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Čikola Valley – from top to bottom, and then back up again

You could draw a flow chart for this trip. This was a time to make choices. To walk or not, to traverse the valley or not, to ascend by the path, or the track….Each time one option was known and visible, the other was into the unknown.

You could draw a flow chart for this trip. This was a time to make choices. To walk or not, to traverse the valley or not, to ascend by the path, or the track….Each time one option was known and visible, the other was into the unknown. Of the initial party of 15 only 7 ended up on the path ascent. Pauls first choice was a No. He took on the task of guarding the bus.

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Our first reason for walking was to see the Castle- Kljucica, this only required a gentle downhill stroll on a really well made path, with benches to rest at each hairpin. Perhaps 20 minutes. An easy start and well rewarded with the spectacular ruins across the valley. The castle from this view-point seems small. Insignificant against the enormity of the surrounding hills, it is only as the walk continues into the valley that the proportions of this fortress become apparent, where it would guard the bridge across the river. The bridge isn’t there any more, but there are many traces of where walls and other structures have been built by the river. Descending to the river bed took us out of the glare of the sun, but took us into the territory of the mosquito- a particularly aggressive kind of bug. Hungry as if they don’t get too many sweet-blooded people down here. As long as we kept walking they weren’t too troublesome, but this is no place for a picnic.

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I took the choice here to follow the river bed upstream, at this time of year the only water is in small pools, there is no flowing river, so you can walk in the bed of river-washed pebbles. This walk of perhaps 1.5 Km takes you through the varieties of ancient river bed. Small smooth pebbles, sinuously sculpted bedrock, and larger boulders. Each brought their own challenge for walking, particularly the damp and slippery rock. Form here you can clearly see the line that the water has reached, perhaps 3m deep, but this only flows on the surface for a few days a year. The rest of the time, any water there is passes in the network of caves and tunnels below the river bed.

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While there is no sound of a rushing river, this cool and verdant gorge is filled with every variety of birdsong.

Continuing up ‘river’ the path diverts off to the left and starts a gradual climb up out of the valley, passing on the way the cave, that in my imagination would house a fridge to pass chilled lemonade to travellers, but on the occasion of our visit was deserted.

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It was around here that we camp across Joso and Tatjana. Mountain guides familiar with the area. The last bit of the route up to meet the road was no more than a sheep path, necessitating the use of hands as well as feet. For those without vertigo the view was breathtaking, for those who didn’t like the exposure the view was nose to the rock- sometimes it helps not to look down.

Eventually we arrived back at a road. With different choices this afternoon could have been 1) a nap, 2) a stroll to look at a fortress, or 3) a grand day out, with birds scenery, rock formations, caves, great company, and a bit of cussing towards the end.

I was pleased with my choices.

Joanna

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