Off-road Touring, Beautiful Balkans

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Gliga, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    OK... After many years of lurking around time has finally come to give something back to the Community. This is story about my first two real motorcycle trips. First trip covers Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and South-western Serbia. Second trip covers Southern and Eastern parts of Serbia. I'm shutter happy so there will be A LOT of photos. This is my attempt to show you small part of EX Yugoslavia, destination unknown and exotic to most inmates. I hope you'll enjoy it :)

    Bike is 2006 Kawasaki KLE500, parallel twin with retuned Ninja EX500 engine.

    Considering my lack of experience, as this was my second riding season, plan was ambitious: 11 days of solo off-road riding, wild camping every night, almost zero mechanical knowledge. What could possibly go wrong... :D

    The route was planned using Google Earth. Many days, night and eventually weeks were spent trying to connect routes trough areas mostly unknown to me. Route was then transferred to magical device from 2002, Garmin Geoko 201. First setback: Geko can store only 10 track logs, each 500 points long. Not that good when there is more than 2000km to cover... Some possible alternative routes were saved, well, as routes.

    Here are few teaser shots, just to give you some idea about what lies ahead :evil

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    What do you mean "There are to many pictures"? Ha? You've seen nothing yet :lol3


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    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Beautiful riding :thumb

    :lurk
    #2
  3. STisma

    STisma Been here awhile

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    Vrlo dobro :lurk Keep it coming kolega!
    #3
  4. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Night before departure looked like this

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    For start of the real trip I had to transfer myself from Novi Sad, Serbia where I live, to Travnik, Bosnia. 400km of paved roads, last 200 are even enjoyable as the road twist trough hilly region. Easy ride, just to get me into mood.

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    First day of actual riding was 80km long circle over Vlasic mountain. This was first opportunity to test if my navigation method will work in reality. Short day with no luggage.

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    That zig-zag line you see on the hill is road I'll be taking

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    Climb to Vlasic is attractive. There is little traffic, hillside is very steep and the views are getting better and better with every turn.

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    Time to leave pavement... First brake is at Devecanske stene, close to the mountain hut. Cliffs are situated at the top of very steep hillside, valley floor is some 1200m below. That's the place where I had my first (and only) climbing experience.

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    Next stop is at Paljenik, peak of Vlasic. Until the '90s this was military communication center with underground bunkers and everything. One of those "better don't get close" places. Skies look threatening but I got lucky with only few spots of rain. Good thing as rain gear was safe at home...

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    Next stretch of the road is first unknown part to me. Line on satellite images and now line on small GPS screen... Start is beautiful, gentle hills covered with grass, nice dirt road. This is how I imagine Mongolian landscape :)

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    Road quickly deteriorates and soon it looks more like river bed than actual road. One thing I don't like about my bike is its low clearance. To low... I try riding on grass parallel to the road but it's not much better. Hidden rocks and ditches everywhere :) This doesn't look promising. First day and planned route is in much, much worse than anything I hoped for. Funny thing is that this looked like really good and used road on GE, in following days there are many that looked much worse than this. Oh, yeah, one more thing: I don't know if I'll be able to finish this circle or I'll have to ride the same way back.

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    Luckily for me this bad stretch proves to be rather short. Soon enough I'm back on normal road. Seeing passenger car brings smile to my face because that means the road is easily passable.

    One more break before heading back to the base.

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    I get on the bike, press starter button and nothing happens. Remember that low clearance I talked about? Well, side stand switch is lowest part of the bike, below skid plate. Few well placed rock hits did the trick. I immediately knew what was the problem so out came bikes tool set. Wires disconnected, others connected and we're back in action.

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    Ride back to the valley is nice, better than I expected.

