We were wondering what we would discover in Montenegro. Culturally, scenic and not at last the quality of the roads; Kerstin’s large playground/training facility was opened.
At the beginning of the famous Kotor Bay we turned north and we wanted to reach the Durmitor National Park before the evening. Pretty soon the streets turned to twisty loops; higher and higher into the mountains. The first impression was really good and there was very little traffic. The scenery was beautiful, the temperatures pleasant and Kerstin tried to adapt to the speed of Sascha more and more. And more and more often Sascha called on the Interphone: “You have to go faster! You are going to tilt over in the curve!” Here it was again “Gas!Gas!Gas!” In Niksic we stopped for shopping and late afternoon we were close to Pluzine.
All day we were driving up-hill and suddenly Sascha became very slow and you could hear him swearing. “What’s the matter?” “I do not know! The bike is not taking gas anymore” We stopped, but actually this windy road was not really good for parking at all. Right hand side it dropped away and on the other side there were sheer rock walls. OK there wasn’t that much traffic but still cars and logging trucks were passing. We had a quick look at the bike and at each other – no idea what’s wrong! Sascha tried to start again and it was working. “Never mind, let’s go!” About one or two kilometers further the same thing… the ´Big Lady´ just stopped. “Shit shit shit! BULLSHIT!” A couple on a bike came along and disappeared behind the next turn… But they came back! Of course there was not much they could do, but at least they told us that about 700m further there is a little lay-by with a small wooden honey-sales-stall where we could safely stop. So we started one more time. The Sales-stall was run by a young boy who did not speak much English. There was a bench next to it and Kerstin had a seat for a cigarette and tried to make conversation whilst Sascha was thinking. There was an idea he had what could have happened when he took off the tank last time. Maybe the ventilation hose is pinched off? With all the gears on it would take at least 1 hour to check it. And meanwhile it was late. There was a sign at the sales-stall and it was saying ´apartment´.
In the end we found out the boy in the sales-stall was the son of the family who was renting the apartment and it was just 500m down the gravel road. It was a little valley with a church – a little bit onwards a farmyard with two houses surrounded by hives, plum and pear trees, blackberry bushes, chicken and cows. An idyllic place and the family were welcoming us with the question: “Homemade Slivovice or a beer?” Sascha said: “OK now we are talking (and to help the communication and the international friendship he said: “first a Slivovice and then two or three beers”. Before it turned dark Sascha could solve the problem as it was exactly what he thought. When he took off the tank the last time he pinched the air intake hose and there were no air coming in the tank. But why it just was not enough air in this specific moment: Karma. The AT thought it was a good place to stay, and guess what? She was right! We spent a lovely evening together and stayed in a luxury apartment with a big bed and a fridge filled with local goodies like homemade honey, milk, cheese, ham, eggs…
Maybe this little dispute between Sascha and the `Big Lady´ was just a sign?! A sign to calm down and to realize: `We are not on a run! We are on a journey!! Destiny?! Fortune?! Let’s enjoy and see what is coming along! We decided to stay one more day – why not?! The farm of Zeljko is full off fragrant flowers and embraced by aromatic meadows and orchards. Durmitor is around the corner and we can explore a part of it from here without the gear – and maybe it´s a chance for Kerstin to have the heart to try some ´different´ roads as well…
The next day we enjoyed driving along the Piva Lake. The tunnels here in Montenegro are most of the time just big holes in the rock without illumination at all, the serpentine inside were a particular challenge for Kerstin. Later on we entered the Durmitor National Park from the west taking very little roads. On our map we could see there is a steep way down to a canyon and the path was marked as unpaved, a thin dashed line only. We decided to see if Kerstin can make it. The landscape was really amazing and most of the time we were driving on an altitude of 1500m – 2000m. When we arrived at the point where the gravel should start we were facing a brand new 2m wide paved road. Not sure if it will become gravel suddenly we were going down the bends slowly in the beginning. We met a car half way and they were assuring the road was paved all the way. From now on Sascha was speeding up and Kerstin was challenged to follow – but as well she had more and more fun doing it. It is a gorgeous place to drive. You have nice little bending roads, beautiful views with steep valleys and wonderful plateaus and all this with a pleasant climate. Just before it turned dark we arrived back; perfectly happy and satisfied. What a day!
