As my heart started to beat in my temples, I remember very vividly wanting to kill Ana. My legs were aching and it felt like I had a million miles to go before I could take a rest. The place we were having lunch was nowhere to be seen. I was so unfit and this was the toughest thing I’d done in a long while. I spent the next half an hour devising imaginative ways that I could get away with murder!
I had arrived at Big Berry camp for my few days of relaxation and had agreed to a challenge. It would be great fun. Easy enough. I was starting to regret the decision. I should probably say at this point that it was the best challenge to get me out of a personal rut. It was something that really pushed me out of my comfort zone and no Ana’s were killed, maimed or unfriended after the experience. It was actually the best thing I could have taken on and I learned so much.
Triglav is located in the North West of Slovenia. It was a couple of hours drive from the camp in Bela Krajina where I was staying.
I was doing this challenge pretty last minute and wasn’t very prepared. My new hiking boots hadn’t arrived. I had a shiny, lovely pair of Merrells on the way and couldn’t wait to wear them but a mountain needed to be climbed. Just before getting on the flight over from the UK, I went to a outdoor clothing shop for some footwear. I went for a cheap (£15) pair of generic walking shoes. I would later feel almost every stone through them. Don’t scrimp on these essentials!
Big Berry is more than a camp that I was staying in. It’s a whole experience. It’s a team of great people who are passionate about the area and also about the lifestyle. The cabins are luxurious and its a kind of glamping. It is more than just a glamping site. It’s cooking together and swimming in the river. Its swinging in a hammock chair or doing yoga on the lawn. It’s the border of Slovenia and Croatia and all of the beautiful parts of those cultures that influence the place. It is the local community and local produce you eat. It’s collaborative and it was the perfect concept for me. A year later, I still think of it and smile. But back to the pain for a second…
We started in a stunning forest. It was cool and the path was rough with lots of pebbles. It had that great smell and I was feeling positive. Maybe I could do this and it would be fun. I was quite quickly behind and struggling. So much for being hopeful!
The scenery was incredible. The mountain range seemed to tower over the top of all of us. I couldn’t figure out how we would get up there by the end of the day. The pace was steady and constant. I needed to rest a few times and managed to get some great photos. I was kicking myself that I hadn’t continued the hikes and mountain/hill climbs I did in my early twenties. This was showing me how out of shape I’ve become but it was a good motivation to do something about it. After a few hours of huffing and puffing my way along, I saw our lunch stop. A major milestone and finally a good rest and refuel.
At lunch, we had homemade sandwiches and goodies from Big Berry that we had brought along. We chatted and enjoyed the view. It was the first time I was really getting to know any of the people working at the camp. Everyone was easy going and I learned where they were from and heard their stories of joining the camp for a season. The passion and enthusiasm for Big Berry was obvious. They told me about the area of Bela Krajina and I couldn’t wait to see and experience more when we arrived back.
After lunch, we set off for the second and final ascent to the place we would sleep. Dom Planika pod Triglavom would be our shared hut for the night and to get there, we would need to go through a couple of high, narrow passes. There would be some climbing irons which I knew meant steep drops. Just the mention of this made me dread the next part.
The hike was beautiful in parts. I wanted to take in the wildflowers, mountain sheep and unbelievable view of the valley from up high. I was finding it very hard. My hands were swollen and my breathing was laboured. The soles of my feet hurt and I could feel sunburn. I had re=applied sunscreen at lunch but had already caught the sun in a few places. My skin was now pink on my collarbone, shoulders and backs of my calves. My body ached but I kept moving forward.
Finally, we started to gain ground and the path became steeper. I saw the irons and narrow pass up ahead. I was tired, sore and suddenly frozen with fear. I stopped and stared knowing I would have to face it. I would love to say I sucked it up and bravely climbed across but I had a few tears before I managed it. It’s hard to explain a fear of heights to anyone who doesn’t have anxiety about it. Your whole body freezes. You cannot move. Not a single muscle will do anything. The fear rises inside of you like a fire catching. It burns and pounds in your chest and then I finally get to a maxed out pressure point and cry. It’s just a reaction to the fear and I’m not ashamed of it now. I wish there was a way to get rid of this particular anxiety but every time I have to face it, I feel this way.
I made it over the high bits and carried on. We still had roughly one hour to go until Dom Planika and I was feeling finished. I took quite a few breaks and caught up with people then fell behind. The final push was a slow and arduous one. We saw a few ice covered parts but didn’t need to be on them for too long. The boulders to climb seemed bigger and the end was always just a little bit further.
The huts come into view right at the end and those last few steps and struggles are triumphant. I felt so pleased to have made it. We had heard helicopters earlier in the day and stories of people being stranded or injured. It’s a tough hike. I really want to do more but prepare better next time. My body was very sore for a few days after the climb and descent. I needed the ultimate relaxation at camp. I left the mountain with so many memories and contrasting feelings. The cool, fresh air breathed deep into my lungs. The blue and green hues of an ancient nature place. The long, winding path that could almost defeat you. The challenges, the achievements and the views.
I would recommend giving yourself travel challenges every now and then. It does keep you fit, it can clear your mind and definitely shows you want you’re really capable of by the end. I would also recommend checking out Big Berry camp and its beautiful glamping huts.
Have you climbed a mountain? Would you like to take on a certain travel challenge in the future? Let me know your stories too