Days 10 to 15 - 28th September to 3rd October 2011 Peripole to Podgorica

The route

The Video:

This video is rather long because it shows what it is like to cycle through the Tara Gorge, we hope you like it.

The Downloads:

Downloads for this route in Garmin Google Earth and .GPX formats

The files are in .zip format. They need to be unzipped and saved to a directory of your choice. You can then load them into the appropriate application and GPS.

The Blog

Peripole to Podgorica

Day 10 28th September 2011 - Peripole to Zabijak

There is a certain amount of untruthfulness going on today. First John seems to be underestimating the length of the ride and its hilliness. It is best not to do this to someone who has been doing the same thing for getting on for 45 years.

We are planning a detour from our route south and doing a three day circle north west. This way we will cycle through the Tara Gorge and then the ski resort of Zabijak.

An early start would have been a good idea but it was misty and we waited for it to clear.

The river running in the Tara Gorge obviously flows down hill so naively I had expected a gentle descent to start with. No such luck. The road climbed up the side of the wide limestone gorge before descending and climbing to even greater heights to negotiate the side valleys along the gorge.

We finally had a long descent via a number of tunnels to the river level before climbing yet again to reach a cross point, a long and rickety looking concrete bridge. Here we stopped for lunch in the sunshine. Along the way we met a young Swiss couple cycling in the opposite direction, onwards to Kosovo and Albania.

Having enjoyed the spectacular scenery along the gorge we now had a very serious climb out to Zabijak at 1385m. My legs were not on good form today but I managed with John's encouragement and stopping to rest at every third km mile stone.

After the summit of the main climb we still had 10km to go to reach Zabijak. There was still a fair bit of up but at least we were on a high plain.

On the outskirts of Zabijak we passed half a dozen very nice looking cabins. On enquiring everything about them seemed right and we booked in for an indeterminate period and it is a good thing we did.

I made a shopping list and John volunteered to cycle up to the village for supplies. My legs felt as if they would be hard pressed to do another metre.

The Tara Gorge

Days 11 and 12 29th and 30th September 2011 - Rest Days

John had a rough night and I would have felt guilty of poisoning him if it were not for the fact that we had eaten exactly the same things, except that he had added meat. As it was I returned some of his help getting up the last hill while he recovered.

For the next two days we were able to enjoy the cabin and its superb position with views over the fields and mountains. The cabin was well appointed in direct contrast to the crumbling ex state hotels and I even had my own bedroom at the top of step stairs which were more like a ladder.

Apart from the lovely sunshine this stay was noted for its confrontations with animals. Every now and again a few cows wandered into the fenced area containing the huts. They seemed to know they were not allowed and soon left. On one occasion a whole herd of goats got in and had to be chased away by the proprietor. On a shopping trip to the village I was adopted by a local dog which followed me at 30kmph back to the cabin.

On the final afternoon we greeted a young German cyclist who was on his way to Albania. He had arrived on a nine hour rail journey which followed part of the route we had cycled in the past week. It sounded like a spectacular and memorable train ride.

Day 13 1st October 2011 - Zabijak to Niksic

Last night when I sent John shopping in the village he brought back with him a young black Labrador looking dog which sat outside our cabin and would not go away. At about 2am this morning it started incessant barking which woke both of us and no doubt everyone else in the area. We roundly cursed the animal.

When we awoke at 6.15am for an early start the blasted animal was still there. We, or more accurately I, breakfasted, packed, and loaded our bikes. The dog while not aggressive was getting in our way. John, normally a mild mannered man, aimed his foot at the dog's bollocks which connected, causing the poor animal to whelp. It also withdrew to a safe distance and we thought we had seen the last of it.

Perhaps John lashing out at the dog was an indication of his frame of mind caused by his dodgy tummy. I think I am becoming immune to it but feel concerned that whatever I cook seems to aggravate the problem. I do think he was either brave or stupid to start this morning but we are both pleased he did.

From the cabin we had a climb of about 100 metres through the village to the highest part of the ski resort at 1450 metres. The dog managed to follow us to the summit which was not surprising. As the animal appeared to have no road sense whatsoever we had screeching of vehicle brakes but there was absolutely nothing we could do to discourage it.

