The Adventure gets a bit too adventurous

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May 14th 2013
Published: May 16th 2013
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The prospects for the grey,overcast conditions clearing took a turn for the better this morning and as we walked to the restaurant for breakfast the sun was trying its best to break through.While we waited for the waiter to bring our breakfast Gretchen pointed to the lady sweeping the ground in the outside area of the restaurant using a broom made of thin twigs of the sort you might see a 'witch' in a movie or play use.She said she had noticed this just about everywhere we have been including Italy and how effective they were on the hard surfaces.Just shows how a male doesn't recognise home cleaning 'equipment'!!

After another yummy omelette we packed up the car and readied ourselves for the driven into the 'unknown'.

However before we w ere able to head away the hippy woman appeared from nowhere and wanted to chat away about the history and political situation of Bosnia since the war.It took a quarter of an hour to 'escape'.We realiased she meant well and she did have some interesting things to listen to but we had a long drive ahead with some idea that the roads might not be as good as we had experienced to date.She finally got the message that we needed to be on our way and left us to finish packing the car.

We had a few Bosnian Marks left in change so called into a supermarket on the way out of town and bought some lunch items and fruit.At the checkout it became clear why for at least one reason Bosnians smoke like 'chimneys'.The cost of a 20 pack of cigarettes here is only BM2.70 or €1.35 which is around NZ$2!It is little wonder that they aren't inclined to give up because of cost!

The E762 towards the border with Montenegro had some great scenery of mountains still covered on their tops with snow and as we climbed one hill we got great views of the 1984 Olympic Ski slopes in the distance.

The road climbed and fell over the hills and in one valley just outside a small town we passed a policeman with a hand held speed detector in one hand and a cigarette in the other hand.Says a lot about just how cheap it is to smoke in this country and their carefree attitude towards the nasty habit.Needless to say he didn't flag us down doing 60kph in the 80kph zone.

Bosnia Herzegovina has a complicated arrangement for Presidency of the country.There are two Presidents elected for Bosnia which forms the central and northern part of the country.One is Croat and the other is Bosniack.The other President comes from Republika Srpska,the area to the west and south of Sarajevo and is a Serb.They each govern for an 8 month stint for equality and are re elected every 4 years.As one of the guides books we had read says 'we don't have trouble with just one President,we have three !'

We had passed through Srpska coming into Sarajevo from Croatia and in the early years after the war it was a territory that was not recommended for travel by outsiders due to the still lingering tensions between the Serbs and the Croats and Bosniacks.This all seems to be in the past now and except for the different flag on government buildings and signs written in three languages rather than two you wouldn't know you were travelling in any other part of the country.So now we had again entered Republika Srpska indicated by a sign on the side of the road and the flag of this part of the country.

We had a sense of change in the road as we passed the turnoff to Foca,the last major centre,before we drove up to the border with Montenegro as the tar seal deteriorated.

Had we read a bit more about the last 15km or so to the border on the E762 we might have taken the other option which was to travel towards the coast from Sarajevo and then head south to Montenegro which was the main border crossing between the two countries.However,there was the promise of the scenic Drina River and Piva Canyon on the 762 and after all this is the BBA V2 where the 'A'stands for ADVENTURE!And we were about to get the first taste of adventure for the day.

The road entered the gorge carrying the Drina River which was a beautiful blue/green colour indicating it was being fed by snow melt in the mountains close by.The road was high above the river which we could see was flowing swiftly with white water which usually means rapids.

At the same time we entered the gorge and bush the road immediately narrowed to one lane and the condition went downhill very fast with at times no seal where there had been a landslip and the way over the cleared area was a bumpy extremely narrow one lane with no guard rail and a drop of what looked from the passengers window to be a couple of hundred metres to the river with the bush beneath the landslip cleared by the land that had slipped into the river.

Thankfully there was no oncoming traffic to contend with and we were starting to wonder just how remote was this border crossing and would the officials want to fill their day in by questioning a couple of Kiwis why they were in this part of the world driving a car with French number plates?

Then we spotted what immediately came to mind as potential problem for us one this narrow one lane road to the border.

Standing on the side of the road were two people who looked like they were waiting for a bus.

We looked at each other and at the same time,as we often do after 41 years of marriage,said to each other that a bus can't be coming to pick those people up,can it?!!

Gretchen,who was driving,upped the tempo as best as she could on what tar seal there was keeping away from the hard right of the 'track'.Clearly the Bosnian authorities didn't place a lot of emphasis of maintaining this final section of the E762 to the border.Perhaps it was something to do with roads Serbs might have used during the war when Montenegro sided with the Serbs at the outset only to declare themselves an independent nation later.

This last 15km seemed to be taking an age although with our concern at what we would do if we did meet a bus coming at us was probably making the time and distance pass slowly and of course the low speed we were able to travel at.

We felt we weren't far from the border but there were no villages or settlements other than a rafting camp at Bastasi,to guage how far we still had to go.

Then,what we had feared,happened.

With about 20 metres vision ahead a bus suddenly came into sight.And it wasn't a mini bus which might have been suited to the state and width of the road.Oh no,it was a large 40 seater,at least.

The BBA V1 and 2 have both had some very lucky moments while we have been travelling(you can't fail to have some near misses with the mileage we have done over the years).This time we were fortunate as where we met the bus,which wasn't going to stop,was just wide enough for him to pass while we came to a virtual stop to edge by without scraping the side of the bus or,worse,going over the edge of the road!Whew!!

