White Water Rafting-- Tara River, Montenegro

img_0201.jpg

Toward the end of our time in Montenegro, my husband Tony and I decided to embark on a white water rafting adventure on the Tara River, which we heard was an unbelievable experience.  The Tara River Canyon is the deepest in Europe, and the river itself has over 50 rapids and runs through 100 km of UNESCO protected wilderness.  The drive from Kotor to the river is a little under 3 hours, but it's a beautiful drive through the countryside and into the Durmitor National Park.

The main rafting route is from Brstnovica to Scepan Polje and takes about 2-3 hours.  There are many places to "camp" right along the river-- and the companies that own these sites can also arrange your rafting trip.  I don't remember the name of the company we used (it had been recommended by my students) but we were very happy with our choice (if I remember at a later date I will add to this post).

When we arrived, we were taken to our cabin, which could have slept 5 people and was the typical, cozy wooden chalet-type structure just steps from the riverbed.  Our package consisted of one night stay, a half day rafting trip, along with dinner and breakfast and lunch the following day.  The total price was something around 80 euro per person.

We weren't going to raft until the second day so we spent our first afternoon exploring the grounds and meeting the other guests.  Around sunset, we grabbed a bottle of the standard Vranac wine and headed up to a little secluded "fort" that had excellent views of the river and the surrounding canyon.

We had been told that dinner would be served at 9pm, in the common area with an open kitchen, lots of wooden tables and benches and a huge covered firepit.  When we walked down to eat, the smells coming from the kitchen were incredible-- the women were kneading fresh dough for bread and burek (a Serbian savory pastry often stuffed with cheese or spinach).  They were roasting whole chickens and had laid out a huge table of fresh meats and cheeses as appetizers.  We ate together with the owners and the other guests, and afterwards hung around to drink wine, play chess and warm up by the fire.

The next day we came down to an equally delicious breakfast with homemade jams, breads and cheeses.  Then we got fitted for wetsuits and headed out in a jeep to drive upriver.  There were three other guys on our trip and it turned out they were from Finland, and also pretty seasoned rafters.  When we arrived at our destination we were quick to ready the boats and received a briefing on the river and the types of rapids we could expect.

It was May, and it turns out this is the month when the Tara River is at it's highest and the rapids are the strongest.  I was pretty excited about this because I have been on one too many rafting trips where I was disappointed by the calm waters (plus, I have perfected sticking my feet into the cracks in the boat to hold steady).

We had one main guide, and another that was a guide-in-training.  As we went along, the guide-in-training would have to jump out at several locations and swim and then practice re-entering the boat.  Needless to say, the rapids did not disappoint-- there were times when I was very scared and convinced we were going to overturn, but it was extremely exhilarating and we kept on course (probably with help from the Finnish experts).

At one point, the main guide yelled for everyone on the right to get down fast, but the guide-in-training was a little too late-- we crashed up onto the side of the canyon and he broke his wrist.  If he hadn't been wearing his helmet it would have been a lot worse.  We had to stop off at the next camp and drop him off so he could get to the hospital!

We were all a little shaken, but were having so much fun and felt confident that we could continue.  Our next stop was at a famous waterfall that is on the Bosnian side of the canyon-- the guide told us we could jump in the falls but warned us that the water was extremely cold.  Turns out it was way too cold for me to even dip a toe in, but Tony and our Finnish friends plunged right in and loved it.

Overall we probably hit about 15 rapids and made it through every one without turning over, although we did get completely soaked.  When we finally pulled up to camp, I was disappointed that it was all over-- I could easily have done a full day trip.

During lunch, we sat out on the picnic tables soaking up the sun and enjoying another delicious meal of warm pea soup, fresh breads and other meats and cheeses.  We said goodbye to our new acquaintances and promised ourselves that we would return one day.