Active in Croatia met with Srećko Vukov, the creative force behind the Via Adriatica hiking trail. We covered the main conditions that hikers need to meet to be able to finish this adventure, what are the possible dangerous situations hikers can find themselves in during the journey and went through the list of gear needed.
by Zlatko Tomšić
A long holiday in the mountains
Time needed to complete the whole 1000 kilometers is 70 days plus or minus 20 days. Time will depend on a variety of factors such as weather, physical endurance, number of detours and selfies taken – the route can be traveled even outside these limits.
It takes endurance
Profile of the hiker that completes the whole route is a person that has done several multi-day trips in the wild, carrying all of their supplies (around 20kg). He or she sees walking all day for several days in a row as a relaxing experience.
“There are no demanding technical sections. Hikers don’t need to carry alpine equipment or to know alpine techniques. There is just one section of via ferrata in the whole trail. For the hikers not comfortable using it, there is a detour that avoids it completely. – Srećko says.
It’s good to have angels
Via Adriatica is designed to be used by mostly self-sufficient hikers. There are however a couple of prolonged stretches where the route is not passing through villages with grocery stores. Here the hiker has to rely on the help from the support crew or on building a network of trail angels. These are the good souls that voluntarily help by leaving supplies along the course. The place to find your angels and exchange information with other hikers is a Facebook group “Via Adriatica – hikers corner”.
GPS device is a must
Most of the route is marked and follows local hiking trails, but for ease of use and dependability, Srećko told us that the best way to navigate is by following GPS route that he provides for free. “Having a map and a compass is always a good idea, but along the route there will be situations when you are cold, surrounded by fog and need quick and accurate navigation instructions. And for this kind of situations, and general ease of use I warmly recommend GPS navigation device.”
Be prepared for bad weather
Besides the sheer length of the trail, the biggest obstacle that the hikers face is the changing weather. Hikers must be prepared for cold temperatures even in the summer months. “I always like to point out that meteorological station on Zavžan has recorded snowfall in every month of the year. So you have to be prepared for temperatures from minus 10 to plus 35 degrees centigrade.”
Changes in temperature are not the only obstacle. Via Adriatica is routed on the border between continental and Mediterranean climate. This meeting of climates creates bura – strong cold wind blowing from the inland. When the forecast calls for bura, it is best to seek shelter. Always keep an eye on meteorological warnings issued by Croatian meteo service.
Don’t leave anything behind
“We hope that hikers will be able to enjoy the trail and not leave any trace behind them. We insist on the use of gas cookers, not leaving any waste and having respect for wildlife.” – similarly to most nature lovers, Srećko is passionate about protecting the wilderness.
It’s a wild animals’ home
Regarding wildlife, the route passes habitats of three poisonous serpent species and predators such as grey wolf, lynx and grey bear. While this may sound like very dangerous, measures of precaution are straightforward.
“In general animals are afraid of humans and run away when they sense somebody coming. Snakes feel the vibrations coming from the footsteps, and hiking poles scare them away. Bears, wolves, and lynx also have a great sense of smell and will stay away from the people. Main advice is not to stay quiet. Noise will drive away the animals. When stopping for a break always check the area around you. You don’t want to disturb a nest or habitat as the animals will defend it. With these simple precautions, you can ensure that you will not disturb the animals and be safe.
Srećko warns that you can have a scary moment even without encountering the animal in question: “On Pelješac there is a type of harmless jackal, but that has a loud howl and sounds like it comes straight from a horror movie. The first time we slept there we did not know what it was. Let’s say that was not the best night sleep I ever got.”
He offered some advice regarding measures of precautions: “It is always a good idea to post your position and plan to our Facebook group. In case of emergency, the universal number to call in Croatia is 112. There you can contact Mountain Rescue service.
Croatian Mountain Rescue besides being very fast and reliable in need, are famous for their social media presence. The best way to follow HGSS is on Twitter or Facebook. They mostly post in Croatian, but the important information is posted in English too.
“Good three season tent, sleeping bag with feather fill and a quality sleeping pad – these three are the starting point. For navigation – a dedicated GPS device, and a 10.000 mAh power bank battery. The battery should be charged whenever possible as it charges not only GPS device but also a mobile phone. The phone is another essential part of the equipment. To complete the entire route, you need proper hiking shoes. Running shoes can be used on some sections, and if you have space, you can carry a pair for comfort. Other clothing should be suited to conditions – waterproof and windproof. As a backup, a map and a compass are always good to have, and a first aid kit. To be on a safe side, I recommend water purifying tablets. When combining cooking water with tablets, you are sure to have clean water. For cooking use gas cooker, using precautions as not to cause a wildfire. Starting an open fire is should be avoided for the same reason.”
And some final words of advice: With proper preparation and gear Via Adriatica can be an adventure of a lifetime. There is so much to see and experience along the route. Take a camera or a notepad along to record your journey and don’t forget to share.
In the end always behave responsibly and leave the trail as you found it so the others can have the same experience as you.