Off-road Touring, Beautiful Balkans

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

  1. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    Man, I feel your pain. Please, don't do that again.
    You have responsibilities: we lust for your pictures! :wink:

    Be safe, heal well.
    :getiton
  2. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Eye is OK right now. It hurts only when I touch it, or shut it firmly. Sight is not affected so everything is cool, There is just that nice, large bloody spot :D
  3. STisma

    STisma Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2010
    Oddometer:
    187
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    As my contribution to the nice RR, I'll donate a new pair of....goggles. :D
  4. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    I believe you have been waiting long enough for an update. Oh, and pictures on photobucket are back online :evil

    Day one, September 1st

    Once again this is just a tarmac ride, to get me close to the start of "real" trip. Road between Novi Sad (my home city) and Belgrade (Serbian capital) is mostly straight and utterly boring. Flat farmland can do that to a road, you know...

    As soon as I pass Belgrade road becomes interesting, that is where gentle rolling hills begin. Since I had plenty of time I made a short detour around Avala mountain. Nice, narrow and twisty road. Perfect way to forget monotony of riding trough plains.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    First rest stop is in Topola town where Oplenac monastery is located. Monastery is situated in a large, nicely maintained park. Good place to stretch after a ride. Autumn is on it's way and signs are everywhere. These are last bits of summer.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Destination for today is town of Kragujevac. It's a relaxing ride there. Good tarmac going over gentle rolling hills, not to much traffic... Plan is to camp at a lake in Sumarice park. As I approach the lake I pass by a restaurant, wedding preparations are in progress which means: camp as far away from there as possible :) I find good location for a camp but since it's to early to settle for the night I decide to go back to town, get something to eat and refuel the bike. In planning stages I completely overlooked the fact that Sumarice area is actually very large memorial center to WWII Natzi regime victims. Monuments are everywhere. It's disturbing to come across something like this... This is location where German occupational forces, on October 21st 1941, shot more than 2300 local people, including 300 boys from elementary and high schools, in retaliation to attack on their forces... Sad and powerful reminder how people can be made to do terrible things...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Shoot, I'm teaching the class even now

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    GPX file
  5. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Day two, also known as The day of dead-end roads and closed gates

    Late morning start. I set the tent up in a place where the Sun didn't shine early on. No big deal, today's route is short and I should have plenty of time. Yeah, right... Like that can happen in real life :D

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Another WWII memorial.

    [​IMG]


    Local paved roads lead me out of Kragujevac, trough some villages to drinking water reservoir named Vodojaza. That's where gravel starts. First corner on a good gravel road and it's obvious I'm not satisfied with new tires. For this trip I replaced old, pavement oriented, Shinko 705 tires with new Hidenau K60 Scouts (highly recommended by basically everybody). I expected more demanding terrains than on previous trip so better off-road tire seemed like good idea. Anyway, Scouts were disappointment from the start, front wheel skids everywhere, doesn't inspire confidence in corners at all (that's off-road, I actually like these tires on pavement)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    After short gravel section it's time to head into the forest. Proper dirt roads ahead. And yes, tires are even worse than on gravel. It becomes bad to the point that I'm absolutely not enjoying the ride, and it just begun...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    And yes, what happened next could easily be expected: I go down. First real crash from the bike :muutt I was riding on the right side of the road and wanted to climb onto the raised middle part. As soon as the front wheel got onto the "sloped" part it just washed out. And no, it wasn't to steep as you can see from pictures. Bike slides to the stop with my leg underneath. I don't know how and why but leg stays intact. I have some chest pain but nothing serious (probably bruised, maybe cracked, rib. Every day it became more difficult to put the bike on center stand or make certain movements with my arm. It took more than a month for the pain to completely go away).

    [​IMG]

    Cherry on top was when I saw damage to the bike. Crash bar rotated around it's mount, going straight trough plastics. To other body panels are "bruised" but nothing major. I was so pissed of at that point. I mean, trip didn't even start yet. If I fell like this on nice, easy road what can I expect when the going gets tougher, and I know it will...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Anyway, it's time to move on. Now I just want to get to pavement and probably skip next off-road section. Ride wasn't very enjoyable, even before the fall. Road goes trough overgrown shrubs and forest, nothing really pleasant to the eye.

