Off-road Touring, Beautiful Balkans

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

  1. francs

    francs Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Ljubljana Slovenija
    I was on Kopaonik in 2009
    Ditch (shallow one)

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    Weather wasn't friendly

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    I really like your "way of doing it"
    Franc
  2. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Update is long overdue...

    Day three

    Early wake up, short walk around the campsite and it's time to move.

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    Not a bad place to camp, especially considering the fact how I found it.


    Pavement ride lasts anywhere between five and ten meters. Basically, I just had to cross the road. So proud of route planing right now. :norton Mix of gravel and dry dirt roads takes me across some rolling hills. Nice and easy riding, great way to start a day. It's still early and light is good so photo-stops are frequent. That will haunt me in the afternoon but for now it's just great...

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    This looks like it'll be a bitch to fix...


    At water spring I met two guys, well into their seventies. It's not very often to meet people that old with so much energy and positivity. Both of them managed to tell me some interesting life stories in short time it took me to fill water bladder (nothing beats ice cold water, fresh from the ground, on a hot day). Spring closer to their village has dried up so they had to haul it for some distance...
    As I already said, road was very good. Few short sections were full of tractor tracks with good line close to the edge of the road, above steep drop-off; good way to maintain concentration :)

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    Since I skipped the breakfast following sight makes me smile:

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    For some unknown reason I got this sudden urge to stop right there and then :) Every branch was full of picture perfect plums. First one I tried also tasted perfect, much better than anything you can buy in a city. Sadly, rest of the plums weren't ripe jet so I move on with an empty belly :)

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    With all the stops it took me just under hour and a half to cover first ten kilometers. Perfect, that's how I love to ride when there's no pressure... But, the thing is there are still 210 kilometers to go today, with one major tourist stop in-between. I reach the pavement and road is just perfect. Nice, open corners, race-track surface and no traffic at all. Great way to make up some time. Only few kilometers later and road started to deteriorate. Any sign of maintenance suddenly disappeared; no traffic signs, no lines, vegetation starting to reclaim the surface, few minor landslides... I'm guessing it's different jurisdictions on neighboring sections...

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    With some care it's still possible to keep decent pace. And then, just to maintain continuity, pavement had to end :) Gravel was close to perfect so it was easy to keep the speed up.

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    Few kilometers later trough the shrubs I saw this large dam. At first it was strange to see all those structures on "dry" side of the dam but then it hit me; it's not finished yet... U-turn and I'm soon on a side road going over the future lake-bed. I'm expecting to reach a gate or guards any second now, but there is nobody around... And soon I found myself at the very bottom of the dam. And that was it when it comes to making up some lost time... I'm soon-to-be structural engineer and opportunity to see site like this is simply amazing for me.

    I even contemplated going into a drainage pipe (almost as tall as me...). Common sense and lack of a flashlight made me skip the opportunity :)

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    Back on a road for a very short time, I simply had to stop at the crown of the dam, walk across and take some photos...

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    Workers village downstream. By this time it was obvious that the site was abandoned for a long, long time. I wanted to see those dump trucks from up-close so badly but there has to be a guard there...

    Reluctantly I move on. Just as I got down to valley floor and there's a guy at the side of the road waiving at me to stop. "Shit, it's a guard..." It turns out he is a guard but he just wants some company. He's bored here, spending two weeks away from home. Few words are exchanged and I have permission to enter the site and shoot whatever I want. SCORE!!! :clap

    Slavko, pictured below, is probably most perverted person I have met up to date.

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    First thing he said was about him being worried that I was there to steal something. Second thing was about how scared he was few nights earlier when a car came in a middle of the night. When he approached the car it turned out it was a young couple, girl giving a BJ to a guy. Third thing he said was about how much he loves BJs but his wife's "not supportive" about that... Fourth, fifth and every other thing he said just kept getting weirder and nastier, stuff you'd think twice before you tell them to a best friend, let alone to a total stranger :)

    Anyway, I got the photos I wanted (turned out worse than I hoped...) and some refreshments so there's no complaining. Oh, yeah, Slavko confirmed that this site was abandoned since early nineties, when Serbia turned downhill...

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    If anybody has Kamatsu dumper truck from the eighties but has lost maintenance/lubrication table here it is :)

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    Nine photos pano, that's why steering wheel is missing some parts.

