THE BEAUTIFUL RIVERS RUNS ON THE BALKAN PENINSULA
I was born in Yugoslavia, but I never got to know the spirit. From 1991 Slovenia is one of six independent ex-Yugoslavian countries. Old people all talk nostalgic about the life in Yugoslavia and the president Josip Bros Tito. That is the reason why I was always interested in visiting Balkan peninsula.
This May, when the rivers were running high, my girl Nika and I drove over Croatia highway, straight to Montenegro, to meet and support the “Balkan Rivers Tour” (www.balkanriverstour.com ). The goal was to kayak as much as possible.
We started on one of the Balkan’s beauty Moraca. It flows 113 km from Rzaca mountain southwards before reaching Skadar Lake in Podgorica. We spend a few memorable days paddling and parting in the valley, with the “BRT” crew and hospital locals. For sure the high light-run is the upper Moraca, with its colourful and narrow canyons. Not so challenging, but also imposant are the lower canyons and I was also surprised by side creek Mrtvica with its untouched beauty.
After Moraca we moved towards Albania. It was never a part of Yugoslavia, but still a communist party on Balkan. Because lack of time, we just reach the Prokletije mountains in the north. I think they offer some of the best world rivers and I paddled a few.
In the morning we hit the road from Podgorica (Montenegro) and in evening we were already discovering the next valley of Albania. We paddled the upper Cem river with Jan Praprotnik, Urban Rejc and the “Turkish expedition crew”-Luka Rebersak, Jan Bregar, Filip Tomazic and Blaz Stan. They just stopped to join us in Montenegro and Albania on their way to Turkey.
Cem is the border river between Albania and Montenegro. The upper section is open, steep and technical. The valley is painted green, with some great grey big walls to climb and the water is emerald clear.
I`ve been in Albania 5 years ago and the roads were horrible. Now, I was surprised, because most of the connections are brand new. So, the time logistics was easy and we moved to the next astonishing valley. River Kir is different, known for its low open canyons, slides and drops. The water is clear and warmer. After another sunny run with friends, Nika and I were headed to my last Balkan wish in this road trip, but for sure, I will discover more!
Valbona valley is located in Nordeast of Albania, near the border with Kosovo. Surrounded by steep mountains there flows the cleanest river in the country. For me, as kayaker, for sure the queen of Albanian rivers! With perfect water level I paddled it alone. In one push from the top to the bottom, I had to scout one rapid, but all the rest was just a memorable day!
Before heading home, we had more adventures in Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia and Croatia. There is almost no site of war, everything is rebuild and in developed. Overall Balkan people are friendly, hospitable and helpful. The rivers are everywhere and entry/exit are next to the road, so the logistics is easy. The prices are low and there are a lot of campsides and guesthouses. If there is none, check with the locals for the place. Food is delicious:-fresh eco vegetables, excellent grill, tasty wines and strong snops and on and on!
Now that I am nostalgic about the Balkan trip, perhaps I can understand the stories than my parents told my about Yugoslavia.