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    Back in civilization I decide to take a shortcut. After few hundred meters pavement ends and I come across narrow wooden bridge. Go across or turn around? Straight forward, off course. I stop in middle of the bridge, nice photo opportunity. Strangely whole world moves from side to side. Moment later logic kicks in, it's not the world that is moving, bridge is so unstable... First gear and gaaaaaas :D

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    I get back home and five minutes later rain starts. Perfect timing :D


    Few things were obvious from this test run:
    -if road looks good on satellite image that doesn't mean it will be good road in reality.
    -It takes much, much more time to cover ground than I thought. Planning stage: "pffff, that's short. It's just few centimeters on computer screen. I'll be there in no time at all." In reality: "damn... It's soooo looooong..." I'm talking about distances of few kilometers, not longer.
    #4
  5. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

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    Awesome ride and report! Don't worry about 'too many pictures', you take some great shots so keep them coming. :clap

    What are your thoughts about the mine situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Some people strongly advise against any offroad riding because of the land mine situation. But maybe it is safe as long as you stay on roads and tracks, no?

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    I want to be in Balkan this summer/autumn and would love to ride some of the beautiful routes in your pictures. I found the Paljenik pass on Google Maps, but I can't quite figure out the route you took afterwards.

    Which route did you take from the Paljenik peak? The one further south towards the east?


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    #5
  6. STOP

    STOP Been here awhile

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    Druze odlicno :clap

    Great stuff comrade :freaky :D
    #6
  7. aeneas

    aeneas Adventurer

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    Interesting start of your ride and I like the photos !
    #7
  8. Drosera

    Drosera n00b

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    Absolutely marvelous.

    And same here, Balkan trip in the makings, and would like some backroads-sections in it as well this summer.

    Would you mind sharing those gps-tracks?


    Please keep the pics coming!
    #8
  9. francs

    francs Been here awhile

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    Don't joke with mine signs. They do exaggerate with them but you never know. Last year slovinian paraglider landed on mine field and lost both legs (just above Sarajevo) and he was lucky to survive.
    You should be safe on roads and tracks (but stay on them if there are Mine signs).
    Cheers Franc
    #9
  10. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Thanks for comments everybody. I'm glad you like RR. Plenty more to come :1drink

    I added track log to previous post. Each day will have its own track log.



    As long as you stay on roads that are being used (tracks, mountain paths, whatever) there's no problem with mines. 17 years have past since war ended, by now it's obvious if road is being used or not. Once You're there ask locals, they will know. If You're interested in some specific area feel free to contact me and I'll contact Bosnian locals who should know better :thumbup
    #10
  11. roadruns

    roadruns n00b

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    Great photos and thoroughly enjoying this. Great ride :clap
    #11
  12. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Day two started with 30km long, twisty and beautiful, tarmac section, from Novi Travnik to Bugojno. Day ends in Sarajevo. There are two standard roads between Travnik and Sarajevo, each about 90km long and jammed with traffic. My planned route will take me long way 'round, 330km of mostly offroad :evil

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    After Bugojno I leave pavement and find myself on perfect gravel road. White as snow, smooth as silk. Road follows stream with crystal clear water.

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    Plan is to climb to the top of Radusa mountain. Turnoff to Radusa is blocked by gate, surrounded by "beware of MINES" signs. Not really a great place to start trespassing :lol3 My planned alternative involved 10-15km backtrack and then 30km tarmac ride. But, as luck would have it, there was one road that wasn't gated and in no time I was moving again. It was soon obvious that this road is taking me in desired direction. All that time spent planning and in the end it's down to improvisation :D

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    I rejoin with planned alternative route exactly at the spot where tarmac ends. Can't be any better than that. Behind the trees there is a nice lake, it's hot outside and quick dip would be great. Unfortunately I don't have enough time...

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    Another photo break at roadside quarry. Whole hill, possibly whole mountain, is made from white gravel. I have never seen anything like that. That gave some clue behind snow-white road.

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    During the war this area was scene of heavy fighting. Villages were thorughly "cleaned" of previous occupants and destroyed. Air is filled with haze from distant forest fires.

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    Explosive beauty...It was like this for 15-20 kilometers, signs everywhere and nature so beautiful and unspoiled. Pissing in the middle of the road, no risk involved :huh

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    Before to long I rejoin with original route and find myself back on pavement. One minute later I'm on gravel again. Soooo proud of route planing right now :lol3 For some reason I didn't enjoy this next section. Loose fist-sized gravel and loaded bike don't go well together.

