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Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Trip Up Route Gull

During my first tour in Bosnia I wasn't working in a normal infantry platoon. The job I was doing got me out and about all over the country and I routinely journeyed from one end of the Battalion area to the other.

This suited me fine and the more of the country I saw the more I loved it. One day I hope to go back with my wife and travel along some of the routes.

My favourite stretch of road was Route Gull. Wending its way north, following the line of the Vrbas river. A trip along it was never dull.

Beginning in the fertile, farmed areas you'd overtake hand drawn carts piled impossibly high with hay. The wife stoically plodding along while the husband sauntered along, scythe over his shoulder and the inevitable cigarette smouldering away.

Not surprisingly, the plains had seen much fighting and as you drove through some villages with not a single house left with its roof, you could see the progess of the battles.

As Route Gull connected up with the river the terrain changed. Foothills sprung up either side of the road. The route, orginally a cattle path, had somehow been clawed out of the space between the steep rocky walls of the valley and the river.

Hairpins every hundred metres or so combined with the eccentricities of the average Bosnian driver made this stretch of the route intresting to say the least. You would have thought that the presence of the rusting hulk of a car every mile or so in the river bed would have served as some sort of warning. Whether the war had made life cheap or whether the average Bosnian driver actually believed that they were invincible is a debatable point. Whatever the case maybe overtaking on hairpin bends was the norm rather than the exception.

As the route moved further north it climbed up one side of the hillside giving views back down onto the river. Perched on top of a small rocky outcrop on the other side of the valley, a small decaying stone hillfort dating back to the Ottoman Empire, offered a reminder that the situation here dated back hundreds of years.

Eventually Route Gull pops out of the Vrbas valley into the plains near Banja Luka. I can't remember exactly where the route names changed but eventually you'd join up with a 'motorway'. This offered its own unique driving challenges. A single lunatic driver overtaking on a hairpin was one thing. A steady stream of lunatic drivers convinced beyond doubt that they were the only individual with right of way was a completely different kettle of fish.

For anyone interested I found a great collection of photos of Bosnia here.


Blogger Theblonde said...

What a great opportunity to see the country and the link to the photos provided me with some of the views that you saw. Would be fun on a bike...

9:15 am  
Anonymous Growing Up said...

I would love to go back with you and see some of the sights that you seen. Reading your stories about all the places you have been to makes me want to see them for myself.

12:14 pm  
Blogger Nick said...

Bosnian drivers are still lunatics, I'm afraid - even when they're living in NL where I am. A Bosnian friend who lives not far from me is sure he's immortal; certainly he drives as though he is.

The country you describe is - says my wife who used to go there regularly on holiday (long before the war, of course) - indeed beautiful. I hope to see it for myself sometime soon.

3:27 pm  
Blogger gonorr said...

would certainly be fun on a bike...shame it all got spoilt.
Certainly brings it home when you look in the atlas and see its not too far away from home.

6:14 pm  
Anonymous Thursday said...

I used to be fizzy.

6:26 pm  
Blogger tideliar said...

I'd love to visit there too. Been close to that part of the pworld, but not that far East. One day...

9:28 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

Great photos.

9:23 pm  
Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

We must have a lot of Bosnians drivin' around here. Crackin' photo's n there's a Cheddar Gorge on Route Gull? That's just weird. Looks a lovely country 'cept for the war scars.

10:51 pm  
Blogger PI said...

That looks a fascinating,terrain - even without the extra excitements.

11:22 pm  
Anonymous Kris said...

the tuzla - zvornik road in the autumn was stunning,just like the autumn trees in New England. The road south from Tuzla to Sarajevo was breathtaking too. It's certainly a beautiful place, no doubt thats why the devil decided to mess it up a bit...

1:40 am  
Anonymous Kath said...

Off topic but: Happy Memorial Day, thank you for your service :o)

3:54 pm  
Blogger savante said...

Terrible circumstances for a visit but such cool pics :) Bet it's a beautiful place.


7:31 am  
Blogger The Boy said...

Was it calm enough to enjoy the view, or was there a temporing of worry about still active participants? Iraq must be hell at the moment wondering if every car you pass might explode.

9:41 am  

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