Rafting in Bosnia: A Landscape of Incomparable Splendor
By Cindy-Lou Dale
En route to Mostar from Sarajevo, driving through a dizzying canyon, my guide, Sasha, decided to stop off at Konjic, a small town on the way. There was a man there, she claimed, I needed to meet.
My trip to Bosnia was purely an academic one – a meeting with a history professor at Mostar University, so arranged that I could savor a few days in the country which had once been beaten to within an inch of her life in a recent civil war.
"Samir Krivić," Sasha explained, "is a physical training instructor by profession, but he also owns a whitewater rafting company."
A Stab of Despair
I fixed him with the most respectful grovelling look I believe I have ever mustered and enquired if he expected us to be getting wet. He smiled broadly, indicating that I should look into the canyon.
I felt a stab of despair when I peered over the edge; several hundred feet below was a deeply carved gorge with a foaming froth of fast moving white water. A small, uncontrolled squeak escaped me.
"Now," Samir announced, "we raft."
And so it was that I began my unintended first-ever whitewater adventure, when I gingerly stepped into a rubber raft containing several other wide-eyed innocents, all looking a little owlish. I showed them my teeth and sat down, securing my feet under the ropes.
I was quietly certain we would all die this day, all except Samir of course, who evidently feared nothing. Following what felt like a small eternity, but in reality was but a few minutes, the waking nightmare was over and we were in calm waters.
Despite myself I became rather excited at the prospect of the next set of rapids and uttered a cry of pleasure when Samir pointed them out.
Dazzling the Senses
Later, when we entered the calmer waters, I began to look around and see truly astounding sights; like the plump mountains suddenly and infinitely splashed with every sharp shade that nature could bestow, offset against white canyon walls and turquoise coloured waters, under a vast summer sky; a contrast that truly dazzles the senses.
We rafted for several hours, passing through a landscape of incomparable splendor and ended the trip where we had breakfasted earlier in the day.
"Bosnia is more than a rugged country," Samir explained. "It’s a way of life which demands extreme outdoor sports. Some sportsmen paraglide off the top of Visočica and over the canyon of Rakitnica; others prefer to mountain bike across the Prenj plateau - Bosnia’s version of the Himalayas."
He took a long pull at his pint and grew thoughtful. "The locals, though, favour rafting on the crystal-clear rapids of our world renowned Rivers Neretva, Una and Tara."
Our fellow diners were possibly the most fearsome looking folk I had seen since a recent family reunion. They looked as if they had just come in from killing large animals in the woods, perhaps with their teeth.
The dining room was hung with wallpaper which was doing its best to flee dampness; which is what I did immediately upon finishing my meal.
I awoke the next morning to a world bathed in that predawn light that seems to come from nowhere.
An Amiable Giant
We arrived at Encijan’s camp to a lavish buffet lunch set out beneath a covered wooden deck, overlooking a raging mass of turquoise water.
Sherpas, an amiable giant, with a handsome peasant look about him, explained that the River Tara was coined the jewel of Europe.
"This," he said, waving a hand in the general direction of the wild, foaming river, "rises from the mountain ranges in the northern part of Montenegro and flows 87 miles (140km) until meeting with the Piva River where it forms the River Drina, one of the longest and largest rivers in the Balkans."
"And that," he said, indicating the forest surrounding us, "is one of the last three remaining jungles in Europe with many trees more than 500 years old."
Like this on Facebook: