Sliding down the slopes of Javornica I thought the worst was behind me, the cold wind bringing chill to my bones, stormy weather, snowy hail and temperature dropping to a mere 1°C, I thought I had redeemed myself for an easy crossing over Senj channel. Oh man, was I wrong!
Sun finally came out on Dreznicko polje. Green meadows and groves, blossoming orchards and clear skies were not suggesting any more snow storms. It felt so good to be able to warm up on a bit of sunlight. I have to thank the team from Vrhunac again for sending me down some wind and water resistant „overpants“. Without them I would have no doubt froze and wouldn't have been able to carry on. The weather is so much warmer now that I've changed my clothes yet again into my spring combination for cycling. I was nearing Bijele stijene cliffs, for the second time, where I had the team waiting for me with the supervisor of the Priroda public facility , Marko Modric.
It was already past 3pm and the supervisor and Cedo weren't thrilled with my decision to carry on towards Bijele and Samarske stijene. They were worried I wouldn't get there before dark, and Marko was also skeptic about the fact there might be quite a lot of snow up there. And he was right!
I simply couldn't give up on the Vihorasi. Personally I think that is the most attractive hiking path in Croatia. It links Bijele and Samarske stijene, a strict nature reserve of an amazing beauty. What kind of Welcome would we have without such a unique location?
As soon as Luka heard I'd decided to go up, he joined me without hesitating and so the two of us rushed towards Bijele stijene. The weather was gorgeous, but as we were getting higher up there was more and more snow. Should I mention we only had plain trainers on our feet?
I will never forget our walk from the shelter at Bijele stijene to Ratko's shelter on Samari. I have hiked through the legendary Vihoraski put a few times already, but never in winter. And not in plain trainers. This is said to be one of the most demanding hiking paths even in „normal“ conditions, since it passes through some unbelievable formations of limestone area: amazing cliffs, craters, rocks, knocked down trees, pits... You often need to use both your hands and feet to be able to move along, climb and slide from some sections, and you need to be extra careful with every step not to fall through between the rocks or slide down some slippery cliffs.
Above all that there was loads of snow as well. In some situations having snow on the ground can help, because it's soft and you can easily tell what's underneath it, however, it can also be dangerous, making you think something's underneath when it isn't and you can easily end up in a hole.
Luka and I weren't too bothered with all that and have utterly enjoyed ourselves. The scenes opening before our eyes were breathtaking. This completely amazing beauty of Bijele and Samarske stijene is really indescribable. Believe it or not, even
We were progressing very slowly, even slower than I expected. We kept falling in the snow up to our armpits, loosing our markings, and in many cases stopping to think how to even go on. But there wasn't a moment we stopped enjoying ourselves and admiring all the beauty.
Two hours in from entering Vihorasi, I became suspicious of the markings we'd been following. There's nothing worse than questioning you're whereabouts when you're on a mountain. I knew it would be dark soon, that we were wet through and would soon start freezing our socks off, and I just wasn't sure anymore if we were even heading in the right direction. So you can imagine our endless joy when we heard Cedo calling us „Heee-lop“! Our co coordinator had started heading towards us when he got to Ratko's shelter and realized we weren't there, but managed to find us anyway, at the right moment as well. I would have probably returned to the last marking that made sense and lost precious time we didn't even have enough to waste. (I will never admit to Cedo how grateful I am to him; luckily he is far too busy to ever get a chance to read this blog post).
If Vihoraski put is the most attractive hiking path, then Ratko's shelter is surely by far one of the most attractive mountain retreats in Croatia. It was built by the members of PDS Velebit in the half-caved walls of a rock Serpas, and because of its amazing location and unique look it is often depicted in many photos.
We grabbed our already half frozen cameraman Marko and peeled off down to the macadam, through to the Matic poljana field, where the car was waiting to take the guys. I had a bike waiting for me, and another 10 kilometers of pedaling to Begovo Razdolje. Well this is where I really nearly froze. I soon lost all feeling in my feet (what little feeling I did have left was painful though), and my fingers were so frozen I couldn't change gears anymore.
But all that will soon pass. In less than an hour, showered and warmed up, I was chatting and having a delicious meal with our crew and our host for the evening, Igor Bratulic, director of Hotel Jastreb It has been a long, eventful, impressive, dramatic and unforgettable day. And we are only on our second letter.