Hiking for dummies

So you’d like to reconnect with nature? She’s a pretty lady, and playing hard to get is not her game. But she will put you through some challenges though, to see if you really mean it. If you put in the effort, good things will come to you. 

Oh, cut the crap. I just went for a walk in the mountains, on my own, and it was good fun. 

From Bitola, it was a 30 minutes taxi ride to National Park Pelister. The driver dropped me off at Hotel Molika, where they gave me all the necessary information on hiking trails, their difficulty, the time they’d take etc.

  

I decided to take it easy and not overdo it (though my secret ambition was to get to the peak), and maybe come back later for more. Given the fact that I didn’t bring my hiking shoes, I was recommended to follow the blue trail and turn right to the Vanguard, which boasts a great view, then follow the same trail back and go to the Yorgov Kamen. From the intersection to Vanguard I had to follow the target like hiking trails. The hike to and from would take about 4 hours, and if afterwards I wanted more, I could do the historical trail as well. Everything was well indicated, they assured me, all I had to do was follow the mountain trail signs, impossible to get lost. So the blue trail it would be.

  

The trail hit off like a rocket: Macedonian pine trees (the smell!), great views, flowers, butterflies, the road sprinkled with pineapples, the sound of a river somewhere, … Perfect picture opportunities. Here are a few shots:

  
  
  
   
After a while, I reached what I thought was the blue trail, so I followed the indicated path without giving it any further thought; I didn’t read the sign, let alone look at the map. 

 

The trail continued untill I reached a tiny river I had to cross. It looks like nothing on the picture, but it took me a good 5 minutes to get to the other side. I didn’t want to get my feet wet (literally): what if I’d slip and my shoes would get soaked? I started with putting my camera in my backpack (on a trip, it is permantently dangling on my right wrist), then considered taking off my shoes and walk through the water. But what if I’d cut my foot, or worse, both feet on a sharp stone? I regretted not having a helping hand or a walking stick at least, for balance. These rocks looked so slippery, and there seemed to be so much water in between. Did I say five? Make it ten.

  

After carefully checking the stability of the first few stones (one was very wobbly), I slowly crossed until the middle, then made it with a few quick steps to the other side. All went well, a sigh of relief.

  
The trail continued uphill, through the shady pine woods, untill I reached what I’d describe as a plain of rocks, magnificent. Can you see the order in the chaos?

  

Big, flat rocks forming a stairway to the top, apart from the heat very comfortable to walk. Although it was only 8.30 in the morning, the sun was already blazing hot. No hiking shoes needed here, but it is wise to bring a hat. 

  
  
After the climb, the hike continued all the way to the top through a variety of landscapes, one just as pretty as the other.  

   
    
   At the top, only my shadow still looked good, but the view was absolutely  worth the sweat. As a bonus, there was a meadow with colourful flowers and butterflies everywhere. Superbe!

   
    
    
   
A fantastic experience. 

I decided to put away my camera and make it quickly back downhill, but I messed up. Nothing horrible, but when I saw a rock with a drainpipe sticking out and water flowing, I realised I was on the wrong track. Something similar happened near the “blue arrow” on the way back to the starting point, the Hotel Molika. I followed the sign to the hotel (in cyrillic alphabet only, but I had tried to read it in both alphabets, so I remembered), and while actually being on the right track, at one point I had to step over a treetrunk, something I didn’t remember doing on the way to the top. Did it slide or did I just not notice it because I was too busy? No idea. 

No harm done, I put in some extra miles, enjoyed the beauty and that was it. But really, what I had in mind for mountain track signs was this, colour coded tracs, not signs written in Macedonian only.

 

This is probably the reason why I didn’t pay attention to landmarks. It won’t happen again.

 Anyways, here are some of the “accidental” pics:

   
   

Right before it went wrong for the second time, I sat down near the tiny river with the slippery rocks. Happy to know all was well, I had speeded downhill. After wiping the sweat of my face, I was just daydreaming a bit, when I suddenly noticed that I was being watched.

  

He had probably made a bet with his toad friends on how long it would take me this time to cross (I like to antropomorphize from time to time). I was fast 😎

An image sprung to mind, from one of my childhood books. A fairytale by Andersen about a girl so tiny (half a thumb, hence Thumbelina) that she could sleep in a nutshell, kidnapped by an old toad who thought Tumbelina or Little Tiny would make good marriage material for her son.

  
 Ah, what some healthy mountain air does to one… Here’s the full story (in English): Thumbelina or Little Tiny. It’s really a story about how people are most happy with their own kind, or about a runaway bride, or about female empowerment. Check Wikipedia for more.

After a salad and about two liters of water at Hotel Molika, I was back in shape, and I managed to arrange a free ride back to the hostel. The driver, who came to deliver fruit and veggies to the hotel,  was having a cold beer with his friend before returning back to Bitola.  

  
Notice the cheap shades we’re all wearing 😎

Knowing the region like their pocket, they told me that there is a relatively easy hike to the Big Lake starting in Nižepole. Hey hey!

It would take me 3 hours to go up and 3 hours to come back down, so it’s a bit more then what I did yesterday. Totally worth it, because there you can see two out of three of the lakes at the top, poetically called  “The Eyes of the Mountain”.

That’s for tomorrow. I’ve had my rest, you have your read.

 I’m going to fold my laundry, which should be dry as gunpowder by now.

Warning: do not try this when hungover, drunk, under the influence of illegal or legal drugs that include the notice “do not drive a motor vehicle oroperate machinery”, or all four combined.

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