After spending so many nights in our tent, a three by three meter cabin feels like an indulgence. The floor plan might not be that much larger than our trusty Vaude tent, but you can actually stand up! Such luxury! It’s a slow morning enjoying yet another priganice dumpling breakfast with cheese and honey. Can’t get enough of those! It is also time to say goodbye to Ioana and Chris. They’ll be going North into Bosnia to Foça. We have taken that route a few times already and want to try something different. But we should be seeing each other again in a few weeks at the Discover Overland Meeting near Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands.
Our plan is to ride South a bit first before crossing into Bosnia. Our map shows a small border post we haven’t used yet. It should see us directly into Gacko, probably the ugliest place in Bosnia. But we know of some nice trails to explore between there and Nevesinje. The turn-off from the main road to the border is hard to miss. Gacko is already signposted. The road is small and quiet – perhaps a bit too quiet – but it’s also nice and twisty. Yet again we are confronted with the smell of smoke and scorched fields. Wild fires have wreaked havoc in large parts of the region.
A few clicks before we get to the border a local on the side of the road is waving and signalling that the road is closed. Since we’re so close now and it’s about 40km back to the turnoff, we decide to check it out anyway. When we arrive at the small border post, a rather grumpy guard sends me back immediately.
The lady is a bit puzzled when we open the bottles and start pouring them into our rucksacks.
Despite the sign at the turnoff and our map indicating otherwise, this isn’t an international crossing. Sofie goes over to ask which alternative crossings we can take and suddenly he’s a lot friendlier. He points us to a crossing a bit further south. But we’ll have to make a big detour back to the main road.
It’s quite a detour but we do make good progress, only stopping for some refreshments in a small road side cafe. The lakes we pass along the road all have very low water levels. A testament to the drought that allowed for the quick spread of all the wild fires. Although when you ask the locals, they all seem to think the fires themselves were lit deliberately.
This time we’re allowed to cross into Bosnia without any incident. It’s a small border station and there’s hardly anyone else. We stick to the tarmac for a bit longer into Bosnia before popping into a little shop to replenish our water supplies. The lady running the place is a bit puzzled when we open all the bottles immediately and start pouring them into our rucksacks. I guess she hasn’t seen any camelbacks before. She must think we’re really weird.
The trail we are looking for starts right next to the little shop. A lovely gravel road with amazing vistas down into the valley. Once we’re on top of the plateau, we leave those views behind. But the riding fun becomes even better. Until we suddenly reach a stretch of brand new tarmac. The road still smells of fresh bitumen. I’m sure if it weren’t so hot already, we’d see clouds of steam rising up. Despite it not appearing on either our paper nor our GPS maps we decide to follow it anyway. The most probable direction it will takes us is Nevesinje, which is where we’re planning to go.
On the way we encounter yet more wild fires.
But quite abruptly this beautiful black velvet smooth road dead ends. It looks like road workers are stil busy cutting through some rocks with diggers and explosives. We retrace our steps and pick a smaller gravel track which in the end gets us to Nevesinje as well. In stead of riding into town, we fuel up on the outskirts and quickly hit the trails again. The goal for today is Boračko lake, which is just across the next mountain ridge. On the way we encounter yet more wild fires still raging. A fire truck is standing by but not intervening. It would be pointless anyway with just one truck against this scale of burning grasses and bushes. I guess they are mainly there to try and keep the fire from spreading in the direction of the houses further down.
The road to Boračko is longer than we expected, but it’s a good ride. We want to spend the night at a camp site we remember from a few years ago on the banks of the lake. It is easy enough to find back. But tourism is clearly on the rise in the region. There’s a number of places renting out rooms and a proper beach with sporting and showering facilities as well. The camp site now charges 20 EUR per night for a tent. Not exactly what we were planning to spend tonight. Cabins are 30 EUR, but include breakfast. We’ll take one of those then. At least we get free beers after showing some pictures we took of the place 3 years ago.
This place makes you feel like a Dakar racer. Or at least lets you pretend to be.
Luckily breakfast turns out to be as extensive as the prices. Well fed we start off North in the direction of Konjic over a lovely little mountain pass. And soon after we’ve crossed the city we leave the tarmac behind again. We’re pretty excited to be back in our favourite part of Bosnia. Besides some awe-inspiring views, the mountains around Umoljani and Lukomir also provide great opportunities to feel like being in the Dakar rally. Not that we’re anywhere close to being fast riders, it’s just nice to pretend sometimes.
The gravel road to Lukomir is a dead end road. It stops at the edge of the ravine where the village is located. Lukomir supposedly is the highest permanently inhabited settlement in the Balkans. It is not hard to imagine why people would endure the harsh winters here when looking at the stunning landscape surrounding us.
The little cafe run by Mina we visited 4 years ago seems to have closed. But an enthusiastic young girl is running a new establishment a few houses down the road. For us it is the perfect spot for some tea and a quick bite. The girl is pretty chatty and offers us some fresh burek. When she takes it out of the traditional oven it has just cooled down enough to be eaten. A large round baking tin with a lid is cleared from the ashes of the coal which had covered it and out comes the huge golden brown savoury pasty. We’re not that hungry after the elaborate breakfast this morning so we decide to share a single slice.
While we were enjoying our herbal tea and burek, the wind has picked up and dark clouds are forming on the horizon. Our cue to get back on the road. Being caught in a thunderstorm at some point is unavoidable, but it is preferable to let it pass over when you’re no longer high up in the mountains. We set course for Sarajevo via Mount Igman and its famous ski resorts.
We mostly manage to keep in front of the rain while descending the military supply road from the civil war into Sarajevo. And when the brunt of the rain front hits us we’ve already found shelter at a fuel station. A bit of rest, a snickers and a coffee keep us occupied. In the mean time we plan the rest of our route for today. It would have been cool if we could have done the Bosnian Eastern Railway track. But it is already well past lunchtime and chances are we’ll see some more rain. So we’ll just cut through the Bosnian capital and take the normal roads to Gorazde.
According to Maps.me there should be a biker’s stay at the outskirts of town. But when we get there it turns out to be a small club house. And it is totally deserted. Since it’s already well past 6:30PM on a Saturday evening we don’t want to wait around in the hopes someone might still show up. So we ride back into the center and book a room in a hotel. While Sofie is inside making arrangements a waiter from a nearby pizza restaurant comes over and tells me I’m not allowed to wait on this parking lot. Apparently it is reserved for customers of the restaurant across the street. There’s plenty of free spaces so I refuse to budge and tell him the bikes are staying until we’re finished with our business.
We feel like celebrities, staying in the same room Brad and Angelina once shared.
The hotel staff is really friendly. The lady at reception even speaks some French and German. The room is on the expensive side but it’s large and very clean. It is late and we don’t feel like looking any further so we take it. The fact that Angelina and Brad supposedly stayed in the same room (there’s pictures in the lobby), makes the price tag a bit easier to swallow.
To make pizza boy happy, we move the bikes to the private parking behind the hotel, but are told by the staff to park them inside. For safety. Some stuff is moved out of the way in a storage room and the bikes are rolled in. After a shower, we have a traditional bosnian dinner on the terrace looking out across the river at the large mosque on the other side. By the time the rain starts closing in again it’s time to retire to our celebrity room.