September 21 – Jane’s morning:
There has been a settlement on the site of the modern town of Starigrad (“Old Town”) since Roman times. Until the tourist boom of the 70’s it was a small village whose inhabitants decamped during the summer months with their sheep and goats to summer pastures in the mountains, travelling up in May and back in September or October, depending on the altitude of their pasture. Our walk today followed one such path – although calling it a path is pitching things a bit high
as it is only barely distinguishable from the surrounding rocks! We started early but still toiled upwards in direct sun
Our guide Zeljko had spent two summers as a shepherd in the mountains while he was at university 35 years ago, helping an elderly couple whose sons had taken conventional jobs, and he explained that everything needed was hauled up by mule or donkey, and people lived – and died – in the mountains. If somebody died a party of 6 men carried the body down the trail, since as devout Catholics the body had to be buried in consecrated ground with due ceremony; and church, priest and cemetery were in the village far below. The pall bearers were only allowed to put the body down to rest at certain spots (just one place on our route, about half way down) and the resting place of the body was marked with head – and foot – stones. Later flat slabs would be laid at the spot, and such “graves” can be found on various trails on the mountains.
Headstones would be marked with some arbitrary design or shape since the people were illiterate.
Up we toiled, rewarded with wonderful views,
scrambling over sharply eroded rocks
And encountering fierce wildlife
Until after about 3 hours we reached the first flat pastures
and a shaded spot for a well earned lunch
Just another 15 minutes led us to the highest point of our hike at 840m, known as the Doorstep, with amazing views and rock formations
And then it was (mostly) downhill to the pickup point where our driver was waiting.
Drinking beer and bringing the blog up to date as far as September 20.
Our evening was spent with a final group meal in the hotel restaurant, doing the usual end-of-holiday stuff such as exchanging e-mail addresses before retiring for the night and some well-earned sleep before the excitement to come – getting back to Dubrovnik. Read all about that varied day in the next exciting instalment!