Sunday, 23 July 2017

Back In Black Mountain: Part 3

Day 4 – No Mountains, but a Canyon and a Meeting


As though the weather this weekend is in two minds whether to be nice or nasty, it was stormy overnight, with strong winds and driving rain. But we woke to a promising morning, and with breakfast taken and goodbyes said, it was time to leave the Eco Katun Štavna and head for our final hike on this all-too-brief tour.

Once again, the drive we took could be considered spectacular. As we descended around 1500m on winding roads between soaring peaks, the mountains seemed almost Himalayan in stature, such was the imposing nature of the summits and steep-sided valleys.

Of course, we know that Montenegro is blessed with an almost incalculable number of mountain peaks, but it is also home to an abundance of canyons too, and our plan for today was to walk into one of them – Mrtvica Canyon. 

Narrow path near the beginning of the walk

Down at lower altitude, the weather was much warmer and lacked the mitigating fresh breeze of higher levels, and as we arrived the thermometer was hovering around the 30°C mark.

The start of the hike is not at first obvious, an apologetically small path leading off into the bushes. But as soon as we were underway the route became generally clear, and we made swift progress.

Bridge built by Duke Danilo Petrovic Njegos in 1858

For the first couple of kilometres the canyon is quite wide, but beyond the stone bridge built by Duke Danilo Petrović Njegoš in 1858 the gorge narrows and the sides steepen, and the tumbling river-course is close by to our left.

Farm on the valley floor before the canyon narrows

A little further on we came to the Kapija želja – the “Gate of Wishes” – where we rested for a while and, as tradition has it, threw in a pebble and made a wish. I can’t tell you what I wished for, but if it comes true we might be seeing more of this amazing country in the not-too-distant future.

And, in such a magical place, why shouldn’t wishes come true?

Take a pebble, make a wish .... but don't tell

The ravine became increasingly narrow ....

.... and the path clung to the side of the cliff

The path we were on followed the route of an old foot way between two villages. In some places, it was not so obvious that once-upon-a-time this was quite a major route, but a few minutes further on we came to the Mrtvičke Grede, a semi-tunnel carved into the rock (by the Yugoslav Army) that clearly demonstrated the hand of human intervention.

The Mrtvicke Grede, carved into the cliff-face

It’s plenty high and wide enough for safe passage, but with a significant drop to the left it’s worth staying as close to the inside as possible, just to be on the safe side!

Keeping to the inside to be on the safe side

Shortly afterwards, we reached a series of pools where we were to have lunch. The only slight snag was that because of low water levels, the pools were actually empty. No matter, we were happy to forego a chilly swim for the chance to enjoy the quiet magnificence of the canyon as we sat and ate our lunch.

No water in the pools

Our return was by the same route – Mrtvičke Grede, the Gate of Wishes, Duke Danilo’s stone bridge – and although we set off at a modest pace, we made good time, only breaking our trek to top up on cool water from the spring along the way.

A last look along the valley

Cooling down on the way back

Back at the car, we performed a quick-change routine, and managed to get ourselves tidied up a little bit. We were heading for Podgorica and a meeting with Brit and Astrid from Meanderbug, the adventure, travel and farm-stay experts who offer authentic eco-friendly and off-the-beaten-track travel and cultural experiences that give real benefit to local communities.

If you are thinking of visiting Montenegro, planning a trip or wondering about farm-stay opportunities, their website is well worth a look:

It was great to chat, to discuss the multitude of possibilities Montenegro has to offer for outdoor activities, cultural interactions, great food and stunning scenery, and to share the enthusiasm that we all have for this wonderful country.
Finally, the time came for us to leave. We headed over to our hotel, heads spinning with possibilities for future trips, and said goodbye to Dimitrije, for tomorrow we would be going home. We’d had a great time, and as well as spending time with a good friend, it was refreshing to be with someone with so much obvious passion for adventure travel and the positive benefits tourism can have on his country and its future.

And will we be back again? Well “Trip 5” got a lot of mentions during the last few days, so if we have anything to do with it then we most certainly will. After all, wishes do sometimes come true.


  1. Great to meet you in person Julian. Thanks for making time. Also, thanks for being an advocate for your fellow countrymen to come to this amazing little spot on the globe for farm stay and adventure. I look forward to seeing you again either in MNE or the UK.

  2. Hi Brit - No problem, it was great to meet you both too! And as for being an advocate of such an "amazing little spot on the globe" - how can you not be when it is an outdoor enthusiast's dream?

    I'm sure we'll be in touch in future. And, if you do come to the UK, be sure to let us know!

  3. An interesting trip Jules. I've enjoyed catching up.