People and Waters

See It Through My Eyes
Rafting is not just an adventure. The river teaches us patience and calmness, specific kind of wisdom. To admire, to love and respect it. It sometimes cruelly warns shallow and haughty people. Otherwise it multiply returns care and gifts. It amazes and recuperates us. We are in nature, nature within us. Everything is in everything, borders don’t exist. What we are searching for and what we find is the point of balance within us, a forgotten stronghold

By: Sandra Gagić
Photo: Lenka Miletić, Radmila Đević

On the Foča-Nikšić highway, twenty-odd kilometers from Foča, about a hundred meters from the place where the rivers Tara and Piva join and make the turquoise Drina, in the vicinity of Perućica, the only virgin forest in Europe, ”Sutjeska” National Park, Tjentište, Trnovačko Lake, in the place where nights are cool and the sky becomes heavy with stars, which stand so low that it seems one could reach each one of them in only one jump, there are about twenty rafting camps. They are visited by adventurers, nature lovers and those who wish to, at least for a moment, escape the buzz and heat of the city, hear the silence, feel the smell of air and soil and taste of water.
Rafting on the Tara and the Drina is organized from March to October. Sailing from March to May, when the water level is very high and its temperature 5-7 degrees Celsius, requests previous physical preparation. From June to October, the water level is lower, its temperature 10-12 degrees Celsius, so previous preparations are not necessary and even children can take part in it.
The journey begins on the river Tara in Montenegro. During the summer months, when the water level is low and the river slower, it lasts 4-5 hours through Montenegro and Republic of Srpska. Besides the excitement during rowing in the rapids, it’s also a good opportunity to, while passing the calmer parts of the Tara, listen to the songs from other passing boats, enjoy the view of the canyon, the tall cliffs on both sides of the river, to enjoy the sun and bathing in the Tara, so-called Tear of Europe, whose water is safe for drinking in its entire course. During high water levels, however, when only the most experienced and bravest rafters, mainly skippers, dare to undertake this voyage, it lasts only about twenty minutes.
Guides-skippers coordinate the rubber rafts. Before entering the boat, they hold a brief course about using the equipment and behaving on the river. Milan Rudinac from Foča, who has been sailing the Tara and the Drina for about ten years now, and is co-founder of the ”Wild River” camp, says that the main worry of the skipper is the safety of the guests. Participants in the rafting must also be aware of potential dangers, use protective equipment (helmet, safety belt, neoprene suit and boots) and listen to the skipper’s instructions. The river is unpredictable and capricious and must be treated with respect. Exaggerated and unfounded self-assurance of the inexperienced ones can only lead to accidents. In July, due to not respecting safety rules, a young man from Montenegro died in the rapids of the Tara during rafting.


Skippers from Foča are not just plain adventurers, but very brave young men, always ready to help anyone in need. They, however, don’t speak much. Silent and moody, like the river they love so much, with hearts as big as mountains surrounding them, each word they say is measured and thought through several times. Nothing excessive. Profit here is not a measure of success, or the reason why they are doing this.
– I wanted people who come here to see all this through my eyes, the way I see it – says Rudinac.
He doesn’t say much, but it is enough to see how he touches the river while sitting in the boat, how he collects each empty can, plastic bottle or cigarette butt, thoughtlessly thrown on the river bank by some previous guests, how he carefully puts them in the bag in his boat, the love in his eyes while he watches the trees and the rocks, the respect with which he treats each, even the smallest and seemingly least dangerous rapid.
When building his camp, he erected wooden bungalows and small houses looking up to old Serbian ones among the trees, trying not to move any of them. Those that had to be moved from their original place, he took out from the ground and planted them nearby.
And then, all of a sudden, everyone feels that they are really watching the world around them through his eyes; that nature is within them and they are in it, and that there is no border separating them. That everything is one. And Milan knows he succeeded to, at least for a day, teach at least one human to watch the world around him with his eyes.
– People come from all parts of the world – he says. – Once we realized that the crew of six we gathered for rafting is made of people from four continents: New Zealand, Brazil, Russia and Germany.
”Wild River” is almost at the very bank of the Drina, several dozens meters from the water. On a sunny day, the colors of the Drina flow from the most beautiful shades of green, to turquoise and blue. Although it is fast, the water level is low and the river seems calm, as if one shouldn’t be afraid of it at all. Only at dusk, when the sun sets behind the mountain andthe water becomes dark, its level becomes higher and roaring increasingly louder, one can feel its true power and strength.One realizes how forceful and dangerous this river is, the river next to which our ancestors grew up, dived into its waters and sang to it, many of them even ended their lives in it.
And when the night falls, after the rafting, in the camp, when nature calms down and guests go to sleep, the Drina lulls them to sleep with its roaring.
Before the magnificent landscapes of the canyon of the Tara, the Drina and the mountains surrounding them, one can think about how small we are before powerful nature, or doesn’t have to think about anything, just let everything worrying them go down the fast waters, to fill their entire body with scented mountain air and return recuperated to everyday life, with the Drina in the hair, lungs full of oxygen, heart filled with love and enormous wish to come back again very soon.


Special Nature Reserve
The Tara Canyon, 1.337 meters deep, is the deepest canyon in Europe and second deepest in the world, after the Great Canyon of the Colorado River. In 1977, the Tara basin was enlisted in UNESCO’s ”Man and Biosphere” program as a special nature reserve. The last 29 kilometers of the Tara’s course make a natural border between Srpska and Montenegro, while the last 18 kilometers of this river, before it joins the Piva to become the Drina, have more than 20 rapids and are most exciting for rafting.


Dimensions of the Heart
The skippers of Foča participated in organizing and securing the World Championship in Rafting held in 2009 in Banjaluka. During the great floods in Foča in 2010, they transported people and their household items from the endangered area with their rubber boats. When the raft with Lithuanian and Russian guests capsized in the rushing icy Tara in June this year, the skippers immediately and without second thoughts, although jeopardizing their own safety, set off with their rafts to save the tourists.


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