Part 1: Mount Ucka Lookout (Vojak)
11.07.2011 43 °C
Hi there --- missed me? I've been gone a while - visiting real life you know ;0) More fun to travel I can assure you - lol. I'm back to let you know about the rest of my trip. A little while ago I wrote about getting life sustaining, beautiful, refreshing drinking water from this very same mountain. Today we go to the summit! Summit Vojak (pronounced Voyak). I've been waiting a while to go, however, it has been so hot and muggy that virtually any scenery to be viewed from the summit would be nothing other than haze --- not pleasant to be sure. Today it is really hot even at this early morning hour and I can only imagine what the day has in store for us. I am really hoping that today the air will be a bit crisper at the top of the mountain because right now - in this moment - it doesn't look so good ... BUT I really want to go to the top - so we go! We cannot keep hoping that there will be this perfect day to visit the summit because the way the temperature is going it will be sweltering every day.
The drive up the mountain (way past the water spina) is quite lovely - all those trees.
A little bit about the summit before I go on. The peak ridge of the Ucka massif is dominated by its highest peak, Vojak, rising 1,401 metres above sea level. The peak of Ucka is the habitat of numerous rare and protected plant species (of course I took pictures). One can drive up the mountain as far as you can go (at your own risk --- there is a sign that indicates once you go past this spot then all bets are off - lol) or one can follow one of the many hiking trails available. This mountain has a lot to offer nature enthusiasts.
Well Irma and myself decided to test her little car and take it to as far as was possible and yay I'm glad we did because if we had left it where the sign saying to go on was at your own risk - well that would have been a real nice hike up to the summit ;0) As it was, where we parked the car was as far as the car itself was allowed to go --- we still had to walk up a stony-pebbly path to reach the observation tower. At this point the air still had a slightly cool tinge to it but it was heating up fast - a sweater was not required on this outing.
At the peak there is an observation tower, a TV mast and what I'm told is a military tower as well, although, I cannot find documented info about this (mind you I did not take the time to really look that hard either) - the information comes strictly from the locals I have spoken to (old timers who have seen and know much). I guess it seems warranted as there were many men dressed in military looking garb and had military jeeps as well. I doubt they were there only for the TV mast ;0)
So this is a view of the summit from the car many miles away - followed by a zoomed in view and finally a couple of the actual size when we finally arrived (notice the mugginess in the shots - whew).
The stone tower (observation tower) was built by mountain climbers and nature enthusiasts in 1911 and believe me - offers unforgettable panoramic views of Istria, the Bay of Kvarner etc to even Italy (providing the day is crisp and clear of which it was not on this adventure).
Today, inside the tower there is an information center and souvenir shop (neat stuff) managed by the Ucka Nature Park institution. On the roof of the tower there are telescopes installed in order to offer close up views of the surrounding panorama. It was real neat to use it to see our house and the Clock Tower up close from such a distance. This is the best I could do with the zoom lens on my camera.
As I had mentioned briefly, the peak of Ucka is the habitat of numerous rare and protected plant species. As I walked the ridge I came across some beautiful flowers that I thought were stunning and spent many a minute admiring their beauty as well as trying my best to capture that beauty on film. Enjoy! I do not know their names unfortunately and since I did not want to spend the money on the book of flowers in the souvenir shop I had to content myself with simple admiration. The one flower I did recognize was the Bell Flower (Campanula tommasiniana), however, what I did not know was that this is the only habitat it grows in. In other words, this particular Campanula is endemic to Ucka and only grows here and nowhere else in the world. For the unitiated these are the small purple Bell-like looking flowers. I had heard of a local who had taken at one point a plant from the mountain and tried to grow it in the valley .... didn't survive ;0( So word to the wise - admire from afar and leave the plants alone.
We left going up the observation tower till the end of our little mountain ridge trek. Again - all this is at your own risk ... there aren't any guard rails or any safety measures in place. The ridge itself is quite (very) wide so it isn't as if you'll slip and fall into an abyss. Highly recommended are good grip shoes ---- or if you are like my aunt Irma who grew up in this environment and walked everywhere as a child - you develop what I call 'goat feet' = no chance ever of slipping and falling - LOL. I really admired how she hopped, skipped and jumped among the rocks (wearing sandals) while I was gingerly placing my feet in exactly the right spot so as to not land flat on my derriere. Oh c'mon now --- stop laughing - LOL .... remember I am in physio for weakened muscle structure so I have an excuse ;0)
It is said (in a brochure) that in the summer months from the tower one can watch Eurasian griffon vultures and golden eagles flying over the area. I saw not one nor the other ;0( But then again it was getting hot and humid even at the peak that the view was compromised and if they were there I could not see them.
It really is too bad the air was not clear or else the scenery and photos would be stunning. So after stopping in the tower to explore the wares in the souvenir shop, we went walking along the mountain ridge.
All along this ridge is from where the pictures of the flowers were taken. The outward beauty was just as lovely.
Here we are!
This alcove of trees looked very inviting - only thing is I couldn't see the ground where they were so decided the wise thing to do was soak in its beauty from afar ;0)
So after we explored the ridge a bit - it went on and on and on ..... we decided to call it quits and visit the top of the observation tower. We could have continued on as it would have been interesting to see how far we could go and take in all the beauty of the hills, bodies of water, valley etc, however, the summit was not our only objective today. The summit in the morning and Opatija in the afternoon (more on that in another entry).
So we climb a few winding steps to the top and wow! What scenery from a bird's eye view ;0) The ledge was made of marble and scratched into the marble was a crude map describing what you were seeing from any vantage point.
A lovely plaque describing Vojac.
Ahhh yes - I did forget to mention one thing --- when the weather is just right, this summit is home to hang gliders. None were present on this day, however, here is a picture of the take-off spot. Notice the ramp they run down to fling themselves off the mountain top?
Here you can see how high the peak is and how much higher when standing on the highest point of the observation tower (lookout = vidikovac). It is not by much, however, I liked this stone carving and wanted to show it - Ha!
Now, hopefully, is the piece de resistance - LOL. I will make an attempt at imbedding a couple of small clips showing the panorama of the summit. Well, I tried, however, even though the clips are short they won't upload as they say the files are too large --- go figure! So you will all have to content yourselves with the photos scattered amidst this entry and use your imagination for the rest ;0)
And that concludes the narration for this day at Vojak - the Mount Ucka Summit. Part 2 (Opatija) to follow in another entry ;0)