Day 7. Žabljak is perfectly situated to explore the National Park of Durmitor, so we decided not to... only kidding. I seem to say the same thing every day, that this country gets more and more beautiful. Today it definitely did.
We were up early, something to do with the sunlight pouring in through our curtainless apartment window. We'd eaten breakfast purchased from a local bakery by 9am and headed to the Black Lake. We tried 3 mountain bike hire shops but alas, there were no extra small models for Cat to ride so we gave up on that idea.
You can't actually drive right up to the lake. The car park is about 1km away and access is gated. There was a 3EUR daily entry fee per person into the park which only about half of the people I saw actually paid (we did). The walk to the lake was deserted on the way up and the air was fresh and had a heavy, viscous quality to it as we trekked through the pines.
Given that we'd started so early it was wonderfully peaceful at the lake. The silence was only broken by some posh English toffs who'd decided it would be "totes amazeballs" to swim across the "f**king cold" lake! It must have been 1km across but they did it, not sure if they made the return voyage successfully though.
As seems to be the trend in Montenegro rowing boats were available for hire at the lake side but we had our fill in Biogradska Gora a few days ago. Instead we elected to just sit at the lakeside on a rocky outcrop and soak up the place. My ankle is certainly feeling the strain of all this walking and I needed a rest (for those who don't know I damaged some ligaments about 5 months ago in my right ankle and mostly better so long as I don't over do it).
We stayed at the lake for over an hour. Being in the shadow of those massive mountains, the sun, the trees, the silence (mostly) it was bliss. Things started to busy up and we decided to head back to the car. Throngs of people carrying cameras streamed from the car park to the lake now, the tour buses had deposited their loads. Glad we left when we did. The path to and from the lake (like many of the roads here) is lined with small stalls selling pots of berries. At 1.50EUR a pop for a tiny cup of berries, they must make a semi-decent crust from these endeavours.
We jumped back in the car and just headed towards a wiggly road on the map. Wiggles are a sure sign of altitude. Altitude = mountains. Mountains = WEATHER. With a capital WEATHER.
We headed over a mountain pass of around 1850m (car was noticeably down on what little power it had to start with up there) and the mountains reminded us that they were boss. The rain came and then the hail. We waited at the top of the pass for over 20 minutes for the weather clear but it didn't. As usual, the mountain roads were pretty spectacular - like the one below.
Cat has been taking more and more photos from the car as we're driving along lately. It's a sign of how amazing this country is as photography just doesn't get her out of bed. We spotted a hawk on the way down the mountain and I expected her to miss it given we were travelling at 40km/h and the hawk similar. I particularly like the rain drops behind the bird.
After we'd returned to Žablajak our first Airbnb mishap occured. We were locked out of our apartment. The key we'd be given didn't work, a deadbolt or something was set. Not to worry, we were both hungry and went into town again (a 2 min drive from the apartment). Cat's lunch wins our award for the strangest meal here so far. When is a Hot Dog not a Hot Dog? And does said "Hot Dog" require an accompaniment of curds? Apparently in Montenegro, Hot Dogs don't have buns and their companions are curds. You live and learn!
The weather had really settled in for the afternoon so, access issues now resolved, we put on a movie on the laptop and let it blow over. Dutifully by about 4pm the weather had cleared. We took the road from the back of the apartment at Pitomine towards Crna Gora, not really knowing where we going and ended up having the most amazing views. You can't take some people anywhere though.
We discovered an old, deserted (and we assume derelict) chairlift system high above the town. It was eerie, the slats in the chair seats had almost entirely rotted away. Despite all this ski infrastructure and marketing in the main town I'm not sure it'd top my list for a Winter destination. Everything just feels a bit, decrepit - maybe that will change with the money that's pouring in across the country. New hotels are going up everywhere and I get the impressions things are on the up.
The chair lift was at around 1800m again but the road kept going and so did we. We eventually topped out at 2,104m (6,902ft), our highest achievement of the holiday. It felt like we were on top of the world looking down on the mountains around. Not only that but the plateaus on top of the mountains were beneath us.
You probably won't find many benches with a view better than this.
It looks out over Crna Gora, a natural plateau high above the gorges cut by the rivers far below. I'm sure places in South America rival this but I've never seen anything quite like it in Europe before.
After a while we turned around and headed back down the mountain to catch the last sunlight of the day clipping the tops of the pines.
Some curious cows came to investigate us as I photographed things. They seemed most intrigued about the big blue thing driving past them.
On the way down some new views opened up to us and I loved this shot of the deserted chairlift against the clouds rising from the humid forest below. Being above the clouds is always a fun feeling, especially when you're from a flatland like Norfolk.
Yet another epic day in this astonishing country. We're heading down out of the mountains tomorrow to the Bay of Kotor which is supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the coastal area. Looking forward to that! See you then.
*I'm such a child but found this food packet in the supermarket hilarious...