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    Ramsko lake looks beautiful from distance.

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    Then, in middle of nowhere I come across a stretch of badly poured, concrete slab road. Soon concrete was gone and it was back to tarmac again. I never understood those short, paved sections of road surrounded bay gravel on both sides. And I've seen fair share of them...

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    Once again I find my self in civilization, this time it's perfect newly paved road. I was disappointed when I saw tarmac because this next section should be great gravel road. After few turns pavement ends and smile returned to my face. Road is now just as wide with gentle corners and great gravel. Turn by turn my confidence rises, right hand is doing it's magic with throttle... Two minutes in and I have this huge smile on my face, something like this guy :D 20km of motorcycling heaven... Pine tree forest and its smell. Not another soul in sight...

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    Your's truly :)


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    Road opens, speed goes up. Tank slapper at 80km/h instantly reminds me of how fragile human bodie is. Time to slow down to sightseeing speed :lol3 And then I see it. Highlight of this day, 2200 m high Cvrsnica mountain on horizon. And I'm headed to the top...

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    To be continiued :wink:
    #12
  13. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Day two, continiued
    Next break is at medieval necropolis at Dugo Polje, close to Blidinje jezero lake. There are several of those necropolises in different parts of Bosnia.

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    After short pavement section around Bldinje lake it's time to start ascent to Cvrsnica. Road to the top is some 12km long with some steeper sections with loose rocks but nothing to difficult.

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    And then some more...

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    Feet over the edge, ridge of Cvrsnica mountain


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    At the top there is another ex military communication center. 25 years ago I would be in trouble just for trying to get close, let alone for photographing the place... There are several stories from those times where mountain climbers were intercepted by military just for taking pictures on nearby mountain tops... Now it's used for civil purposes and nobody cares if you're there. View is amazing. Valley (actually a plateau) with lake is some 1100m below, long and steep way down.

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    It was one of those really special and emotional moments. Warm sun and beautiful views. I could sit there for hours, just taking it all in. One look at the watch confirms what was already obvious: it's late, there is only couple hours of daylight left and I'm on a half way point... Time to roll.

    Descent was more demanding than the climb. I even managed to find some leftover snow (this was mid July).

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    Once down from the top I found myself on nice gravel road. I felt inspired so speed went up and up (all the way up to 60-70km/h 40-45mph :) For me that's fast when road is covered with rocks larger than fists).

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    At one point I realized that I'm no longer following tracklog. Since I don't like back tracking and this road is great for riding I decide to press on. After hitting one larger rock I slow down. Even then almost every contact with rocks produces nasty sound which makes me question front tire integrity. I come across some foresters who confirm that this road will take me to Mostar, 30km further from Sarajevo than I expected. They didn't know if my originally planed route is passable (mines and landslides) so I definitely decide to stay on this road. What they didn't tell me is that there are almost 40km to Mostar, half of that on gravel.

    Bike begins to behave funny, front tire is soft but not empty. Jet... I have all tools and knowledge necessary to patch the tire but decide to try reach civilization and tire shop. Riding very gingerly I reach tarmac. This was probably first time I was glad to see pavement. Tire still had some air in it so I managed to reach Mostar and gas station.

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    Mostar from above. Mostar is famous for its Old Brigde, as seen on next picture from one of my previous visits

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    I inflate the tire and wait some time to see if it will hold pressure. Few guys offer to help me but it's to late by that time and all tire repair shops are closed. After few minutes tire still looked good so I decided to move on. Now I knew that I could reach Sarajevo, even if it required frequent stops. Considering tire situation and the fact it was already dark I skipped last 40km long offroad section. 150km and 5 stops later I reach Sarajevo.

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    Tomorrow I took front tube out in order to patch it. I spent half an hour trying to locate the hole but there was no hole at all. In reality tire was probably just under inflated. After hitting several rocks I became paranoid and that was it. Further paranoia was fueled by different pressure reading at every gas station where I stopped. Ah, the funny games that brain can play... :norton


    Next time: Two short day rides around Sarajevo. After that it's back to scheduled adventure program :D
    #13
  14. Hair

    Hair Outside the boxer

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    Wow, Wow and wow.