    Short pavement ride is all it takes to clear my mind just enough to stick back with original plan. Bailing out is not an option. Now it's time to justify day's title. Pavement ends in a village. From there it's bad dirt road, with plenty of deep holes made by tractors and whatever. Luckily for me at least it's dry. First intersection: road to the right appears to be one that I should take. It's steep, really steep. And it's covered with nice, deep layer of powdery dirt. Road to the left looks normal so that's where I'm going.

    Soon enough there is a gate across the road. Shut off the engine, get off the bike, open the gate, push the bike to the other side, close the gate, ride on. 100 m later and there is another gate. By this point it's very obvious that this road is not being used regularly. Doesn't matter, being stubborn is such a cool and fun thing. So, it's same drill to get to other side. And just to make things more interesting there is another gate, again only couple hundred meters away. And yes, I keep on going.

    [​IMG]
    This is gate No. 1, road still looks usable

    After the third gate road is barely visible. No vehicle tracks of any kind. Doesn't matter... Now, "road" is narrow, steep and it's cut into the side of the hill. When the absurdity of pressing on became obvious enough for me to take notice I was in perfect situation. As I said, road is steep, narrow, banked (???) to one side and it's cut into the side of the hill. And yes, fallen leaves are everywhere. Nowhere near enough room to turn the bike around. To the left it's ravine, deep enough to forget about getting the bike out. Kill the engine but keep gearbox in first. Slowly work my way back downhill by slipping the clutch (front brake useless, right foot busy on the ground because left foot couldn't reach the ground...). It took some time before I got to wider spot in a road (used to be intersection once) and even then it was tricky to turn the bike around.

    Dead-end roads VS Gliga: 1:0

    [​IMG]

    That's the place where I turned around. Usual disclaimer applies: It's steeper than it looks on photo :)

    I'm back at the gates, this time owner of the property is there. He tells me that road I just tried is not passable (no kidding, I didn't notice that :p ) but gives me good directions. You know: "Go back to the village then turn left after you pass my car and follow the stream after that. Just stick to the stream, that's the best road. There are several other roads that all lead to the same spot but that one is best."

    [​IMG]


    I pass second, third gate and get back to the village. Strangely enough there is intersection right after I pass the car. Road is decent and it actually follows the stream. There are even turnoffs to side roads, just like he said.

    Off course this doesn't last very long. At one point stream becomes the road. Fortunately stream is almost dried out. After that it still looks like it's being used so I press on.

    [​IMG]

    Minute later and I reach the point from where the forest is extracted. Further on and it's crystal clear that this part of the road wasn't used for some time. And just to make it more obvious there is a fallen tree across the road. It looks like I would be able to cross it close to the edge of the road, which is also the edge of another ravine (I can't think of any other/better word...). If I go down to that side it would be painful. If bike goes down tractors would be needed to get it out.

    Before I attempt to cross the log I take notice of giant pile of leaves further on. I got closer and it doesn't look like pile of leaves anymore. Actually, it's huge left-over root from a fallen tree. At this point I was just couple hundred meters away from where I wanted to get. So close yet so far away...

    Dead-end Roads VS Gliga: 2:0

    [​IMG]


    Time to turn around. Back trough stream/road. I take the first side road ("They all lead to same hill top", words still echo in my head). Rutted, and not used. Sure enough it ends with another gate.Unlike previous gates which are there to keep the sheep inside this one is to keep the people/vehicles outside. No going trough this time. From here I can see the point where I'm trying to get.

    Dead-end Roads VS Gliga: 3:0, and it's still first quarter of the day...

