Off-road Touring, Beautiful Balkans

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

  1. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    103,236
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    This is an amazing story. Some of the scenery looks like the Laramie Mountains in Wyoming in the US and the rest of it looks like it's from a fairy tale. Looking forward to more.
    #61
  2. bsheet2

    bsheet2 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    152
    Wow! Very nice.
    #62
  3. zapsx

    zapsx n00b

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8
    Location:
    Vác area, Hungary
    I'm in, great ride report. Plan to make it down this side of the world sometime in the future as its not to far from Hungary. Cheers
    #63
  4. iamstomper

    iamstomper n00b

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2010
    Oddometer:
    8
    Location:
    zanesville, ohio
    The most breath taking photos i have ever seen, good job` what a great trip
    #64
  5. therion

    therion Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2009
    Oddometer:
    21
    Location:
    Austria
    Gliga, thanks for sharing your amazing pictures und tracks.
    Actually i´m planning a similar trip to Bosnia this september. Your tracks are very useful for me.:clap
    #65
  6. Daliss

    Daliss n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2011
    Oddometer:
    9
    Location:
    Czech
    very nice report. Thanks for that :ricky
    I like balkan country. Mountains in Bosna are very beatiful. I was there last year a I want to come back :clap
    #66
  7. panFiluta

    panFiluta n00b

    Joined:
    May 21, 2009
    Oddometer:
    9
    Location:
    middle of Middle Europe
    Great pictures and storytelling!

    I'm planning to visit this area later this year. As I have switched from 650 Dakar to 650 V-Strom I was looking more for paved roads but your photos make me drool...

    Do you think the tracks (or most of them) would be possible for a "street-bike-pretending-to-be-enduro" such as V-Strom (with common farkles like crash bars and skid plate) or will its low clearance be a problem more often than not?
    #67
  8. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Thanks for the compliments guys, it means a lot :freaky I've been busy with some projects lately so this RR is on hold. Hopefully there will be another installment in next few days. :norton


    People have gone to Mongolia with V-Stroms :)

    Most of the roads are decent gravel. If you keep the speed down there should be no problems with clearance. Few rough sections are short (less than 1-2 km each) so it shouldn't be a problem even if you hit some rocks with a skid plate (it happens to me every time when I try to speed up. KLE has low ground clearance...)
    #68
  9. gurumarvy

    gurumarvy Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    43
    Location:
    Central Europe - Czech
    Great report, and great photographs :clap:clap
    This year we also want to drive through Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia.
    #69
  10. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Cool, I just managed to close my browser with half of the post done. What a way to motivate yourself :D


    Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, DAY SIX

    Being at the bottom of the canyon I knew that I shouldn't rely on Sun to wake me up. First time I wake up I got out of the tent. Another perfect morning, warm and without a single cloud. And it was early, hour earlier than my usual "on road" wake up time, which was good considering that I knew nothing about planned route.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Road out of the canyon leads trough forest so it's difficult to get a nice view. My camping spot was right beside that hut. Meadow on the left side is beautiful alpine lake during snow melting season.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Just before road turns into pavement again there is another phenomenal viewpoint. Gentle, grass covered, slope with few pine trees right at the edge of canyon. Even though I just started riding there is no way I could miss the opportunity to chill out in place like this. Few minutes later two 4x4 arrived, packed with tourists. They were excited to be there. For me the perfect moment was gone... Relaxing in nature and large, loud, groups of people don't go together if you ask me.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Road toward Zabljak is, by now well known, fun single lane tarmac. I'm taking it easy, just trying to soak it all in. There were some forest fires in the area so the air is not clear as it should be.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    It was quick and very fun ride down to Tara canyon. Perfect twisty road, almost no traffic, time to get the heart rate up :wink: There is a bridge at the bottom of the canyon, and what a bridge! Djurdjevica Tara, most attractive and highest bridge in area. There is something about the bridges that draws me to them, I just want to sit in the middle with my feet over the edge... It was no wonder why I was excited about this one. First time crossing, I stood on the pegs and rode as slow as possible. Then it was time to cross it by foot. River below is Tara, famous rafting place. Tara canyon is among deepest in the world. Few years ago there were plans to build a dam which would flood large parts of the canyon. As far as I know common sense prevailed and there will be no dam. Anyway, enough talking.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Feet over the edge. I could stay there for hours. Amazing place.


