We woke up this morning at our lovely little camping spot after a chilly night. Bedtime now involves making sure we will be just the right amount of warm over night. Sleeping bags are no longer ok in the nip, there’s socks and vests and shorts and all manner of things involved. And woe betide anyone who overdresses at bedtime, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and have o try and strip off within the confines of a silk sleeping bag liner, an almost impossible feat! Our tent was dry when we woke as there seems to much less moisture in the air here which makes the morning pack up so much easier and even better, means in the evening we aren’t unpacking a smelly damp tent to sleep in!
We started with an 8km cycle down to Šavnik where we stopped for a coffee before starting the hill of the day. As we stepped into the toasty wam cafe, we noticed 3 policemen sitting sipping coffee. It wasn’t long until they started into the shots of Rakija. In uniform. On a Sunday. At 9am!! No one batted an eyelid, it’s just the way things are around here!
The landscape here is ever changing, and as we gained height, it gave way to more dramatic, less hospitable looking landscape. It is rocky and more barren than before. We see the odd shepherd taking shelter while keeping watch over his flock as they wander looking for grazing, the houses are also changing and look like cosy alpine huts with whisps of smoke curling comfortingly from their chimneys.
The climb today has varied between achingly steep to almost flat, but we have once again, made great progress. It’s a really satisfying feeling to tackle these hills, not with ease, but certainly more confidence than before. Today, more so than in previous days, we are seeing loads of birds of prey, circling in the air, giving each other grief or just chilling in trees, it passes the time quickly keeping an eye on what they’re up to. The road isn’t as good as it has been in previous days, but lots of cheers and waves from passers by really lift our spirits. It’s amazing what a big grin and a beep can do for your attitude!
We passed through our first tunnel quickly with no traffic to contend with, and then came tunnel number two….. at first, I thought the sign read 224m in length, but I’s read it wrong, 2214m of long, dark tunnel ahead of us. Fortunately, it had a big footpath at the side, something that our previous tunnels had lacked completely. We popped on our torches and headed into the abyss. Half way along, miracle of miracles, there was lighting all the way to the end! Our only obstacle to deal with were the random bits of steel rebar poking out. By the time we made it to the end, the wind blowing through the tunnel almost had me reduced to a sniffly wreck, so we popped on some thermal bits and pieces and continued on to Zabljak in hope of a hot drink, a burek and some food. A couple of undulating hills on the way had us wrapping up and undressing alternately like some sort of weird hokey pokey. And then we made it!
We stopped at a cafe at the bus station for a tasty coffee where we were approached by lots of people wondering if we wanted accommodation. We politely declined and headed on to the pekara where we bumped into a Belgian couple who had passed us in a bus just after the tunnel. They had flown Ryanair to Podgorica and were hiking in the area for two weeks. I’m not surprised, the area is beautiful, the town of Zabljak has a strange but appealing ex-Soviet feel to it and everyone here is incredibly friendly and helpful. It’ll not be long til Montenegro is the go-to place for hiking, skiing and sun holidays. I would quite happily wait out the Winter here in the Durmitor National Park, hiking, snowboarding and getting to know this strange, fascinating, appealing place.
Once we had filled our panniers once again however, it was time to head down the windey road to the Tara Bridge. It was hard to get ourselves going again after warming up inside with coffees and food, but we did. We zipped down an exhilerating hill to the bridge, not least because the road surface was pretty questionable! The view was breathtaking with a massive valley in front of us. As we settled in to ou campsite, we enjoyed the view and the sounds of music and gunshot coming from a wedding across the bridge!! It lasted well in to the night and was accompanied by fireworks just as we had enjoyed a beer by the bridge as the sun set. It’s a difficult life, but someone has to do it!!