At the summit we joined an amazing new road which descended around 600 metres over about 20km and via a 2km lit tunnel. Even though it was a cloudy morning the mountain scenery was superb. At first we were in high summer pasture with hardly any major down. Then we were going through picturesque limestone mountains remote from habitation.

And as for the dog it managed to keep up with us for at least 15km, until we got to the tunnel. After that we were doing around 60kmph and the poor animal had no chance. We were pleased to see the back of it and amazed at the speed it could go. We were also concerned for its welfare in the middle of nowhere but there was nothing we could do.

We were now down in the bottom of a limestone gorge at about 850 metres in Savnic. We then had the inevitable climb out. John was finding it particularly hard though still keeping ahead of me with my steady but slow pace. We were encouraged by John's map which indicated another new long tunnel which we expected would cut the height of the climb.

As it was the map was wrong in every important respect. We climbed steadily on until we came to a short tunnel at the summit and were back up again at 1450 metres. It was a lovely steady climb through the trees with occasional views into the valley and of the mountains.

The descent was just as nice as the climb. The new road had been cut into the side of the mountain overlooking the valley below with high mountains in the distance. Once through the tunnel John's demeanour improved remarkably. He puts this down to the extra blood and oxygen flow caused by the exercise. I don't care what caused it but welcomed the improvement.

We joined the major road and were soon into a nice hotel in the pleasant town of Niksic. It had again been a hard ride but it is impossible to say whether this ride or that through the Tara Gorge was the most spectacular. Both rate with some of the best rides I have ever done but the Golden Road in the Outer Hebrides still has the edge, just.

The Tara Gorge

Days 14 and 15 2nd and 3rd October 2011 - Niksic to Podgorica

We had a late start for us as it was to be a short ride and mostly downhill. We started with a tour of Niksic. Some of the socialist architecture has to be seen to be believed. The most unlikely building is a vast futuristic glass and concrete structure. It is now fenced off and falling down but the site must be around 500 metres by 300 metres and it was perhaps a school, college or sports centre.

We stopped to video but the most likely explanation for its demise would appear to be its construction. The concrete castings looked crude and replacing an individually shaped pane of broken glass probably impossible.

The other building was the crumbling concrete hotel we did not stay in. It had an impossibly small footprint with the rectangular upper part jutting from it. One got the impression that if the guests were not distributed evenly the whole thing would topple over.

Leaving town proved a little less easy than expected. I had planned a minor road for the first 10km running parallel to the main drag. This proved to be unmade so we decided against it. But we then had difficulty getting back onto the highway. Eventually John achieved this by taking a short cut through what appeared to be someone's garden.

The Tara Gorge

The main road was fine and not very busy and after about 10km of easy cycling we came to a tunnel 1114 metres long. It was rather dimly lit so I put on my head torch and all our other lights. We waited for a gap in the traffic and were soon through without incident.

After another couple of short tunnels we had a pleasant downhill stretch for about 20km. During this we met coming up the hill our second cycle tourist of the day. The first one we met was in Niksic, a Frenchman from Rennes. He was young and something of a cycling tramp with no firm plan. We liked him and his laid back attitude. Our second meeting was a gentleman of even more advanced age than me from Dunoon in Scotland. His equipment and cycle were well used and could even be considered battered. He was clearly a very experienced cycle tourist and pleased to chat with fellow British. Mind you in the sound Scots tradition he did not miss the opportunity to sell his spare Albanian currency.

Just as the road, which was hanging onto the side of the valley, became busy we were able to divert into the valley itself on minor roads and take the opportunity to rest in a bar with a coke. From here on into Podgorica the ride is something of a blur for me. I was finding it hard and spent my time stuck on John's wheel and there was no chance I was going to lose it.

Podgorica, once called Titograd, is the capital of Montenegro and while not vast is a large city. As has so often happened the GPS came into its own. I keyed in the hotel and in my befuddled state followed the directions which took us straight there.

The hotel was obviously a relic of Tito's period but on this occasion had not been allowed to deteriorate too much. The spacious public areas and our large room while seriously dated were pleasant and for me the air conditioning was wonderful.

At this point I was ill and stayed that way well into the next day. This probably accounts for me finding an easy ride difficult. John was good at making sure I was OK and I was even up to exploring the streets around the hotel later in the day.