    On the other side I tried to find off road route back to the top of the canyon. First attempt ended at somebody's gate. Second on somebody's meadow. Third attempt was ended by overgrown vegetation blocking the road. Oh well, there is nothing wrong with perfect twisty tarmac either. :ricky Soon after I got out of the canyon it was time to leave pavement. Gravel road is perfect, smooth as silk. I got to some village, road is fenced on both sides. Suddenly there is a flock of sparrows flying in front of me. Instead of flying higher they decide to follow the road. We were "racing" each other for few corners before they broke away. That really made my day. It's little but special things like this that count...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Further into the forest I come across a shepherd. Just to start a conversation I ask about directions. He goes on giving very detailed instructions with village names and every intersection. I didn't remember any of it. "I have my magical green box to show me a way" :norton Actualy, there was one thing I remembered: "at the first intersection don't let the road take you to the left". Or to the right??? Or was that for the first or second crossroad??? You get the point and you now how it's going to end :D He also tells me that these roads are used for organized 4x4 rides. And that this whole area is rich in coal or some minerals, mining companies are starting to survey the area. If that's the case I'm afraid it won't be long before this pristine nature gets destroyed "for greater good" :puke1

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    I move on and get to first intersection. "Don't let the road take you right..." Why bother listening to directions when I have a GPS. Well, little magical green box doesn't work very well at the bottom of the steep valley, in dense forest. I go left... From the start it is obvious that the road is in much worse condition. After few hundred meters there is a log across the road. I don't even try to cross it so it's back to previous road. Next intersection. "Don't let the road take you right..." Words ring in my head...

    Road to the left looks normal. One on the right is overgrown with grass and there is a stream which I should cross. GPS points to the right, sort of. I decide to try the "main" road but it soon becomes obvious that I'm getting further away from my planned route. It turns out that this is actually one of my planned alternative "get me back to pavement" routes. Since I don't want to go on tarmac it's time for another U-turn. That leaves me with grass covered road and easy water crossing. It is used so much that somebody made improvised table and chairs from logs in the middle of the road. Ha, I remembered that part from shepherd's story. There is also a water spring there so it's time for a short break. It's baking hot by this time, even in forest, so refreshment is appreciated.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    After another water crossing road becomes better again. Another intersection: "Don't let the road take you right". GPS is totally useless, it has no signal at all. Without any doubt I go to the right. Road is slippery and climbs steeply up the hill. After a short while I get to a clearing in forest ans GPS manages to receive signal and shouts to me: "The old men told you not to go right, why you had to go right???" :D Well, OK, it's time for another backtrack. By that time this was becoming very amusing and I was almost laughing inside my helmet. Of-course, road to the left was the right one. Soon I was out of the forest, there were even few houses along the way. I joined with another, even better, gravel road and stopped to take some photos.

    [​IMG]


    I move on but the bike feels strange. " No, I'm tripping again, it's the gravel". Two seconds later it is clear that I'm not tripping, rear end is dancing like crazy. Tire is punctured... This is the "Oh, shit..." moment. In the winter I changed my tires for the first time. I wanted to practice taking them on and off. Back then I managed to replace front tire without much difficulties. I even managed to replace rear tire, although I pinched the tube while putting it back on. There was no way I could break the bead on new tire. Back then it ended with short walk to tire repair shop.

    If this had happened just five minutes earlier I would be surrounded by forest without any clue how far the civilization is. But from this point I could see houses in the distance, and the houses means cars, cars mean transport options. Untypically for me I didn't get angry or nervous. Even though I knew that there is no way to break the bead I just had to try. Off course, tire irons were at the bottom of the roll bag so I had to take everything out :) "Maybe it will be easier because tire is not new anymore..." No, still can't do it. " Maybe if I jump on it?" No go. "Lets try the side stand trick" Now, that was interesting... Balancing the bike on center stand while trying to position tire under side stand. But no luck. "Hmmmm, maybe if I scream and swear a lot?" No.Still nothing.

