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September 28th, 2010 | Bosnia

“Lostia” in Bosnia…

Riding through the mountains to Foca...

We left Bobin Do, a place we both agreed we could have spent longer in, had we needed to… Had I been alone, I might have done just that, but I also had to keep in mind that with my route now changing, I would have a longer distance to ride to Istanbul…

Willi’s planned route also changed, and we decided to “mix and match” what we had originally wanted to do, and came up with a new plan that suited us both…

He was not keen to ride in Albania, and I had been warned that this particular country, which was still struggling to extricate itself from over 50 years of isolation, would test my mettle… But before we got there, we agreed to head for Podgorica in Montenegro…

The roads in this part of the Balkans are in excellent condition, and wind their way through the Bjelasnica and Tresjavica Mountains, with their stark white peaks, and slopes covered in dense vegetation. The few small villages that we passed through hardly impeded our progress…

Proof that aliens had once landed in Bosnia...

We made good time to Foca, near the Montenegrin border, where Willi wanted to stop for coffee and something to eat… It was barely 10.00am…!!

He had opted not to have breakfast at the hotel, and usually ate from the supplies he carried with him… This habit, as well as a few others, like stopping at (to me) was inopportune times, to have coffee or something to eat, would turn out to cause us a few delays in the days ahead…!!

This is what makes riding with someone after months on your own, difficult to get used to… There are many concessions that both parties have to make, in order to make the journey together one that you will remember with fondness rather than regret…

Some guys can be the greatest of mates when they are off the bike, but when the riding part comes along, and their riding styles differ markedly, niggles arise, and after a few weeks of niggles, a parting of the ways becomes inevitable…

In my case, I knew that Willi and I would probably only ride together for a few days, and I resigned myself to “going with the flow” until he went to do the rides he had planned in Bulgaria…

I figured that while I would not lose any days out on the road with the new routes we had planned together; it would mean that I would have little or no time to do any writing to keep my site up to date…

Confirmation that my GPS had led us into the Black Hole of Bosnia...

On leaving Foca, with me leading the way, we rode to what I thought was the border with Montenegro… After riding for half an hour, I realized that somewhere along the line, my GPS had computed a different route, probably based on what it thought was the most direct route to Podgorica…

Although it turned out to be a far longer route, the ride was a good one, and wound through the most amazing mountain scenery, through the Sujeska River Gorge, all the way down to the town of Avtovac, south of Gacko…

No doubting the beauty of the area we were riding through...

Another tunnel blasted through the cliffs along the river...

The Gypsy Biker pulls a "live" one...!!

Halfway there we had stopped at a tiny village called Izgori, to find out which country we were in…!!

I thought we had crossed over a remote part of the border where there was no official “paperwork” required… At a small roadside coffee shop cum bar, where we were pretty sure tourists had never been seen, we stopped to ask where we were…

“Is this Montenegro…?” I asked…

The look that the girl working there gave us, had us laughing out loud…!! She called herself “Bozidarka”, and  shed some light on our little predicament, by advising us to continue further south and then cross into Montenegro…

We ordered coffee, which she heated up on an old stove, and refused to accept payment for…

“I like motorbikes…!” she said, “This is my gift to you…!!”

Taken aback by her kindness, we gave her a chunk of Croatian change we had in our pockets, and suggested she take a short holiday there on us…!!

We were supposed to be on the other side of this range of mountains...!!

Passed this shepherd attending to his flock... His jaw hit the ground as we passed...!!

In Gacko we discovered that the nearest border was closed to all traffic, and we had to ride another 50 odd kilometres to Bileca and ask for further directions there…!! South of the town, and north of Lake Bilecko, we found a little used road that took us to the seldom used border post of Vracenovici…

Riding above Lake Bilecko, and hopefully on our way to a border that still functioned...!!

"There you are...!!".... The border into Montenegro...!!

After checking our passports and shaking their heads in wonder that two crazy bikers had actually found their way to their remote outpost, we were waved through and into the wilds of eastern Montenegro…

The road was tarred (in a fashion) but extremely narrow, and on the rare occasion that a clapped out old car passed us, we had to almost bring the bikes to a stop to get past without scraping…

There were no road signs warning of sharp bends and tight corners, and on more than one bend, I flirted with the shrubbery…

After what seemed like ages, we came to the main road leading to Niksic, on which we were able to get back up to top speed, trying desperately to make up for lost time… Above the city, we stopped to admire the amazing views out over Lake Slano…

This narrow country road took us through miles of practically deserted countryside...

Looking out over Lake Slano to Niksic on the far shore... The clouds were a bit of a worry...!!

There was nothing to encourage a stay in the town centre, so we rode on to Podgorica...

