Flame trees

durmitor national park montenegro

Durmitor National Park (Photo credit: MichaelTyler)

It’s nippy in the mountains, the air in the evening has a perpetual odour of wood smoke, and nearly every house has beside it a little taj-mahalesque woodpile.

I’ll set down some happy memories: the city walls at sunset, the back gardens, and private doors affixed to the walls; the island, finally, rough tracked, overrun with peacocks, the sea off the rocks and a purposeful cruise ship in the neck of water between the mainland; bees crawling over piles of thin-skinned grapes at the market.

A two-hour bus to K— and the afternoon ahead. Scrambled up a hill to a fort, which runs a wall down on each side of the ridge to the old town walls. Sat looking at the barren mountain that towers over the fort, and saw unexpected life. Firstly, hikers taking a zigzagging road, second, animals herding down the road, thirdly, a little house in the valley.

From a hole in the wall, I walked down the valley to an old church, the walls a pale blue. There was a sign saying goat cheese for sale, so the animals were goats. Pomegranates grew wild, the fruit small. A man was collecting brush on his back. There was another way down the mountain, which the family in the house must use, maybe with a horse. It zigzags to the side of the town and is reinforced with stones.

That night we went to sit part way up the mountain with candles and a boombox, and watched the cruise ship reverse and leave.

I stayed then at an apartment, which was someone’s home (I never did quite figure out who), and had a pleasant few hours watching television and reading while my host came and went. They lit the wood stove in the kitchen, which is apparently ubiquitous to kitchens in the country. The boyfriend lit the stove, and the girlfriend prepared coffee, and then they left.

Today I walked to the canyon. The route was difficult to follow confidently. At first the road went past sunny V-shaped cottages, and then for a long time through a pine forest, during which time I encountered few other animal souls, other than one cow and a tractor working a field towards the end, and a man with a chainsaw strapped to the back of his motorbike.

There is a community in the canyon, which opens out to a flat part way down, some fields, and trees turning orange. Coming back, the sun shone between the pine trees in points that swarmed with insects.

Right this instant, I’m listening to Sarah Blasko’s version of Flame Trees, which is coincidently about traveling (home): ‘Oh the flame trees will blind the weary driver  /  And there’s nothing else could set fire to this town’. When I was on the islands, when it was raining and I was in a tight spot, my friend wrote to me about ‘this wonderful world’, and that’s true too.


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