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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

No Problem – no honestly

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 7 September 2005.

Serbia & Montenegro, Country 7, Diary entry 20-22nd Aug 2005, Total distance in Serbia & Montenegro: 894 KM

After leaving the mass of European tourists in Croatia we now found ourselves in the contrasting Montenegro where the tourists all appear to be locals at the seaside for their summer holidays. Keeping up with the diving theme I’d already seen that there were some worthwhile splashes to be had around Herceg Novi, so on arrival we set about locating the dive centre which I knew to be somewhere in the area.

OK the Land Cruisers are lovely cars to drive, but able to negotiate tiny village streets with the local death wish drivers as companions, they’re not best suited. So we went to feet. After a bit of hunting about we found Dive Centre Marina – directly below the blasting sound system! The main man Dragan was out diving, but Mladen who we got talking to was extremely helpful. Nothing was a problem…

“We’d like to dive tomorrow, is that OK?” – “No problem” “I’ve heard there are some nice wrecks in the bay we’d like to dive, is that OK?” – “No problem” “Can you do Nitrox for us?” – “No problem” “We also need wetsuits and weights” – “No problem”

Our first dive in Montenegro

With all that established we headed to a beach front café that had some pretty tasty looking burgers on the grill – yum. Martin wasn’t sure if he wanted to spend the whole day on a boat, but I assured him they were literally just in the bay so couldn’t possible see how it’d take all day to do a couple of dives – right! We popped back to the centre to check and they informed us it was a 9:30 leave returning about 18:30…!?!?!? That decided it for Martin who wanted to get stuck into the Durmitor National Park, but us obsessives decide to go for it!

After our first night in a camp site for a very long time…. Nowhere looked suitable for a bush camp – too crowded, we woke at the crack of dawn to get to the dive centre with plenty of time to spare…. We needn’t have rushed..! I think they meant to wake up at 9:30 not leave… for they were very relaxed.

View from our mountain camp spot

We met up with Dragan (the diveosaurous) who started the loading of the boat. We wanted to do our bit by loading on our cylinders but we got met with a big palm of the hand and the now customary “No Problem” :o) So we sat on the boat waiting for all the bits n pieces to get loaded, but not having seen any wetsuits yet, thought we’d best enquire. Another you guessed it “No Problem”, but by the frantic scurrying about in the shop, boat and back in the shop, we started to wonder if we’d misinterpreted the “No Problem” this time and it should have been understood as… “Do you have the wetsuits?” – “No, Problem” ie no wetsuits we have a problem..!!

We shouldn’t have worried as after about 10mins of searching the wetsuits were found… or at least two were found - one size fits all. Maz managed to squeeze herself into a pair of long johns then TWO long sleeved wetsuit tops… she wasn’t planning on getting cold today. I was fitted out in Mladen’s who was pretty much my size give or take an inch or two here and there.

So now to kit up. Cylinders were on the seats and some were Nitrox, one the size of a dustbin and the others large in themselves. Being canny we decided Maz should have the biggest as she’d easily get two dives out of it. On closer inspection it appeared to be an 18L cylinder with the smaller ones being mere 15L! Now a ‘normal’ UK single dive cylinder would be 12L so you can imagine the size of this mega cylinder..!!

Up until this point no one had asked to see any of our dive certifications and left to get ourselves ready as the boat chugged out, gone 10:15 by now. Before very long we were over our first divesite the wreck of a 1st World War era torpedo boat, lying broken in 3 sections at about 30m depth. I had my camera kit all set up and were told by Dragan 10mins to go, so we got ourselves kitted up and ready. Dragan explained that we were to go in first so I could take pictures… so together Maz and I jumped in on our own to an empty sea – perfect (btw we still hadn’t needed to show any diving certs – just a different way of doing it I suppose!)

Underwater pic of gunboat bridge as it is now!

We had the entire wreck to ourselves in excellent viz so hopefully got some good shots. It was a nice little dive and just as we were heading back to the line, Dragan was on the way down with his group.

One dive down and only about midday, so how is this gonna drag out until 18:30? What puzzled us was that there were still a handful of punters onboard that hadn’t dived yet. In the next 6 hours we found out why… We then headed off for them to do their two dives just outside the bay, whilst we relaxed onboard. Thankfully we made ourselves a bit of a packed lunch and had plenty of water otherwise it would have been hard work.

As it happened we just relaxed in what felt like ages… not having to be somewhere or drive…. And I FINALLY got to start my Harry Potter – brilliant :o)

What the gunboat looked like before target practice..!

The sun slowly started to set and the boat was on the way back in when Dragan informed us 10mins to dive…. Action stations. The second dive was a small patrol boat sunk in the 70’s as target practice in about 24m of water and intact save the ruddy great hole that sunk it. Again, the wreck all to ourselves – superb. Maz had plenty of gas and I decided to squeeze another dive out of the same tank too – it takes some practice getting your head back into breathing efficiently on open circuit after years of closed circuit, where gas really doesn’t matter – much to Maz’s enjoyment!

