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My very first time

I was a little scared. A little nervous. Nonetheless, I was excited and curious to try it. I knew the timing was just perfect. I was old enough, perhaps in my best years. Moreover, people around me had already tried it at least once. Some loved it, others not so much, but they were all talking about it with excitement. So I had to see for myself. It shouldn’t be that hard, I thought. I did sea kayaking last summer and even though I wasn’t physically prepared for it, I did well. So how hard could rafting be?

It all started with seduction…

The morning was promising. The rain clouds from the previous evening were tearing apart above us and the sun was shyly showing behind them. We finished our delicious breakfast and went to take a look at the Tara river, which was about to be the host of our first rafting experience.

The morning sunlight was reflecting in the shiny, wet stones on the shore. Little sun bunnies were joyfully playing on the river’s surface and were revealing its turquoise blue hue. The water was crystal clear and the stream was calm. Even the little path leading towards the camping looked as taken out of a fairy tale. At that moment I was already eager to dive right into Tara, but it wasn’t the time yet.

Getting ready for it

Rafting Center Drina-Tara was fully prepared to provide all the necessary equipment to everyone who is up for an adventure. We all gathered at the grass field while the experienced staff working there identified my exact neoprene size with a single look. I was amazed! I’ve never had anyone tell my size that quick and precise. Next thing I know I was already taking my clothes off and so was everybody around me. Then there were all the funny poses, pulling and pushing, until we all managed to put our tight neoprenes on.

We were ready! So were the Jeeps that were going to take us to the starting point of the rafting itinerary. The boats tight to the roof of the heavy vehicles were patiently awaiting their turn to accommodate us.

Defining the borders: Bosnia & Herzegovina to Montenegro

On groups by 7 we hoped on the Jeeps. The engines started with the typical roaring sound preparing us for what was coming next. In about 20 minutes of a bumpy ride we stopped in what seemed like a traffic jam in the middle of the mountain. Turned out that this is the Bosnian – Montenegro border. We crossed it dressed in the tight neoprenes, looking like the seal from Tom & Jerry. Right after the barrier the jeep made a U-turn and headed back to the direction we just came from. What was going on?!? Didn’t they let us pass the border?!? Are we not going rafting?

No one bothered answering our questions. Our driver was smiling, perhaps amused by the panic in our voices. Fifty meters further from the border we took a right turn on a dirty road and then we realized: we are not going back to the campus. YAY!!! But should we really be that happy – we were in a Jeep, riding on a dirty road with funny clothes on and no documents… Did we have to worry?!?

Choosing the one

After a series of ups and downs, thick forests and panoramic viewpoints, showing us picture-perfect scenes of the Tara river and its magical water blueness we got to a little wild beach. It was time to get this party started!

I humbly awaited on the rafting skippers to lead me through the process, strictly following their instructions and letting the team choose me. Hopefully, I was going to be lucky and get a gentle and caring skipper to guide me through this new experience.

And then it was time!

The beginning was slow and romantic – just floating with the stream. The sun was gently caressing all uncovered areas of my skin. And right when I was already thirsty for some action the first rapid appeared before us. Our boat started trembling like crazy. I had no idea what I’m doing, but I was enjoying every second of it. The water was splashing around and it was getting me all wet. Then it turned back to being slow and nice just so the sun can dry my skin before we enter the next rapid.

Tara River provides that wonderful balance between tranquil stretches and rapids. This makes rafting there an amazing experience which (as it turns out) isn’t at all scary.

Trust your skipper. Or don’t…

Half way through the journey we reached a small, yet gorgeous waterfall, pouring its waters from a cliff directly into the river. A while before we got to it our skipper told us that the waterfall comes from a mineral water spring up on the rocks and that the water is about 38 degrees Celsius. Lie! As we approached the falling water he started rushing us to paddle faster so we can learn the freezing truth!

As a way of compensation a small plastic bottle filled with homemade Bosnian rakia was handed to everyone on the boat. Nicely warmed up by that fire water we quickly forgave him and were soon smiling again.

A well-deserved break

A little further down the river, we reached another small beach. Located halfway between the starting point and Rafting Center Drina-Tara this was the perfect place to stop for a break and jump in the waters below yet another waterfall.

The second round: go for the Rakia!

After tons of pictures and childish games in the pond below the waterfall we were back on the boats for the second portion of the rafting activities. Already a bit more experienced in paddling we gave it our all on the rapids passing them as extreme as possible, and then relaxed during the tranquil stretches.

Imperceptibly we were approaching the beach of the Rafting Center Drina-Tara. Our journey was just about to end. And right before we near the shore our skipper made us stop paddling, got up on the boat and shouted to a few people hanging on the beach several hundred meters from the campus:

“DO YOU HAVE RAKIA?”

The answer was positive. Next thing I know we are paddling upstream like a well-trained team towards the Rakia. I was giggling on the inside -it’s a Balkan thing, I thought to myself.

This is how my first time rafting ended – a bit tipsy on emotions and homemade Rakia (especially after the last refill).

The author’s thoughts

I couldn’t have hoped for a better first time rafting! In our boat we started as strangers and in only 25 kilometers, paddling together side by side, surrounded by the glorious nature of the borderline of Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina, we became dear friends. In this moment I would like to thank the guys and girls who I shared this experience with – as people say – I will always remember my first and the people who were part of it.

I would also like to say a special “Thank you!” to our skipper Dejan and his co- skipper Nikola for making this adventure truly special and fun with all the spontaneous moments and all their jokes!!! Thank you guys! You rock!!! I cannot wait to come back and do it again!!!

The best rafting team

Ellie Alexander

Ellie is the baby sister (as Nina would say). She is а full time marketer, regular psychology student, social butterfly, and a newbie when it comes to traveling. Her favorite quote is “A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t go anywhere until you change it”

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