Trekking the highest summits of all Balkan countries
FINDING GREAT ADVENTURES requires everything, but traveling to the opposite site of the earth. And there you go. An early fall morning, equipped with my trusty camping gear, food for a few days, camera with plenty of batteries, and lots of positive vibes I boarded the intercity bus from Sofia (Bulgaria) to Skopje (Macedonia). This was the beginning of my new expedition dedicated to the summit of each Balkan country highest peak. A project that will spread across 10 different neighbor countries in the South East of Europe.
After spending the entire morning in various vehicles, I finally made it to the entrance of the Mavrovo National Park. Then I trekked for about 5 hours till I arrived at a small building high in the forest. This was the last border post btw. Macedonia and Albania, where the police were kind enough letting me camp and invited me for a dinner. To my surprise the weather changed dramatically. Huge wind storm and powerful rain were the new masters of the mountain. Fortunately, my tent survived all their attempts for abuse. However, I was praying inside of the mountain to allow me successfully pass thru. I wanted to climb Golem Korab Peak – the highest point of Albania and Macedonia.
Sometimes miracles happen. And the next morning offered me one. Exactly at the predetermined time of my intended departure, the wind and the rain disappeared. Without much hesitation, I packed only the necessary and left the rest in my camp. I wanted to be as fast as possible, because I expected anytime soon the weather to change again.
The path brought me to a relatively young forest full of beech trees. After the storm the air was very fresh. And while I was thinking that I can enjoy the mountain totally alone 6 big shepherd dogs surprised me. They surrounded me quickly and started showing me their frightening teeth. The circle around me was getting smaller and smaller. There was no place to escape. It was just a matter of time till I was attacked. Thank God from behind the threes an old man approached and calmed the dogs by a short verbal order. Seems he was their owner. Even though he spoke only Albanian I managed to understand that he wanted to invite me for a breakfast. Unfortunately, I had to turn down his generous hospitality and to carry on. I wanted to use the good weather window.
The path became very steep. Within 40min I managed to ascend almost 1000m altitude, but this was on the expense of my heartbeat that almost skyrocketed. Suddenly, the forest disappeared and long ridges and big rocks covered the horizon. The views were absolutely phenomenal. Especially after the storm.
Korab Mountain divided Albania from Macedonia all the way from North to South.
Finally, I’ve made it. I was at Golem Korab Peak (2764m). There was no time for celebration or long break, because from NW the strong wind starts picking up again. It was challenging to stand still at the top of the mountain.
Few pictures and I decide to return to my camp ASAP. Descending on the wet rock was tricky. The wind was making the situation even more difficult. Nevertheless, around the early afternoon I was again in front of the border post. To my fortune, there was a visitor with a car, who offered me a ride all the way to Skopje. Immediately after we departed the sky opened. Literally! Rain was pouring like being the end of the world.
Even so, I managed to take the night bus to Kosovo, where my next Balkan Summit was waiting for me.