Hoping that at least some of you recognized the Pocahontas song in the title, my family would frequently break into song while on canoe and rafting trips back in the day, that tended to be our song of choice.
I was thrilled to discover that the Embassy was organizing a rafting trip on the Neretva River, which flows through BiH and Croatia. A quick google search turned up images of gorgeous emerald water, jagged cliffs and lovely scenery, so I signed up immediately. Then I found out that a coworker of mine had already signed me up, he had a hunch I’d enjoy it so he went ahead and did it for me. I like working with these people, they get me.
We started bright and early, meeting in Konjic. I hitched a ride with our community liaison officer (CLO) who organized the trip, and she pointed out antique shops, furniture stores, and the stands along the side of the road selling honey, jams, and rakia (booze.) I loved getting out of the city and out into the country, it’s clear that Bosnia has plenty to do and see during my tour here.
We met our guides and were served a fresh breakfast of coffee, local farm cheese, rolls, jam and ajvar (a roasted red pepper and eggplant relish – yum!) We were given the option to grab a wetsuit, or take our chances and wear what we came in. Based on the bright sun and the fact that I didn’t plan to do much swimming, I opted to risk it in what I wore. (Side note, I was not well prepared as far as rafting clothes, but made it work with some workout capris and a tank top. I hadn’t planned on doing much swimming here!) We all loaded up into the double decker bus out front, and headed toward the village of Glavaticevo.
Our journey to the launch site was a treacherous one, with steep grades, sharp turns, and terrifying drop-offs. I may have been clutching my Oh Shit handle for dear life the entire ride, though it was very clear that the drivers knew exactly what they were doing. They drove this bus with amazing precision, narrowly missing guardrails and oncoming cars by what felt like millimeters, it’s not the driver’s fault that I kept picturing myself tumbling down the side of a mountain.
We loaded up into our respective rafts, and headed down the river. This was my first time rafting (as opposed to floating) and I was told this was going to be Grade 1 (scale of 1-6). A local sat in the front and served as the coxswain (really? That’s what they call him?!) and was in charge of telling us when to paddle, and steering us away from things that might try to kill us. He was the strong and silent type, his motion for us to row/not row was simply glancing back at us and either nodding or shaking his head. He also had a delicate heart tattoo on his shoulder. He did a great job though, and would warn us when we should expect an impact, when we should paddle, when we should STOP paddling, etc. There were a couple times when we were asked to move to the middle of the raft, because we expected to rebound off a large rock during rapids. He was always right, and none of us died. Nice job, coxswain.
Why describe the scenery when I can just show it to you?
We stopped a couple times for drink/swimming/cliff jumping breaks, and I loved spending time with my coworkers in a social setting, away from work stress. We ended our journey in the village Dzajici, where we loaded up the rafts and headed back to where we started. Once we got back to Konjic, we changed into dry clothes and enjoyed a fresh lunch. We were served fresh sausages, fish, bread, veggies, and fruit. The rafting company took really good care of us, for anyone that plans to visit me in Bosnia during the summer, I’d be happy to do this again with you.
I’m off work today, to celebrate Ramazanski Bajram. An interesting perk of the Foreign Service – we typically get off not only American holidays, but local ones as well (to a point.) It makes sense, if none of the other businesses are open in town, we wouldn’t really be able to get anything done. Plus it shows cultural sensitivity to the city we’re in. I’m certainly not complaining. Stocked up on grocery essentials yesterday since most things are closed, looking forward to a lazy day!