    After few minutes this old granny approached me. She couldn't help with the tire but gave me some information. It turns out that there is a paved road only few kilometers from here, from there it would be possible to hitchhike to nearest town. Now, that sounded like a plan. Let's call it Plan C. Plan A was hopping that I'll somehow manage to take the tire off by myself. Plan B was waiting for a car to pass by and then using the car to break the bead. Why not? I watched Youtube clips, people did that. What could possibly go wrong??? :wink:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #70
  11. Darel

    Darel Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    Oddometer:
    186
    Location:
    Slovenia
    i was serving my military time back there in nineties in Montenegro. Sure it brings back some memories. Thank you for some really excelent pics.
    For amers and others: we use to serve obligatory army time (one year) at that time.. that was in former Yu. Some good and some bad memories. Good thing is I learned their language so:
    Stvarno se nadam da če ove godine doči dole i odvoziti neke od tih ruta. Svaka čast za ovaj putopis. vidi se da imaš smisla za fotografija i ako imaš i neke slike iz Uglija (iznad Podgorice) molio bi te da jih objaviš. Hvala :clap
    #71
  12. egret

    egret noob

    Joined:
    May 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    361
    Location:
    Perth , WA
    Beautiful country mate , similar with your north of the Danube neighbour. Thank you for takeing me along . I miss Romania now :cry
    -zie egret .
    #72
  13. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Thanks for the compliments :)

    Kao sto vidis iz prilozenih slika ovo je pravi raj za voznju, definitivno vredi obilaska. Podgorici nisam prilazio tako da nemam slika iz tog kraja. Moze biti da ce se ove sezone situacija popraviti :)
    #73
  14. TobyG

    TobyG be happy :)

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    612
    Location:
    Nemčija
    Wow.
    Great thread.

    Quite inspiring as I will go to the Balkans in summer (July-August), myself.
    Can you, as a local, recommened any good, detailed maps showing even small paths of the region?

    Thanks for the tracks by the way, I might check out some of these military installations :)
    #74
  15. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    DAY SIX CONTINUED:

    So, as I'm trying to break a bead of the tire I hear this great sound approaching me: a diesel engine. It'a a van... I stop the guy and ask him about tire repair shops and whether he could help me. Conversation goes something like this:
    -"Where is nearest tire repair shop?"
    -"In Pljevlja city" (On my route, some 30 km away.)
    -"Can you help me to take the tire off?"
    -"Nothing I can do about that. Where are you going?"
    -"Pljevlja and then to Serbia"
    -"The van is empty, I can take you to the nearest tarmac. I'm going to Bjelo Polje (80 km away in somewhat opposite direction), I know a guy who owns a tire repair shop and he could help you."

    Two nanoseconds of thinking later:
    -"Of course I'm going to Bjelo Polje, I was just joking when I said that I wanted to go to Pljevlja." :rofl

    Next obstacle was getting the bike into the van. He doesn't have any ramp or board and the bike is to heavy for two of us. Not a problem: Side road where I stopped is cut into the slope. You can already guess: "ramp was exactly same height as van's cargo space. It was just a matter of backing the van to the ramp and rolling the bike in, easy three minutes.

    By this time I have a huge smile on my face. Problem is solved now, I just have to enjoy this short break from riding. Only "negative" thing is that I'll have to drop one off-road section which would take me to some caves. "Sacrifice" I really don't mind making at this point :D

    We managed to tie the bike using some ropes and my luggage straps and that was it. Less than one hour after tire got punctured I was on my way to tire repair shop. Funny thing is that this road is almost never being used. This guy passed there only once before, and that was twenty years ago... How much more luck could I have??? Not much, probably. :freaky

    It was pleasant and relaxing hour and half drive toward Bjelo Polje town. We got to the tire repair shop and unloaded the bike. I asked the van driver how much do I owe him for the ride.
    -"Nothing... I'm just glad that I could help you..."

    He wouldn't accept any money, no matter how much I insisted. I'm speechless...

    At tire repair shop I had to wait for my turn. During that time owner's mother came to me, offering me food and drinks.
    -"I know how it feels to be stranded on the road..."

    I'm total stranger to them and yet they just want to help. I'm speechless again.

    Once the guy started working on my tire he came out of the shop with confused look on his face.
    -"There is nothing in the tire. I can't find what caused the puncture"

    Well, of course he couldn't find it, I pulled that son of a $#@% out :)

    By the time he finished with repair other customers started gathering around me. Everyone wanted to talk, offering help or what ever.

    I was bracing my self when it was time to pay for service. But, as I should know by that time, there was no reason to worry. Total cost for taking the tire off, patching it and putting it back on the rim was three Euros... Fuck... I pay more just for tire swap back home... Owner insisted that I should stop there for a coffee any time I pass by.

