Time for a beer
Of course, we couldn’t pass the Dojkinci village without visiting the local pub, which has it’s own beer brewery! After a few cheers and a tasty snack from the very best domestic cheese and smoked ham, we’ve moved over to the Rosomački lonci, a short, but striking canyon made of horizontal stone slabs, with it’s quite unique looks. Just in time to put up our next campsite nearby – this time lower, at the altitude of only about 700 m.
We’ve set one more task before us, and that is to get up to the border trail with Bulgaria, and drive the ridge as long as it’s possible. After a short photo shoot at a very attractive scenic viewpoint along the way, the most enjoyable ascent was routinely done, encountering a nomadic farm with a pack of horses grazing right under the border ridge! The first part of the ridge trail was a real 4×4 blessing, ending at probably the most perfect highland picnic point just in time for lunch. But the second part, under the Srebrna Glava peak (1932 m), was obviously long forgotten by anyone, either offroaders or hikers. It’s a part of the mountain where nobody goes anymore, except maybe the wild animals. We managed to get through, scratching heavily agains the junipers that threaten to swallow the remaining trail, and bending the young birch trees growing on the very trail. The last part is known as the Karibanja virgin forest – for a good reason. But in the end we managed to push through and end our journey of Stara planina in the most adventureous manner. Time to move on to the south…
The Jerma canyon and Ruj peak
Descending to the little town of Dimitrovgrad was our chance to resupply and refuel for the remaining part of the tour. However, already gotten completely wild and unused to “civilization”, we felt kind of uneasy driving on the streets, impatient to get into the mountains again. We endured some 10 km of main road, before we resorted to the tranquility of side roads again. It was paved, but almost no traffic, and leading to an impressive natural monument, the Jerma river canyon.
The Jerma canyon has two parts, with completely vertical walls, and the road either carved into the walls, or passing through several tunnels. It’s a mirracle what the river managed to carve through the several hundred metre high cliffs. And between those two seemingly impassable gorges, a pastoral, green widening, a secret valley, where an orthodox monastery is well hidden from the outside world. The monastery on one side, and a cosy little restaurant on the other side of the river. We had an overwhelmingly pleasant break there, but decided to go on through the second gorge, searching for a suitable, conceiled camping spot on the banks of the Jerma river. And eventually we found the perfect one, just in time to set up the camp for the night.
Tomorrow morning it was time to go up again. A 1200 m climb to the attractive Ruj peak (1706 m) was awaiting us. On our way we passed through Zvonačka banja, a spa resort that had been inactive for quite some years now. Only a swimming pool is not enough to attract visitors. But the locals say that the hotel Mir, now ruined, will be reconstructed next year.
It was quite a routine climb, with just a bit of muddy details at the 1300 m level, in the deep forest passage before we take on the final trail to the peak. But the finishing part is what’s worth the effort. A technically easy, grassy climb, but quite steep at moments, and with a fantastic view 360 degrees around! You see everything from up there – from the gorgeous Jerma canyon, to the surrounding mountains, and far into Bulgaria. It’s a very tricky climb, because at that point the territory of Serbia goes in a triangular shape deep into Bulgaria, so you have a very narrow maneuvering space, in the last kilometer not more than 100 m wide, to reach the top. Go just a little bit to the right or to the left, you may commit a border offence of illegal entry! So in order to get to the top of Ruj safely, you must have a GPS with 100% precise maps, or keep your eyes fixed on the border stones on both sides.
(continued on page 3)