Day 6 – Mokra Gora-Tara

Current location: N43.55.18 E019.25.5, elevation 1090m; Total climb: 1044m; Total descent: 782m; Max elevation: 1421; Distance covered… wait for it…: 28km! I suppose today the mountain just got the better of us. We set off up into the Tara national park, a fearsome climb from 720m to an initial 1270m, 550m of climbing we didn’t need straight after breakfast. The view back over the Mokra gora mountains we had crossed yesterday made it worth it though.

We lost half an hour while I fixed my chain, which I had ill-advisedly removed earlier to clean it, and not reconnected it properly (DO try it at home kids, not halfway up a mountain). We got off the asphalt and onto the dirt track which would take us to Tara’s Zaovinsko jezero (a very scenic lake located at around 1000m asl). Tara seemed determined to claim the name Mokra gora (Wet Mountain) for itself – not only did it start to teem with rain, but the track became very muddy as bulldozers had evidently widened it recently, possibly in preparation for tarmac sometime soon. We didn’t have time to lament the loss of yet more trails to asphalt, as our bikes became increasingly clogged with mud, so that forward motion became almost impossible.

It was at this point that we decided on another “shortcut” – they have all been ill-fated on this trip – which would dive down into a remote valley and up the other side along a steep ridge and rejoin our trail, hopefully bypassing the mud. Well, not only did we not avoid any mud (the track had been churned up by tractors), but we added over an hour to our ride and had still only covered 15km. We lost another half hour removing the mud from our bikes at a spring (by now there was no evidence that I had cleaned my chain, gears, or anything else – all was thick with mud).

We then descended the last 7km through the clouds to the lake (photos once I upload the pics) where the car would be waiting for us. By the time we arrived, soaked through and covered in mud it was clear our journey was coming to an end – in order to do the loop around the Tara National Park and see the famous canyon we would have had to have got here MUCH earlier so we could do the loop and still make it back to civilisation tomorrow. Besides, we were cold and wet, our bikes in poor condition and when the lads told us they had found reasonably-priced apartment accommodation, we just knew we had seen enough of our tents. So Day 6’s camp is in the warmth of a pleasant, brand new holiday apartment. It just remains for us to decide (or the weather) tomorrow if we want to cycle the long way round – more climbing – and see a little more of the park, or just head to the nearest town, Bajina basta and go our seperate ways. So it’s not over yet, but it is really – I think it was over the moment we decided on that last shortcut. It seems like an eternity ago we were on Kopaonik, 320km away and we can be very satisfied we made it all the way to Tara, taking in a large swathe of Serbia’s mountains and seeing the country as it really should be experienced – from the saddle of a bike. There may just be one last post tomorrow to finish off and then look out for a complete report with full pics. But now it’s time to sleep in a bed for the first time in almost a week… Zzz…

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