Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans
Day 3: Doberdol to Milishevc
This is the third in a series of posts about our experiences taking on the Peaks of the Balkans trekking circuit. I traveled with my daughter Rebecca and a friend Nev Chamberlain from the UK. We decided to make this journey without hiring a guide.
If you want to read the series from the beginning, start HERE.
In the last post, I will provide the resources that we used to make this excursion a success. I will also discuss the pros and cons of hiking the Peaks of the Balkans independently.th
We had quite a love/hate relationship with today’s walk.
At the end of each blog post is a video recapping highlights from the day’s journey.
Another Washed-out Bridge!
Right at the beginning we found that the pedestrian bridge LEAVING Doberdol was also down. (The bridge for entering the other end of the village was washed out as well.) The Dutch women we had met at the guesthouse walked across this sad thing and showed us that it was easier than it looked and not dangerous. So, we each passed over the river without a dunking this time.
This was the longest stage so far but after the initial 400-meter climb (in two kilometers) out of Doberdol, we enjoyed long easy walks up and down along ridges and over some low passes from one valley to another.
The weather continued to be delightful, and the meadows were full of wildflowers, with cold streams running everywhere.
When we came to the place where the trail intersects with the road to Balbino Polje in Montenegro, there was a trekking group with a guide. He asked where we were going and when we said, “Milishevc,” he asked why we didn’t turn up the valley earlier (and thus have a much shorter walk). We did not know about that route despite using a trail guidebook and our Komoot Trail App on our phones. This is one downfall of not having a guide. He was telling us about a newer, shorter route to Milishevc that the guides all know about, but the independent traveler does not.
It was too late to turn back, so we went on with the original plan. Most of the tracks continued to have a comfortable traveling terrain, i.e., not a lot of rocky ground or steep slopes. But as we approached the last six kilometers, the story changed. Much of the trail was overgrown and wayfinding became difficult.
We doggedly followed the GPS blue dot just to make sure we found our destination. Winter snows had left batches of trees down over the trail—so many that when we tried to go around them, we lost the trail and ended up in a swamp. Once we re-discovered the trail, it became muddy and very slippery. This all made the end of the day very difficult.
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At one point, I broke down and cried. My hips and knees were painful rubber and the bottoms of my feet screamed at every step. Nev and Becca were in little better shape. Kilometers seemed to stretch into miles.
Helped by Guardian Shepherd Dogs
Finally, the trail cleared at four kilometers from our destination at Milishevc. Another two kilometers found us behind a shepherd’s compound. We could see the road below and instead of following the switchback trail, we took a shortcut through a field next to the compound.
Dogs began barking and we recognized them as shepherd guard dogs—which you don’t fool with. We slowly backed off and walked away. Only one very-well-trained dog escorted us without growls or barks until we were out of their territory. Then the other dogs quietened.
Actually, that was a lucky break. When we next looked up to get our bearings, Nev said, “Oh there’s a guesthouse.” We knew that our guesthouse was at least another two kilometers away. But there was a large banner waving in the wind, “LOJZA GUESTHOUSE.”
I said, “I think that is the name of our guesthouse.” But I was afraid to hope. We stopped to look up the name on our guesthouse list. BEHOLD! WE HAD ARRIVED!
If we had taken that shortcut by the shepherd’s compound, we would not have seen that banner. Later we learned from our host that if we had not arrived in the next hour, that they would have closed up and gone to bed. If we had gone on down the road as planned, we would not have made it back to this correct location before they closed. So, despite the difficulties, we were lucky once again!
Zeki, Teuta, and their son Diella were our hosts, and this was to be one of the best guesthouses we would experience on the entire trek. Hot showers (heated with wood) were ready. Then came the food starting with a hearty bowl of bean soup followed by a quarter of a chicken each along with delicious potatoes and vegetables. We ate every bite!
Our original schedule called for us to take a rest day at our next destination, Rekë e Allegës. However, I was just about done in and the prospect of doing another 17 kilometers early the next morning was daunting for Rebecca and me. Nev was tired as well. So we discussed staying here at Lojza for two nights instead of in Rekë e Allegës. The decision was unanimous and fortunately, Zeki said he had beds available for the following night.
Early the next morning, Zeki took Rebecca in his 4WD vehicle up to the top of a hill nearby where she could get cell service and call the next guesthouse to let them know we would not arrive until two days later.
This is how all the guesthouses cool their beer and soft drinks: put them in a bucket or pool of water and channel cold spring water over them. Nature’s refrigerator! We also filled our water bottles out of these pipes.
The sign reads, in part:
“The ‘Renovation of the Water Natural Sources’ here…is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Community Development Fund in Kosovo in an effort to contribute to the economic growth and competitiveness of the adventure tourism in the CBC region Albania-Kosovo.”
About mid-afternoon of our rest day, a horseman and his pack horses delivered the bags that belonged to a tour group that would arrived later. We encountered quite a few of these tour groups. It is another way to enjoy these mountains. A guide always accompanies them to make sure they don’t get lost like we did, make all reservations in advance, provide translation, along with many other services. I will talk about the pros and cons of having a guide in the last post in this series. This group was from Germany and on the second night the supper table was full!
To take this rest day early was a great decision. We were revitalized and by the next afternoon, we knew we would be ready to hoist packs and trek on the following morning. We were back on schedule.
Guesthouse Lojza is highly recommended. Zeki and Teuta cannot seem to do enough for their guests, and their son Diella runs around helping them all day long. It is a wonderful family affair.