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Meteoras
Adventure, Greece, Helmet Views

Helmet View of The Mediterranean – Middle Of The Sky

So, it’s time to leave Macedonia and how the hell did I get to Macedonia and what is this post about? Well, I’m on a motorbike trip around the Mediterranean, I have packed so much stuff on my steel horse, Yamah XT660R, that if it was alive I would be arrested for animal cruelty. That is just a glimpse of what is going on – check out the previous post to read about the beginning of this 8000 kilometer journey.

 

Albania – is there really nothing interesting to see?

After very nice time in Macedonia it’s time to continue my trip. As I was leaving the country which has bright yellow sun on the flag, lady border officer asked why am I going to Albania, since there is nothing to see. I told her that I heard otherwise and that the roads for motorbikes are awesome. She stared at me with one eyebrow up and wished me safe trip. A few moments later I was entering Albania. As I was passing my passport to the officer, I already had two officers checking out the bike asking me how’s it handling and how did I manage to put so much stuff on it and why do I need so much of it for the summer? They just continued laughing and joking in Albanian so I could not understand them but I was smiling too, trying to make them think that I know their language – I’ve probably failed. When I told them that I’m just passing through Albania they said that on the contrary belief it is a beautiful country and next time I should plan at least few days there. They were right.

Luckily, there was no problem with Albanian police

Luckily, there was no problem with Albanian police

Albania has some really nice roads, Ohrid lake is beautiful, but not as beautiful as it is on the Macedonian side – I noticed most of Albanians go over the border to enjoy the water. As I was driving away from the lake, my GPS wanted to show me something different. First it took me through one way street and luckily police didn’t stop me, they just continued their way. Then it took me through this very poor village that didn’t have normal roads and there were horse carriages, which was cool. Kids were waving, but the elders were like “what the hell are you doing here”? To be honest, I was eager to get out of that village. From that time on I named my GPS ‘Ghetto Positioning System’ since that was not the last time it decided to show me the other side of the country.

Interesting fact about Albania: it has its own “Marijuana Mecca” and it’s the small village name Lazarat. This village makes Albania largest exporter of cannabis in Europe. Gangs in Lazarat are believed to produce about 900 metric tons a year!

From that time on I named my GPS ‘Ghetto Positioning System’

Before I tell you what I think of my short trip through Albania, I would like to tell you a funny anecdote from Montenegro. This lady was asking me about Albania and how was it and as I was explaining, I told her that there is lot’s of animals (like cows and sheep) on the road. And she did not look a bit surprised, she just continued  “…yeah, they are one century behind Europe, they don’t know how to act…” and she left me wondering should I tell her what I meant by animals.

My short drive through Albania came to an end and my experience is totally positive. Roads are amazing, scenery is beautiful and people seem cool although I did not meet many of them.

Did you ever go to Albania, let me know how it was!

Yamaha XT600R and Meteora

My overpacked Yamaha and Meteora monastery in the background

Going to a place that only exists in fantasy books

While I was waiting on the border to enter the country of gods, beautiful architecture and emerald seas, the customs officer stormed out and asked me to take my GoPro off the helmet – I guess he didn’t feel photogenic.

Another border, another place to visit – Meteora!  I would like to say that highway I took from Albania to Meteora was boring as hell! It’s like, nothing, nothing, nothing, village and after that – more nothingness! Getting off the highway to some hills was amazing experience! Yeah, it was amazing! Why? After all those hours on the highway, you finally start to appreciate the hills, woods, shade and cool scenery.

The monastery of Great Meteoron

The monastery of Great Meteoron

I visited Meteora when I was young and I could remember just a glimpse of it.  Meteora is a valley dominated by massive pillars on top of which monasteries are built. There is no exact date as when they were built, but it is believed that 20 monasteries were built at the beginning of 14th century, six still stand.

Monastery of Varlaam

Monastery of Varlaam

As I was coming close to Meteora valley,  started to think “Is this real?” Seeing those enormous pillars rising up to 500 meters into the air, you cannot help but think that you are in some fantasy book, just waiting for a dragon to fly out of there, spitting fire while some monk rides it. The cloud formation that selectively lets through the sun rays just adds to that feeling, especially in the evening when the monasteries are bathed in the fire orange.  It’s not strange that literal translation of Meteora is the “middle of the sky“.

Beautiful View and Amazing Architecture

Beautiful View and Amazing Architecture

As I was a bit late and some of the monasteries were closed, I decided to go to the biggest one, called The Monastery of Great Meteoron. Long time ago going up to the monasteries was deliberately difficult, so it would fend off all unwanted visitors – the only way up was with ladders which monks pulled up whenever they felt threatened.

The only way up was with ladders which monks pulled up whenever they felt threatened

Not to mention it was quite ‘leap of faith‘ going up those ladders. Now there is a paved road, stairs were cut into the rock and for the Monastery of Great Meteoron there is a bridge to reach it.

View on the monastery from a terrace

View on the monastery from a terrace

Entering the monastery you can feel the tranquility of the place, for the most part it is used as a museum, showing the traditional way of life monks had – old kitchen which is still black from the smoke, winery, well preserved frescoes of life of the Christ and you can also see the skulls of monks that used to live there. To get the glimpse of the Meteora valley from above, you would have to go out to the terrace where, besides valley, you will see other monasteries, but what singles out this one from the rest is the fact that it’s the highest, biggest and the oldest monastery of the six.

You can also see the skulls of monks that used to live there

It’s good to know that Meteora is second most important site in Greece just after Acropolis! It is one of the few sites in the UNESCO World Heritage that falls under two categories – culture and nature!

