The Kučaj adventure
It’s time to say goodbye to Stara planina. But not before we’ve rolled up to the famous Babin Zub rocks! 🙂 More so because we didn’t get the opportunity to see Midžor on the previous day. A few pics on the rocks in the sunny, but freezing morning, and down the mountain we go… Straight to the small town of Knjaževac.
It was a day for the longer main (paved) road transfer to the Kučaj mountains, but not without the refueling / resupplying break in Knjaževac. And a chance to bask in the sun (finally) again in some temperatures in the 20’s, after several days of freezing in the high mountains. We reached the Kučaj mountains quite efficiently, and used the first logical opportunity to make a lunchbreak on a meadow as we reached a safe distance from “civilization” again.
Kučaj mountains are not particularly high, with the highest point reaching only 1339 m of altitude at the Beljanica peak, but they’re really huge, so they give you a fantastic sense of wilderness and isolation. In a space the size of 50×50 km there are no towns or villages, only endless rolling ridges, forests, canyons and highland plains, offering great opportunity to hide to all those who wish to do so. On this day we decided to ascend Malinik, a charming, easternmost ridge of the Kučaj range, which features some of the most beautiful beech forests in Kučaj, as well as quite spectacular scenic views.
Little Malinik (Mali Malinik) was first on our list – a steep, pointy peak, that is very attractive to climb 4×4, and even more attractive to make a photo shooting session from above. After that, we hurried to the other side of Big Malinik and the main ridge, to a viewpoint which offers a one of a kind high altitude view over the majestic Lazar’s canyon, the most spectacular canyon of eastern Serbia. As the day was coming to it’s end, we found shelter for the night in a nearby forest clearing, where we often camp.
As predicted by the wether forcast, the next day brought us rain again. Lots of it. Which was really a pity, since sunny weather is a much better environment to experience the full beauty of Kučaj wilderness. However, we managed to make a long, winding jouney from the east to the far west, stopping by the Mikulj monastery for a late breakfast, and experiencing the most demanding technical (muddy) detail in the entire tour, where most participants had to resort to their winches.
As the day progressed the weather deteriorated further, slowly turning from rain into snow. As we reached the fairy-tale like Valkaluci hunter’s hut, the conditions were far from being in a fairy tale, so we quickly ate something in the snow blizzard, and people spontaneously decided to take the bungalows by the Lisine waterfall, instead of camp in the wild for the night. With a perspective of camping in the snow, quite understandable.
The grand finals
There was something strange about the second half of this tour – every second day was nice and sunny, with clouds/fog/rain/snow inbetween, so on the final day of the tour it was the sun’s turn again, and it hasn’t failed us 🙂 So we quicky rushed along the road passing through the Resava canyon, before ascending the Beljanica plateau from the east.
Beljanica is a very interesting, and to offroaders quite an attractive place. It’s a big plateau standing at the highest altitude among all of the ridges that consist Kučaj mountains, also featuring the highest peak. In winter that is the place with the thickest snow cover (and the most difficult challenge to offroaders), and now there was just enough snow left from the previous day to experience a short, but inspiring winter surrounding to complete all driving conditions in the tour. We successfully crossed a steep, rocky detail where people often winch, before reaching the peak. After lunch, se descended to the west, to make a fitting end of the tour in the thermal pools of Ždrelo Aquapark Spa hotel 😎
So after driving four countries in two weeks, covering some 2000 km on all sorts of terrain, enjoying all kinds of weather, from true springtime to real winter conditions, another Balkans Wild Tracks overland adventure was over.
Some lessons were learned, so we will change it for the better next season – we’ve moved it a month earlier to get longer days and milder weather, as well as relocating it further to the south for more or less the same reasons. And made the daily itineraries slightly shorter, just in order to make it more relaxed in the mornings, giving us enough time to dry the rooftop tents in the morning sun. To get an idea what Balkans Wild Tracks will look like in the future, you can visit the page with the tour programme . And if you want to see more pictures and less text, it’s all gathered on the photo album page.
Nevertheless, one thing is sure – every Balkans Wild Tracks is an adventure to remember, and a decent ending of our camping tour season!