    [​IMG]


    Time to turn back again. By now I'm seriously considering to stick back to tarmac and bypass this section. But, there is one more potential road and I decide to check it out. Off course, because it was my last choice it turns out that this road is in decent condition, it's being used on regular basis and going is easy. I come across a mountain hut, an older man confirms that this is proper road. Soon enough I rejoin my planned alternative route and decide to take shorter route to pavement. I had enough of this. It's obvious, this part of the route was planned only from low-res Google Earth photos without any info about actual situation.

    [​IMG]


    I was getting tired by now so it's time for rest stop. Once on a normal road, and relaxed on a meadow I can actually enjoy the nature.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Dirt roads turns into gravel, by the side of the road there is a run-down fence. Somewhere in that fence there is high concrete pillar with several cameras. That makes no sense at all, I mean why would anybody monitor property in a place like this (it's really not a common sight here. Only people with such kind of security are criminals and politicians. Line between those two types of people is thin. Very, very thin). Few turns and few more pillars with cameras later road turns into new tarmac. Guards are everywhere. Words I heard little earlier, which made no sense back then, came back to my mind: "You'll see president's house..." Oh, now that would explain all the security and cameras... Little further down the road I stop to readjust rear-view mirrors (they are unsung heroes on this bike... Every time the bike falls down - and it happened once or twice :lol3 - it lands on a mirror. They constantly refuse to break. After every fall I remember to turn them out of the harms way...), I hear strangely familiar numbers from Motorola radio behind me. My licence plate number... Guard slowly gets out of his hut and I slowly put the bike into first gear and pull off. I have no intention to waste time explaining to the guards why I'm here, why I rode trough forest around president's (small first letter, that's how much respect politicians get here...) property.

    Tarmac road is surprisingly perfect, nice and twisty. Actually, it's not surprising; new president=new road to his families , surprisingly new, old house :) I'm enjoying in relaxing ride. I'm passing trough corn fields and though carves into my mind: "Pick up few corns, I'll have fire tonight anyway and it will make great dinner." But, just like when I searched for perfect swimming spot on previous trip, I never actually stopped.


    Enough for today. Plenty more to come. This is still less than half of the first day and it was clear to me that it is going to be an Adventure :clap
  6. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    Curious how roads can simply peter out to nothing. As if they had lifted off to..., well you name it.
    They still make for good images though.

    Did you try to improve the K60's performance by tweeking the pressure?
    Just curious because I too have them on my shortlist; just added a question mark to them.:wink:
  7. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Not on dirt roads. Once I got to gravel/rocky roads i lowered the pressure but I'm still not satisfied. Front K60 Scout simply doesn't have knobs at the sides, nothing to grip into the ground. It turns out that regular K60 (not the Scout model) front tire is more off-road oriented. I really doubt that I'll buy another set of Scouts... Rear is OK, no real problems with its behavior.

    There will be plenty of times in this RR when I'll mention tires, never in good context :D
  8. macarron

    macarron Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2009
    Oddometer:
    59
    Location:
    Spain
    It's a pity you found so many gates and obstacles, Gliga, but I admire your resolution not to bypass those sections; I'm usually as stubborn as you in such situations.

    By the way, thanks for posting the tracks. Who knows if I follow them one day.
  9. blacktiger

    blacktiger Tigers R great.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,948
    Location:
    St.Leonards on Sea, England.
    The K60 has a very stiff carcass and they require a much lower pressure. On dirt try 15psi front, 20psi rear. Sorry I don't know the metric equivalent.
  10. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    1 psi = 0.7 bar
    1 bar = 14 psi

    Hence 1.05 bar to 15 psi and 1.41 bar to 20 psi.
  11. blacktiger

    blacktiger Tigers R great.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,948
    Location:
    St.Leonards on Sea, England.
    But he might use Kilopascals = Kpa or Kgs/cm or.........
  12. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    :rofl
    Oh yes, he very well might do that.

