Croatian Long Distance Trail
Croatia is a well known gem as a holiday destination, and no wonder as to why – Adriatic sea, historic cities and a beautiful seaside. But not only does this country offer the perfect vacay spot – it is also an up-and-coming destination for thru-hiking.
Early morning and it’s already 25 degrees celcius/77 fahrenheit. My pack feels heavy carrying 6 liters of water, measures taken in preparation for a hot day, as I take my first few steps on the Croatian Long Distance Trail. An image flashes in my mind of a sherpa carrying a big bag of bricks I met on my climb up Mount Kinabalu in Borneo years ago – at least there are no bricks in my pack.
Croatian Long Distance Trail
Croatian Long Distance Trail, CLDT, is a 2200 kilometers/1400 mile national scenic trail starting at the easternmost point in Croatia, continuing on to the westermost point and finishing in the south. The trail is divided into three sections: A, B and C. I have decided to hike part of section B as a warm-up for the CDT (there’s a theme here people – no trails will be hiked this year unless they have the letters CDT in them!) starting at the town of Samobor and finishing in the town of Buzet. Being from Sweden I am also not allowed to enter the US directly from a Schengen-country, and hence a sidetrip to Croatia.
The trail quickly takes me up the mountains and away from the town of Samobor, offering great views of rural Croatia and I am reminded why I love this part of Europe so much – tiny villages, big fields of grape plantations and views of green and blue mountains in the horizon.
The trials of trail
The CLDT is only about four-five years old, and a lot of work is still being done to get it established. Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail this is not a clear cut trail, instead it is linked together with other trails and roads. And so, I find myself checking the navigation app Guthooks about every five minutes (if not more) and even then I have to backtrack many times because I missed a small path I was suppose to take. Most of the trail is also overgrown, so to the point that I decide to take the road towards the end of the second day (if I ever wondered what my limit was before, I can now say that it’s a seemingly endless sea of nettles and brush!) I pitch my tent alongside a small road, feeling my legs burn from all the nettles and walking through thorns.
The next day I head for the small village of Kamanje, longing to get some real food into me! But as they say, the trail provides and before I even reach the village I am offered to join a Slovenian family on their picnic as well as coffee in two other houses. But then that is it – there is no more food for the rest of the day as the village shop close at 1 pm on Sundays and I am too late, arriving only in time to grab two drinks out of the fridge.
Ever since the start of this hike I have found myself feeling weak, especially when climbing to higher elevation. Sleep deprivation for the last few weeks in combination with a loss of appetite and the heat is taking its toll. And no matter how much I want to, I can’t make myself eat my trail food, leaving me with very few consumed calories since the start of the hike.
Change of plans
The following day I stumble into the small village of Netretic, crashing into the bathroom in the town’s caffe bar. I need to get out of my clothes that are so soaked in sweat you can pretty much wring them out, but I can’t even change without taking breaks. Sitting on the floor of that dirty toilet, I wallow in shame of my weakness and selfdoubt as to how I am ever going be able to hike the CDT. I know I need energy to snap out of it and want to go to the small shop next door, but feeling too tired I order a coke and join some local men outside in the shade. All I need is food, but again there are no restaurants nearby.
Like so many of my other interactions here in Croatia the communication consists of mix of words in deutch, croatian and english but somehow I get a conversation going with one of the locals. He offers me a ride to a hotel with a restaurant, taking me on a small sightseeing trip along the way. The food did a world of good, but seeing my body puts me in a bit of a shock – its got bruises, cuts, bug bites and breakouts all over. I feel broken.
Making it work
The next few days temperatures hit 35-38 degrees celcius, and instead of fighting my way through brush I take a few days off trail to explore the beautiful seaside. But I couldn’t leave things the way they were with trail, leaving defeated like that would haunt me. And so I make my way up to the town Buje, and the start of section C, to do an approximately 50 km/30 mile loop before I have to return back to Zagreb. This time I feel stronger and I have my appetite back – I feel like my old hiking-self again. And although trail had a bit of a rough start, she decided to be kind for the rest of our journey together and we leave each other as friends.
In the evening I am offered to join the owner of the small campsite I am staying at and his finnish friend for dinner, consisting of grilled vegetables, sausages and local wine served from a green PET-bottle. It is delicious and I finish every last bit of food, all while listening to their fascinating life stories. A perfect way to end the day.
The take away
There’s a lot of lessons to be learned when things don’t turn out the way we plan; we got to listen to our own needs, adapt, be flexible and find solutions to make the new situation work. And even though my ego has taken a big hit on this trail, I also learned that when the ego falls the heart must rise.
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