For some reason our first task was to free the anchor (why we didn’t wait until the end I don’t know) Moving anything underwater is hard work & a great big anchor is no exception. Least to say from then on I was sucking gas like a trooper… perhaps I might just keep an eye on that pressure gauge after all – bit embarrassing it would be to run out. The wreck was a great dive and we drifted off with our deco buoy up to my ever dwindling gas supply. Cheekily Maz showed me her gauge – still oddles of gas… but then she did have an 18L and hadn’t just done a full underwater workout. To be safe I started to breath off her spare regulator to give me at least 20bar left in my tank… ok so a bit short of the recommended 50bar at the surface!

Poking out of our camp spot in the morning

So two dives done we chugged back into harbour and docked just gone seven. We realised that our original plan to meet Martin tonight was dubious, so we sat down to another of those scrummy burgers before deciding. We then got a call from Martin via the satellite phone no less… to inform us it took him near 6hrs – yikkes, and that he had some info on rafting – cool.

Pleasant scenery to wake up to

After licking our lips we started off to put some distance between us and the coast before finding a suitable bush camp for the night. The climb from the coast up was hard going for the Land Cruiser and near the top we got the transmission temperature warning light come on, so had to wait for that to cool before progressing. In daylight the views must have been stunning, but although we had told ourselves we were to avoid driving at night… I think we’d still be back in Italy if we’d stuck to that policy. However we need to strictly adhere to that in countries to come, as driving in the daylight is scary enough!

Also if there are any mechanics reading can someone tell me why I keep getting a nasty clunk sound periodically from the front right of the car..?!?!? I can’t find anything obvious and it’s definitely getting worse…. I’d hate it to fail just when we need it most.

Otherwise we are getting stuck into the routine of living out of the car. Although the leaky tent has been a pain, the concept of a roof top tent is great… so easy to put up and a comfortable bed for the night… I do however seem to spend a little too long trying to find a flat piece of ground – I’ve not yet started the tyre inflate/deflate routine to level her off, that would be silly. And thanks for the kind offer of the chevy seat covers but somehow I think they’d clash….. right onwards to meet Martin in Durmitor….

We arrive finally in Durmitor

We arrived in Durmitor after a long a windy road through the valleys too late to go hiking off into the mountains, so instead we set about sorting out the rafting for the next day. Go to the source… so we drove down to the river to see what we could find out. Just over the bridge was a wee café with loud music blarring out, so up we ambled to ask about rafting. Deeply engaged in our first Serbian-English-Sign language conversation we established that Goran from Triftar rafting was the top man when it came to rafting and we quickly (we hoped) had arranged rafting for the 3 of us, meeting at the café in the morning. After much merriment and a round of beers we said our farewells and hoped we’d see him again in the morning.

 River Tara view from the bridge

Driving back towards town, we spotted a familiar Land Cruiser parked at the side of the road putting on a brew, so pulled over and joined Martin for a bite of lunch. We finished the remainder of the day trying to chase down the edge of the gorge and got to just under 2000m before turning round and going in the complete opposite direction to the sign pointing towards the gorge and hey presto result. Clever way of avoid the crowds – send them up a dramatic mountain pass..! Martin missed the view as he had to turn round and hot foot it back to a petrol station, but we spent awhile watching the sun set before heading our pre-found bush camp.

Our resident storm caught up with us again during the night and I was rudely awoken by a tremendous flash and clap of thunder which then echoed around the valley, so close I half expected to see the fried remains of Martin’s cruiser when I poked my head out in the morning. Up and out ready for rafting, we sat eagerly at the café waiting for any sign of Goran….. and waited… a rather thick coffee later Goran arrived – no need to panic and we were of & rafting. Not the most death defying but a very pleasant way to see the Gorge from the river. With time tight we said our farewells and set off for Bulgaria.

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Comment from Sid Perks

As I remember, Martin is a personal of various diameters (no offence intended). Each time you need to level the roof-top bed, why not simply jack up one wheel, and select the appropriate sized body part to suit the fluid level.

If he objected to this you could propose to take it in turns (team effort and all that) at least 2 out of 3 would get a good night's sleep.

P.S. Joleen wishes you good luck.

07 Sep 2005 @ 13:08:53

Comment from Cam
Loud clunks from any corner of the car are usually signs of failing suspension. I'd say your shock absorber or spring is rooted and if it's getting worse, you need it checked/replaced before it ruins one or more tyres. No way to check it without suspension equipment or removing it I'm afraid...

Clunks from the front can also sometimes be a broken engine mount too.

These are worse case scenarios, by the way - it may be something far less sinister. Hope it's sorted soon.
07 Sep 2005 @ 15:55:25