We’re not the first HU meeting attendees to arrive at the Eko Katun Vranjak camp site. Our Belgian friends Jos and Danny have been here for a few days already. They’ve been on the road for a bit longer and gradually made their way here through France and Italy. Now they are enjoying a little R&R in the sunny mountains around Kolasin, but they tell us the nights have been rather cold.
Gradually more attendees are arriving and setting up their tents or carrying their stuff into the little shepherd’s huts. While we’re chilling out and watching people, Blazo comes over. The Polish girl he had scheduled to give a presentation tonight just let him know she wouldn’t be able to make it in time. Could we fill the gap with the first part of our split presentation tonight, please? We’re happy to help out but we will have to do some last minute adaptations so the second part remains interesting for the people only arriving tomorrow and Saturday. Better get to work, then!
It turns into a pleasant evening getting to know some new people, sharing stories and beers and off to bed early. We’re in full travel rhythm again, getting up early and going to bed soon after sunset. It being late August this far east in the CET time zone that’s a lot earlier than in Belgium.
The next morning we sleep in. After 5 days of full on riding, we can take it easy now and have a small holiday within the holiday. It turns out to be rush hour on the mountain. Normally there’s just a few cows, horses and a pack of dogs to scare off the wolves on the camp site, but twice a day a flock of sheep pass through as well.
Breakfast is as we remember from previous visits: extensive, delicious and it should keep us going until dinner time again. There’s no big plans for today. Sofie and I will probably ride down into Kolasin for some local data SIM cards. We’ll be in Montenegro for a while and there’s no wifi on the mountain. Plus, Jos told us 10 GB cards are only 5 EUR a piece. While we’re getting ready, we hear a few of the others are planning a ride-out to Biogradsko Lake. That’s a scenic 80km tour and it passes through Kolasin on the way back, so we decide to tag along.
We set out around 11am and the first stop is a the television antenna on top of the mountain. Not because the antenna is so interesting, but because it’s the highest point around and the views up here are quite stunning.
The trails through the national park are still as fun and impressive as we remember. But also a lot drier and dustier. The group is quite large and we’re not exactly riding at our usual pace. But enjoying the scenery keeps us occupied. The slow, frequent stop riding is still a little frustrating, though. With the progress we’re making, it is taking a bit longer than we anticipated. And the ride isn’t without incident. After a rockier down hill section Danny’s Tenere starts overheating, so we take a little break so he can investigate.
Sofie has her own little incident when attempting an emergency stop downhill to avoid a rope suspended above the road. Hitting the front brake too abruptly on surface like this leads to the inevitable wash-out of the front wheel. She knew the obstacle was coming from our previous visit. And the farmer who had put it up to warn tall vehicles of the electrical wire running about 2.5 meters high above the road had attached a strip of plastic in the middle to make it more visible. But it was too late to react. Luckily no serious damage to bike or rider. Sofie gets away with a few bruises but is up and running again in a few minutes.
The final descent towards Biogradsko lake consists of a succession of 17 tight hairpins, some of them covered in pretty deep gravel. A Croatian on a rented Africa Twin had already been sweating handling the big and heavy bike on the trails and is becoming very exhausted by now. He drops the shiny new bike a few times in the hairpins and gets even more tired every time we help him pick it up again. While the rest of the group continue to the lake, his friend and I stay with him. I advise a little break and some water to re-hydrate before continuing. He looks like he could use it. The exhaustion and limited experience on these types of trails easily lead to mistakes. The bike and its luggage take a bit of a beating and I feel kind of sorry for the guy, because he’s clearly suffering. It’s a tough off-road training school. But in the end we make it down to the lake as well, where the rest of the group are waiting.
After some rest Sofie and I continue. Together with a German couple on BMWs and Janos, a Hungarion on a GS, we ride back to Kolasin. Turns out the couple are Jo and Beate, who arrived at the camp site in Jajce on their R1100GS and XCountry the same night we were there. It’s a small world.
We manage to get our hands on the data SIM cards and say goodbye to Janos as he’s returning home tomorrow and won’t be joining us on the mountain again. We set off for the last stretch of gravel and dust back to Eko Katun Vranjak.