VIDEO: Autumn in the Velebit Mountains
The Dabarski Kukovi are one of the most beautiful areas of Velebit, a mythical Croatian mountain in whose ravines, meadows and dense forests bears and packs of wolves prowl, and golden eagles monitor their territory from high altitudes.
Treading the numerous beaten tracks, generations of mountaineers keep on rediscovering the charms of this mountain, which, it seems, they cannot get enough of. And while most of the peaks of Velebit are mild grasslands, meadows, with only a stone cap on top, or are overgrown with forests, Dabarski Kukovi are a realm of bare rock.
The ruggedness of Dabarski Kukovi is perhaps rivalled by that of Hajdučki and Rožanski Kukovi, but nothing matches its monolithic status and the extent of its dominance over the surrounding environment.
Autumn is a magical season on Velebit, as forest turns to their coloured coat. Yellow and red leaves adorn trees and shrubs, colder days become more pleasant to hike during the day, but require warm clothes both in the morning and the evening.
Morning drops of dew sparkle on yellow grass, and the otherwise invisible cobwebs now glitter like pearl necklaces. Fresh air fills the lungs, carrying, besides the smell of vegetation, a scent of wilderness. To the great joy of animals, as well as people, ripe red rosehip fruits are scattered across the grass. The cliffs are now romantic, but from the foot of the mountain.
Here, the famous Premužić Trail starts (or ends, depending on where you are). This magic could last for days but often, ferocious bura wind can blow leaves and leave trees naked.
Standing on the rock, the view from the protruding rock on the edge of a precipice, above beech and silver fir treetops, is absolutely stunning. The stone spine rises above the greens and the yellows of a landscape of meadows and forests, as though it is the fossilised remains of a long-gone, immensely huge dinosaur, Godzilla or some similar monster.
The only difference is that this spine goes on for kilometres, and is hundreds of meters high. Geologists would not agree with this description, and so theirs is the following: limestone, examined through a long period of rock formation prone to erosion by the elements.
Moreover, tectonics arranged the rocks in a regular sequence resembling a wall that rises above giant green valleys, with the highest monolithic rocks, cliffs called kukovi in Croatian.
Resilient beech tree forests resisting steep slopes and meadows turned yellow interchange endlessly. Taking a closer look, kukovi give way to typical karst fragmentation. Towards the peaks, there is less and less dry grass and more and more bare rock.
One moment the sun is shining out there in the open, the next the shadow of a narrow pass looms, as at the foot of a skyscraper in a metropolis, with the only difference being that these are rocks and not tall buildings, and there is no artificial, man-produced sound here that would disturb the peace and quiet.
The only sounds you hear are the rustle of leaves in the breeze and the occasional bird singing. At every corner, you reach a precipitous chasm underneath rocks that look like huge towers or even buildings, flat and smooth as if sculpted by a giant chisel.
One of the summit cliffs is Kiza, on top of which man is the size of an ant. Even during summer, the sturdiest of plants completely shrink before the washed white stone glaring in the scorching sun. Because it radiates high heat, both your eyes and skin suffer. Still, after just a short climb, partly with the help of a cable, you reach the summit. The view from here is breath-taking, but it is not the only one, there is a whole series of peaks.
Some are reachable by hiking trails, while others remain in the silence of Velebit. Bačića Kuk, seen from the north, is the first in a row of cliffs and the highest, with, according to many, the most beautiful view of the entire string of peaks: Kukaline, Butinovaća, Kiza, Grabar, Ljubičko Brdo, to mention but a few of the most striking ones in a nearly ten-kilometre-long sequence.
Dabarski kukovi and the Velebit mountains are, in general, attractive in all seasons. Because of the proximity of the sea, it is alluring even in hot summer days, when what tourists seek is a fresh breeze and the untainted scent of nature with a view of the awe-inspiring Dabarski Kukovi.
See other videos and photos on Goran Šafarek’s Instagram
Main photo credit: Mico Samardzija