This may be too much information, but I will forever remember the hike to Doberdol as the time I spent all day trying not to poop.

You may recall I started to feel sick after arriving in Valbona on day six of my Peaks of the Balkans trek. I got the chills, felt super fatigued and lost my appetite. When I woke up the morning of day seven, the fatigue remained, my legs felt like jelly and, to put it nicely, some digestive issues set in. I popped some Pepto Bismol before we set off by car for Cerem and hoped for the best. We skipped the hike between Valbona and Cerem due to my limited time and the fact that most of the route was just asphalt road – not very interesting.

I warned Mentor (my guide) that I needed to go very, very slowly that day. Luckily, it was not as hot as the previous day and, like the way from Theth to Valbona, part of the trail went through the woods, shielding the sun. The hike was very up and down, but luckily not of the ascents or descents were overly steep. As we got closer to the village of Balcin, we passed a large herd of cows and a flock of sheep, of which I took about a hundred pictures (ok, maybe not that many, but at least a few dozen).

As we headed through one pasture, several young kids came running out to greet us, inviting us to their hut for some Turkish coffee. Now, strong Turkish coffee was about the last thing my rumbling stomach needed but I didn’t want to turn down the hospitality, so I accepted. I also thought I could use the rest. I popped another Pepto right afterwards, just to be on the safe side.

The kids were hilarious – one boy was from a different family and as I finished my Turkish coffee, he asked if I wanted some tea, trying to get me to go to his home too. Before we left, Mentor took a picture with me and the children and after he did, the boy in the red tank top below told him “it better not end up on Facebook.” What?!?

Shortly after that, things got a little confusing. Mentor was up ahead of me, leading the way through a field of tall grass when he paused and told me to wait where I was. He proceeded to walk one way and then the other, eventually heading further away from me toward some woods. When I met up with him again, he said the path had moved – that it wasn’t where it used to be and he was trying to find it. He suggested a shortcut down a steep bank to a river down below, but I refused. It was nearly vertical and I knew my jelly legs couldn’t handle it!

So we walked a couple hundred feet through the field a different direction and then went back the way we came. Mentor pulled out his map and GPS and eventually concluded that we should return to the path we initially followed. A few minutes later, we were standing in front of a very clear path just a few feet from where we had been before and I could not figure out for the life of me how Mentor missed it or, if he did see it, why we didn’t just go that way in the first place! Throughout the trek, I often felt like he made things harder than they needed to be and this was just another example.

The final climb to Doberdol was brutally steep and rocky and I was completely exhausted by the time we reached the shepherd’s hut where we would spent the night. This would be the one night when we were really roughing it – no electricity, no plumbing and sleeping in a stone and wood hut on mattresses that were laid out side by side, just slightly raised from the dirt floor. After a couple trips to the outhouse (remember the first sentence of this post?), I claimed the mattress furthest from the door and soon snuggled in under a couple thick blankets, hoping that I might be lucky enough to have the place to myself for the night.

So I was initially a little annoyed when I was awoken from my nap by the sound of men’s voices just outside. I emerged to find four young French guys who had just arrived and would be staying the night as well. I soon got past my annoyance, though, when they turned out to be quite friendly (and cute!) and fluent in English. Max, Alex, Gaspar and Bautiste were also trekking the Peaks of the Balkans, although on a slightly different route than I was following and without a guide. We ate dinner together (to the extent I could eat anything, I just slurped some soup and nibbled on some rice) and then they pulled out a deck of cards to play “President” – better known to Americans as “Asshole.” I am proud to say I kind of kicked their butts. It was one of the highlights of the whole trip (not just beating them in cards, but hanging out in general).

Unfortunately, my night was a bit restless. While there was no electricity in the hut, the owner had hung up a light bulb in the room where we slept that was connected to a battery/generator thing. No one turned it off before we turned in for the night and it shone right on me. I also had to get up no fewer than three times to use the outhouse and each time I returned, I tried to figure out how to turn the light off, but couldn’t. Add in my accumulated aches and pains from seven days of hiking and I tossed and turned all night. I’m not sure I really slept at all. Not exactly the best preparation for the final day of the trek…

Total distance hiked: 15.6 kilometers (just under 10 miles)

Total hours hiked: 6.5

Total ascent: 1025 meters; Total descent: 440 meters

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