Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Black Mountains Of The Balkans – Day 5

Thursday 25th July 2013 – Gusinje, Vusanje & Babino Polje

Total Distance: 16.61km / Total Ascent: 713m / Total Descent: 843m

Last night’s power cut was partially fixed this morning, so we were able to enjoy a hot omelet with our breakfast coffee and bread.

Ali Pasha Springs with the mountains on the Albanian border behind

Our first destination of the day was the Ali Pasha Springs. Here, at the foot of the Rogopeč hill, water bubbles out of the ground forming the source of the river Ljuča, which eventually goes on to feed Plav Lake some 10km away.

Water bubbling out from beneath the mountain

We had a short walk round the site and spent about an hour there before moving on to the village of Vusanje. Even this early in the day, it was very hot – much more so than the previous few days, we felt, and now in the region of 33°C in the shade – so it was pleasant to be in the company of water for most of the morning. We set off along the road, taking a short detour to visit an impressive waterfall on the Grlja river.

Grlja Waterfall

Top of the falls
Patterns in the water

Stones and colours

Taking a close look

Continuing along the valley, we reached another spring – the Oko Skakavice – whose chilly blue waters were ideal for a refreshing paddle.

Colder than it looks

Rejoining the track, we came across this sign. There are many hiking opportunities in this area - hopefully we will get a chance to wander some of these paths in years to come.

Wish list

To be honest, seeing the name Theth on the signpost proved a rather emotional moment. Realising we were less than a day’s trek away from where we had spent a fantastic time just two summers ago exerted an almost magnetic pull ...

Second mountain on the right and straight on till morning ...
On our visit to Theth, we had walked beneath the peak visible in the valley on the right

But we had another agenda to follow. We retraced our steps back to the car, and set off for Plav – the largest town in the region with a population of something over 3,500. We had a short stop to visit the Radžepagić Tower, a 17th Century fortified house (now a museum) that bore a close resemblance to the blood feud tower we had seen in Theth. The walls were thick stone, the floors wooden and on 3 levels, and, although it was a much more modern and well-decorated example than the Albanian version, the similarities were very evident.  

Radžepagić Tower

We also popped into a mosque for a quick look round – something none of us had done before. Our trip coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, but there had been no recent call to prayer and no devotees around, so we were able to spend a few quiet moments there unobserved.

Trail through the woods

Then we collected our guide for the afternoon’s walk, Ahmet. Another half-hour drive took us to a katun above the small village of Babino Polje. Here, we began our walk to Hridsko Lake, a beautiful alpine lake situated amongst pinewoods at almost 2000m altitude. We followed a delightful trail up through the trees, taking about 90 minutes to reach the lake, where we sat for a while in quiet appreciation of the superb setting and surrounding silence. It began to rain – the first rain of the trip – but nobody was much bothered: jackets were donned, but actually it proved quite refreshing after the heat of the previous days.

Hridsko Lake


Circling round the lake, we took a different route back to the katun – this time along forest tracks – passing a rustic-looking collection of dwellings set in a small glade and a family out working in the woods.

House and home

Finally, we reached the katun. Given the option of a 4WD ride down to Bibino Polje or an extra walk, we opted for the latter, and spent the time either chatting with Dimitrije about this and that, or keeping to a companionable silence. The quality of the late afternoon light had softened the character of the landscape, and now wave after wave of blue-ish hills rolled away into the distance. 

Evening light on the mountains near Babino Polje

Our digs for the night were at the Eco Village in Babino Polje, a collection of log cabins situated amongst the trees in a beautifully quiet location. We settled in quickly, as dinner on the decking was beckoning. Over the meal, we got introduced to Kushtrim, our guide for the next 4 days as we trekked across the border and into Kosovo.

A log cabin in the woods - who could resist?

The evening closed with a thunderstorm that had us dashing for our cabins.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely fantastic Jules - loving the accounts so far. Looking forward to the Kosovo leg!