    Speechless again. It's that simple kindness from total strangers, something that's difficult to experience in big cities... It just felt so humbling.

    No photos from the van ride or any of the participants in this action :) This is tire repair shop.

    [​IMG]


    It was late afternoon by the time I got moving again. Short ride toward border and without much waiting I'm in Serbia. Next off-road section starts just few kilometers from the border. I'm going to Ticje Polje, ethno village. Since it is sort of a tourist destination I was expecting decent road. One look at the bridge, at the very beginning of this road made it clear that my logic might be bad :)

    [​IMG]


    First part of the road is steep with loose rocks and switchbacks. It's 6 PM now, there is less than two hours of daylight. I don't know how long will it take me to reach tarmac on the other side. Common sense said that I should skip all this and just take normal, paved road all the way. Screw common sense, I'm in adventure mode now :wink: What could possibly go wrong anyway...

    Of course, by this time I'm not enjoying the ride. After that first difficult climb road gets better. It goes trough pine forest and across some meadows.

    [​IMG]


    Once again it's time to push stress levels off the charts:
    Rutted uphill dirt road, I'm riding on right side. There are some branches at head height, I tuck my head down behind windshield, slow down and start to loose balance. Bike is tilted beyond the point where I can hold it, especially on slippery terrain. You can guess the result :muutt

    [​IMG]


    Wheels are facing slightly uphill, I'm tired and bike is loaded. Few attempts to pick the bike up yield nothing. Just as I was starting to get really pissed this lady comes over to me:
    -"Why didn't you use this normal road?" Pointing on normal, parallel road...
    -"Didn't see it" :)

    First thing she does when she finally got close to me was to clean dust from my back :D
    -"Oh, you got so dirty... Are you hurt, can you pick the bike by yourself?"
    Yes, no and no :D

    So we manage to pick the bike up, it's so much easier with another set of hands (lady is probably over 60 years old...). Left foot rest is slightly bent, annoying but nothing serious. Time to move on.

    After that road becomes normal again. I pass trough one or two very scenic villages before arriving to Ticje Polje.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    I was really looking forward to seeing this place. From photos I saw while preparing the route it looked amazing. I was hoping that there will be enough time for longer visit, to take some nice pictures. It was sunset at this point, perfect time for photography. Common sense said that I should call it a day and spend the night here. Stubborn part of my personality said that "giving up" is not an option. Tomorrow is supposed to be a really long day, it wouldn't help if I add even more kilometers.

    I asked locals for directions, and this time I listened very closely.
    -"Follow this road, when you get to the pass go left. Road after that is in really bad condition but you should have no problems on the bike. Don't go right at the pass, that road would take you to village named XYZ..."

    So, I'm riding toward the pass. Once again road is rutted. For some reason, or no reason at all, I decided to slow down and pick my line. Once again I loose my balance, there is nowhere to put my foot down because I'm right above a rut. :muutt

    [​IMG]

    Look at those glorious golden sun rays. One of nicest sunset photos I took :)


    I get up, look around and see this old shepherd. This time I don't even try to pick the bike up by myself. Damage to the bike this time: broken clutch lever and slightly bent centerstand, from turning the bike on the ground. Clutch lever broke at almost perfect spot, now I have just enough room for two fingers :)

    [​IMG]


    It is worth mentioning that those two people who helped me to pick the bike up are only two people I have seen on that section (outside of the villages, of course). Obviously I have great talent for choosing the right place to fall down :freaky I was so lucky on this day that it's still hard to believe it was all truth...

    Anyway, I was to pissed off to take any pictures after that. It was late, sun went below horizon, and I had unknown distance to cover...


    Road toward the pass is extremely scenic. It goes around the hill on exposed southern slope. Colors are just amazing. In any other circumstances this would be very close to the perfect ride. Now it looked more like a nightmare :) There was indeed intersection on the pass. Both GPS and instructions from the locals told that I should go left so left it was. What a surprise: road is so deteriorated with deep ruts all over the place. And it is steep. It is very obvious that its not being used for quite some time. "But locals told me it will take me where I want to go..." I manage to descent that first steep section with only one thing on my mind:

    -"Man, I'm sooooo glad that I'm going in this direction and not uphill"

    After that steep section road becomes better. Now it's regular gravel, overgrown with grass (imagine "handlebar height" tall). After kilometer or so it became clear why this road looks abandoned. There is stream bed above the road, there is stream bed going away from the road. And, to top it all, there is a stream bed right across the road. Maybe two meters deep and wide, full of football (soccer) size rocks. It looks like there is a path across and road on the other side appears to be in better shape. For few short seconds I was actually thinking about trying to cross it, with a bike. Common sense finally kicks in with full force:
    -"You're an idiot if you try to cross. You might as well burn the bike with remaining petrol once it gets stuck at the bottom. Just turn around and go back to the village, it's to late to fool around..."

