18 May 2017

°Ona&Steffany vs. Lovcen National Park°

Even before setting my foot to Montenegro I knew I have to walk Lovcen National Park. Don‘t really know why, I just had the urge. Maybe to prove to myself and to the world that I can, or maybe just to set the score Ona 1:0 Mountains. Whatever the reason pushed me there, I‘m glad it did. It cleared the fogginess off my mind, brought back the backpacking feeling and made me kind of happy. It may not be much, but not always do we need much.

Unfortunately internet was not too clear about actually walking through the park. Maybe because park and the peaks are very easily accesible by car, but that was not my goal. I found this Belgian guy‘s answer in one of the travelling forums (Thank you, Pierre!) that the walk is doable in one day [hard day if you try and climb Jezerski peak with Njegos monument] where he explained that he started in Cetinje and headed to Kotor and that this is more advisable way, otherwise you will face a quite high ascent. I left for Montenegro basically with this information, determined to reach Cetinje and take it from there.

I came to Cetinje the day before, because I had high hopes for the tourist office and that they will be able to provide with maps and directions that google did not. I stayed and I can only recommend to stay at `Borozan apartment`, because the owner was one of the sweetest guys you can ever meet, plus he helped me where tourist information failed. It took me a while to find the tourist information and sometimes I wish I didn’t. I went in and this not the most polite woman ask me if she could help me. I asked for directions and maps to Lovcen NP and her reaction was quite confused and lost with words: “You want to walk? To Kotor? On foot?” And gave me the `you nuts or something?` look. The fact that tourist information gives you such reaction to your plan gives you chills, I tell you that. My first reaction was to panic a little. I’m not a mountaineer, I’m not even a very experienced hiker and if she thinks I am crazy, I might as well be, right? Anyways, I got back to Borozan apartments and the owner talked me calm, for which I am still grateful. In the end I went out with my hopes high, my spirit a little shaken but optimistic and maps.me app with downloaded map of Montenegro [the best map for Lovcen I got my hands on].

The owner of the place offered to give me a ride to the place where the path starts. It’s only 3-5km, but it’s a nice save of time. Once he dropped me off and I started the slight climb, the clock was showing 7:15 a.m. I got lucky with the weather – even though it was quite cold [~2-3°] but sunny and that was all I needed. The path is quite well marked with red/white signs, so as long as you follow them, you will be in no problem. I mean if I managed, everyone can. 

The views are quite nice too and for someone like me who grew up in the flat areas, the mountains always gave a special magical feeling, so as I was walking I was trying to take it all in.

The path at points interacts and follows the paved car road, so if anything, you are not too far from getting help, you know for all the worse comes to worst cases. As I was walking I was still not too sure if I will be climbing Jezerski, since I was quite afraid of not making to Kotor before the sunset, but the deal I made with myself was that if I don’t make it to the path leading to it in two hours, I will skip it, just to be on a safe side. Now even not being an experienced hiker I usually walk faster than the road signs usually suggests, but just as my luck, I found the path to Jezerski in 2 hours – that’s the one marked with the wooden arrow pointing from the `main’ish road`. And so I headed for the peak. It took only a little over 30 minutes to get to an actual hiking marking with the kilometers and suggested hiking time, so I guess I was there ~9:40 a.m. Hiking to the top of Jezerski and Njegos mausoleum is not very challenging and I would say is quite worth it. At the end of it you have, if I recall correctly 461 steps (you can drive up with the car up to the base of the steps], so if you don’t want to walk the park, you have this option. It might not be the highest peak of the NP, but from it you can see, what they say 80% of the country and in total 5 countries. You pay 3 EUR to get to the mausoleum, but it has a panoramic view platform and is worth your money.

I got back to the markings ~11:20 I believe and followed the part to Kotor. Keep in mind though, it might be saying 4.5 hours, but after you walk for another 20-30 minutes it once again says 4.5 hours, so you can trust it, just not blindly. 

The walk from there gets a little easier I would say because it is mostly flat or descending a little, plus you walk mostly through the forests, so if rain sneaks up to you, you can find a shelter fairly easily.

The second part of the walk was a pure pleasure for me. For once all of the fears from the day before have left me and the feeling of `actually making it` was settling down. I took a lunch break [do not over pack, I did not bring much food and it still was too much] in the middle of the forests all by myself, surrounded by silence and enjoyed it to bits. Once I left Lovcen park, I had to walk a little on a paved road, but since the markings were there, so was I. And then the descent to Kotor starts. First you go through the pine forest which lasts for maybe 30 minutes and then you come out to the clear and you understand why Kotor is one of the most visited places in Montenegro – the view from the top is quite spectacular, so even if you don’t want to talk through Lovcen NP, you definitely want to either climb the serpentine path from Kotor up or have someone drive you there for the scenery.

I sat there, taking it all in, not quite yet believing that I was almost there. I could already see a little bit of Kotor old town, the Kotor bay and a serpentine path that I had to take to get down. That being said, `almost` was quite exaggeration here, because even though you can almost see the place, it takes you ~2 hours to descent. And if while walking the Lovcen I hardly met anyone [except on the peak, that is], on this serpentine path I saw quite a lot of visitors going up from Kotor and then eventually back down.

I looked at my watch once I was down in the old town – it was showing 16:15. So overall it took me 9 hours to walk from Cetinje to Kotor through Jezerski [climbing to the top] and skipping Njegusi village and I am at best average hiker. So just like Pierre in the forum said – it is definitely doable, although if you also want to add Njegusi, you might want to consider spending the night in the village, because otherwise you are risking of nightfall in the park or the forests. The path is easy to follow and is well marked, so the biggest challenge you have is to convince yourself to do it. I was happy I did. And once in my hostel and with a reward beer in my hand I settled the score 1:0 and made a little promise for myself to come back. Maybe not Lovcen, but another mountain, another hike, another mind clearing experience.

Off Topic

There were so many things happening in the recent months that I can hardly keep up. And once I thought I had a weekend for that, I got a severe tonsillitis which made me crave for the sweet sweet death. I survived, of course. Sometimes there is no other way, but to go on. Or push the show to go on.

I have been flying here and there, visiting old and new/old friends, planning future visits, making either a mistake or a great decision, meeting people that I knew from the very first eye-lock will change something inside me the way I will never be able to get back to my old self. 

But the most significant thing is - I have learned to be the person you always wanted me to be. A little too late and maybe it's not a good thing in the long run, but.. I haven't even tried, it just sort of happened. But you will never learn about it. One more sort-of-a-promise was made and if broken, it might change something more. 

On the other hand.. If you brought them back, maybe I can bring it back too.