Photobucket is back in action so it's time to move on with RR
Another early wake up. First meal after 24 hours feels really good.
I'm packing as slow as possible, waiting for the morning sun to warm the air. Did I say that camp is located by the lake? Well, it is. After four nights of camping I was looking forward to finally taking a swim. It's about time to get rid of all the dust. On the other hand I want to get moving as soon as possible because this day is supposed to be very long and I don't know where I could camp that night. Compromise: go for the swim as soon as it stopped being cold outside :) Man, that swim was heavenly good...
In the morning camp looked more like some sort of open commune, with people spending better parts of summer here, away from urban life. It just felt natural to be there.
This sculpture was made by one of the guys "living" here. He was extremely proud of his work and insisted that I should go and check it out. That water you can see flowing is from the nearby spring and there is also a cup somewhere at the sculpture... It looks so wrong, pervert and great at the same time, I couldn't stop laughing...
When I wanted to pay for last nights beer and camping there was a simple response: The air here is free, you came as a guest... Again, kindness and openness of total strangers catches me by surprise.
I skip beers, vine and sljivovica
(home made plum brandy, basicly national drink in Serbia and Bosnia) which are already being consumed. Everybody is talking about forecasted rain for that afternoon and following days. That gets me thinking... I still have at least five days to ride, all of it in areas completely unknown to me. Tires on my bike are road oriented and they don't go well together with off-road riding in wet conditions. Riding and camping in rain for few days really doesn't appeal to me, it would be a real shame to force anything. Decision time: ride as planned for half a day and then check the forecast. If it looks bad I'll slowly turn toward home, if it looks promising I'll finish the ride as planned.
First thing to visit on this day is scenic overlook at Uvac river canyon (the river is dammed so that's the reason for the lake-side camping). Road there is in good condition and I enjoy riding.
After several attempts I manage to find the overlook. Basically, if you don't know exact location there is very little chance to find it, you have to go trough fences and somebodies property... Uvac canyon is Nature Park, only habitat of griffon vulture in Serbia. When the park was established species was at the extinction point. Few decades, and much effort, later population is thriving. Nice, sunny day, meandering river below, flock of at least 30 huge birds in the air and no other humans around... It hardly gets better than this.
Short video from the overlook:
Back to the bike, as I started rolling I came across large group of mountain climbers (when I say large we're talking about bus-full, 40-50 people) going toward overlook. I was just so glad that they didn't arrive 30 minutes earlier and that I had the place for myself.
Next stop is at peak of Golija
mountain, Jankov Kamen
some 50-60 km away. Plan is to get there using forest roads. Once again I have absolutely no idea if roads are passable or not. Beginning is promising, wide hard-packed dirt roads. First village, second village, road gets progressively worse. At one intersection still decent road goes straight forward, GPS says that I should turn left to road in not so good condition. Ruts from tractors, large holes. I'm lucky because it is bone dry. If it was wet mud would probably swallow me :)
This is dust cloud after few minutes of being stopped...
This whole area reminded me of foothills of a mountain (well, 530 m mountain can hardly be called mountain...) near my home town. Most of the ground is being cultivated and there are no notable peaks anywhere. GPS says we're more than 1300 m high...
Little later I come across a guy laying under the tree, looking after his cows. He confirms that this is the right road with my favorite words:
"Just go straight... Can't miss it."
Directions like this are usually good and true, at least until you reach first fork in the road. Road becomes bad, overgrown bushes, deep tire tracks embeded in now dry mud. GPS says that I should turn left but I can't even see the road there. Nothing to do but to press on. Voice inside my head:
-"At least it's dry."
64,21 m later and we're in muddy section. Water puddles are streaching across the road, no way around them. Luckily mud isn't sticky or to slippery so it's not a problem to ride trough. It's becoming obvious that I'm moving away from planned route but stubbornness doesn't allow me to turn around. Few minutes later I get to god dirt road and soon it takes me back to my planed route. No photos from that bad section, but to be honest it wasn't as bad as it may sound from my description.