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    Another hour and a half gone, still less than quarter of the distance covered and off-road is yet to come :evil
  3. stanbloke

    stanbloke Been here awhile

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    Stunning pictures :clap...wish i had a month of free time to spend in these locations.:D:D
  4. dave6253

    dave6253 aka. dave62538675309

    Joined:
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    Thanks for the updates! I love your photography. Well done!
  5. moto rrad

    moto rrad ADV n00b

    Joined:
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    German land
    I'm keeping notes, planning to be in the area august/september if you fancy re-visiting any of the trails with some company :1drink

    Thanks for the updates, and keep it coming!
  6. NovaMoto

    NovaMoto Been here awhile

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    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Outstanding trip & photography!
  7. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the compliments guys :thumb It's nice to see that writing efforts are worth it :) I'm rather busy lately and it's difficult to find enough time for proper updates, that's why now you get more shorter ones :freaky
  8. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Day three continued

    Enough of that construction site, it's time to move on. Shortly after the dam pavement starts again but that's short lived. After only few kilometers I leave the main road and take great gravel road toward Igriste village. It's rare for me to ride aggressively off-road. However, this was one of those situations... Twisting the throttle like there's no tomorrow, sliding the back wheel out of corners. Generally having a blast :)

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    I bypassed the village (that was a mistake. Later I found out that this village is located at the edge of a plateau, with great views in several directions) and was ready to tackle first questionable section for today. Ten or so kilometers of track, barely visible/not visible on Google Earth, to the next village.

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    It turned out that the road is not in such a bad shape. It's rutted, narrow and nature is slowly reclaiming it but nothing really challenging. Story would be very different if it was wet because all that nice, hard packed dirt would turn into a mud... Oh, and there were some tracks from tractor tires so at least now I knew that it will go trough.

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    Just to get annoyed again I had to lay the bike on the ground. Same story as yesterday: trying to get out of a rut on a dirt road, front wheel just washed out. No damage this time as I was barely moving.

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    After Mirnica village road turns back into nice gravel. By the side of the road I can see blackberry shrubs, full of fruits. It would be crazy to miss opportunity like this so it's time for a break. Few months of heavy drought are taking their tall, every single fruit is completely dry. Disappointed, and still hungry, I move on.

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    As I approach Kursumlija town I rejoin with some paved road. Again, it doesn't take very long for it to start deteriorating . I pretend like I didn't see remains of an old gate across the road and move on. Few turns on and this time no amount of pretending would make it possible to continue; tall new fence across the road, with several "no access" signs. U-turn time :) From satellite images it was easy to see that this road goes trough to the other side. What I didn't know back home was that there is some military complex here... At least detour only took couple of minutes.

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    I just love when this happens: I rejoin with "main" road at the exact spot where pavement turns into gravel.

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    And a short video of that road leading to military base.

    <object width="960" height="720"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/egg2Tk-f3Po?version=3&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/egg2Tk-f3Po?version=3&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="960" height="720" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>


    Next stop is Kursumlijska Banja spa/village. Once a popular spa resort now left to decay... I started to write about how this can happen but it would sound like SF to you so I'll just skip it... I was actually looking forward to visiting this place and taking some nice photos (I love old/run down and abandoned buildings) but seeing this was to much so I didn't even get off the bike...

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    I missed a turnoff from the "main" road. By the time I realized this it slipped my mind that there was a regular gravel road few hundred meters before. Instead, I found myself on a steep and narrow track. Surface was covered with small pebbles, acting like ball bearings. Luckily, all this lasted only for a couple hundred meters before I got back to proper road.

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    Next on a list was visit to Djavolja Varos (Devil's Town) Nature Park. I'll let you enjoy the photos, no words are necessary... I'll just say that hour and a half spent walking in (almost) full riding gear in 32 degrees Celcius heat (90 F) were well worth the effort.

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    This is a stream bed but there's no water now

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    Young figures, still in process of formation. It will be long time before they "grow up"

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    Panorama from the viewpoint, 25 individual photos...


    This whole area is rich in minerals so there are many old mine shafts, now flooded.

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    After the tour it was time to go back to riding. Gravel road starts right from the parking lot so there was no backtracking. With exception of one short section (my mistake I got there in first place) this road is in very good condition and a real pleasure to ride. Sadly, it was becoming obvious that I'm running late. I still haven't reached half-way point and there is less than four hours of daylight left. This means that large/good camera stays in its bag...

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    Some 15-20 kilometers later I'm back on pavement. Road resembles collection of bad patchworks, almost without a single peace of original surface left. However, roads configuration is amazing, going up and down, winding along a stream. Soft enduro suspension enables me to forget about all the potholes and patches so this is actually very, very enjoyable ride.

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    At the fuel stop in Lebane village I decide to skip next long off-road section. At this point it was an easy decision. It was late and I had absolutely no idea if planed route is even going trough to the other side... Now, this means I'll ride trough Leskovac city, considered as barbecue capital of Serbia. 5 PM sounds like perfect time for a nice breakfast. Once in a city I stopped at a first grill which looked busy (you can't go wrong that way, locals know where the food is good so you just have to find a place with most people waiting :) ). One word to describe the food: perfect.

