I stare through a plane window as we cruise above Montenegrin mountains, while the sun is setting down. The bird’s eye perspective needs some time to settle in and after a couple of mountains, a familiar mark shows – a small white dot on the top of a peak – the church on Mount Rumija. A sudden burst of emotions hits me. Just a couple of days ago we were there together, for the first time in our life without a guide, just the two of us.
I remember how the grasshoppers jumped all around in front of our steps as we walked through the flat and soft field of grass feeling thankful for these 50 meters of softer ground, after walking all day on knife-edged stones of Mount Rumija. Our crazy decision brought in as a joke, which we both knew was not a joke, was to climb Rumija, by ourselves, from the lakeside. We knew it was harder that way, but we also knew we needed it. It was a run-away from everyday life, it was a struggle to show ourselves we can do it as we knew that by challenging ourselves we get stronger. And we needed to show ourselves that we are strong.
A big part of the hike was through a forest that grew thicker after last year’s wildfires. The ground between the stones was still soft and black and slippery. We thought while going up that our way down will be lots of falling and sliding. We went there silently, following the marks on the trees, occasionally picking wild strawberries, exchanging gasps of views, taking photos of each other, sharing our day with the mountain.
The heavy warm air seemed to hang around us and we felt like we were swimming. There were the crickets and no other sound, nor a single soul on that path to be seen. Just the two of us – and the muffled noise of our footsteps on the rock, tired and slow. It seemed to me that my heavy breathing could be heard on another side of the mountain. We sweated in that hot day gasping for air. We climbed and walked and rested every 10 minutes… But we kept going. Through the forest, higher and higher and then we reached the rocky part.
We knew at that point that we were close to the top and it gave us both some kind of special energy. From that point, we started to almost run. The two of us, who dragged ourselves to the end of the forest, now, jumping from rock to rock. I knew we were going to make it, no matter what. When we reached the final ridge where the sea air shuffles the air from the lake the blanket of clouds parted briefly and showed us the whole magnificence of the world. We started to run, silently, with no thought of stopping. When we reached the top, and the church, that white dot I now see from the plane above, we felt … weightless.
I will never forget how the clouds rolled in from the seaside in front of us while the sky above us was blue and clear, how we lied down in the shade of the church, how the wind from the lake swept the clouds and didn’t allow them to come over the ridge of the mountain, and how we walked that ridge, on the left – sea and huge clouds, rolling and threatening, and the calm lake and clear sky on the right. And you jumping from one stone to another with a sudden energy burst after a hot, long day of climbing. In the shadow of that church, you admitted that you wanted to give up but didn’t want to spoil my day. And I started to laugh because I wanted to give up even earlier but didn’t want to spoil your day. None of us was ready for this day, both of us wanted to cry of tiredness and exhaustion. We both stayed silent. We both fought our own fights inside our heads. I wonder why we are so similar and also so different. Same age, the same type of family we were brought in, same love for the mountain, and everything else completely opposite. My early marriage, your staying with your mom. My children, your Bruno. Jobs. What connects us? Jumping up and down the hills? Energy levels? Or just that the way we re-energise is the mountain – the place where we gather energy for going back to normal lives.
Because of that strange connection, Rumija felt not just more familiar and more home, but closer, deeper into our steps. I sensed an old friend in that mountain and understood a change from the last time we saw each other. Rumija felt like a flourishing girl after a harsh period of fires. Maybe we felt like that by being there.
Mountains fill my life with color. But friends I met there found that special scent of courage inside me, to share those little crazy ideas, nonsensical itchiness to run and climb, explore, to listen to my instincts, and I found out they have the same bugs like I do. You are that person. The person that understands that you don’t spend the rest of your life sitting on your goal when you reach it, but on your way further, on finding that strength to find the additional energy to continue.
We hold on to our everyday habits because they are stability to us. We need stability because we feel unsafe, lost, but we also feel trapped. We need a special kind of strength to face that trap and search for freedom. The mountain gives us that sense of freedom.
Thank you, Bada.
Natasa is an avid hiker, but still discovering herself and the world of hiking. This blog is a place where she shares her thoughts of the mountains.
An economist by education, Natasa is the chief marketing officer of Domain.ME, the international tech company that operates the internet domain “.ME.” She’s spent her entire career at the intersection of airline, banking, social media, leadership and technology, and is constantly trying to figure out the secret to being in three different places at the same time.