Amazing view at Meteora Valley

Amazing view at Meteora Valley

Chasing the ferry for Corfu!

Lazy summer sun begins to fall behind the hills and it’s time to hit the road before night grasps it and the only light will be from my trusty motorbike. It’s another 200 kilometer ride on the highway to Igoumenitsa where I need to catch a ferry boat to Corfu – really special island for Serbs as it was used as a hospital after the epic retreat during World War I after the Austro-German-Bulgarian invasion.

Going into sunset... on a ferry...

Going into sunset… on a ferry…

As I arrived to Igoumenitsa I bought tickets for a ferry and rested. On the boat I met a girl who I asked about the Corfu, what sites would she recommend and what might be a good place to stay. She recommended Ipsos, which was a party place for Italians and that kind of place I was trying to avoid. Although she recommended a place that wasn’t really to my liking, she actually sent me to the place where I will meet some amazing people.

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Adventure, Helmet Views, Motorbike

Helmet View of The Mediterranean – City Of Light (Part One)

The story about this awesome trip starts almost a decade before I packed the bags and put them on my motorbike.


Mom, dad… I wanna buy a motorcycle

When I was young there was this passion about motorbikes that woke up in me. If I recall correctly, it happened after watching Long Way Round. The documentary follows Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on a motorcycle trip around the world. After that I really wanted a motorbike and go for an adventure, but since I was young and could not afford it myself, I asked my parents… And of course, the answer was “No”. After some time and failed attempts to earn money for a driving licence, I forgot the idea.

Beautiful sunset with my old motorcycle

Beautiful sunset with my old motorcycle

Rediscovering my passion in South-East Asia

When I started earning some money I went on a trip through Southeast Asia and while staying in Bali I rented a 125cc  scooter which was more than enough for me. I visited almost all of Bali on that little piece of machinery.

I visited almost all of Bali on that little piece of machinery.

Eight months later I came back home telling my parents how cool it had been and what I had visited. A few days later my late father said: “You will buy a motorbike, won’t  you”? He had a really bad dementia at the time and I have no idea how he remembered it. He sounded like he just continued the talk from 10 years before, like there was no time in between. He planted the seed back into my head which has been growing ever since. Well, my answer was “Yes”.. But did I have money for one? Almost…

My first bike

First I went for a licence training and in the process I got myself a Kawasaki KLR 650 in a really bad condition. After a full motorbike overhaul it was ready to hit the road. My travels consisted of travelling around Serbia. Few times my KLR failed me leaving me 300km from my hometown and once in a pouring rain with no shelter to seek.

Few times my KLR failed me leaving me 300km from my hometown

So for this big trip I decided that I would need something more reliable, something that wasn’t already worn out. After a few weeks of checking used bikes, I found Yamaha XT660R 2007. It had everything I needed – side bags, a helmet case, crash bars and it was in really good condition. And there it was, my new steel horse to ride on.

I had great time with my KLR 650 but it wasn't reliable so it was time for a change.

I had a great time with my KLR 650 but it wasn’t reliable so it was time for a change.

Getting ready for my adventure

I didn’t tell many people about my plans because when you talk about it people usually have negative comments about it and the usual ones are – ‘it’s dangerous’, ‘aren’t you afraid’, ‘you will get robbed’, ‘people will hurt you’, and so on. And it was all the opposite – it was safe, I was not afraid, I was not robbed and people helped me (not in every country, but  more about that later).

After acquiring all the stuff I needed I was ready to hit the road. Was I excited, scared, worried when I was leaving my hometown? The truth is- no… I was too busy thinking if I had forgotten something… and you guessed, I did… Since I’m a passionate photographer I wanted to get some cool landscape photos and for that you need s tripod and it was 1000 kilometers behind me… It could have been worse, I will survive.

First stop – city of light

Highway next to Skopje

Highway next to Skopje

I was travelling along the well known roads through Serbia to a border with Macedonia. After passing the border, that’s when reality hit me. I was excited, my eyes were just glancing everywhere and that was it. The road trip officially started after the border crossing.


I was passing Skopje, it has really beautiful mountains surrounding it but with all of the temptations I had to stick to the plan. The plans was to arrive to Ohrid during the day. My plan failed…

Arriving at night, my idea to camp somewhere failed, so I searched for a room. That was a big challenge since it was a peak season.

Beautiful Garden in Ohrid

Beautiful Garden in Ohrid

After finding a room I started exploring Ohrid at night. Far away I could hear some metal, hard core or whatever music and since I did not find anything better to do, I went there. Shortly after, I met many new Macedonian friends and we partied, drink rakija. When you have fun, time passes quickly. I told them I was leaving the next day, but Ohrid had other plans…

Saint Panteleimon, Ohrid

Saint Panteleimon


The morning was hard, a little bit of a hangover and lots of dilemmas. Should I stay or should I go? I decided to stay one more night but I had to find another place to stay since it was reserved for that day… Well, I thought, there goes another 3 hours for searching for another place… Some lady helped me find a place, smelly but OK… I mean the place, not the lady.

Riding Around Ohrid

Riding Around Ohrid

So, what does Ohrid has to offer?

The lake is amazing, it almost looks like the sea. I would choose Ohrid rather than  some Mediterranean sea location that’s for sure. Ohrid lake is also a natural border between Macedonia and Albania and it’s the deepest lake on Balkan going deep to staggering  288 meters!