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    After some wondering around I finally managed to find a way out of town. Now I'm on the main road going trough this part of country and traffic is somewhat heavy. Still, it's a beautiful ride, going trough Grdelicka klisura (Grdelica gorge)

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    It's not a proper ride report if you don't have a photo of your shadow while moving :p


    In Vladicin Han town/village I get of the main road. Whole town looks run-down so I don't stop. There is one more town on my route where I'll be able to buy food for dinner. As I approach Surdulica town there is smoke all around. Some massive fires are going on...

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    Surdulica also looks like really run-down town so once again I don't stop (upsy...)

    Just few corners after Surdulica I find myself in motorcycling heaven. Picture-perfect road with countless corners... Fast ones, slow ones, hairpin here and there. Not a single stretch of straight road. And for some reason I start riding aggressively. Very aggressively, at least for me. Usually I'm very cautious and rarely I get carried away with riding. Well, this was one of those moments. Full throttle after every corner, late and hard braking... You know how it goes :) Simple, perfect harmony with a bike. Unbelievably perfect way to end days ride... To this day it is still best pavement ride I ever had.

    As I climbed higher and higher toward lake Vlasinsko temperature started to drop. The Sun was gone now. However I didn't want to interrupt the ride and, besides, destination is only five or ten kilometers away. Who'd dig out liners from the bag anyway...

    Approaching planned camp site on dirt road I was thinking about how much would it suck to loose food I have bought in last town. And then a light bulb goes on; no way I'm going to loose the food, simply because I didn't stop to buy it in the first place... Idiot...

    I found good place for a tent, close to the lake shore and nobody in sight. Still shivering from the cold last few kilometers I pitch the tent. By the time I was unpacked it was already dark. I got down to the shore, had some dinner (I had some ham with me but it's not as tasty when you have to eat it on its own) while stars were slowly appearing.

    Standing there for quite some time (standing, a good way to rest after whole day of sitting on a bike), just soaking it all in. At one point I got this sudden urge to go for a swim. I'm cold, water is cold and a it's really cold outside (lake sits at little above 1200 m and autumn is approaching...). I just had to do it :1drink Short swim, not so short drying process (no towel or anything...) and it felt sooooo fucking good. Full moon started to rise and stars slowly disappeared as I enjoyed the evening. Most enjoyable night camping up to date (wide open space and a lake helped a lot, I still don't feel comfortable camping in forest. To many noises are making me paranoid, with no actual reason).

    Man, this is life!!!
  9. MeinMotorrad

    MeinMotorrad Long timer

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    Fantastic update Gliga :clap
  10. Stretch67

    Stretch67 Mad Scientist

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    I've been keeping up with your report from the beginning. Thanks for the update. :freaky
  11. MihaiVeniamin

    MihaiVeniamin Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Romania, land of enduro
    very nice pictures, well done !
    please tell me what photo camera are you using:thumb
  12. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Canon Powershot A570IS, point&shoot for quick snapshots.

    Canon EOS 450d (Rebel XSI in USA market) and three lenses for "more serious" stuff.
  13. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
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    Belgistan
    I had kinda finalized my list of 'places to see' for my summer's ride, but I just might have to add some more GPS coordinates. Thanks for the outstanding update, as usual :)
  14. MihaiVeniamin

    MihaiVeniamin Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Romania, land of enduro
    thanks , I can see you like bikes and photography, good combination.
    did you change your motorbike ? avatar picture is showing a supermoto or something

    nice pictures, you have a nice country with beautiful landscapes !
  15. francs

    francs Been here awhile

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    Ova mi fotka nije dala mira (i kako nisam mogao više da &#269;ekam produžetak, pronašao sam na BJB-u) .
    Ono što mi prošlo glavom:"J... jel ovo mogu&#269;e?"

    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=502002

    (ne uspjevam da prika&#269;im fotku)
    Pa taj dio Srbije prakti&#269;ki niko ne poznaje (nisam ga ni ja dobrovoljno upoznao, a ipak sam se vratio da ga vidim ponovo) .
    No translation it's insignificant...
    Pozdrav
    Franc
  16. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    Update is on its way for tonight.

    Yeah, I know how it feels. List just keeps getting longer and longer :D Every time I open Google Earth I find some new places to visit, it would take a nice, long year on the road to visit them all.

    Picture in avatar is of my first bike, Chinese made Apollo AG36 (250cc super moto).

    Prilikom planiranja trase sam naisao na neke fotke kanjona Jerme. Trasu sam dosta prilagodio samo da bih prosao tim delom puta. Potpuno nestvarno mesto, tako kratka deonica a toliko upecatljiva.

