The Tara River is the longest in river in Montenegro and its canyon is the second deepest in the world with its 1,300 metres. The water is fresh and clean which makes it excellent for drinking and provides an important water resource for the country. The river divides Bosnia and Montenegro and when you cross the Montenegrin border, you’ll cross a bridge over the Tara river before you reach the Bosnian border. No man’s land indeed.
We started our drive from Kotor at 7 in the morning, but not before buying burek with cheese (or pita sa sirom as my mom insists it’s called, while burek is always made with meat) from the local bakery. It was still hot and came straight out of the bakery’s oven and was exquisite. We drove along the narrow roads along the Bay of Kotor and then came the curvy, narrow mountain roads which had breathtaking views over the Montenegrian landscape. As we got closer to Bosnia, the roads, clinging to the canyon walls, got narrower and of poorer quality. Finally, we passed the border and reached our destination for a one-day river rafting experience.
There are many rafting centers around Tara and we googled and googled and ended up chosing Rafting Center Drina-Tara, located in Bosnia, 7 km from the border. It’s important you do some research if you’re planning to go as there are many unprofessional centers as well who do not put any emphasis on personal safety etc. which is a must, especially if you’re travelling in May or June, when the river rafting experience can be quite dangerous. In July, however, Tara is calm but as beautiful as any time of the year.
After checking in, we got some breakfast, which was included in the 45 euro price. We had the choice to choose a vegetarian dinner, which was important to us and oh was I glad when they came out with ustipci (Bosnian, fried dough-buns), kajmak (a salty soft cheese, which is only edible when homemade, the store-bought stuff is crap) and other good stuff I know from my grandma’s kitchen table. All organic. My eyes lit up and I ate ’til I could eat no more.
We headed to Tara by car. On the way, we were paired with 5 Bosnian men which I, circa 30 seconds after take-off wanted to high-five. With a bottle. In the face. We made sure not to get stuck on the same boat as these dudes, who by 11:00 were already way past drunk – and brought along an IKEA-sized bag full of beer, whiskey and rakija.
Finally, our skipper Tomo, who’s been a river rafting instructor for 8 years, gave us instructions and we were off!
The rafting experience took around 4 hours and we stopped along the way. At one point, he told us we could go into the water, which was 13 degrees Celsius, and I thought I’d be adventurous so when Jacob said “No way!”, I said “Let’s do it”, jumped in and started screaming/laughing/screaming that it was “f’cking cold!!!” and our skipper laughingly helped me up on the boat again while Jacob swam in the ice cold water.
During these 4 hours, we were all taken aback by this unspoilt beauty of nature, the clear water, the waterfalls, the little birds flying down to have a sip of the clean water. Seeing the surroundings, I felt like I was in a fairytale, or one of those old Disney movies where nature always was ridiculously perfect and surreal. Only this was real.
We stopped around 2 hours into the trip down Tara where there was a small café and a beautiful waterfall. Unfortunately Jacob is the worst photographer on the face of the earth (although he has many other great qualities – photography isn’t one of them) I had to get into that freakin’ cold waterfall THREE times to get a decent picture of myself there. And the waterfall was circa 5 degrees Celsius, and the picture still turned out…let’s say not-so-great, to spare Jacob’s feelings 😉
When we arrived back to the rafting center, we took our wetsuits off, changed clothes and dinner waited for us. The dinner. OH, the dinner. I think when you’re not from the Balkans you won’t get why it’s so delicious but the food was by far one of the best meals I’ve had, and it was so simple. We had cabbage salad, which doesn’t sound interesting at all, I know, but trust me when I say it was delicious, and some homemade vegetable soup. You always start with soup in Bosnia, before dinner. Then we got a big plate of pasta cooked in a delicious sauce, perfectly seasoned potatoes and those light green peppers that all Balkan-people love, cooked in oil and garlic. Oh my. I was overwhelmed and Jacob laughed at me and said my big eyes had turned even bigger and he could sense that in my mind, I was back at my grandma Sava’s kitchen table, savouring my feast.
We had a long drive in front of us, so we took off straight after dinner, but first had a quick chat with the staff (they called me boss all day and I felt so cool) who asked us about our experience and the first thing I said was “THE FOOD WAS AWESOME”, but after seeing their faces I quickly added “And of course the river rafting was exceptional”.
You need to do this. At least once.
On our way home, we stopped along the way to take in this fantastic view of Slansko Jezero just outside of Niksic, which is the second largest city in Montenegro.