Sunset at the Ohrid Lake

Sunset at the Ohrid Lake



Ohrid was called ” the city of light” by the Greeks and maybe that resonates best in the evening when the lakeside is bathed in street lights and lights coming from cafes. That is the time when Ohrid becomes really alive, it becomes packed with tourists and you start wondering where all those people were during the day? If you stroll around Ohrid you will find out that the old town is really beautiful, that the monasteries are even more than 5 centuries old and that the museums are everything but ordinary. Make sure you check out Bay of Bones Museum. Why? Because I didn’t, and everybody told me I made a huge mistake and they were right. So that’s why during the day Ohrid doesn’t seem as packed as at night, because there is stuff to see, there is something for everyone.

Ohrid is the deepest lake on Balkan going to staggering  288 meters!

In the evening I had one last “Skopsko” beer and went on my way in the morning. 

Beautiful landscape of Ohrid

Beautiful landscape of Ohrid

Leaving Macedonia

It’s morning and I finally managed to pack and head on my way, first to Albania to see if it’s OK to travel to and after that to Greece. What happened in Albania and what’s it like there and what problems I did or did not have? Read in the next post.

 

My motorcycle and Albanian police

My motorcycle and Albanian police

 

Diving Around Bali
Adventure, Bali, Diving, Indonesia

Diving Around Bali and Why You Should Not Miss It

Diving around Bali is probably the most awesome thing you can do if you travel to this beautiful place! Dive sites are beautiful, marine life is teeming with life, a few shipwrecks to see – from 130m ship to a small boat and most of the dive centers are really professional so you will have no problem with that! I had a pleasure to dive with a friend of mine called Branko from Bali Aqua.

Diving around Bali is probably the most awesome thing you can do if you travel to this beautiful place!

On the dive boat
As an underwater photographer I will try to show you how it’s like when you submerge yourself under the Indian Ocean and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. If you are a fellow diver and you have already did some diving around Bali, then just enjoy these cool photos of the most amazing creatures you can find in these waters.
Let’s start this with the most popular diving spots you can find here…

 

USS Liberty Shipwreck

USS Liberty boat was hit by a Japanese torpedo. After the hit it was able to float so they navigated towards Bali in order to save all the cargo on boat. It was stranded on the beach, but after the earthquakes and volcano eruptions it went down to deeper waters. A long time ago people lived and fought on this boat and now it’s surrounded by corals and rich marine life. The shipwreck is about 130m long but a good part of it is under the sand by now.

A long time ago people lived and fought on this boat and now it’s surrounded by corals and rich marine life

USS Liberty Shipwreck

USS Liberty Shipwreck

Part of the USS Liberty Shipwreck
Just before the shipwreck there is a garden of eels. Make sure to stay as lower to the bottom as possible, so you can approach them without scaring them. If you don’t do that, they will just hide in the sand.
This dive spot is very popular among divers, so make sure to reach it as early as possible.

trumpet fish

Manta Point – Nusa Penida

Do not miss this one! If you ever go there and don’t see some manta rays then you really have bad luck! The chance of missing mantas is an equivalent to winning the lottery, really slim! I had two dives there and both times it was really wavy with powerful surges but it was worth it – for the second dive there were probably about 20 manta rays!

The chance of missing mantas is an equivalent to winning the lottery, really slim

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When you jump off the boat and dive to that spot, there is absolutely nothing special, you reach a big rock and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge manta ray swims above your head! That’s just a beautiful sight to see. Just a friendly reminder: while you watch that amazing creature check out around a bit to see if a surge didn’t take near the rocks like it happened to me. A wave surge smashed me to a big rock, but luckily my tank took the hit and I recovered with no problem.

manta ray at manta point
Why do mantas come here if they can swim really deep and why do they hang around these rocks? Well, the answer is simple: the rocks are cleaning stations for them. A cleaning station is a section of the reef which is home to reef-dwelling marine life which, as you can guess from the name, clean large fish like mantas, sharks and larger bony fish. Cleaning helps mantas maintain healthier life since the ‘cleaners’ eat all the dirt, bacteria and other harmful things that mantas pick up during their swimming.
This is a ‘must go’ diving spot if you plan to dive around Bali!

manta ray at the manta point - bali

Gili Tepekong

Want to see some sharks? This is the place to search for them! Gili Tepekong is the biggest offshore island in Amuk Bay. The safest way to approach the dive spot is to take a boat from Padang Bay.

white tip shark - bali
Marine life is good here and visibility was cool, though currents can be strong. Usually you can see white tip sharks at around 20-30m, but the ones we have seen were far away and scared of us. There are lots of reef sharks under the boulders sleeping since they are nocturnal animals. You can also expect to see a lot of eels, turtles, mantis shrimp, etc…

boat at gili tepekong
Longhorn Cowfish

Turtle swimming around the shipwreck

Free-diving around Bali

Do you love free-diving? Going deep with no tanks, regulators, BCD’s – just relying on your breath? Probably the best places for that are in north-east of Bali. Many free-diving centers are located around Amed and Tulamben as this area is probably the most awesome for free-diving. I haven’t done any free-diving courses, but my friends are crazy about it and many of them have become free-diving instructors by now. Checkout Apnea Bali for more information and find out what it’s like to depend only on your breath and your mind skills to achieve great depths!

Find out what it’s like to depend only on your breath and your mind skills to achieve great depths!

Conclusion

Whether you are an experienced diver or just a beginner, Bali is perfect for you to plunge yourself into the world of diving or free-diving and see animals that most of the people miss out when they travel to exotic places.

Of course, there are many more awesome dive spots in Bali but these are my favourite ones.
Did you dive in Bali? What is your favourite dive spot and how did you like it? Write it down in the comments!

Bonus photos so you know what to expect when you go diving around Bali

One eyed Joe - bali
school of fishes

Beautiful Coral in Bali

Couple of Surgeonfishes

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Adventure, Bali, Indonesia

Highest Bridge in Asia and Unlikely Encounter

If I ever wanted to feel like a celebrity, the first place I would go to would be Tukat Bangkung bridge in Bali – it is one of the highest bridge in Asia. When I said ‘one of the highest bridge in Asia’ you are probably thinking it must be amazing looking at it but in reality it’s just a nice looking bridge… I wanted to write about my funny encounters with Balinese people at the bridge, but before that I feel obligated to write a few words about this bridge which Balinese people like visiting.

 

Tukat Bangkung bridge in a few words

The bridge is 360m long and 71.14m tall, which, to be honest,doesn’t sound that tall at all… It was officially opened by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2007. It doesn’t have any special history but it has a very good purpose – it connects three districts: Badung, Bangli and Buleleng and it is the pride of local people since it provides access to their villages.

Just before the Tukad Bangkung Bridge

Just before the Tukad Bangkung Bridge

The first part of the bridge name Tukad means “River” and the second, Bangkung, means “Female pig” or “Breeding sow”. Apparently it means “River of female pigs”. Does it have something to do with the Balinese who like eating pork or should I say Babi Guling. I could not find more information about the name, but if you know anything about it, please write it down in the comment section below.

The first part of the bridge name Tukad means “River” and the second Bangkung means “female pig” or “breeding sow”. Apparently it means ‘River of female pigs’?

By now you have been thinking either Balinese people are strange and what the hell is so special about that bridge. Well, Balinese people are kinda strange but in a good way, the way I really like it. The thing about this bridge is that it’s not popular with foreigners – I was drawn into visiting it because everywhere on the Internet it said it was one of the highest bridge in Asia but it doesn’t even come close. So what is special about it you ask again, feeling irritated that I’m prolonging this too much. Well, the special thing are the people… They fell in love with it, it’s where they go with their families on a day trip for a some kind of picnic or for lunch at 3-4 restaurants around it.

Tukad Bangkung Bridge Bali

Tukad Bangkung Bridge Bali

When you go to the bridge you cannot see it until you come out of the curve and it’s there like 30m from you. At first sight kinda magnificent, but when you look better – not so much. I parked my motorbike, got my camera and went for a stroll. I noticed people watching me and it didn’t take me long to figure out why – I was the only foreigner (bule) here and by the looks of them not many of us went there. So as I was walking a few people smiled and said “Hello” and I did the same.

At first sight kinda magnificent, but when you look better – not so much

All of a sudden, I noticed this guy standing up and walking to me and I was thinking “Ok let’s see what he’s gonna try to sell” and to my surprise he asked me if he could take a photo with me. I was caught off guard, but yeah why not… Everybody in his family was laughing, but kinda happy laughing, not at me (at least I hope so). So he thanked me, went to take a seat next to his family and they were all thanking me… After walking for 20m I thought of all the scams and pickpocketing techniques and started checking my belongings and everything was there. “Well, that’s cool” I thought to myself.

 

Meeting the awesome family

I continued my stroll, taking photos of the bridge, saying hello to people greeting me and thinking to myself that was kinda awesome. This bridge is actually a nice meeting place for families to enjoy their weekends, for local shops to make some money and street sellers also to get a buck or two. This is a meeting place for local Balinese and what is funny… there were not really many cars passing by, considering it connects three districts!

Offering before the Tukad Bangkung Bridge

Offerings before the Tukad Bangkung Bridge

So I finished my walk to the other end and I headed back to my motorbike. On the way back I noticed the same family still sitting at the same place and this time I decided to take a photo of them to see what their reaction would be.

They were waving and laughing and saying goodbye like I was the closest family member

The reaction was quite funny – all of them posed with two fingers (like a peace sign) and they took that pose instantly! I laughed and went on my way… After a few minutes after taking more bridge photos I heard motorbikes honking like crazy and thought what the hell was going on, and all of a sudden it was that family packed on three motorbikes waving and laughing and saying goodbye like I was the closest family member. I waved back and I smiled but I was still in disbelief. Just to clarify this, I enjoyed every moment of it, it is funny how simple things can make your day or even a year! It has almost been a year ago, and I’m writing about it now and thinking about it like it was yesterday.

Family that wanted to take a photo with me

Family that wanted to take a photo with me

It is not highest bridge in Asia but…

After arriving back to Sanur I was thinking about that moment a lot. Why the hell was I thinking they wanted to steal from me? Even in the touristic places there are not many people really wanting to steal from you. I left my stuff on all of the places on the beach and never got anything stolen. And why did I ask myself what they wanted? They probably live in some kind of village and this may have been a rare occasion to see a foreigner in a place where foreigners don’t usually come that often. Or maybe they just wanted to make me feel welcome here and enjoy it more. They did succeed in it.

Well, they don’t want anything from you, they just want to meet you and that is all

When people approach us directly we usually think what they want from us. They must be up to something… Well, they don’t want anything from you, they just want to meet you and that is all. It made me change my approach in traveling where everybody says you should always be on your toes about people trying to steal from you or something. During my trip I don’t think I ever experienced it.

That night I felt sorry I did not try to have a few words with them because it would probably be fun.

Did you visit the highest bridge in Asia or did you have any interesting meeting situations with awesome people like I did? Let me hear your story, write it down in the comments.