    Can I come and ride with you? Please
    #14
  15. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    We could figure out something :ricky

    There is plenty more to come. Nature is simply breathtakingly beautiful, unspoiled wilderness. Bosnia and Montenegro have most attractive mountains in this region.
    #15
  16. svestenik

    svestenik armchair adventurer

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    Vidio sam vec na BJB-u, ali postavljeno na ovom forumu ima svoju magiju :).

    Jos jednom, svaka cast :).

    Great writing, beautiful pics :). Subscribed.

    Since I am living in the place where this report unfolds, if anyone needs a direct update to mine situation, feel free to contact me.

    Cheers :) .
    #16
  17. scottyaustria

    scottyaustria Adventurer

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    I´m in.....:super:tb:lurk
    #17
  18. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Short intermezzo no.1

    After "repairing" front tube during morning everything was ready for afternoon ride with my sister. Perfect weather and tank full of gas.

    Pale, Jahorina mountain (ski center for 1984 winter olympics). Short offroad section at the top of the mountain, few more abandoned military locations.

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    Moment when you realize that you're on a track, surrounded by a minefield... Priceless. Especially when you have to turn around :lol3 (that red sign on the right side of picture...)

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    If You look carefully there are "Danger, MINES" signs in both photos above.


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    After Jahorina it's time to return home. New road over Trebevic mountain is perfect for riding. Turn after turn after turn. Just flowing...

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    Control tower gave us permission to land :p


    On the way home we bought supplies for evening barbecue, farewell dinner. Since I was supposed to leave in the morning I finished all mandatory preparations:

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    And it looked even uglier once it was finished.. :rofl
    #18
  19. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Intermezzo No.2

    One look trough the window in the morning is all it takes to convince me to postpone departure. Rain, cold, very low clouds. Since most of planned ride would be in beautiful high mountains there was no sense to leave and ride in a cloud all day long.

    By early afternoon weather improved and we decided to go for another short ride. This time, as advised by my sister, destination is vodopad Skakavac (waterfall) on Bukovik mountain. Another place I haven't seen before. Waterfall is some 15km away from Sarajevo city center, road is not marked that well. As we got closer a bell begin to ring in my head. Few years ago I was planning some rides around Sarajevo and I remember that there was one large waterfall. All the pictures that I saw then came back to my mind and soon I had that giant smile across my face. In few moments You'll see why :D

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    Waterfall is around 100 m high, they don't get much higher than that around here. You're following small picturesque stream trough the forest and than BAM...You find yourself at the edge of a cliff... Pictures don't do this place justice, not even close...

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    Am I pretty or what? :augie

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    There is also a long path to the base of the falls but we didn't have time to explore it.

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    Deja vu... Surrounding looks familiar. I was never here before but... With some mental map drawing I realize that there is a possibility we will soon get to a place where I once turned around. This is same area where I made my first biking steps three years before (third ride ever was here, second ride was more or less same as in previous post). Back then I was coming from opposite direction but I still wasn't sure it was the same path. Five turns later we arrive at that spot. Circle completed. Another emotional moment for me. This bike belonged to my father who died in traffic accident few days after I was here three years ago. This whole ride was full of such moment and that's why it will have special place in my heart...

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    This whole area was once (before the war...) very popular picnic site for people from Sarajevo. Now it's just ruins and beautiful nature.

    Short ride back to Sarajevo and another evening barbecue. This was a bad day to start "proper" ride but it proved to be perfect for short excursion. We didn't see a single drop of rain which was great considering the fact that rain suit remained safe back home :)


    I didn't bring GPS for this ride so track is drawn in GE, it is completely accurate. If you ever find yourself in Sarajevo don't miss opportunity to visit Skakavac waterfall. It's close and it's accessible by a car (15 min of walking required). Google Earth is your friend :)

    Track log:
    http://www.megafileupload.com/en/file/388538/Vodopad-Skakavac-gpx.html
    #19
  20. Spalato

    Spalato Adventurer

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    Bravo Gliga

    Great pictures great roads ride on:clap
    #20