Author: Eva Smeele
Conquering the Via Dinarica Trail
 

Conquering the Via Dinarica Trail

Author: Eva Smeele
Jan 24. 2017.
Sport & Adventure,   Via Dinarica,   Hiking
Jablanica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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The Via Dinarica Western Balkan Mega Trail has been listed as one of the top 2017 destinations by National Geographic Traveler. Eva hiked the entire trail and shares her unique experience with you.

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Four months on the road. Three months in the Dinaric Alps. Seventy five days of hiking solo in minimalistic FiveFinger-(toe)-shoes. Not a single blister, but my legs were covered in scratches for the entire duration of this wild adventure… I hiked the entire Via Dinarica trail and I can honestly say that it was the feat of a lifetime.  

It all started with a tremendous passion for the mountains. Coming from The Netherlands, probably the flattest country on Earth, I’ve always been searching for places with a bit more relief. My passion took me to hike in the Belgian Ardennes, to trek through the Pyrenees and to climb several summits in the Alps. I cycled from Amsterdam to Montenegro, following the natural flow of the mountains. It was then that the Balkans made a deep impression on me. I could not understand why, but I longed to go back.

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When I found out about a new long distance trail that crosses the Western Balkans from Slovenia through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and all the way to Albania, a new adventure was in sight. I decided to hike the Via Dinarica White Trail. A physical challenge, a new adventure, but mostly, a unique personal journey.

Although the official length of the Via Dinarica White Trail is 1,260km, I hiked (including all the detours, wrong turns and day hikes) about 1,500km. I crossed 5 different countries and picked up 3 supply boxes along the way. I met 8 other Via Dinarica hikers, had 1 friend from Amsterdam to accompany me for two weeks, saw 4 wild pigs, 1 brown bear, 1 poisonous snake, 1 wild cat and heaps of dears and chamois.

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I learned that the next time I need to bring bear-proof food bags (and a rope), so hopefully I sleep better while camping out in the wild. I have to practice making a decent fire, because I’m truly bad at it.  And I will most definitely bring a camera so I can at least take pictures of the animals that are sniffing through my food at night.

Although it took me 4 months, it’s certainly possible to do it faster. But that was not my goal. I wanted to experience it, so I committed to the trail, to nature, to the mountains, to strangers, and of course, to myself. The best way to do that was doing it alone. When I’m on my own, I can find my own pace, I have these super intense enjoying-the-moment-moments and it’s easier to connect with other people. It’s what I love doing, to fully surrender to unexpected situations and extraordinary encounters.

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The Balkans got under my skin, found the way to my heart and then turned my head upside down. It is a truly fascinating region; relatively close to home, but somehow feels like a different world. It’s a big storm of impressions and emotions, almost too intense and certainly confusing, but when the ride is over, you want to stay for the next round.

Besides many great stories, incredibly strong legs, and a good dose of fresh mountain air, this experience made me feel free. Time was no longer ticking. I was not guided by time, but by nature. The mountains, the weather, and my own body told me how far I could go. That’s how time seemed to slow down and turned into something valuable. Not because there is never enough of it, but because you can decide how to spend it, one day at a time.

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