Mountain guide Radonja tells us about his favorite hike in Prokletije Park:
Let yourself be carried away by the story of Radonja, that mountain lover.
Coming back to the huts and taking off a backpack after a long day of hiking, reminds me how being a mountain guide actually makes me happy. Having the opportunity to live every day in a different way, climbing a different mountain… Last two years being a full time guide I learnt so much, but the biggest lesson is that life is a story, so here is mine.
There are so many mountains in my country, but when you want to see something unexplored and still wild, it’s easy to pick your goal – you go to Prokletije! This is a short story about one of the most beautiful trips in Montenegro, and it should be one of your first because it makes you fall in love with mountains so easily! The mountain is located on the border of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo, it is big and it has been here for a very long time. People were scared of its stiff rocks and deep snow, so it was always respected.
We stayed in the huts, in a silent valley called Grebaje, having the chance to watch the sky full of stars above us, before falling asleep. You forget about city rush and noise, except for those made by animals who found refuge in this wild area. Spending time in this place is amazing, you feel distant from today’s crazy world full of noise and rush, but not lonely, because you find yourself on a path to meet your real self, and things that people made stories about.
Temperatures are very high this summer, even in the mountains, so we start quite early. The path leads us through the beech forest, and takes us up to the amazing plateau up in the mountain. History didn’t make things easy for people on the Balkans, so living with wolfs and eagles was the only way to survive, organized in tribes and spending summers in so called katuns (traditional wooden huts for sheep keepers). After less than two hours of walking, we came to the first one – Valusnica. There was once a katun in this area, but today you can only find its remains.
These high mountains were a castle for people who were fighting for their lives, living in hardest conditions through deep snow and dry summers. You can easily recognize mountain people – their hands are rough, they have so many lines on their faces and enough life lessons. If you wanted to be free, you had to live in the mountain, and become one with it.
Early summer is the best time for this hike, because the valley is flowering, and it looks like a private theatre, surrounded by a long mountain ridge and amazing waterfall. The valley is ideal for camping, if you are ready to carry a tent and other things all the way over there, but you will be rewarded with silence and with nights full of stars.
After a short break and filling our bottles with water on the spring in a katun, we continue south-east, following a very good path to first summit called Maja Can (1823m). It is not too steep and the path is pleasant to walk, but nothing is so good in comparison with the view you get when you reach the summit! You stand on the rock above the Grebaje valley, watching a rough mass of tough peaks in front of you, covered with snow, steep going into the valley! Prokletije is called the Balkans Alps, and not without a reason!
This is my favourite hike because excitement doesn’t stop when you start going down from the summit, but the mountain continues to surprise us with changing landscapes, and every moment brings a new one. The path goes over the ridge, from which we walk over the border line between Montenegro and Albania, to the “last summit” – Popadija.
This region is getting more popular recently for those who want to see wildlife. Last night I was taking a walk through Grebaje valley, and when I came back to the huts, they told me that a bear came to the village, and escaped to the forest very fast as a car approached! Wolves are common in this area, and there is a project to find lynx, so after a long time it’s now confirmed that they exist in this area!
We make a longer rest at Popadija, before descending to the valley where we started. From here the path is a little steeper, but nothing dangerous, we continue north to katun Popadija, or down to our valley. On the way down you have the opportunity to see prehistoric paintings on the rock, hidden in grass near the spring! People in the Balkans had their old religion, which remains present in today’s modern religions, but the common thing for them was celebrating nature – you must love first Sun rays in the morning after the long and cold night, and be amazed by the picture of Milky way in the sky…
We spent the dusk here, listening to the water and watching the colours in the sky as they were getting more vivid and clear… Today, the mountain is almost deserted, with only some sheep and lone shepherds left, and we continue down to the valley to spend one more night in the huts, wishing to stay here forever.
Find our article on the 5 good reasons to go hiking with a local guide.
A word about the author
Our mountain guide Radojna comes from Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. The mountains are her second home. If you want to know everything about mushrooms, go on an expedition with Radonja! He is our best expert on the subject. He loves camping under the stars and his favourite place is the mountain of Kucke, 40km from Kolasin.