Soon after the reason for the locality of Hum on the atlas came into view and we had reached the Bosnian side of the border with Montenegro still in one piece and still on the road.Exiting was easy,there were no other cars.

Across a rickety wooden platform bridge over the Tara River and we arrived at the Montenegro border and again it was a simple transit into one of the world's youngest nations.

Ahead of us the road was a full width for two vehicles,a white line down the middle and even white fog lines as well.What a dream!

As we drove on through the Piva Canyon we started to put the last half hour or so on the Bosnian side of the E762 behind us and thought it would be a straightforward run on well maintained and wide roadway to near Kotor where our accommodation was.

How wrong we were and we would eventually be tested again,in a major way, before we finally got to the apartment.!

For now though the road was a very interesting one to be driving with rough hewn tunnels making the road relatively straight.You would get a couple of hundred of metres of views out to snow covered mountains and down to the swiftly flowing river in the canyon and then you would plunge into a tunnel without any concrete lining as you would find in most other places.

We crossed the 220 metre high Mratinje Dam,one of the highest in Europe.It was rather scary stopping to take photos and peering over the edge as the river below looked so far away.Shortly after we had a lunch stop between tunnels which had continued even after crossing the dam.We lost count of the number of tunnels we passed through before we emerged onto a pastoral but rocky plateau.We thought that the farming practices in Montenegro looked more advanced than Bosnia and Croatia and that may be because the country has been in a settled state for a longer period following the 1990 Balkan conflicts and also joined the EU which probably bought more investment to the country.

We stopped for grocery shopping in the city of Niksic and were please to note that food items are still relatively cheap to the cost in western Europe.The city was a major industrial centre in the old Yugoslavia days and this is obvious by the large number of unattractive socialist type apartment blocks which housed most of the population.

After Niksic we were looking for the turnoff to a recently completed road the R11 to take us down to Kotor Bay.However as we drove along Vicky suddenly dropped the R6 we were on and showed that we were in an unmapped area yet we still had the R6 ahead of us.Thankfully the road 'came back' just in time as we turned off onto the R11 which equated to the best road surface and alignment we have travelled on since travelling east from Italy.

Things were going well and we had only a short distance to travel to Kotor when Vicky showed the R11 as taking a sharp left hand turn and away from where we expected the road to go.So we followed where she suggested we go.

Initially the road wasn't too bad and the views were certainly spectacular over the unspoilt Bay of Kotor which is very much like an inland fiord with steep mountains all around its many bays and inlets and from the height we were at we could see over a great part of it.

After a couple of kilometres of driving the two laned road with guard rails only on the corners we came to a split in the road and Vicky indicated the one to the right was to be our path.

The roadway immediately narrowed to one lane and as our descent progressed our minds went back to the morning as we travelled over those last 15km out of Bosnia and it was very quickly clear that we were in for more ADVENTURE!We were travelling at about only 10kph but there was no where to turn around and Gretchen certainly wasn't going to try a 6 point turn(or more) with no guard rail on the right hand side of the road and a sheer drop down the rock face of several hundred metres.

The road surface deteriorated and where there was tar seal it was bumpy and uneven making us wonder whether it might direct the car in the direction of the unguarded edge even if our speed was only 10kph.

We were about 2 kilometre into the descent with still another kilometre or so to go to the series of hairpins that showed up on the GPS ahead when we noticed that the roadway appeared to have cracks through the tar seal about halfway across the narrow width of the one lane road.THIS was enough for us!We didn't feel confident to proceed and we had to find somewhere to tun the car around and go back up the road and take the other longer option to our destination.

We didn't want to travel any further in case we had to reverse up the hill and while reversing on a flat surface with ground around the car to work with,this situation was radically different with only a narrow lane and an edge with no guard rails to do the manoeuvre in reverse.

I got out and walked down the road and thankfully there was a small widening of the road about 100 metres further on so I waved Gretchen to drive down and she executed a perfect 6 point turn without getting too close to the edge and we were turned around and got out of there as fast as we dared!As we turned onto the longer route again we realised that in our hurry to find a way out of our predicament we had forgotten to take a photo of our situation.Still it will live with us for years to come we are sure.

The rest of the journey was a breeze and we were soon circumventing the huge bay area and passing through Kotor and the 1.6km tunnel that took us through to Radonovici and our apartment which is going to suit us nicely as there is plenty of room,our own cooking and a washing machine!

We ended what had been the most adventurous of the BBA V2 so far(and we want to keep it that way from hereon)with cherries at €5 kg and strawberries at €2.50 from a vendor across the road from the apartment and a very nice glass or two of a local rose wine and spag bog,a favourite when we are at home.

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16th May 2013

Sounds like you definetley put the A into the BBA today! Montenegro looks lovely though. Keep an eye out for James Bond and the Casino Royale ;-)
22nd May 2013

I am glad that I am very behind on the blog as it would have made me too worried about you if I had been reading it at the time of posting! Be careful you two! And can you please ditch Vicky and get Serena out? Aside from that, Montenegro looks stunning and have you checked out the road you took on google maps?
22nd May 2013

Yes,it was the scariest moment of the BBA V1 and 2.We wondered had we plunged with the car over the edge whether we would have ever been found.Vicky is OK 99% of the time but just has theses little problems from time to time.Of course she is there right bang in front of us and easy to see and read whereas Serena needs to be attached to a very sloping windscreen and is a much smaller screen.Don't worry your parents don't take any undue risks.

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