I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Incident at Mokra Gora

You'd think we'd be used to a bit of surrealism and chaos by now.

Three guys with cabs were at the station. They mentioned Sarajevo before us, and were indeed going to take us there, via a narrow gauge tourist railway called the Sargan Eight, so called because the line follows a figure 8 as it tunnels and climbs its way up, down, and through some mountains. Off we go, then.

After a cannonball run drive through the countryside, punctuated by a stop at a petrol station where the driver ahead of us bought the passengers beer, but our cab remained dry, and a narrow miss at the single lane bridge, we got to Vitasi Sargan with about 15 minutes to spare. Not quite the dilapidated nowheresville we expected, this was actually a very well presented yard with nice water features and a train-bike thing and well looked after rails and HELLO, SHE'S SELLING BEER.

We bought beer.

What we (almost) didn't buy was tickets. Obviously we'd not actually got any Serbian currency, expecting to pay in euros everywhere. Moreover, we didn't bloody expect the conductor to refuse not only the currency but the amount. We wanted to pay with €50, which was roughly 50% more than the asking price, and we only wanted to go one way. He only agreed when it was obvious that he couldn't bloody leave us behind, especially because our cab drivers - told to wait until we'd got on the train just in case something went wrong - had fucked off.

The ride was top fun. Twisty turny tunnely stuff, great views across the valleys and of the tracks we were yet to use, or had already left behind. A couple of stops, lots of photo opportunities, and a descent into Mokra Gora where our carriages waited.

Ah yes, about these carriages...

So, we now only had one cab driver, one of the Serbian guys from Uzice. Also 2 Bosnian fellas, who apparently had no wheels but swore blind they were our real ride. What? This was an incident.

Lots was shouted in lots of languages, some of it into phones. Yer Serbs wanted the €300 to take us the rest of the way. If we agreed, the other two would turn up with our bags and we'd go. Yer Bosnians said oi, we were at Uzice, we came from Sarajevo to meet you, you're our fare so come on, get in our vans, and pay us the €300.  They're around here somewhere. Probably.

We just wanted to pay the sovs and get there. However, this was all meant to have been sorted by a Sarajevan who was also in control of our accommodation. Oh dear.

Hand shakes and hugs were exchanged, laughs were had. It seemed the incident was over. It wasn't. For another 15 minutes or more voices were raised again, by now added to by the train guy who insisted we take our return trip to Vitasi (er, no). Again the phone came out. Some truth had been learnt: the Serbs were just enterprising cabbies, and the Bosnians had turned up late, missed us, and headed here to catch us up.

They were our transport, but had to catch us up. Like fuck were we going to pay full whack to them, but we obviously had to pay the Serbs for taking us to the start and hanging around (doubtless catching new fares, but still ...), The main Bosnian guy wouldn't accept our offer, but the man on the phone told him to. Cabs and luggage arrived, the Serbs shook a lot of hands, some minibuses appeared. The conflict was over.

For now.

Mokra Gora is very close to the border with Bosnia. We crossed, noticing there were businesses in the no mans land between the two (exit and entrance). How does that work?

Perhaps as a display of geographical sibling rivalry, our Bosnian drivers were even more insane than the Serbs. There was a palpable sense of dismay, disdain, disgust whenever traffic approached us on the other side of the road, using their lane legally but denying us our right to keep the racing line at all times. We zoomed, we overtook when it was dangerous and illegal, we had lots of fun. Well, I did.

Bosnia is gobsmackingly beautiful. The first, I dunno, hour or so of the journey was jaw dropping. Like the bus to Fauske but with trees and colour, a long trip hugging mountain sides and a new vista at each turn. It was amazing. After a while we were merely treated to expansive countryside, but soon enough it became grand again, mountains everywhere and then, oh, hello Sarajevo. You're beautiful.

So, er, why are we still driving?

The vans took us way up hills to a youth hostel way out from the manifestly gorgeous centre. We weren't happy with this. Were we being punished for the incident? Whether we were or not, more voices were raised, a phone came out again and before we knew it the 9 of us were ensconced in a decidedly central hostel, full of showers and lovely precious electricity.

And, relax. Time for a raki.

No comments: