After falling asleep last night with our doggy friends either a) keeping watch or b) planning how to eat us, we woke up to a mist lying on the hills around Mt. Igman. We were all alone but for our canine friends and a solitary shepherd tending to his flock of sheep. As we began to pack up, a new crew of revellers arrived and set themselves up presumably for the day with fire and a loud music. Our mission for the morning was to find the ski jumps used for the ’84 olympics and explore them. Advice given the day before had informed us that they could be found 6km from where wd had camped so we set off to look. As we pedalled, Sam was joined by a wild dog. It stayed by his side except when it felt the need to ward off any other dogs it thought might cause his new favourite human any harm! We have so far found the wild dogs in this area to be quite benign and mostly hopeful you’ll take pity and offer them a few leftovers. We have, however, heard tales of attacks on people so we tend to be a little wary of them.
As we pedalled down a gentle hill, we kept our eyes peeled for any signs of olympic life (or decay). As we passed the entance to Malo Polje, a small ski resort, the downhill gradient began to increase. As we were going to be returning along his route, we worried about losing too much height as it would all have to be regained one we were done sightseeing. After a little topnotch deduction from Sam we decide to return to Malo Polje, to find out if the trees screening the ski area fom the road were hiding the remnants of the great event. After a short cycle down a windey access road, we found ourselves confronted by the olympic podium, still intact. Towering above the podium were the two Sarajevo ’84 ski jumps, impressive, petrifying and very much out of use. After a bit of a mess about on the podiums (yes, Ireland came first), we decided to see if the jumps were scalable. As we headed up the hill, a caretaker seemed to give us the once over efore leaving us to our own devices with a friendly wave. First attempt to reach the top left me quaking like a leaf and Sam geting a little further. Walking up an actual ski jump was not going to be do-able. We decided to walk up the hill that supported the concrete monstrosities and see if we could access them from the top. Success! Staircases were still very much intact in the towers but little else. All the windows and internal fittings have been long stripped out and as with many of the olympic sites we have visited, there are visible signs of conflict here leaving gaping holes in concrete and and strands of reinforced steel poking out here and there. We decided that the stucture was still strong enough to support the weight of two cyclists and began to explore and wonder at the complete craziness of anyone who considers launching themselves off one of these things into the great blue yonder. It’s absolutely petrifying to stand at the top looking down, getting up the balls to actually throw yourself off in the hope of somehow managing to land straight on some glorified toothpicks and stopping on time so that you don’t end up mangling yourself on the podium at the end seems mad as a bottle of chips to me. Which is why I’m not an Olympic Ski Jump champion or ever likely to be. As we headed back down the hill, we took a peek at the abandoned UN building perched on the ski slope. It is locked up and stands looking forlorn and battered and a further reminder of the war here if it were needed.
After our fun trip to the ski jumps, we thought that we might chance our luck getting a coffee at the hotel that had been shining a ridiculously bright spotlight on us all night. Tuns out it is abandoned, I wonder who’s paying the extortionate electricity bill so that they can continue to blind innocent campers? We headed onwards on our route, now gasping for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. As we made our way up hill, we came across a strangely deserted feeling ski resort, Babin Do. There were a few guys around doing some building work, but other than that, on first appearances, it seemed that no one was home. As we neared the end of the village, we spotted a cafe, doors open and a few people inside. We made our way over and ordered two cups of coffee (in Bosnian, I can do that now!). As we sipped, a lady sitting next to me started to laugh. She thought it was hilarious I was wearing shorts and proceeded to show me that her attire consisted of trousers over leggings, tights and two pairs of socks! We managed to order some cevapci and a plate of chips. Unfortunately the man who cooked it forgot to read the instructions and our minced beef fingers came out quite pink in the middle. Hunger is a great sauce though and we wolfed them down and have so far not suffered any ill effects thankfully. Bellies full, we continued on our way up a good quality road with a gentle, incline bringing us up to 1540m. The scenery has been impressive through forested hills, opening out into dramatic mountains and meandering valleys as we crested the mountain. Water has been plentiful all day as here is a tradition here of people requesting, upon their death, that water taps be built for travellers to use along the road. Shops, however, have been a different story. As we pedalled on, we began to worry that we would not find somewhere to get dinner and dried food supplies are running low. As we were approaching the end of what we knew would be our last village for quite some time, we enquired of a man if there was somehere we could do our shopping. In german, he told us to go back a kilometre and we would find a restaurant there. True to his word, we came across a small house with a sign outside that we had assumed was closed. How wrong we were! We had a well earned beer and dined on cheese burek, veal soup and salad. The hostess followed this with a gift of some Bosnian doughnuts for dessert. They were delicious. Helped along by the roaring fire that kept out the chilly mountain air, we were both ready to sleep by the time we had taken our last bite. It was 7pm, God sure we’re a mad pair altogether! I almost decided to blow our budget there and then by taking a room in the cosy litte house/restaurant/inn but thought better of it and we set up camp by a little stream surrounded by mountains towering around us on all sides. A gravel track awaits us tomorrow to take us over the hills and Sam has a new doggy friend. I’m looking forward to a good sleep and another great days adventuring tomorrow.