Mountainous Montenegro – Kotor and Zablak
One of our necessary pass times during this trip has been reading reviews for Hostels and Hotels. It is actually very funny what some people think you should know before staying somewhere. Here are a few actual examples. I have included the author’s name, as I believe they deserve all the credit for sharing these amazing insights:
Harry J – “the bed was a bit soft”
Jamie R – “one bathroom is entirely blue which is quite off putting whilst the other is the same colour as HP sauce”
Lucy S – “I don’t really understand, why everyone is saying that the breakfast is really nice. It was just toast with ham and cheese, jams, eggs, cornflakes and yoghurt. No fresh fruit, cheese, ham or vegetable. Anyway I would not stay again, cause the town is very boring and there is nothing to do.”
Doctor W – “This all would have been a 5 star review, but when it came to paying there was confusion on our part. We ended up paying twice as much for the room (we thought the quoted price was per person).”
While reading reviews for our Hostel in Kotor I had a bit of a chuckle when I came across the following:
“Great rooms, Mismanaged. Met four staff, two were great but spent their time making up for the incompetence of the other two, who seemed to just be there to drink, and tell off guests who weren’t drunk. I would describe the evening as aggressive drinking – the staff persistently hassled the guests to get as drunk as them, which nobody did. I don’t think I’m being unreasonably boring – the other guests also had a drink but declined the late night partying and were in bed in our 10 bed dorm by midnight. Maybe the partying is more popular in the summer when the students check in, but in May they need to read their audience better. The hostel has a lot of potential, is central and the rooms are great, although it is noisy.”
Laughing it off as an older persons review I did wonder what they even meant by ‘aggressive drinking’. Luckily I didn’t have to wonder for long. By 7pm in the hostel common room everyone was being poured shots of raki (Baltic spirit) and encouraged to follow this with a beer or something similar. The music was then turned up so loud you couldn’t talk to the person across the table from you and the people who weren’t drinking were constantly questioned about what was wrong with them. I looked around and could only laugh. There was no better description for what was happening than ‘aggressive drinking’. It was one crazy night. Luckily we headed to bed earlier than most and missed the majority of the shenanigans.
Kotor is a stunning city at the base of a mountain on the shores of a salt-water lake. As soon as we arrived we headed up to an old castle (San Giovanni fortress) in the mountains behind the old town where we were staying. The views were just about perfect as we wound our way up through the old buildings all covered in vines and shrubs.
We were only in Kotor for one night, so next morning we headed for a quick swim in the crystal clear water then off to the bus station to get a bus to Niksic and onto Zablak. After purchasing a ticket for the 1pm bus to Niksic, we realised the next bus at 3pm was headed to Zablak and would be the one we’d wait for in Niksic, so we changed our ticket, much to the disgust of the lazy ticket officer, as we had interrupted her coffee break and lugged our back packs down to the beach for a laze in the sun for a few hours. It was a pretty super spot to ‘waste’ half a day.
At our Hostel in Zablak the hosts told us about the rafting trip we were booked into for the following day as well as some of the best hikes nearby. We also had some light conversation about people drowning while rafting and talking about wolves, bears and wild boars. None of which we knew were here. We were actually a bit freaked. At the backpackers though we met and chatted to some really cool people, maybe coz the place only attracts ‘outdoor’ types, everyone was really easy going and on a similar trip to us.
The rafting trip with local guys named Goron and Slavko was really fun. Chatting to Goron in the van on the way down he told me about his family in the very little English he spoke. He loved that we had come all the way from Australia and so he looked after us and I got to sit up front in his raft. The river water was a beautiful milky blue and pretty fresh. We saw Europe’s shortest and most powerful river, which comes form holes under the rocks for 150m before joining the Tara River. The 160 odd meter high bridge over the river was quite a sight. Built in 1939 it was formed using timber and then build up on the forms over 3 years. A pretty impressive engineering feat.
The rafting trip went quickly as the waters are still really high from snow melt, so it wasn’t long before we were sitting in the open little pergola beside the river drinking a bottle of Niksicko beer. Montenegro’s pride and joy.
That night Clare went for a wander with a Finish couple we has met in Kotor, while I lazed at the hostel chatting. We booked a four bed dorm to try and get a bit of a better nights sleep than the larger dorms. Couldn’t believe it when we woke up to our Belgium buddy snoring like a train. We took it in turns to slam the door a few times to wake him, but later it got that loud Clare woke him and asked him to roll over. So awkwardly funny.
For our Second day in Zablak we decided to try and hike to an interesting ice cave, that most people told us was cut off by snow that still hasn’t melted. Hard to believe on a 27 degree day. At the national park entry we told the guide where we were headed. He leaned out his booth window, looked at my shoes and said, “no for hiking, no for snow”. We convinced him we were going anyway, so he drew us a hand sketch map to take.
The Black Lake, where the hike starts from was really something special. We left the lake and walked for 15mins before the mozzies got way too intense (like 10 on your arm at once), so Clare headed home while I lapped the lake instead and then started making my way up on an easier walk to Snake Lake. About half way up I bumped into a cool Aussie chick we met in Kotor, Louise. She said the next lake was nothing special so I asked her if she was keen to try and get to the ice cave. She wasn’t, but I talked her into it. It was 4:30 before we started and the signs all said 3hrs each way. So we motored. I had the two arm pine branch swing walk going to keep the mozzies off, so the heart rate was well up as we charged ahead. It was pretty steep going, with a few large patches of snow along the way but within an hour we reached some huts. Where there was actually people living. Sheep herders apparently. We had a quick chat in very broken English and sign language and we figured we still had a ways to go. The view from here though was already beautiful.
We kept on going up to the next ridge, and I had no water so was eating snow as we trekked slower and slower. From the next ridge was another one, which looked steeper. We also passed some hardcore German hikers who had been to the highest summit with full on climbing gear. They didn’t speak much English either, but as I ate another piece of snow they knew enough to tell me to stop, as snow is “dirtiest water you can get”, haha. Lucky I’d only eaten 6 or 7 handfuls. They did offer me some of their water though which I appreciated.
We decided we’d come as far as we could, so had a rest and turned for home. Back at the huts the big unit of a herdsman had cold beers waiting for us, which were just what we felt like! One of his first questions was whether Louise and I were a couple, and judging by how close he got to her in the photo, it must get a bit lonely in the mountains. We stayed for a few minutes then carried on. The snow was steep in spots so we skated down a few patches. Nothing funnier than watching Louise slide down like a genuine skier but then pick up too much speed and land flat on her back, without spilling a drop of her half empty beer.
Clare and Alex (the hostel dude) were looking for us when we got back just on dark. I was so bushelled and hadn’t eaten since breakfast, apart from the delicious snow, so we ate a quick pesto feed and then crashed out.