Coming from Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a familiar destination to many of our overlanders and offroaders. Its vicinity, familiarity, good-natured people, great food and very welcome attitude towards offroaders make it one of top destinations, be it for a short over-weekend trip or a longer holiday. We’ve been there, skiing on Jahorina, visiting towns and cities like Mostar and Sarajevo, passing via Neum from Dubrovnik, but we never did anything that would qualify as overlanding.
I cannot say what took us so long to dedicate some of our precious overlanding time to BiH. We have been listening to our friends about the beautiful landscapes, wild mountains, secret lakes you can have for yourself, delicious food, interesting history and landmarks, hospitable people and affordable prices, but nevertheless we never seemed to find time even for a short visit. Luckily, at the end of October and begining of November 2017 that has changed for the better. We decided to accept the invitation of experienced fellow overlanders to spend a few autumn days together in Western Bosnia, in the region of Bosanski Petrovac, Drvar, Livno and Tomislavgrad. Mare and Uroš in the leading Toyota HDJ100, followed by faithful Patrol GR of Mitja and his family, showed the Slapar family and our own just how great BiH can be.
The plan was fairly simple – to visit some of the lakes and the mountain peaks in the area. We entered the country just north of Bihać and then drove towards the town of Drvar. Our first bivouac was on the shores of little Župica lake, among herds of cattle and under young poplar trees. I had to tighten the front left bearing that showed signs of shaking since we left the Adriatic coast, so the barbecue of the first evening was lost on me.
The next morning, after a short shopping in Drvar, our first goal was the peak of Velika Klekovača. A mountain, the highest in this part of Bosnia reaching 1.962 meters above the sea level, not to be mistaken with the name for juniper brandy (»kleka« means common juniper whose berries are used for producing brandy which is formidable stomach remedy), formerly hosted a radar station of once mighty Yugoslav People’s Army. The views from the top are rumoured to be amazing. We could not verify those rumours because of the early unexpected autumn snow. What was at first just a beautiful addition to the colours of the autumn woods soon became a problem when we reached the altitude around 1.700 meters ASL. About a kilometre from the top the snowdrifts prevented the advance attempts of even the most courageous drivers of our group. Returning to the valley was the only reasonable option. We’ll be back when the snow melts. Fortunately BiH is not very far away from our home.
Our second planned destination was another mountain peak in the area, Veliki Šator (1.872 meters ASL) with its lake. Since we couldn’t reach Klekovača due to snow, our attempt at Šator was also doomed in advance, that was our unanimous decision during the coffee break at Bosanski Grahovac. So we set course towards Livno.
The road over Livanjsko polje was beautiful and fast. The autumn colours, touched by the evening sun, were just formidable. But a traveller can still see the remains and memories of the recent civil war. Burnt houses, abandoned homes, bullet holes in the walls. Sad reminders of human stupidity fuelled by nationalistic ignorance. At Buško lake, where we set our bivouac for the day, we were rewarded with a magnificent sunset. The evening by the campfire was everything an overlanding bivouac should be.
The third day was one of the highlights of our trip, at least for me. It took me nine years and several failed attempts since I first heard of the wild horses of the Krug plateau above Livno to visit them at last. The vast plateau between Korična and Borova glava under the peaks of incar is inhabited by more than 400 wild horses, an important attraction of the area. The horses are descended from farm animals that were released into the wild many decades ago when the technology made their work obsolete. Vast pastures helped them survive from predators, animal and human alike. They have to be tough to survive harsh winters in the Dinara mountains. Even water is scarce in this karst region. For many years animal lovers fought for their protection, and finally in 2013 the law was passed that forbade hunting. Many people visit the area and admire the herds that freely roam the open pastures. It’s like a trip back in time to prehistoric era. We drove over the plateau, taking pictures, shooting video, and generally spent our time being amazed. We left the road and headed to the valley towards a herd we saw in the distance. And as soon as the horses spotted us, they came to us. We admired a herd of maybe hundred horses trotting over the yellow plains, among white rocks and under clear blue sky. A spot of pristine wilderness in over-civilized continent of Europe. The children and the adults, we were equally amazed. Even Kea Pika tried to pet the great animals.
We continued towards Tomislavgrad and on to Lake Blidinje, hidden at the top of a mountain pass, the views were amazing, but so was the strength of the wind. It didn’t take us long to go over the pass to the valley of Ramsko Lake. We found a beautiful spot for a bivouac at one of the peninsulas on the northern shore of the lake. Oak forest hid us from view and gave us wood for campfire. But it was very cold and frost was covering the ground when we woke up.
We left BiH south of Buško jezero at Kamensko border crossing (the Slapar family headed back home already via Bihać) and headed towards the coast. We passed Peručko Lake, the town of Knin and reached the sea under Velebit following the river Zrmanija. When the sun set we made camp at the beach on island Pag. The sea was still warm enough for a quick swim.
The next morning our companions and guides went back home, but we decided to stay a bit longer. After a beautiful sunny morning we went exploring the deserted beaches of Pag. We spent another day on the island, visited the famous toranj (tower) Stogaj and played with cats near the Pag Bridge. We spend the last night near Starigrad pri Paklenici and visited Velo Rujno before heading back to Istria and Savudrija and finally home.
Overall: 179h 25 min of total overlanding time (a little over a week) , 37h 21 min moving time. 1.966,6 kilometres. The roads we drove in BiH were generally very good with not much traffic. Some donations were given to the local police by other members of our group. The border crossings were relatively fast and uncomplicated. A litre of diesel had approximate price of 0,95€, fuel stations are everywhere. Kind people, especially the mechanic in the village of Jaklići that welded the torsion arm of Tomaš’ HDJ100 for a ridiculously good price. Three countries. Five major lakes. One day on the snow. Skinny dipping count +6, though the summer was long gone. One bearing needed tightening. Lots of horses. Great colours of the autumn. Spending the evenings entranced by campfire, And it was cold. We had to be very careful with Kea Pika to keep her warm. The ground was mostly too cold for a little child to play, especially in the morning. Even Punky preferred to go to sleep early.
And of course the company was amazing.
Here come the videos: