staying in China

We stayed at a small hostel in Serbia chosen for it’s proximity to the bus station and Tesla museum, which made it easy to buy tickets for the bus to Foca (pronounced Fosha), where we were to be collected by Drina rafting. Possibly the best feature of the hostel was the free turkish coffee and an enthusiastic receptionist eager to hone her english skills. She gave us some tips on places to visit in Montenegro, and which restuarant to go to in Skardarka St, a touristy Bohemian quarter. We ended up not going to the restaurant – poor weather and Mike decidedly under the weather with flu, so spent the afternoon relaxing in the lounge area of the hostel chatting with the receptionist.

Belgrade main mall

Skardarska sign

Skardarska St Belgrade - quiet on a weekday

Mix of magnificent and bombed buildings

Belgrade has a nice feel to it, despite the eerie mix of  magnificent old buildings and bombed buildings. Many of the grand buildings were private houses that were taken over by the communists. The buildings were bombed by NATO, with impressive precision that demolished the targeted building while leaving the adjacent buildings untouched.

Just as well we bought the bus tickets early in the day before we left – there were no empty seats on the bus to Foca at all.  (Tickets for the 8 hour trip were $18 each, plus $2.00 for the luggage stowed in the cargo  bay, but it was a very basic bus – perhaps cerca 40 years ago – air con, but not the big windows of today. ) Halfway through the trip we  were transferred (along with half the others on the bus) to a smaller bus g0ing to Foca.  For virtually all of the trip we drove through fantastic scenery – rural scenes of quaint houses, sheep and and the odd cow, haystacks,fields of crops and an abundance of  thick forests. The climate here is extreme – summer is like our summer,but in winter it gets to 20 degrees centigrade below. The forests are suprisingly thick and lush,  and just starting to slow a little autumn colour – mostly bright yellow at this stage. At Focca there was no sign of our pickup vehicle, and a drastic shortage of english speakers. We pointed at the address, and eventually got the message in broken english that there was a bus to take us to the rafting centre in 10 minutes time, which we eventually realized meant that the rafting crowd would soon arrive to pick us up.  Sure enough a car from the rafting crowd did arrive and collect us about 10 minutes later.

near Foca

sheep near Foca

River next to rafting campsite

It’s a mystery to me how Sebians and Bosnians manage to stay slim given the generous size of the helpings and the abundance of various pastries, filled doughnuts, pizzas, chocolate and other sweet things in their diet.  Perhaps smoking helps, perhaps it’s the fact that they are party animals. They party any night of the week, not just the weekends, and  at our campsite that meant loud music from 1.5 metre tall speaker until midnight on the first night, and 2.30am on the second night. If the campsite experience was anything  to judge by they party just as hard in the morning as well – they start boozing as soon as they are awake. This video was  7:30 am following the 2:30 am party the night before.

We met an english couple on our first night at the campsite – he was a radiologist now working as a sales rep in Bosnia. He said it was standard procedure to start each business meeting with a drink of rakija, which is a clear drink made from fermented fruit – 40% alcohol. We saw it frequently skolled by a groups in unison, accompanied by a loud ritual cheer.

The actual rafting was great fun – fantastic  scenery all the way. The water was icy cold so thankfully there was no risk of the raft tipping over and dunking us. Some crazy people chose to go for a swim, but even in wetsuits they were covered in goosebumps. We seemed to be the only people in the group with english as our first language, but were boat in a boat with several other english speakers.

Faced with the prospect of another sleepless night  we cut short our planned stay at Tara canyon and headed for Kotor in Montenegro. Although there were buses to the Montenegran coast they seemed to leave at midnight and arrive in the wee hours of the morning, so we caught a taxi for the 3 hour trip for 60 euros (about $90), with the added benefit of having our own personal tour guide, who would stop at scenic points so we could take photos, and of course deliver us right to the doorstep our accommodation, which as it turns out is about 6km out of Kotor. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was a complete air-conditioned apartment – lounge, kitchenette, nice bathroom, bedroom and excercise machine in front of the colour TV, lovely grounds and a swimming pool for the princely sum of $AU37 per night. Lovely to have a feeling of space, instead of having to pile items on top of each other all the time. The landlady gave us a bowl of plums picked from a tree in the garden when we arrived.

Apartment garden plum tree