Croatian hiker Alen Kozić sets off on Monday, 15 March, on the Croatian Long Distance Trail, a 2250 km-long hiking trail that connects the easternmost, northernmost, westernmost and southernmost points of Croatia.
Alen, who is from Zagreb, will set off on his gruelling adventure from the easternmost town in Croatia, Ilok, before going through Vukovar, Osijek, Beli Manastir, Krndija, Papuk, Koprivnica, Kalnik, Sv.Martin na Muri, Ivanščica, Medvednica, Zumberk, Gorski Kotar, Risnjak, Buzet, Savudrija, Matulji, Senj, Velebit, Knin, Dinara, Omiš, Biokovo, Pelješac, Dubrovnik to Prevlaka in southern Croatia.
Alen says that the trail will take him between 100-110 days to complete.
“So far only three people have walked this trail, and I hope to endure to the end and become fourth,” he says, before adding.
“This kind of tour is extremely physically strenuous because the mileage of one marathon is covered daily, but with great ascents, descents, over mud, sharp stones, slippery wet roots, water, through blackberries, nettles, thorns. In all weather conditions, day in, day out for a hundred days.”
Alen will also face other dangers that lurk when man is alone in the wild, often away from civilisation, such as poisonous snakes, bears, wolves, aggressive dogs, wild boars, hornets, mosquitoes and ticks that transmit serious diseases.
“I had a close relative who died and a good friend who remained severely disabled from a disease from a tick. It is not nice to meet ten illegal migrants in the woods, nor to sleep alone in a tent in the woods where twenty meters away all night you screeches and squeals,” Alen says.
In order for someone to be able to cover this distance and endure all this, they must be physically fit and strong-willed and stable, or as Alen jokes, totally insane in the head.
“I have been training and mountaineering every day for a long time, especially in the last few months I get up every morning at 5 am and cross a minimum of 10, and often over 20 and 30 forest kilometres a day.”
Alen will carry everything he needs for the 100-plus day trail in a backpack on my back. Inside will be food, water, a tent, a bag and a bunch of other necessary equipment for this kind of endeavour.
“90% of the time I will spend the night in my tent. I think I coordinated and combined the equipment well, each component has been tested many times in several days of short hiking and in all weather conditions. Of course, on such a long and demanding walk, it is to be expected that not everything will go as I imagined, and one must be ready to adapt to surprises and new, usually worse, situations,” Alen adds.
Alen has modified and adjusted his diet so that he could cover the huge caloric consumption of hiking for 10-12 hours a day without carrying a lot of weight at the same time.
“I reduced my body weight from the initial 123.5 kg on 1.12.2020. to my current weight of 107.5kg. The weight will probably go even lower because it is very difficult to meet energy needs in the long run when you are in the wild with a limited choice of food.”
To make it even tougher, Alen is diabetic and he had to lower and stabilise his blood sugar levels to normal in preparation for the adventure. After 5 years of taking medication daily, he has managed to now maintain his sugar levels without medication.
Alen also had a set back back in October last year when he raptured his MCL ligament in his left knee in Kalnik.
“The pain was severe, I was limping for two months and I had to heal it as soon as possible so that I could be ready in March for the Croatian Long Distance Trail. By walking every day, exercising according to the instructions of a specialist doctor and physiotherapist, I managed to repair this very inconvenient injury, and by losing 16 kg I managed to reduce the load on my knees and ligaments at the same time. Although the injured area still hurts now and then, I can say that the injury is 95% healed and keep your fingers crossed that it will not create some chronic knee pain once I start walking long distances daily.”
Alen plans to vlog his adventure on his YouTube channel which you can follow here.
Check out a video of what he is packing in his backpack for the adventure.