    Meni je ovo bio prvi put da sam u tim krajevima i jasno je da nisam jos ni zagrebao povrsinu. Toliko toga ima za videti i obici...

    Cekaj da putopis stigne do Stare Planine, to je ubedljivo najatraktivniji deo na ovoj trasi kroz Srbiju. Kada vidis slike mislim da ces ponovo zeleti da krenes put Pirota :evil
  17. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

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    DAY FOUR

    Cold, cold night. At the very limit for my sleeping bag. I couldn't wait for the sun to come out and make things warmer. Off course, five minutes after sunrise it's already to hot in the tent so sleeping is still not easy. Some people you can never please... :D

    Breakfast, one more swim-more pleasant with the sun out, and it's packing time.

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    How's this for a morning view? 50+ photos stitched together

    CLICK ME for a large res version


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    Road leading from lake shore back to tarmac


    Tarmac ride lasts, once again, only a couple of kilometers before it's time to go into the dirt. At first road is very dusty, like riding trough some sort of silt. It would be a nightmare if you're riding at the back of a group. Road conditions soon improve and now it's a combination of dirt and gravel, really cool to ride. In fact riding is so good I completely missed a turnoff. I did see a turnoff but it didn't even look like a real road so at first I just thought that it was routing. Several minutes later it became obvious that I'm getting further and further away from my route. Backtracking time. Proper route, as I said, looked like it's in bad shape from the start. Rutted, damaged by water erosion but nothing to worry about.

    At one of the meadows I came across an old man walking around. He was so proud of the fact he was from place as beautiful as this, and rightfully so. This whole section was just picture perfect; rolling hills, meadows, birch and pine forests going by, one by one. So relaxing, I couldn't think of a better way to start riding day.

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    Only couple of corners on pavement gets me to Klisura village. Run down, depressing (southern Serbia is poorest part of the country and this is way south...) but there is a spring with fresh, ice cold water- just what I need.

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    Short ride toward Bulgarian border goes by quickly. Twisty roads with no traffic, always fun to ride.

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    Yes, I know. This is not picture of a twisty road, this was chill-out section after the twisties


    With border crossing in sight it's time to leave the main road. Good gravel road takes me to Preslapi village where I'm surprised with nice ribbon of pavement, following winding stream. Minor, very minor road with no traffic. In Kalna village I take even smaller road, freshly paved, which should take me to Crvena Jabuka (Red Apple) village. These are all such a minor villages in remote part of the country, I never heard of them before I started planning this trip...

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    I'm well bellow weight limit. Speed limit? No promises about that... :)


    In the village at the end of the pavement there is a monument to fallen partisan soldiers in WWII. For a village as small as this there was chillingly high number of names engraved in stone...

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    Drops of our blood represent true words of our freedom

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    We are the roots of freedom, we have indestructible spirits (not the best translation...), we gave our lives to the tree of freedom


    From that point on I'm back on forest roads. Dust, dirt and gravel, everything mixed together. Riding is easy and fun. Surroundings aren't inspirational so there are only a few photos. Somewhere in the woods I come across timber processing plant and, surprisingly, road becomes much better after that (trucks usually damage and destroy forest roads but this one was maintained).

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    Crvena Jabuka village used to be a thriving agricultural community, after WWII there were more than 1500 people living here. Now there are less than fifty, and most of them won't be here in next 10 years. When you know that t's not surprising to see wall of, long closed and abandoned, general store looking like this.

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    Obituaries, some dating back to late nineties...


    Next section caused many concerns in planning stages of the trip. There were simply no clearly visible roads on satellite images for next few kilometers so I was bit nervous right now. Detour was possible but I never considered that option, all I knew is that it would be a long one.

    It started nicely, with a regular dirt road. Apples spilled all over the road. No way I'm missing an opportunity like this. Once stopped I realized that those apples actually came off of a tree higher on the road bank and, naturally, out of my reach. Few fruits I got out of the mud, which still haven't rot, gave me several tasty bites. It's the little things that make man happy, this was one of them.

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    Soon after this short break road all but disappeared :evil
  18. francs

    francs Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2008
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    Ljubljana Slovenija
    Vidio sam slike i poželeo ali imam problema sa ramenom, pa &#269;e morat da pri&#269;eka.
  19. yorkie08

    yorkie08 Been here awhile

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    Nov 14, 2008
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    122
    Location:
    yorkshire, UK.
    Great photos,Brlliant composition,
    I'm heading to that area next week, hope we get the same weather

    Dave
  20. Daliss

    Daliss n00b

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2011
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    Hi,
    where this place? Could you give me the GPS coordinates for the location? It is very photogenic

    Thanks