Niksic did not have a single hotel that the local guys would recommend… They all advised us to ride on to Podgorica, and with the light failing fast, we rode hard along the banks of the Zeta River, trying to reach the city before dark…

We arrived just after nightfall, and stopped at the huge (and only) shopping mall in the country, to ask about a place to stay… After a fruitless ride around the city, finding places that were either too expensive, or did not have any parking that we deemed suitable, we rode back to the mall and found the Ambiente Hotel, which was literally a few hundred metres from where we had originally stopped…

Once more the internet connection was so slow and weak as a result of the weather, that updating my site and checking my mail, was impossible…!!

The ride had been a tough one, technically challenging and on so many varying surfaces, that although we had only covered a little over 300 km, it felt as though we had done twice that…!! Had we been able to make use of the internet, I might have opted to stay an extra day in Podgorica…

We resigned ourselves to riding a third straight day, through more mountainous terrain where speed would again seldom exceed 50 km/h. With our maps spread out before us, we worked out a route that would take us through northern Albania and into Kosovo…

Everyone we spoke to had rolled their eyes when we told then what we had planned to do…

“Do not ride in this area after dark, it is not safe…!!” they told us…

I was more concerned with the time it would take us, factoring in Willi’s penchant for stopping in every town for something to eat or drink…!! In this, he was a bit like Allan Karl, and I had to grit my teeth on a number of occasions when all I wanted to do was cover distance and then rest and eat later…

Lets leave the bikes and take this for a spin...

While our riding styles are similar, and we ride at roughly the same speeds, Willi seemed to prefer hanging well back and out of sight of me when I was riding point… This was a little disconcerting for me, as when you opt to ride with another biker, you begin to assume a joint responsibility for each other… That is what “riding together” is all about… On many occasions, I would slow down to almost a walking pace, or even stop, waiting for Willi to catch up…

When I rode shotgun for him, I stayed within thirty or forty metres of him at all times, and this is when we seemed to make good time… But riding behind him had its own set of irritations… For one thing, he had fitted that flashing brake light system, where the light flashes on and off a few times before “locking” on… This blinking light is almost mesmerizing, and when you are heading in a sharp hairpin bend, the last thing you want is for your eyes to be taken off the line you have chosen…

Willi wonders what and when he should eat next...

But these are the things you either need to accept about your riding partner, or agree to strike out on your own again… I enjoyed Willi’s company, and his sense of humour, and the fact that he was a mine of information about parts of the world where I was hoping to ride in over the next few years…

His stories about South America were particularly interesting and gave me a better insight into riding there than I had before… He is a regular visitor to Columbia, which he says is for him the best country to ride in on the continent…

This photo makes me appreciate the beauty of the countries I have ridden through...

The one thing that bothered me was not being able to write… Even as I think about it now, there were so many things about the ride from Sarajevo today that I would normally have written about… The strange people we met, the even stranger things we saw, but the time and motivation to recall them all just isn’t there…

When riding alone, you are in your “own world” experiencing things that you can still recall quite clearly even days later… But when riding with another biker, much more of your concentration is focused on where the other rider is, and what he is doing… Not wanting to get left behind, or not sure how far ahead you should be riding… Whether to wait for him or not… My brain spends too much time doing this and less time filing away bits of info that I might want to use later…!!

It’s a whole new ball game, and with the habits I have gotten into over the last seven months, I am not quite ready to make huge changes to the way I do things and embrace the responsibility that comes with riding in a group as opposed to riding solo… I am sure that most riders feel the same way…

Willy has a very “loose” agenda, flying or shipping his bike to wherever he feels like going, and riding when he feels the need to…

I on the other hand have a very firm idea of what I need to do, and where I need to be by a given date, and I cannot allow myself to lose sight of that…

Enjoying the scenery, but thinking about sundown, which wasn't too far away...!!

©GBWT 2010

3 comments to “Lostia” in Bosnia…

  • Kim

    Between the aliens, the black hole and the shepherd (that is probably still in shock) I think it’s time you take that little red car and go for a spin!!! Imagine that car on the 7C….
    Thinking about sundown – NOT – that look on your face is one of confusion, I don’t know if it’s about which girl to take with, the silent one or the ‘live’ one, or maybe it’s just “wherethef***arewe”!!!
    Have a great ride and stop stressing, just enjoy!!!
    BIG kisses
    K

  • Mark Behr

    Hey Mr B … sounds like you may be forgetting (at times) to enjoy each day because you are too preoccupied with the destination. You will be on your own again in a few days and able to make up for any loss, but don’t forget to enjoy every day and experience. You are Blessed to be doing this ride so enjoy it and have fun.

  • Vince Ricci

    Well said Mark.

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