    15 psi = 103 kPa
    20 psi = 138 kPa

    short: 1 bar = 14.205 psi = 97.94 kPa

    And now I'm gonna lurk on my oxygen bottle :wings
  13. blacktiger

    blacktiger Tigers R great.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,948
    Location:
    St.Leonards on Sea, England.
    I just thought I'd let him convert to whatever he wanted.:evil
  14. francs

    francs Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    312
    Location:
    Ljubljana Slovenija
    Hi BT, you will came to visit "us"?
    Cheers
    Franc
  15. blacktiger

    blacktiger Tigers R great.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,948
    Location:
    St.Leonards on Sea, England.
    I'd love to mate but not this year as I'm doing the Stella Alpina again + other tracks elsewhere.
  16. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Day two, continued

    Before reaching Vrnjacka Banja I head off the main road, and turn toward Goc mountain. Minor paved road vindes trough some villages. Gradually houses stop and pavement turns into good gravel and then into old cobblestone. Always a good sign. Road leads through dense forest, autumn colors are getting into full swing. Beautiful, relaxing ride. I'm zealous from the start, this is anti-stress therapy. Morning incident is now years away in some other universe...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Few wrong turns and dead-ends later (old GPS and dense forest don't make reliable navigation combo) I get reconected with main road. Once at Goc I'm surprised by brand new, wide and twisty tarmac. No reason to complain about that, it's always a blast. Road is so new that it's not paved all the way so there is one section of deep gravel. I planned to make a loop around hotel "complex". Road which leads from hotel, beside being clearly marked as "No motorized vehicles allowed" is good gravel.

    Few kilometers later and road suddenly turns into single track. No problem, off course I have to go on. 10-15 meters later and my stomach is turned into a knot: single track drops very steeply (steep enough that I would think twice about using it, even on a MTB) for couple of meters. Luckily for me I was going slowly and managed to stop before the drop started so I could easily turn around (well, as easy as possible on overgrown single track). I later found out that there was a landslide here, couple of years ago. I could see the road continuing down there but it would be just too much unnecessary risk to try and get there. Broken bike or broken bones sound like no fun to me. Backtracking time.

    Dead-end Roads:Gliga 4:0.

    [​IMG]

    Yes, it is steeper than it looks. And there was a vertical drop at the and of the single track, connecting it with road down below

    So, it's back to hotel and then again over that newly paved road to reconnect with planned route.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I love taking photos of heavy machinery. Older the better. It was Sunday afternoon so there was nobody at the construction site


    I'm on gravel once again. First intersection and GPS says "go left" and I do. It's clear to see that this was a road once, now it's great wide track which hasn't seen any traffic, other than bicycles and pedestrians, in very long time. It looks pretty so I decide to follow it anyway. Soon enough track is blocked by another fallen tree. Forest around was cleared so it would be possible to go around but track looks worse on other side so I decide to go back and try another route. It's worth mentioning that there were no clearly visible roads on Google Earth for this section (dense forest and narrow roads below the canopies) so routing was like: just connect few dots that look like a road and hope that it will materialize in reality.

    Anyway: Dead-end Roads:Gliga 5:0

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    It's a short, less than a kilometer, ride back to the "main" road. At this point I'm still optimistic that roads will go trough and take me where I planned to go. Sucker... But more time will pass before I realize that :D So, instead of going back to tarmac I head further into the forest. Road is still in great shape, probably used for logging. Next intersection offers two choices: main road goes straight on and to the left is smaller logging road. Left is where I need to go so no dilemma about that.

    [[​IMG]


    I reach the point where trucks are being loaded and from there road turns into badly overgrown one. Beneath grass I can't see large rocks and I' constantly dodging shrub branches. There is even one short section where stream is flowing over the road, not just crossing it. Fun times... I'm happy because it's obvious I'm approaching planned route. And then a penalty kick for Dead-End Roads: small clearing in the forest, old, destroyed cabin and nothing else, not even a walking track. Dead-End Roads never miss from penalties so it's 6:0 :freaky

    [​IMG]

    This is first, good, part of that last dead-end and below is where it ends

    [​IMG]


    So, yes... Backtracking time again. I'm on a "main" road once again. Intersection: road to the right is the one I suspect would take me back close to the hotel. Road going straight on is still very good gravel/dirt so no reason to give up now. Few turns go by and road gets progressively worse. Piles of logs by the sides of the road, tractor parked between the trees... From that point something that only resembles a road goes on. And, since I didn't have enough I try to ride it. 10 meters later and light bulb goes on in my head, it's time to turn around...

