by their kindness, sincerity and goodwill. This was the biggest welcome in the world in all its true glory.
Finally, before leaving Lovinac, we got to meet with Tiffany, president of Lovinac Info association and her team. This lovely Canadian, originally from Lika, returned to her homeland wanting to help create a positive environment for everyday life, further develop tourism, agriculture and economy. Accompanied with about dozen school kids I planted a rose dedicated to the international Earth Day, and carried on pedalling towards Velebit.
I passed through some amazingly beautiful meadows here in Lika, which seem very fertile, but because the ground is very rough and sparse, they only grow potatoes. Riding through empty macadam and forest paths I could see some real potential here in this rough but amazingly beautiful region. This natural beauty and vast visible potential are obviously a constant inspiration here in Lika. This countryside used to inspire writers of Illyrian revival movement some hundred years ago, just the way it inspires me today.
I finally arrived at hills of Velebit and started riding up the macadam roads towards Bunovac (with a few slight navigation mistakes made by our coordinator Cedo, costing me a few unnecessary kilometres uphill). This ten kilometres long road, connecting the plain of Lika with a nearly 1300m high plateau, is another masterpiece, in the way it is incorporated in the karst of Velebit occasionally letting you catch wonderful views over Lika.
Luka kept me company from Bunovac to Struge, admiring the beauty of Velebit, hidden under heavy, foggy clouds and frowning at every discomforting sign of warning. It is hard to even think how and when this magical and beautiful place will finally be completely cleared from all the mines.
Vaganski vrh is the highest peak of Velebit. Usually, one could enjoy truly amazing views over Lika, Pag and Zadar here, but the fog is so thick we can barely even see one another. So, unfortunately no descriptions of that in here. Just fog.
What I thought was really unusual, since it was middle of the week, was the fact that the mountain lodge in Struge was completely packed.
The day later, over the impressive notch Buljme we got down to the National Park Paklenica. Suddenly it was spring again. We have in fact spent a few days back in cold, gray autumn, but it was all warm and sunny again now. We'll be staying in Paklenica for the next three days, joining in the 12th international climbers meeting and taking part in a unique event in rock speed climbing. We're taking part at the Big Wall Speed Climbinga, Paklenica 2011.