Still we climbed, meandering along a narrower trail. Moisture hung in the air and on our breath. We emerged at the top of the ridge, 1400 meters above the azure blue sea. The observatory rose like a spectre in a misty cloak.
A trail along the ridge beckoned with stony stares. We hiked the remaining distance to the platform to get the best views of the surrounding countryside.
On the observation platform were inscribed distances and names of towns visible from each direction. Rolls and waves of clouds swept over us. We waited, hoping for a clearer view, but waited in vain. Visibility was poor that morning. Disappointed, we turned back.
I noticed from my vantage point something I had missed earlier - a sky-diving platform extended down the mountain from the narrow ridge. Enveloped in wispy clouds, its end-point obscured, it gaped mysteriously at us as if in challenge.
As the clouds rolled over us, I got tantalising glimpses of that brilliantly-hued sea below in one direction; tiny hilltop towns dotted the rolling land on the other. What we could see was lovely - rock and forest and fields and villages in a cultural patchwork, a pastoral paradise.
On our way down the mountain, we stopped at a fantastic fountain to refill our water bottles with clear, cold, delicious spring water. A comical 'stone age' gentleman proudly shared his secret stash with us. The trickling spring was a merry addition to the various birds singing happily in Croatian.
The mountain range in the background, the hills in playful formation, the medieval towns dotting their pinnacles, the hues and rich tones of the forests in fall splendor, made for a visual feast for a contented passenger on a casual, unhurried jaunt through that fairyland.
Of course, later that day, we got 'lost' trying to find a konoba (a family-run, locally sourced class of restaurant) rumored to exist in the hills. Ah, well - that, too, is a part of traveling! And in a foreign land with twisting roads and very un-English signs, it is indeed possible to lose one's way from time to time. But even losing one's way can be an experience in itself; I can think of many worse things than wandering about among magical Croatian hills! Looking back, the frustration fades - only the beauty of the mountain mists remains.