Before saying goodbye to the friendly girl running the camp site and hitting the road again, we go down to the river to enjoy a traditional breakfast. Fried dumplings with cheese and honey like this will get you through the day without even needing lunch.
We ride the 3 km gravel access road to the camp site back up to the paved road which runs along the canyon wall. After missing out on Sušičko lake back in 2014 due to abundant rain and mist, we figure this is a perfect opportunity to fix that. The skies are clear and we have plenty of time today. The narrow road snakes through the amazing landscape of the Durmitor national park.
It’s a smooth ride and we enjoy all the views which were hidden behind a curtain of ghostly grey on our previous visit. The road surface is still paved though and both of us do seem to remember this stretch was gravel back then. We figure it might be our minds playing tricks on us. The fog made it hard to determine exactly where we were or how far we had ridden. We carry on, but before we realise it, we’re at the bottom of the valley and still haven’t hit any gravel. They have paved the entire road! It’s probably good for tourism, but kind of a disappointment for us. When we walk over to the lake the disappointment is complete. There’s no water at all! The bed is completely dry and covered with grass. It looks more like the Great Green Dothraki Sea from Game of Thrones than like a mountain lake in the Balkans.
While we’re deciding where to go next, a local comes walking over. He introduces himself as Branco and claims to be a park ranger. I’m a bit sceptical, as he’s not wearing any uniform or badges. I become even more suspicious when he says there’s a 3 EUR per person fee for entering the park. He offers no identification and while I don’t mind contributing to the maintenance of a national park, I’m not to keen on sponsoring a random guy’s next visit to the pub. He then starts noting down our license plates in his Nokia 3210 and calls a colleague. Or pretends to, I’m not quite sure. I remain unconvinced. It still sounds like a scam. A Slovakian family in a car get the same treatment and react the same way as us. Thanks but we’ll just get going again.
We exit the park without incident near Zabljak and aim straight for the Tara bridge and the start of the swooping road through the most impressive part of Tara Canyon. E enjoy the speed, the curves and feeling humbled by natures sculptures around us. The Tara river has carved the deepest canyon in Europe and the second longest in the world after the grand canyon. Call me impressed.
After another quick stop in Mojkovac for fuel we ride straight to Kolasin. Before going up into the mountains we stock up on provisions in the little supermarket. Or at least Sofie does, while I wait outside with the bikes.
Continuing towards Vranjak, where we’ll be spending the next few days, we’re gobsmacked again at the extent of the changes since we were last in Montenegro. What used to be a nice narrow gravel road is now as wide as a dual-carriageway, filled with bulldozers and trucks and most of all very, very dusty. It looks like they are building a major road up into the mountains. There is still a lot of work to be done before tarmac can be laid though. And in places the ripped up road gets a rather sandy. Nothing majorly difficult, though. Half-way up the familiar narrow gravel road is back so we try to enjoy what is left of the ride to the secluded camp site.
Up on the mountain we have a very warm reunion with both Blazo and Tonko, the organizers of the HU Montenegro meeting. We’re amongst the first guests to arrive so we still have a wide choice of spots to pitch our tent. Very carefully we select a spot which is almost flat and relatively clear of cow and sheep shit.
With everything installed we take the opportunity to air out the sleeping bags and dry the clothes we had put in the washing machine at Tara Grab early this morning.
Montenegro definitely succeeded in overwhelming us again with its natural beauty.