Mini temple at the top of the Agung where guides pray last time on this venture before heading down
Adventure, Bali, Indonesia

Climbing Top Of The Bali – Volcano Agung

Bali is known all over the world for its breathtaking scenery, the beaches, the diving, the surfing and fun. People don’t come to Bali to climb mountains. But when they hear they are overshadowed by a mountain which is in truth a volcano, and that this is also the highest peak in Bali, they soon change their mind and venture out on the slopes.

Agung story starts before the climb

Our story begins on the morning before our venture. Tony, Caty and I have been talking about climbing the Agung for a few days. Since this was our penultimate day in Bali, we had to climb it the next morning. At first we could not find an agency with a reasonable price to organize us a tour. We continued searching until we ran into a guy who gave us a good price. While Tony and I were discussing if we should accept the price, he lowered it a bit more and, of course, who could say no to that. We had a deal, and were to leave around 11pm.

Enjoying the sunset before the climb

Enjoying the sunset before the climb

We split up and went for a rest and some sleep. You can be sure we did none of that. We roamed around Amed and found a good party, which is extremely rare for the place. We decided to stop along and have a beer, I had two. Unwillingly we left the party, got our bags, while I packed some extra stuff that I did not want to reach the top without. We waited for a car and Tony, Caty and me were on the way to conquer Bali.

A little bit of sleep, a few conversations with the driver, and we were there around 12 o’clock, at the place where the climb begins – the Pura Pasar Agung temple. We have prepared all of our gear and while waiting for our guide, we looked up and saw the stars – it was beautiful and everything around us was pitch black. I started thinking about how amazing it must be at the top.

Pura Besakih Temple - Another temple from you can start the climb

Pura Besakih Temple – Another temple from you can start the climb

The guide arrived and we started walking, and were soon at the temple entrance. The guides stopped us so they could say their prayers. They were praying we would arrive at the top safely and for the gods to forgive us if we do any warm to the mountain.

During the eruptions 1963-1964 Pura Besakih was missed just by few meters. Locals claim it was simply gods displaying their powers

There is another temple from where the climb also begins – the Pura Besakih, which was spared during the eruptions of 1963-1964, when the lava missed the temple just by a few meters. Locals claim it was simply the gods displaying their powers by not destroying the temple.

Agung Ascent

The guides finished their prayers and we started the ascent. Along the way we overtook several people, and had the feeling that our group was the fastest one. I have to say that during my travels I has been eating and drinking too much, and did not have enough activities. Where did I feel it the most? While climbing the Agung, of course. At the beginning it was easy, but later it would get steeper and steeper, dirt paths changed to rocks and the temperature was getting lower.

Climbers reaching top of the Bali

Climbers Reaching top of the Bali

While we were climbing we joined another group of people, and in that group there was this really obnoxious girl from America. Every conversation that I tried to have with anybody else she would jump into, and explain how she did this and how she did that. Maybe I would not hate her as much if she had not destroyed my photo at the top of the mountain with her photobomb. I noticed it while I was checking it on my computer – ooops, too late.

Sunrise at the top of the Agung

Sunrise at the top of the Agung

While we were walking I checked the sky a few times and noticed something strange and thought to myself: “impossible”. But yeah, it was the milky way! It didn’t look like what you see in photos, but a lot weaker. The rest of the people said it was just a cloud but when they looked at it a bit better they agreed with me.

As time passes every step is heavier and heavier, and I felt more and more tired. I have to admit one thing: I was the slowest one in our group. As trouble never comes alone, my flashlight decided to slowly die. When the rest of the pack turned around it was hard to see me and they started yelling “Milooo” (although my real name is Miloš, pronounced Meelosh) as I was going through the trail with the little light that I had. I switched my flashlight and continued our journey, and again I continued to be slow. When they saw I was a long way behind, they started yelling and I would yell back telling them that I’m still there and alive.

Guides prepare breakfast at the top of the Agung

Guides preparing breakfast at the top of the Agung

Reaching the top of the volcano

During the trip the guides stopped at a few more places for more prayers. It’s really nice to see that, it is not done for the tourists, it’s done because they really believe.
After 5 hours of walking we came out of the woods onto the rocks where there is almost no trail, you just need to find an optimal way and this is really difficult. On the way up we noticed a few people who started the climb a lot earlier, and now they were sleeping near the top because they started up too early.

After 5 hours of walking we came out of the woods onto the rocks where there is almost no trail

We could see the top, but it seemed like the 15 minute climb was more like a one hour climb. Some more climbing and then we noticed we are almost at the top, and you get this rush of adrenaline while you look all around. We were above the sky! This was the first time I was up this high, not in an airplane! The guides prepared us breakfast and tea, so we could replenish our strength and get a bit refreshed. The sun was coming out, a magnificent sight, and it was going up relatively quickly. The color of the sky changed from black to dark blue, blue, purple, orange and the very known yellow! You could hear the sighs all around and finally everybody was rewarded for the trouble they went through. We noticed a few monkeys around, who seemed to live there, and they didn’t look surprised to see us. From the top you can see the Rinjani mountain on the island of Lombok, mostly through the clouds, and on the other side you can see the lights of Denpasar.

Bintang tastes much better when you reach the top

Bintang tastes much better when you reach the top

The guides started their prayers at the miniature temple at the top. When our guide finished the prayer, I showed him what I had in the bag – 4 cans of Bintag (Indonesian Beer). First he could not believe the fact that I carried it to the top, and then started yelling “BINTAGAAAANG” and all of a sudden there were more guides around us and everybody started yelling. While we were drinking they explained that “bintang” means star.

