Plitvice Lakes

Sunday 23rd September

I don’t think you are meant to sleep in Zadar on Saturday nights. They know how to party long and hard till late and then the street cleaners come through just on day break.

Upper lakes – this colour is for real

Today’s excursion took us far away to the Plitvice Lakes, halfway between Zadar and Zagreb, about 2 hours drive. We found out today that the limestone escarpment here called Velebit extends all the way down to Dubrovnik, but here it is further inland. There is an extensive freeway network and what is most amazing is the 5.75 km tunnel through the mountains to the central area of Croatia.

The national park we visited had series of 16 lakes, numerous waterfalls and board walks. Obviously the lack of rain has had some impact on the water volumes, but the colour and clarity of the water were particularly noticeable. In the shallower lakes there were most unusual orange finned trout. In most of the lakes you could see fallen branches from trees that have been petrified by the high content of calcium in the water. We walked around a couple of the upper lakes and had our packed lunch at the edge of one of them. A 20 minute ferry (all electric) ride took us to the lower lakes and from here we walked to the Velebit Slap (78metres) the highest waterfall in Croatia. Probably the most disconcerting of the walk was the smaller waterfalls flowing under lots of the board walks with many with no side railings. There were a few native cyclamen growing in crevices in the rock face.  After about 4 ½ hours of walking our bus collected us from the other end of the park and headed back to Zadar. We broke the return journey with a meal stop, and checked out a few bears as well.

We are now back in our apartment. It seems rather quiet at present but that could be quite deceiving.

…….. Spoke too soon. Another broken night’s sleep!


Monday 24th September

Not in a great hurry this morning as our bus to Trogir didn’t depart until 11am. Breakfasted on whatever left overs we had, apples, shortbread biscuits and apple burek and later joined the locals for coffee in the main square and then Ewen had a bright idea. As we had passed the equivalent of Zadar’s Jaycar on Saturday morning, he decided he needed to purchase a European plug so that he could make up his own power board for future trips to ARDF championships. (I should be used to this by now.)

It was only a short trip today (just under 3 hours). The road followed the coast line most of the way, so on our right the views of the coast were good and helped pass the time. While on the left, there were a number of churches built on the peaks of the Velebit escarpment.  We had no trouble finding our accommodation at Trogir, another rectangular grid of streets. We have enjoyed some of the local cuisine and polished off the remainder of our Serbian white wine.

The local tour guide told us that Trogir has had 25 centuries of continuous habitation, from pre Roman times in 500 BC. There was so much information it is a shame I can’t remember it. The buildings are incredible, not only in design, but the fact they have stood for so many years.

Dalmatian Spots

Thursday 20th September

We awoke this morning to thunder, lightning and heavy rain, which meant the breakfast needed to be inside. Slight problem – only one table inside. As we had a tour at 9am, we got the first sitting. The English couple staying here said it was no different to England and so they wiped down one of the tables on the terrace so they could eat outside.


We were picked up from our accommodation and driven to Trsteno to visit an Arboretum which was first established in 1492. It contained a Summer Residence, hedged garden areas and the most amazing irrigation system still in use today. Water flows from a spring higher on the slope, through an aqueduct to a water garden and fountain, and then through channels throughout the garden. The wealthy family that owned the garden had contacts with those sailing abroad and planted exotics from all around the world. At the entrance were two plane trees over 150 years old. There was even a large Manna gum and palm trees and tree ferns of several varieties. Part of the garden had been destroyed in the homeland wars and also bushfires in more recent times. As we were walking past the Summer House a voice in English said “don’t bother about photographing the flowers they’re all artificial” and sure enough close inspection revieled many were plastic. Apparently all the real flowers had been and gone and as someone was coming to do a photo shoot of the gardens they’d decided to spruce the place up a bit!

From here we headed to the Peljesac Peninsular to Ston, another old walled town established by the Venetians. Ston is known for its salt processing pans.  We wandered around this area and then climbed part of the wall, just enough to work up an appetite for lunch at Mali Ston (Little Ston) nearby. We were encouraged to take a 30 minute tour of the oyster and mussel farm, showing the old and new methods of farming seafood. We even got to taste the freshly shucked oysters straight off the boat, and then it was time for lunch; a few more oysters, black risotto, grilled fish and even the Croatian version of Crème Caramel and a traditional Ston dessert made with pasta, ground walnuts and chocolate. No more food required for the remainder of the day.

On our return to Dubrovnik the driver stopped at a vantage point so we could photograph the new bridge in Dubrovnik. We have been trying to get a photo of it several times earlier this week, but from a moving bus it is impossible.

