There is a film starring Hugh Grant that I have always enjoyed, in fact it is based on a true story, and is called “The Man Who Went up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain.” I did just the opposite of this at the weekend. I went up a mountain and came down a hill.
The very next day after several hundred women climbed to the top of the 1,234 metre peak of Sniježnica I did the same thing. Instead of a hundred women on Sniježnica this was a married couple and two dogs on Sniježnica. Now right at the start I have to be honest and say that I have never really been a great fan of walking up hills and mountains and anything that has snow. Far from it, if it’s flat it’s fine, if its uphill I avoid. However, “carpe diem” as I have never been to the top of the highest peak in the region before I agreed to my wife’s proposal.
Yes, my wife is the hiker in our family, well my wife and our two dogs to be more precise. I have always thought it strange that the mountain was 1,234 metres high, seems like perfect symmetry. But to make matters even more strange did you know that there is a drop in the Adriatic, almost directly opposite of Sniježnica which is 1,234 metre deep. Now that is the Twilight Zone!
Se we set off, with me still thinking that I would be able to conquer the 34 metres and leave the 1,200 to another day. Firstly, what an absolutely glorious piece of countryside, world class! We parked at the bottom and the evidence of the hundreds of women who had trod this route just the day before was everywhere, hanging in the air, almost mocking me.
The start, well the start almost finished me early on. My calves started to burn, my lungs exploded and my knees locked up. If it was going to be like this the whole way to the top, I would need the Mountain Rescue to fly in with a helicopter soon. But just like sex the more I tried the easier it became. “Are you sure you are OK,” asked my wife as sweat ran down my forehead. I nodded. I would have answered her with a “yes, I’m fine, what a lovely view,” but my lungs could either breath or speak, not the two at the same time. Marathon runners say that when running at some point you hit an imaginary wall that stops you in your tracks and you just have to push on through it. It had hit the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China and if Trump had built a wall, then his as well.
Thankfully my saviour was Mother Nature. I have seen some beautiful nature in my time on this earth but the views from the Sniježnica mountain must be up there in the top three. “Shall we stop for a rest,” asked my wife. I wanted to say “I thought you’d never ask,” but yes you guessed it I just nodded in agreement. I collapsed to the grassy floor like one of Mike Tyson’s opponents.
My dog and I had something in common – both out tongues were hanging out gasping for water.
And then as I lay crumpled on the grass I suddenly realised why hiking up mountains is so popular. It is completely silent. The whistle of the wind, the occasional bird and that is about it. Way above the hustle and bustle of the Dubrovnik café bars I soaked up the peace like a sponge. We pushed further upwards. Would I need an oxygen bottle? To be honest I could have done with a bottle about 300 metres from my car. And then Mother Nature decided to change the situation. I was in good form now, my muscles had warmed up and I was leaping like a mountain goat. But the weather had closed in.
Low clouds, or fog, I don’t really know the difference, had covered the top and was coming down towards us. Just my luck. I’ll get to the top of this bloody thing and won’t be able to see my hand in front of my face! So we reached the 1,000 metre mark, so near and yet so far, and decided to take an alternative route back down. Like I said, I went up a mountain and came down a hill. We climbed over a small ridge and before us an incredible panorama, the snow topped mountains in the distance peeking through the clouds.
I think it was George Bernard Shaw who described Montenegro as a “sea of mountains,” he wasn’t wrong. Unspoilt nature as far as the eye could see and apart from the path we were walking on, not a manmade object in sight. Mankind can build the highest buildings, paint the most exquisite paintings, design the most beautiful objects but we will never ever get anywhere close to the magnificence of nature, not even close. I will be back Sniježnica, and next time I am coming to sit on your head!