I thought ascend was hard but descend is nothing easier

When the sun warmed us a bit and all the guides finished their prayers, we started our way back. I was thinking it’s was going to be much easier than going up, but boy was I wrong. Every step was a knee killer – step  by step. Again I was last in the group. I went to this trip with about 85kg and was in shape, and I came home with almost 100kg and in no shape at all. Well, it was mostly a pear shape. There are no excuses for not training. Too much of the travel life.

Tony and me goofing around and recreating scene from movie 300.

Tony and me goofing around and recreating scene from movie 300.

On a few occasions I noticed I recognize parts of the trail, and I thought we were close and was hoping that at every moment we would reach the Pura Pasar Agung temple, but that happened in little over an hour.
Slowly I could see parts of the temple and finally we had arrived.

Mini temple at the top of the Agung where the guides pray last time on this venture before heading down

Mini temple at the top of the Agung where guides pray the last time on this venture before heading down

What was the best part of this venture?

When did it feel the best? When we reached the temple at the bottom. Why? Because the view of the top of the mountain was amazing, looking at it through the temple entrance. Thinking that a few hours ago we were at the top, at the top of the vulcano above the clouds! That feeling gave me a sense of accomplishment!

Pura Pasar Agung - Where we started climb from

Pura Pasar Agung – Where we started and ended the climb. This photo was taken just after the climb

We said our goodbyes to the guide, gave him a few extra rupees and started our way back, feeling very happy. Happy that, for us, traveling is not only partying and getting drunk, but seeing places like this, places that will always stay in our memories. Bules went to the top of Bali!

And yeah, I was trying to tell Tony that we should go with our motorbikes to the temple and ask for the guides there, but we were lucky we did not! I could not feel my legs and sitting on a bike after all that night’s climbing would be a stupid way to die.

National Park Zasavica - Serbia
Adventure, Motorbike, Serbia

Zasavica – Hidden Gem of Serbia

Just under the town of Sremska Mitrovca there is one, also not known, gem of Serbia called Zasavica. Along with Obedska Bara and Carska Bara it’s one of main refuge of wildlife and one of the best kept swamp areas in Serbia. If think having a swim there is a good idea you are gonna have a bad time. Depth is around 2.5 meters but sludge is deep up to 8 meters! Just 2 kilometers of park is available for tourists and rest of it only for biologists and caretakers. If you visit this place you will meet a little eccentric but great biologist – when you visit this place for sure you will notice him.

Birds of Zasavica

First glimpse on the water and you will notice lots of birds and most common one is little Grebe. Everybody thinks it is a duck but it is more in a family of chicken. They can not fly they can skid few centimeters above the water. They are very clumsy on land so they lay their eggs very close to the shore.

little grebe in the national park zasavica

Little Grebe

There is a special bird at the national park Zasavica named golden oriole. She is famous for building hanging nests for a female to lay her eggs. When male finishes building the nest female inspect the insides and outside of the nest and if she doesn’t like she just chops the hanging thread and destroys the nest and the male needs to build another one.

What Zasavica has more to offer

In 2004 beaver was reintroduced to national park Zasavica. 31 beavers were let go in the national park – families and singles. Strapped with GPS they noticed some of the beaver migrating and one female went all the way up the Sava near the town of Brčko and had the babies there.

Horse At National Park Zasavica

Just beside the national park fence there is pasture for cows and horses which walk freely. Horses are mostly tamed and you can approach and pet them. While I was photographing, one of the kids ran few meters away from the parents and started walking in the horse dung. By the time they noticed he was already ankle deep.

Boat ride along the swamp of Zasavica

In Zasavica you can take a boat ride through the swamp area. While we were in a boat we were waiting for an elderly couple to arrive. All of a sudden they were almost running towards the boat thinking we will go away. Lady said sorry and she said they went to see the horses and stayed longer than planned. All of a sudden her husband added that they could not miss the chance to visit her relatives…

biologist of zasavica

An interesting history fact – Zasavica was a hiding and commanding place for Zeka Buljubaša. He was national hero from First world war. At the battle near river Drina, against the Ottomans, Zekas company ran out of bullets and they decided not to go quite into the night, they took their knives and rushed the Ottomans – and that’s how they died.

When you finish the visit of the national park there are lot’s of souvenirs to choose from but also lots of local foot to by – mostly made from donkey milk – soap, liquor, cheese and lots of pig products.

After my trip people asked me where I was for the weekend and when I told them nobody had a clue where is it and what the hell is Zasavica. After explaining them and showed them the photos they were very excited and wanted to go there. I consider this one of the places that is awesome to go for a day and enjoy and learn that even in Serbia there are places where some species can be seen only in a few places and one of them is a hidden and unknown gem of Serbia – Zasavica.

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Adventure, Motorbike, Serbia

Amazing Stories In The South And West of Serbia

The famous one beer

As the quote goes “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. So it goes for this adventure, every aspect of this adventure that I had planned has gone wrong.

My plan was to go on this adventure with my motorcycle fixed… Guess what… with lack of the parts bike could not be fixed and I decided to go on this adventure with a shaky motorbike… when I say shaky I mean it’s shaking like never ending earthquake. After half an hour driving it you get used to it. I did not have to go on the trip but I did not want to miss last beautiful days of the summer. for any one asking motorbike model is Kawasaki KLR650.