While we were having a beer with our Landlord Zeljko and his family he was telling us that there is celebration at the church next to the house, the Piva Monastery, the next day where we have to go; we were officially invited. The Monastery was built in 16th century at the spring of the Piva river and although it was a Christian religious center, its construction was approved by the Ottoman rulers, which is an unusual rarity. In 1982, when the Piva Hydro Electric Project created a vast water reservoir, only the Piva Monastery was saved, as it was moved to a new site stone by stone including 1,500 square meters of frescoes. That sounds interesting even though the Monterey do not look that impressive from outside – it is a pretty simple construction out of natural stones. Anyhow, we will stay one more day!
When we had breakfast on our terrace the next morning the last wafts of mist were disappearing and we could hear the choral exercising for the event. It was a magic atmosphere. Those who know the band ´Dead can Dance´ can maybe imagine what we were listening to… Everybody on the farm was preparing themselves and the place became busy very quickly. People were pouring in from all the surrounding mountain villages. We were really impressed from the insight of the Monastery and the frescoes when we entered; also from the ceremony itself and the fascinating singing. About two hours later the feast continued outside. Wine, beer, slivovice and a delicious food box with a trout out of the Piva lake, beans and pastries were offered to everybody and traditional groups started to perform. We really enjoyed this experience with this entire friendly cheerful people. In the early afternoon we left for another ride (this is why we withstand all drinks that morning) and we chose a little road which was actually starting shortly behind the border to Bosnia Herzegovina and leading back to Montenegro along the Tara River. And when we stated at the border control that we only want to enter this road and going back to Montenegro they just waved us through. Truly this is a place where you do not get tired driving around and you relish every second of driving.
The next morning it was time for us to continue, we could stay there for the next three weeks easily but…. We started packing and loading the bikes. Suddenly Zeljkow was calling us: “Come down! Breakfast is ready!” The table outside was loaded with big plates of lamb, salad, fresh local bread and of course his delicious homemade wine and slivovice. This time we had a little sip for the good-bye. We banqueted at least two hours with the family and their friends and of course we left later than planned. So what? These moments are what make it unique. Thank you Zeljkow and your whole family and friends!
We finally left and we were crossing the last time the Durmitor National Park direction Tara Canyon. From here we turned to the south along the Tara River. South of Mojkovac we kept an eye out for a camping spot. There was one supposed to be in the “National Park Biogradska Gora” next to a lake. When we arrived at the spot we recognized it was loaded with cars and people. Some wooden huts were scattered in between the trees up the hills. It was Sunday afternoon and it is a place of excursions for the weekends we found out later. We asked for the campground and the arm of the ranger in the wooden block house was showing around in a wide curve. Choose one. OK! We understood: we are the only ones with a tent. As well we noticed that more and more people were leaving the place. Probably we will be alone as soon as it gets dark. We found a spot for the tent and Kerstin had a quick jump into the lake as there were no bathroom facilities except one pit latrine (after a busy weekend). But they had a fountain with fresh cold spring water! And they left as well two little light spots on. At the time it was getting dark we were prepared, sitting at a wooden table and ready to start cooking with a delicious bottle of Zeljkov´s slivocice. Then suddenly two guys on their BMW’s arrived, Tobias and Stefan from Germany. Quickly we were looking for a place for their tent and later we had time to cook and to chat away. They came via Bosnia Herzegovina, Zagreb, and just explored Durmitor as well.
The next morning we had breakfast and a look at the map together. As we were going the same direction we decided to go together for the time being: direction Plav. A corner of Montenegro in the east and neighboring Kosovo and Albania. Needless to say we clarified that Kerstin is a “beginner” and she sometimes needs more patience. No problem for Stefan and Tobias! But nevertheless Kerstin was not feeling very comfortable in the beginning while trying to follow Sascha and having two bikers on her back…
BUT – more about driving, willful intents and if we continued as a group of four you can read in the next and last part.