    Dead-end Roads:Gliga 7:0

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    By now I'm running out of road options and time. Reluctantly I admit being defeated. It's time to find another, much longer, route. Even with all those dead-ends spirits are flying high, there is something very peaceful about this forest, just makes me feel like I belong here... This was all so much fun, I would like to come back here and explore more, without time pressure.

    I don't want to backtrack the same way so I decide to take that road from previous intersection. Imagine: stream flows over the rocks on one side of the road. Numerous springs and smaller streams are on other side. And all that in old beech forest. This is height of dry season of a very dry year and still there is water everywhere... I can't even imagine how it all looks after the spring thaw.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    I press on and soon arrive at the run-down mill. Now I'm happy, this means I have finally found some road that goes trough. And then another nasty surprise: ramp across the road with me on the wrong side... I can see the pavement, only 10 or so meters away. No way around it... :ricky
  17. GuiltyParty

    GuiltyParty drifter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Oddometer:
    318
    Location:
    London
    loving your report mate keep it coming. I'll be passing through the area soon so I'm reading your report intently
  18. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,203
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    Your tenacity has won a decisive victory over the Demon of the Dead Ends.
    Three cheers.
    :1drink:1drink:1drink
  19. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    Day two continued

    Just for fun I try to open the ramp and, believe it or not, it's not locked. Problem is that it can't stay lifted and there is nobody to hold it in place. Luckily for me it could be lowered to the ground so I was able to cross over it.
    Dead-End Roads VS Gliga 7:1

    Goc mountain really gave its best to try and stop me from leaving... Great place to be, I'll be more than happy to go back there.

    Short conversation with forest service guy confirms that line from a map actually represents a road. 40 kilometers of good gravel and cobblestones, shortcut which will save me from riding more than 100 km of tarmac. I get directions how to find beginning of the road: "After the lake you'll pass parked red car. Right after that car the road starts... It's a good gravel road, regular passenger cars are using it." Hmmm, how can he be sure that the car will be there??? Anyway, I pass the lake and soon after there is abandoned red car on the side of the road and there is something resembling the road right after that car. I cross the stream, and stop immediately. No way this can be actual road with all that rocks and complete lack of "roadness"...

    Hundred or so meters down the road there is another intersection and this time road delivers what was promised: nice, wide gravel winding its way trough the forest slowly climbing off the mountain. Pure enjoyment... And then, just when I think things couldn't get much better nature proves me wrong. In just a couple of turns road gets out of the forest and suddenly I'm at the bottom of very narrow, deep, steep sided valley. Picturesque stream is flowing over the rocks, following the road. I lack the ability to put it all into words and this time pictures won't help that much. Sun was to low and at wrong angle so pictures are just pale shadow of actual place...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Pavement comes sooner than expected. Off course I take wrong turn but realize that mistake almost immediately. Soon after I find myself on main road. After few hundred meters distant memory wakes up in my mind "Road between Kraljevo and Raska is one of the best motorcycling roads in Serbia." And I'm riding it right now... Short few kilometers confirm that statement. Wide open and fast sweeping corners, perfect tarmac, and not that much traffic. What more can you ask from a road? Well, maybe a faster bike :) In Biljanovac I leave this moto heaven and turn toward Josanicka Banja spa. To be honest with you there is nothing wrong with that road either. It's even twistier which suites my bike better. No traffic but surface is not in such a good shape. Fun times :ricky

    I refuel in Josanicka Banja. Amazing kindness, or lack off it, of the lady in grocery store makes me forget to buy two out of three things I needed. Well, at least I bought some bread :) Climb toward Kopaonik National Park is another fine example of fun motorcycling road.