That night I went for a famous one beer, as I have not learned that there is no “one beer”

Story begins a day before the go-off, I had planned to wake up at 5-6 and arrive at Uvac in the evening hours. You can tell it did not happen like that. That night I went for a famous one beer, as I have not learned that there is no “one beer”. I woke up at 9 packed my stuff and went on my way. They say you can not forget first love and I can not forget the first time I went up the mountain Tara. So I decided to go to Uvac over mountain Tara. Known road, beautiful landscapes  and all of a sudden sign for a canyon of a small river. Unplanned turn to dirt road. Nice little creek, nice views… Should I continue or go back to the main road…
Tara View with KLR650

Tara mountain and being low on fuel ‘somewhere’

I continue down the creek, up the mountain, passing small villages and children. As soon as they see me they run to the streets and wave. I reach the top of an uphill road and I am rewarded with a beautiful view on mountain Tara. Few minutes after that motorcycle is trying to tell me something… no more fuel! I panic a bit and then remember the reserve… I turn it on and thinking to my self  ‘please work’ (I was afraid since on this motorbike lot’s of stuff that you would think should work normally… don’t….) and to my surprise motorbike continues like nothing happened!

Few minutes after that motorcycle is trying to tell me something… no more fuel

 

Tara view with Kawasaki KLR650
With motorbikes need under control I start the descend to the main road hoping reserve will last… 15 minutes later asphalt! I reach city of Bajina Bašta, fill up the fuel into my thirsty animal and stop at the famous Drina house to rest.

 

House on the Drina river

House on the Drina river

Reaching Zlatibor mountain

It’s starting to get dark and I’m half way to Zlatibor and not even near Uvac – my planned destination. I decide to find a place somewhere on Zlatibor. After finding a place I decide to go for a walk and check out downtown of Zlatibor. I have seen some nice beer tavern and decided to go there after dinner. Finished my dinner and noticed domestic music has taken over and decided to skip it and go to sleep.

Small creek on the mountain of Zlatibor

Small creek on the mountain of Zlatibor

Early in the morning there was fog, you can see 20m. I wait for the sun to disperse a bit of fog, as soon as it happened I drive to check out more of Zlatibor. Not many people can be seen, mostly people working on constructions for upcoming season. I wrap up the tour and went on my way to Uvac. As soon as I get on my bike I notice I have lost one glove, I ran to the Chinese shop and get myself skiers gloves. I continue the ride and find some dirt roads and have fun on them a bit.

Having nice dirt ride on Zlatibor hills.

Having nice dirt ride on Zlatibor hills.

 

Beautiful view on Zlatibor mountain

Finally arriving to Uvac

I reach some bridge and I notice the sign for river Uvac… Finally I reached the river that made me go to this trip. Checking out the bridge, nothing special… I go to the dirt road on the left hoping for something better… anything… road takes me under the bridge, right, left up the hill and WHAM…. beautiful view on the bridge. The simple bridge that looked like nothing special has its own beauty. Sometimes getting closer to stuff doesn’t mean you’ll see more, going back a bit gives you the bigger picture.

Beautiful view on what seemed like a boring bridge.

Beautiful view on what seemed like a boring bridge.

I reach the Uvac dam and ask them where should I got? They explain to me dirt road that doesn’t follow the Uvac all the way but there are beautiful landscapes. I continue the ride and again small beautiful villages, mostly muslim and every of them has nice small mosk. I seem to be interesting to the children that see me, they run along my side and older people seeing me and thinking “what the hell are you doing here”?

The simple bridge that looked like nothing special has its own beauty. Sometimes getting closer to stuff doesn’t mean you’ll see more, going back a bit gives you the bigger picture.

 

There are more beautiful view not just on the meanders!

There are more beautiful view not just on the meanders!

Canyon of river Uvac is one of those places that is not talked about much, it is not known as Tara or Zlatibor but it’s actually one of the nicest places in Serbia. I have not visited Uvac as much as I have planned though… There are no photos of griffon vulture (vulture that was almost extinct 20 years ago and now there are almost 300 of them), there are no photos from viewpoints on beautiful Uvac meanders and photos of people living there in villages consisting of 3-4 houses. Uvac is also known to be home of the many bird species, brown bear and wolves!

 

Pasture at the end of the Uvac national park

Even at the exit of national park Uvac there is farewell view on beautiful pasture and just behind Sjenica lake. Only thing to do is sit, take a deep, mountain air, breath, rest and get back on the road and think about Uvac… how is it like here in winter, spring, or summer… and when am I gonna get back here again? I started my ride to Kragujevac and I make the wrong turn and go to the unplanned visit to the city of Novi Pazar. Nervouse becuase it’s night and mountain roads I finally go out of Novi Pazar and I speed to the Kragujevac. Night was cold but as I enter the city it starts to be warmer. Just in front of the hotel I notice half of the licence plate is missing… how? I have no idea.

 

Kragujevac forgotten history

In the morning I go for a coffee with a friend and she reminds of something that we learned in the school but totally forgot. One sentence was enough for me to remember everything “It was in country of a peasants in a mountainous Balkans where died company of students in one day”.

German forces shot few thousands innocent people among whom were students. In that time there were rebellions against german forces and germans started killing 50 civilians for every wounded and 100 civilians for every dead soldier. First they did it in villages because that’s where most of the rebellions started and after that they started doing it in Kragujevac. People were taken under excuse of changing their ID’s so there was no resistance.

 

Kragujevac

In the museum can be seen messages left by the students to their parents and of them goes like this: “Don’t send bread tomorrow”. Not much of a message, no emotions but then again evokes so much of it, message doesn’t say what will happen tomorrow but still it’s obvious.

In that time there were rebellions against German forces and Germans started killing 50 civilians for every wounded and 100 civilians for every dead soldier

In Kragujevac you can visit museum called 21. October and memorial park “Kragujevac October” to learn more about what happened here. For this article the photo of the monument to the kids of class V-III would be better but I did not have enough time to go there.