    Once I got home and after reviewing GPS data it became clear just how close to normal roads i was. Less than 200 m away was another crossroad which would take me back to civilization.

    There are no pictures of this section. You have track log at the end of this post so feel free to find out how it looks for yourself :huh :rofl

    So I listened, it's back to the village. There was only one thing in the way. Remember that last, steep and rutted hill? Well, now it was time to climb it. Somewhere close to the top I loose my concentration and end up in a rut. Bike is stranded, pegs are jammed at both sides of the rut and rear wheel is off the ground. Few minutes of cursing and shouting later I somehow manage to pull it out. Now the right foot rest is slightly bent. At this point I don't care, I just want to call it a day.

    Once at the pass it was time to kick common sense in the balls. I'm stubborn and don't like giving up. Going back to that village would feel like failure to me. So, instead of turning right toward the village I turned left. That road is hardly visible on GE so I assumed it goes nowhere...
    -"I'll just go for few kilometers, the road will surely be bad and then it would be OK to turn back"

    Sun was gone by now and it was getting dark but the road just kept going on. Soon after I came across another shepherd (by this time it was completely natural to come across people where ever and when ever I need them), he confirmed that this road goes trough and that it would take me to my planned destination:

    -"Just go straight, with that bike you could be in Sjenica in less than twenty minutes. Road keeps getting better from here and soon you'll be on tarmac."

    Those words were like music to my ears. Better road, tarmac... Less than two minutes after that encounter I came across fork in the road. Fu#%^@ing "just go straight" directions!!! I decide to follow road which appeared to be in better condition. Soon after I see this old Lada Niva parked in forest. Man, was I glad to see it or what! After the road crested the hill I saw most beautiful sight ever: wide twisty road down below... :clap It was such a relief to be back on tarmac... And, just like that last shepherd said, in less than 20 minutes I was back in civilization. It was time to buy some food for dinner and breakfast and move on to the campsite.

    To make things interesting last 2-3 kilometers to campsite are on dirt roads. GPS is useless as I didn't put that last bit of tracklog. There are no signs either. It was time for more luck: At every intersection I came across people, either walking or driving cars. Like somebody placed them there, just to give me directions. Luck was definitely on my side that day. I don't know what I have done to deserve it but I'm not complaining :lol3

    Once again, very moment I got off the bike any sign of nervousness was gone, replaced by total euphoria and smile that goes around whole head. This was proper campsite and there were few people around. Guy who runs it is sort of famous in local 4x4 circles and there was another family, also involved in 4x4 off road scene. It was fun night around campfire, swapping stories helped by a beer or two.

    What a day. It lasted for eternity and, looking back, I loved every single second of it :ricky
    #75
  16. TigerMike

    TigerMike boob

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Oddometer:
    28
    Location:
    SoCal
    Thank goodness the clutch lever broke at the right spot! Fantastic trip so far, nicely done! :D
    #76
  17. francs

    francs Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    276
    Location:
    Ljubljana Slovenija
    Great.
    I can't "opened" the track log with mapsource (I must doing something wrong) .
    I tried a short cut to Sjenica and get lost, I find a local and he said just go uphill on crossroads (all roads were going uphill from that point) I choose the wrong one and get back where I started. At that time I was low on fuel and went back to nearest petrol station, and after that I just stay on tarmac. I must "do" that part sometime in the future.
    #77
  18. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia

    I just downloaded .gpx file from that link and it's working fine. :hmmmmm Check your email :wink:
    #78
  19. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,201
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    So grateful that you made that effort in frequently stopping and taking pictures. Such a well documented ride report gives a fantastic image of the landscapes you've been travelling through.

    You've proven you can tell a story too.
    If that's a consolation to you, I find it hard too to stop when tired.
    Here's to you :1drink
    #79
  20. jbar28

    jbar28 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    166
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    Thanks for the effort that went into this report. I've greatly enjoyed reading it, and your fine photography as well. :clap
    #80