    [​IMG]


    Sun is low and soon it will be decision time. Ride the pavement all the way and get to planned camp spot with plenty of daylight or stick to the original plan (ride XYZ kilometers of completely unknown forest roads which may or may not exist/go trough in reality) and risk riding down the ski slope after dark. Fuck it, I'm sticking to the original plan. Who knows when will be the next time I come to this area... Since this is National Park it's possible that by that time roads will be closed to traffic.

    First part of forest road is in bad shape. Bad as "I wouldn't be to happy to drive my car here." It's not that bad for a bike but going is slow. Road goes trough dense evergreen forest which doesn't let to much light to reach the ground. After some time I rejoin with perfect gravel road, progress is not that slow anymore. GPS batteries decide to call it a day so I take the opportunity for a break and to take some photos. While I was standing a car comes from opposite direction, young couple and their fancy dog. If they are driving around here I'm sure that road can't get much worse.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Road gradually gets into some open terrain, there is daylight again. Abandoned mountain huts, meadows and trees everywhere. And then definite highlight of the day. After one ordinary turn spectacular view appears in front of me: to the left of the road there is huge grass covered plateau with a tree here and there. To the right of the road is gentle slope, once again covered with grass, blueberry bushes and some trees. Whole this scene is further improved by the fact that it's currently bathing in golden light from the setting Sun. Perfect spot in perfect time, if there was one...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Perfect camping spot. There is even a water spring nearby. It will be dark by the time I set up the tent and get unpacked. And that's exactly why I choose to move on :huh I have food and water and place is amazing. "But I don't have a lighter, there is no proper camping without a fire." Nevermind the fact that I actually have Primus stove with piezo igniter- in essence a large lighter :) My planed camping spot looked even better from satellite photos, small meadow by the stream, right beside the road. And you know satellite photos are extremely reliable when it comes to fine details like that :evil Only real reason to move on is the fact that tomorrow is supposed to be really long day and it wouldn't get any easier if I add 10-20 kilometers of unknown roads. Disregard the fact that all those unknown roads can easily be bypassed by pavement... So yes, stubbornness prevails, I move on.

    By this time it's way to cold for mesh riding gear I have. Chilly mountain wind gets straight to my bones. I refuse to stop and dig liners out of roll bag, they are at the very bottom, and beside, it will only be a short ride to my planed camping spot. Yeah, right...

    Short pavement section gets me to the heart of tourist center. I feel very out of place here but there is a market and I buy damn lighter and some more food. Price? Only 50% higher than anywhere else... The Sun is gone by the time I'm ready to move on. And this is western slope... I still have to climb the ridge, then descend over ski slopes and ride unknown distance to reach camping spot on the eastern, darker side... You can probably see how this is going to end :ricky

    At the start of the road toward the ridge there is a nice, large sign saying "no traffic beyond this point". In my mind that translates into "Just ride, you don't know any other road and besides, who will stop you." Road to the ridge is in good shape. Ridge itself still offers plenty of nice camping spots but no... "I'm camping in beautiful meadow beside picturesque stream..." Ridge is exit point for ski lifts from both sides. There should (satellite said it should) be a road going in my direction. I turn downhill to soon and find myself going down the ski slope. It's not to bad, not steep and I can see the bottom so it can't be that long. There are ditches going across the slope in regular intervals, varying in depth and width. Lack of commitment sees me getting stuck in second one :) Little cursing does nothing to move the bike. Front wheel is at the bottom of the ditch with skid plate firmly planted on it's edge. Pushing and rocking the bike followed by lots of cursing also achieve nothing. It's digging time. I have to dig the channel for the front wheel to get out. After minute or two I remembered that I have a Leatherman multitool so there is no need to dig with my fingers. Few minutes later and bike is free. I'm exhausted and my hands are shivering from all the digging and maneuvering the bike. At least I'm not cold anymore :D

