Nature smature. After a lifetime of city living and some bad experiences camping as a kid, I can say with certainty that I’m not an outdoorsy kind of person. Keep your epic nature and adventure sports, I thrive on wanky cafes, dodgy bars, urban cycling, and skyscrapers.
So with that in mind, I am now going to say that Tara National Park is pretty freaking beautiful. In the short time he had, Miki showed us around the area as best he could and gave us some recommendations on other places to check out. While we were together, he brought us to the Vrelo River. At 365 metres, this is one of the shortest rivers in Europe, and you can easily walk from the point where it gushes out of the mountain down to the point where it gushes into the nearby Drina River. The day was sultry, but the Vrelo is so cold that the area around its riverbanks feels as air conditioned as a Japanese department store. The water is crystal clear and delicious to drink, and, for whatever reason, the river is populated with absolutely gigantic California trout.
Down at the other end, where the Vrelo meets the Drina, is Restoran Vrelo, an awesome place with a gigantic terrace that stretches right over a waterfall. We only had coffee but the smell of fish and garlic wafted deliciously through the air, and Miki told us that on weekends the place is packed with locals who come to listen to Serbian folk bands.
We also cruised around through the park down some truly awful roads that revealed magnificent views at every turn.
We had initially planned on camping in the park that night, but unfortunately storms forced us to take up shelter that wasn’t a one-man tent on a hillside. The next day when the weather temporarily cleared for us, we jumped at the chance to check out the Banjska Stanja viewpoint. The roads to get there were rocky, muddy and a bit confusing, and despite the fact that this is one of Serbia’s most notable landmark views, the area was serene and peaceful. When we arrived at the top, aside from a gaggle of French girls, there was no one around. The view was pretty epic.
We needed to hoof it to a festival about 80 kilometres away, so we left Tara with the intent of returning afterwards to camp. Unfortunately we ran into some problems after the festival and ended up spending some unscheduled time in Uzice, but after our car was fixed we jumped at our final chance to actually pitch a tent in this freaking park.
The afternoon had been stormy but we said fuck it, and headed towards the park anyway. Wild camping is legal in Serbia, and travellers can pick pretty much any public space to set up for the night. Much like an Englishman and his pubs, or a digital nomad and her cafes, however, Mook wanted to find The Perfect Place for our excursion. It took some time, some wrong turns, and some driving down narrow gravel roads, but just before sundown we managed to find the ultimate camping spot, with plentiful firewood and away from the high-traffic areas of the park. With a full moon and a roaring fire, we were able to spend a relaxing night that, much to my pleasure, was completely mosquito free.