After the shared experience of SH20 we stayed in a beautiful eco boutique hotel on the edge of the lake in Plav, Montenegro. It was a chance to relax, talk about the events of past days and get ready for the next leg.
For Roberto and Andrew it would mean more spectacular roads, visits to Mostar and Split, and some time in the Italian Alps. For me it meant getting from the southern Balkans around the Adriatic back to Florence in 2 days. But there were things I couldn’t miss along the way.
Road to Pluzine
The Tara canyon is the largest in Europe and second only to the Grand Canyon. We had to see that. And it was awe inspiring. Huge drops to the blue river below, tight turns and a multitude of tunnels. Much of that ride was nice fast medium radius turns – a real joy to ride. One long bridge hundreds of feet above the water has a zip line running beside it, while below rafters and kayakers play in the waves. In the picture the main span is only partly visible hidden behind trees.
Bridge over Pivsko Jezero
Bridge over Tara River (with zip line beside it – wild!)
Then a stop in Durmitor National Park at Zabljak, where I wwaited for the guys to kindly deliver my passport. The previous night the hotel had asked for the passports rather than copying them, and since I had left first without doing the checkout routine I forgot the passport. This was my first mistake of the day…
Count the tunnels…
From Zabljak (the highest town in Montenegro) I could take highway or run a high mountain road to Pluzine. I chose to do that one as it was also supposed to be spectacular. The guys were going to leave later and do something even more dramatic and dangerous. So at this point we truly parted ways, after sharing a pizza and some Montenegrin red wine.
The cold alpine world
Road to Pluzine
Beautiful alpine road, Durmitor National Park
From Zabljak the P14 road is described by dangerousroads.org as a “spectacular and dangerous mountain road”. It starts as a narrow, one lane paved track that winds past farms and a ski hill. I went back and forth on it twice thinking it wasn’t the way to go but confirmed with map and GPS and carried on. It then rose through Durmitor National Park into a gorgeous and dramatic alpine area and crossed two passes at near 1900 m each with highest, Prevoj Sedlo measuring 1907m. There were some no-guardrail drops on the hairpins, and expansive vistas of alpine meadow, rock, and snow and ice. It was a real highlight for me and different from the previous roads. I was then lulled into thinking it was over as the road descended into a plateau of rolling alpine farmland and some small communities. Then around a corner I was shocked! I was on the edge of a canyon maybe a thousand feet or more dropping vertically right from the edge of the road. This road was cut out of the sides of sheer cliffs as it descended into the canyon, and had hairpins carved into tunnels; as one rode into a tunnel another would be visible right beside and below it, where the hairpinned road would reappear. On it went with me in my lowest gear gingerly making the turns, which were often covered in loose gravel.
Tunnels within tunnels
Cliffside road, Tara Canyon
Road in cliff, Montenegro
After this descent I knew I was running out of time and didn’t stop in Pluzine to review the route. So onwards the bike went covering miles of steep single laned pavement rising up into a different kind of woodsy alpine area, and then the pavement ended at an open gate and a rough, rocky track carried on. Not wanting to chance a fall on my own but not able to spare the time to retrace the last few hours I carried on. Now the road went into an open high country of rock and sheep with the occasional shepherd laying back in the heat and looking at me with puzzled expression. I later found out why. Once down I continued to follow the GPS towards Split till I realized my second big mistake of the day when I saw a sign for Mostar – I had entered Bosnia -Herzegovina over the rocky mountain path and had skipped the official border crossings… What my illegal entry into Bosnia would mean I had no idea but it was very worrisome.
Illegal border crissing
On the road to Bosnia
Sneak route to Bosnia
I was reassured by the guys (whom I had texted for advice) that this might not even be noticed as I left Bosnia for Croatia. Well the passport was scrutinized but the BMW seemed of more interest to the border guard and soon I was on my way to Dubrovnik, where I found out that the ferry I had hoped to take to Italy wasn’t leaving till he next night. So it was onwards into the evening to make as much distance up the coast as possible before night fell.
Roberto and Andrew had an interesting journey by the sounds of it; probably the most dangerous road yet and as night fell over their tent they were serenaded by men in the distance singing and sporadically firing automatic weapons …