This road is nice for riding. It winds trough shade of the forest, good for relaxing. Many intersections later I find myself on this great forest road, following the stream. I'm looking some nice place to take a swim but there is no "perfect" spot. And, as usual, when trying to find perfect spot you end up with nothing. Road turns back into the hills, away from the stream.
For some reason I'm not enjoying the ride anymore. It can be that I'm tired from days spent on the road (first longer trip). Another thing is that I find it difficult to be amazed by nature after riding trough Bosnia and Montenegro in first couple of days. Riding in terrain similar to that from back home (dirt road trough forest without great open viewvs) is not apealing right now...
Without GPS navigation here would be almost impossible. Directions that you can get from locals are usually along these lines:
"Just go straight" or
"Just follow the main road."
There are simply to many crossroads, same road sometimes looks like major forest road and then soon turns into something little better than a track.
Just look at all the roads in the photo above. It is not a single road winding its way up the hill...
And then, just as I had enough, dirt road turns into cobblestone and forest somehow looked better. I was really surprised to see another vehicle here but there it was, regular family car. Soon there was another car and then one more. Next scene catches me by surprise: just as I approach one parked car doors open and 2-3 girls, all dressed up with high heels and everything get out... Road is in bad shape if your'e in low sedan so the driver made them walk... High heels and walking in forest, got me thinking, trying to find any connection. No photos, sorry :)
I come across small waterfall by the road. This time I'm not missing opportunity to cool my head, it's blistering hot outside. To me there is something special anytime I'm able to drink water straight from the stream... It just feels good to be connected with nature like that... Of course, none of the cars stops and they look at me like I'm some sort of circus attraction.
Soon after the waterfall we're back on the main road, going across Golija. Pavement lasts almost two kilometers before road turns into excellent gravel. Traffic is heavy, there were at least six cars :) Road is not that good for them so they are moving slowly. Being on dual sport bike means that gravel is almost same as pavement which translates to me not moving slowly :) It's a quick ride toward Jankov Kamen peak. Time for lunch break, picking blueberries and generally enjoying myself. Half a day is gone, with less than one third of distance covered. And much of the remaining distance is off-road, again on the roads that I'm not even sure exist...
This is point where I have to make decision, going home or finishing the trip as planned. Few phone calls to the control room back home confirm that weather forecast doesn't look promising. Afternoon showers today and tomorrow and rain for the next few days. If I stick to the original plan that would mean that I'll be furthest away from home, in area that I wanted to visit for at least five years (Stara Planina mountain, in south-eastern Serbia, bordering with Bulgaria), just in time when regular rains are forecasted. Seems like waste of time to me, no way I could enjoy riding and camping in rain, no matter how much I wanted to go...
Also, by now, I was sick and tired from being nervous every afternoon when I realize that there is much ground to be covered and little time to do it (completely my fault, off course. Planned distances for every day proved to be to long for my style of riding, slowly and stopping oh-so-often to take photos. On the other hand, I had all the time in the world to do this ride, no pressure what so ever. I could ride half as much each day and take my time. But stubbornness is a bitch... Another thing is that planned camping locations for every day were just perfect and it would be shame to spend a night in the middle of the forest when you can spend it by very scenic lake.).
Other option is to turn toward home from there. Spend this night at some nice place on a mountain and then ride home tomorrow. Even if it rains tomorrow it wouldn't matter because I'll be sticking to pavement and sleep in my bad that night.
So that was it... Relieved on one side, and feeling bad about quiting, on the other, I choose second option. GPS becomes useless. It's time to get the paper map out and plan fun ride back home. New destination for today is lake Zaovinsko in Tara National Park. Idea is to get there combining tarmac roads with few off-road sections I ridden earlier that year with organized group. Off course, plans are there to be broken