Monday, June 11, 2007

Arabian, Balkan, Indian, Chinese... Nights

Yesterday was my 1001st day on the road, not something I imagined happening some 3 years ago when I started seriously planning this trip. I had no real plans, just to have fun and see a few things in a year, possibly a year and a half - your regular slacker trip. No deeper agenda, no grand plans to 'find myself' or anything like that, but it has become more of a journey of learning and discovery (in the Discovery Channel sense of the terms). Although I'm not going to go into a detailed synopsis at this point, being so close to the end as I am (I cannot see me travelling for more than a few months more, if only because I will have run out of money), but this European leg has shown me truth of the saying that "sometimes one must look far to see what is near". (Is that a saying? I'm not sure, but if it isn't it certainly ought to be.)

For strange, exotic rituals you don't need to go to visit the lamas in Tibet when you can go and sit in on an Orthodox mass with its hypnotic chanting, random genuflections, waving of hands around the body, incense, kissing of icons and a liberal dousing of holy water. All as completely alien to me as any Buddhist ritual. Similarly it is still possible to find isolated communities living in remote mountains living in a way that hasn't changed in centuries, but like everywhere such communities are disappearing fast.

And when we think of incredible natural scenery we invariably imagine the vast expanses of the Sahara, the windswept emptiness of Patagonia, the lofty peaks of the Himalayas or even the pristine coral islands of the Pacific. And sure, Europe's small size and dense population preclude such large-scale wonders, but if you look closely you will find natural beauties to rival anything in the world. Here in Montenegro you can find the second-longest canyon in the world (marketed here as the second-largest, a term which hurts my precise, scientific sensibilities, as it doesn't specify whether it is the depth, length or width which is superlative), a fact which, had it been in say France or America, would have been widely advertised and known throughout the world, but as it is the Tara canyon is virtually unheard of outside the Balkans. Similarly there are lazy rivers that wind through karstic landscapes similar to those of northern Vietnam and Guilin, and Durmitor national park is a feast for the eyes.

I spent some time hiking in the afore-mentioned park (as I expect these to be my last major mountains). Rather aimlessly I headed along a trail and noticed a name that sounded interesting: Bobotuv Kuk. Well, I just had to check it out for myself and set off. Pretty soon I passed three guys from Podgorica who were walking along with strange contraptions strapped to their backs which, upon approaching, I found out were snowboards. Surveying the lush greenery around me I asked them whether they were crazy, to which they replied "probably", but that there was some snow near the summit. I left them behind me and headed on, and sure enough, below the peak there was a small, remaining snowfield, not that I would consider trudging 6 hours uphill with a heavy plank of wood strapped to my back for less than 400m of snow. However 400m of snow is lot when going up a steep hill with old trainers and it possibly ranks amongst one of the more stupid and dangerous things I've done, but with the summit in sight there was no way I was turning back. And so I finally made it to the top (passing a group of climbers decked out in heavy boots, tied together with ropes and making a right meal out of the ascent) to be rewarded by some of the most spectacular views in the world (I was later to discover that, at 2522m, it was the highest mountain in Montenegro), before quickly turning back and trying to make it back to town before sunset and a well-deserved hot shower.


Anonymous said...

well...I dont really need much more than THAT - im hooked.

if everything goes right, thursday ill have the ticket to belgrad and from july 4th to august 1st ill be finding out first hand if them pictures i keep seeing of montenegro mountains are actually heavily photoshopped..

happy trails man

Inihtar said...

Another stunning photo!! I'm impressed. . . you climbed the tallest mountain in Montenegro in old trainers! Do you think you'd have tried to do it if someone had told you that before you attempted it? AND you told random strangers they were crazy! Nice!