How I was stranded in a European forest for over 13 hours! (Hike gone wrong) Last Updated: April 25, 2022
I took a 3-month sabbatical and went on a solo adventure to Europe.
I made sure to solo travel the entire duration of my visa validity which was 90 days.
My trip included travelling to all the Balkan countries, one of them being Montenegro.
Before I start explaining my story, I just want to tell you that solo travel is awesome. Don’t let this experience make you think otherwise.
It is important to be cautious while travelling alone but it is a very rewarding experience. Shit can happen to anyone anywhere. We just need to embrace the uncertainty that life comes with. You do what you can and leave the rest to the universe
So here’s what happened with me –
I travelled to Kotor, Montenegro by taking a bus from Dubrovnik, Croatia. One of the best parts of solo travelling is meeting new people along the way. I met a guy from France when I was in Dubrovnik who was also a solo traveller and was following a similar itinerary as me.
Coincidentally we ended up at the same hostel in Kotor (Montenegro) and decided to explore this cute little town together.
We were staying in the Old Town of Kotor which was beautiful. The guys at the hostel recommended we do the popular Vrmac Ridge Hike for the mesmerizing views.
I decided to tag along with my French friend despite being anxious about long hikes.
We started off at around 11 AM on our second day in Kotor and walked all the way to the outside of Kotor town which was not very far away. From there, it was about 4 hours uphill to the Vrmac Ridge.
We made it up there around 4:30 – 5 PM. The views were totally worth the hike! You can see The Bay of Kotor on one side and the Boka Bay on the other. We spent a few minutes soaking in the beauty of the place before descending as it was getting closer to the sunset, which was supposed to be around 6:15 PM.
It was close to 5:30 PM when we started descending. The duration of the descent was about 2.5 hours.
For some reason, I relied a lot on my French friend throughout. I believe since he is from Europe and has hiked enough in different parts of the continent, it was safe to trust him with everything.
He was following Google Maps throughout the journey.
Google Maps showed us two routes to descend: One was the common one that is recommended and taken by everyone while the other one was the road not taken (get the Robert Frost reference? ;))
The only difference was that the normal route would take about 2.5 hours to reach the other side of the mountain while the road less taken would take only 30 minutes or so (as per Google!)
Since we were nearing sunset time, we decided to take the lesser-known route. We walked for about 20 minutes in a forested area until we realized there was no path all of a sudden to go ahead.
It was getting dark already. My friend panicked and decided to slide down the rocks in the hope of finding a path. I wasn’t sure what to do. But, since I blindly trusted him, I followed him too!
We slid down for about 5 minutes until we noticed it was only getting steeper and steeper from here. By this time, the sun had already set.
It was past sunset. We were stranded. There were no fellow hikers or locals around to help us.
I wanted to use the torchlight from my phone to go back up and find a path but it would be a stupid decision to do that. We decided to stay put until the sun was out again.
With two bananas, one protein bar and half a bottle of water on us, we had to survive that night.
As a solo traveller from India, I make sure to be in touch with my parents and update them about my whereabouts regularly. But there was no way to reach them in the forest. No network at all. We also shouted for help too but we knew it was pointless to do that.
We could see the town on the other side but there was no path to get there.
It was 6:30 PM when we were stranded and the sunrise happened at 7:30 AM the next day. Throughout the night, we couldn’t sleep as it was too cold up there. I was also worried about the wild animals in the forest but my friend assured me there were none. We entertained ourselves with our travel stories from the past throughout that night since we couldn’t sleep.
I tried to stay optimistic and strong instead of getting anxious.
We finally attempted to get back on our toes and find a path that can get us to the other town when the sun was out at around 7:30 AM.
Since we had slid down, we had to crawl back up taking support from the rocks and tree branches. Some of the plants had thorns and we had a few cuts here and there. After crawling up for about 2 hours, we finally managed to find the path that led us to the normal route of descent.
From here, it was another 2.5 hours to go all the way down to the main street. I had no energy to do that so we hitchhiked all the way to the other town and got a cab to go back to our hostel.
I hadn’t spoken to my family for over 27 hours. When I got back to the hostel and had access to their wifi, I had 45 missed calls in total from every single family member and some friends in Europe.
Because of all the stress, my parents didn’t eat or sleep the whole night. The Indian Embassy in Montenegro was involved to look for me and there were Whatsapp messages being forwards to all possible contacts in Europe who could help.
My family and friends bombarded the Old Town Hostel with calls. This is where I was staying. The staff was very calm and helpful in dealing with this situation. They patiently waited for me to come back and also updated my friends and family that I was safe.
This incident happened only 15 days into my solo travel adventure. It took me 3 entire days to convince my parents that I am fine and I would like to travel for longer.
I feel eternally grateful for making it back safely without any serious injuries but this story will remain with me for a lifetime and will always be a lesson for me to not blindly trust anyone.
On your solo travel, it is essential to be fully aware and look out for yourself all the time. I have always double checked everything for myself after this experience and not blindly followed anyone out of trust.
People have asked if I am scared to go hiking after this experience. My answer to them is no. I started reinforcing my mind by telling myself that if I could survive this, I could survive any other regular hike.
I went on a few small hikes on my trip after this experience but I made sure I am always surrounded by people in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
After I shared this story on social media, something funny happened. A girl messaged me on Instagram and told me she went hiking the same trail and followed Google Maps and had a very similar situation.
Here are some takeaways:
- Don’t always rely on Google Maps. It can be misleading. Follow the signboards and follow the route that most people take
- Don’t blindly trust anyone while solo travelling. Double-check your facts
- Carry an emergency kit with extra food supplies and water if you go on such long hikes
- Try to go for hikes with a guide or a local
- Keep calm if you fall into such scary situations. No point stressing out
- Don’t take your life for granted. Be grateful for everything!\
Hope this article helps anyone and everyone who wants to solo travel.
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