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    "I'm pitching my tent as soon as I get of the slope. I can't go any further." I cross rest of the ditches without problems, base of the slope is so close that you could easily throw a rock there. There is only one or two more ditches to cross. You have only one attempt to guess if I got stuck or not. And I'll help you by saying YES, I fucking did!!! This time I now the drill so it's out with Leatherman. Few minutes of digging and I'm satisfied but the bike isn't. It's going nowhere... Rear wheel just keeps on digging while skid plate is firmly stranded on one of only few rocks around, no way to remove it. I'm just about ready to leave the bike there and pitch the tent, that's how much energy I had left... More digging, more failed attempts to free the bike. Using last bits of strength I manage to pull the bike until rear wheel got out of the hole it dug and skid plate got off the rock. Start the bike, release the clutch and voila: rear wheel got straight back into its hole :puke1 No amount of shouting or cursing could make things any better. Even more digging followed. I don't know how but I was able to get the rear wheel out of the hole one more time and this time the bike was free. We crossed the last ditch!!! I'm soaking in sweat, I can barely stand on my feet and my hands are destroyed from all the digging and man-handling the bike. You'll forgive me for not taking any pictures :) 30-40 minutes spent in getting out of that ditch...

    It's pitch black now. Moment when I got out of that ditch was the same one when I decided not to camp at that spot but to press on. "Road" is actually still a ski slope but not a steep one. Problem is that surface isn't meant for summer use so it's full of loose rocks and dirt. Few times front wheel tries to wash-out but somehow I manage to keep the bike upright... I reach the bottom of the ski slope, there is small lake there and equipment hut. I'll come back here if my planed spot proves to be unusable. At least from there on the road is normal gravel again so riding is easy. I'm riding trough the forest and expect to see widening any minute now...

    I reach planed camping spot, turn off the engine and hear the stream down below. Problem is that there is no way to see anything, and no way to get off the road. No camping here. No turning back either. Plan A failed. I'll just press on until I find some other suitable place to camp or come across a house or anything. If nothing else there is a hotel/motel close to the place where I'll get onto pavement but that is plan M or something like that. Plan B is basically to ride until something useful happens :) Road is still in good shape and it actually got better and better as kilometers passed.

    I was happy as a child in candy store when I saw lights from civilization up ahead. Then a cold shower... Checkpoint ahead with a sign that from distance looks like "stop for customs" one. Fuck... I never though I was this close to Kosovo border. Guards won't be happy at all to see me roaming here... I was relieved when that sign turned into just "police checkpoint". Officers couldn't believe that I came from that direction: "There is NO road from ski center to here..." The guy was friendly and very amazed with the story. Two minutes later it was obvious that he's not going to ask for any documents. Instead I ask if there is a place to camp anywhere in the area. Some time later, like he's trying to find a way to give me directions to far away place, he says that I could pitch my tent on a nice plateau 15 m from checkpoint if I don't mind traffic noise. There is a monument there with pine tree forest behind it, picnic table and benches. SCORE!!!!

    After I pitched the tent I walked over to the checkpoint for a little talk with officers. Nice and friendly guys. Then it was dinner time. As soon as I sat at the table and got food out a kitten appeared. I gave him/her small piece of home made ham and he ate it before I could take a bite myself. OK, give him another piece and try to cut one for me. No such luck, he was on table sniffing the ham before I could cut it :) That's not going to work... And just to make whole process more interesting another cat arrived. In the end I gave them both larger pieces which they couldn't swallow. Meat is salty and chewy (home made, smoked pork ham...), and that will keep them occupied for some time. Only then I was able to actually eat something :)

    Instead of planned easy 160-170 kilometers it turned into long 220 km day, over 7 hours of moving time. There was no way to get the smile off of my face. Such an intense day, I enjoyed every moment (other than that falling incident in the morning, which at this point looks like distant past...) and every obstacle. This is proper adventure, this is what I wanted!!!
  20. snowbilly

    snowbilly Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Western NC
    The Balkans are soooooo beautiful! They really are an underestimated jewel of Europe.

    Thanks so much for posting. :clap:clap

    rw