 

Long way back

On the way back I visit the monument for the Partizans in Second World War – Kosmaj. On this place was formed “Kosmajska Posavska” company in order to act around Danube and town of Mladenovac.

 

Kosmaj Monument - Also could be seen in articles about 'futuristic' Yugoslavian monuments

Kosmaj Monument – Also could be seen in articles about ‘futuristic’ Yugoslavian monuments

There was about two hours to reach home but that doesn’t matter… In my head I’m thinking what we have in our backyard but we don’t appreciate it,  we don’t show anything to our people or the international tourists. We can say we have the most beautiful national parks in Europe, monuments and events that send tinglings down your spine when you hear stories behind them and history that we have to learn first and then be proud of it.

Motorbiking Tara Mountain
Adventure, Motorbike, Serbia

Motorbiking Tara Mountain in Serbia

Friday morning. I packed the stuff, went to the garage and packed a recently fixed Kawasaki KLR 650. I started riding and thinking in the back of my mind if everything would work fine with my motorbike, but in my stomach it was a different feeling – it was just pure adrenaline and enjoyment.  Riding to Šabac and Loznica from Novi Sad is a dull and boring road but just after Loznica I arrived to the river Drina and started riding along the side of it. The scenery got more and more beautiful by every new kilometer.

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I had a pause by Zvornik lake for some rest and a bit of photographing. I ran into a man who was also resting there and he told me that it was going to rain. I told him I had checked the weather and there was just a possibility of light rain… I continued riding, the landscape was getting better and the light rain started getting stronger.

Just in front of  Bajina Bašta I arrived to a small house on river Drina that was in most of the papers, TV shows and even in National Geographic. It was built by swimmers and used as a place for resting after long swims. First they built a platform and as the time passed they made something more serious. Sometimes it could withstand the river Drina and sometimes it needed rebuilding… And it went on like that for 40 years.

I arrived at a gas station in Bajina Bašta and waited for a few minutes to see if the rain would stop… Murphy’s law set the stage and it was showering like crazy. When I saw it will not stop, I asked the worker at the gas station if he knew a good place to sleep at and he gave me the directions to a place called “Kod Kurte“ (“At Kurta’s”). By the way, there were twins working at the gas station, so it was hard to talk about something with one of them that I already talked about with the other…  The rain got weaker and I was back on the road again… I failed to follow the instructions from one of the twins and ended up on a forest road reaching a monastery.

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A Monk gave me the directions through the forest and the dirt road was amazing… It started showering but I did not mind, the trail was awesome, going up the mountain Tara, ears cracking because of the pressure change, passing small villages, seeing beautiful landscapes…. After a 20min ride I saw an asphalt road, turned right and hoped it was the right way.  A 10 minute ride and I arrived at “Kod Kurte”, soaked. The interior of the place was all wooden, with photos from rallies and motocross competitions. I settled in my room, had a shower, changed clothes and put plastic bags on my feet before I put my wet shoes on. I went to eat and by recommendation I ate “Bun set” (literal translation from “komplet lepinja”) with some kind of butter milk. It was so good I ate it for breakfast also.

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I spent my night drying my shoes for the next day. In the morning I packed the stuff and went to Zaovine Lake. Normal asphalt road… When I reached Zaovine Lake I started riding on dirt roads hoping to go all around the lake but with no luck. At the end of the road I reached somebody’s yard.

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An old man whose house it was, looked at me strangely and I asked him “Any more road?” and he said “No more road my child. Where would you like to go”? At that moment a lady came out of the house telling me, by the sound of my motorbike, that she thought a helicopter landed. I laughed and answered that I would like to go to Zaovine Lake and the old man told me to go to the asphalt road. I found a few more dirt roads around the lake and after some time I decided to go to Wooden City. I checked the map and saw that there was a dirt road to that place and I did not know how exciting the road was going to be!

A few wrong turns and I passed one left turn asking myself “Is that road that I have seen on the map?” and thinking that I cannot even drive up that road. After a few kilometers I figured that was the road… Checking out the steep road adrenalin helped me hit the throttle and with no problem the main obstacle was beaten. KLR  650 ate everything under it.

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Mud and rocks were on the track all the time while going up, until I reached the road peak. Made some photos and was happy that my KLR made it up and it was probably the hardest one by far. After that easy forest trail I reached the clearance and I saw 3-4 quad bikers and asked them the way to Wooden City. I said goodbye and continued my ride reaching the city.

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The Wooden City is a beautiful place, not a man made marble but a place very worth seeing. Names of the streets are “Bruce Lee’s Street”,  “Novak Đoković’s Street”, “Diego Maradona Square” and so on… The city has its own tennis courts, sports center with its funny name “The Damned Yard” (named after a book by a Serbian Nobel prize winner Ivo Andrić), a church, a restaurant and a few cafés.

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I bought some souvenirs from an old lady and got some rakija made from walnut. I got out of the Wooden City and saw a girl on the bicycle, with the saddle bags totally full, going up the steep hill, I smiled and said “Hi” and she nodded back. In the Back of my mind I was feeling a bit sad since I couldn’t ride my bicycle that much since I did not have much time on my hands.  I decided not to sleep on Tara since locals told me there would be rain and this time I believed them. Going the same road back I stopped at the Drina house from the beginning of the story and at gas station where the twins worked.. I had few words with one of them, thanked him and went on my way.

 

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The ride back was cold and I got caught by the dark and rain. Slowly but surely familiar places started showing up… Ruma, Irig, Novi Sad… I arrived home, wet, frozen, hands cramping but happy since my  Kawasaki KLR 650 after many repairs finished the ride without a problem.