We took one last stroll through the old town and then returned home to House Boninovo to pack for Friday’s very early departure.


Friday 21 September

Today started much earlier than the expected 4.30am alarm. Woke up about 1.30am to discover it was pretty dark outside, not the usual lights that shine through the shutters all night. Yes, the power was out, and given the very short time we had allowed to get out the door, I had to try to find the torch in my luggage with the aid of the light of my mobile phone. Even when I eventually found it, I spent quite some time convincing myself that we had allowed enough time to catch the local bus to the main bus station, and finally went back to sleep. Fortunately the power was back on at 4.30.

We did make it to the bus on time for the 6am departure. It was a long haul to Zadar and although the scenery was spectacular we were glad to get here by 2pm. Our apartment is on the 3rd floor again, so we are getting plenty of exercise.

Enjoyed a walking tour of the old town of Zadar late in the afternoon. Yes the Romans were here, as well as the Hungarians, who sold it to the Venetians when the Hungarian king was a bit short of cash (shades of Australian state governments here), and the Austrians. The old town is on the peninsular about 1km x 400m with the streets set in a rectangular grid; much better than Belgrade to navigate around. The tourist map is very good as tourist maps go, but my cut and paste (actual paper and sticky tape) brought from home has been extremely useful even though it gets some strange looks.

There are lots of little eateries and food shops around our apartment, so it is quite economical to purchase something to take back to here and put our feet up.

Saturday 22nd September 

The apartment grows on you after a while. There is some noise at night from the street below and thankfully the bells just outside our bedroom window don’t ring. The main bell tower at the other end of the street did however start to ring at about 7.45am, an acceptable time. It’s a bit tired inside but we have a kitchen, bedroom and a lounge room.

A very leisurely start to today and even had a chance to speak to family via skype before heading out. It is a casual 20 minute walk to the main bus station where we purchased our tickets for Monday’s trip to Trogir. After being stung 10 Euros for a taxi to the wrong church(our meeting point yesterday) we figure we can walk there on Monday without too much effort as it is fairly flat. So as they say, seeking for further amusement we struck out to find the business centre of Zadar. We happened upon a large cinema complex with a market at the front. For about $1 AUD we bought more grapes than we actually needed. We then ended up in the port area and joined the locals for their Saturday morning coffee ritual. (Actually the best coffee that I have had since we left home.)

The highlight today would have to be the Museum of Ancient Glass displaying objects found the local area made in the second half of the first century AD. We were amazed as to the quality (extremely thin) and design of the miniature bottles, jewellery and food containers, plates, jugs, glasses etc. This museum if you only do one museum in Zadar is the pick; it’s well set out and not particularly crowded. I’ve never thought too much about when glass started to be used but it seems from the first century BC and probably much earlier, first from natural glass, there were a few lumps of this in the museum recovered from shipwrecks,  and then man made glass.

We bought some lunch at a nearby bakery and took it to our room to eat. As you can imagine the nearby bakeries are getting a fair bit of patronage from Ewen. After lunch we went for a walk around the outside of the old town, checking out the gardens (several wedding parties were having photographs taken). We spent a few minutes listening to the sea organ on the way and then climbed the bell tower (totally deafened when it struck the half hour – good job it wasn’t 12 o’clock) and finished with the mandatory ice-cream. I was a bit disappointed that we did not make it to Pag to the lace museum (only open irregular hours out of season), but there were women selling genuine hand-made craft (crotchet and knitting). It took me a while to realise they knit the opposite direction to the way I was taught.

At present Ewen is indulging in another of the local customs – yes he is taking his siesta now! (no photo I am afraid!) The other plus side to this apartment is the corkscrew I found in the drawer, so I will indulge in yet another local custom very shortly too.


We took a very pleasant evening stroll down to the other end of the peninsular tonight to view the Solar powered light display. Would have loved to put a short video on the blog, but unfortunately the size of the file is too big.

Dubrovnik Dayz

Tuesday  18th September 2012

Afternoon tea on the terrace at House Boninovo Dubrovnik

Today’s tour was to Mostar in Herzegovina.  Again another early start. This bus trip heads north from Dubrovnik along the coast road. The views to the Elaphite islands are spectacular. In the channel between the peninsular and mainland there are countless fish farms for oysters and mussels. The delta region of one of the rivers in now converted to market gardens. There were several border crossings today, nothing interesting to report. Because of the bus size and the road conditions it was necessary to drive through Herzegovena and back into Croatia before re entering Herzegovena to get to Mostar. To explain further, Herzegovena  has a narrow strip on land going to the coast which cuts Croatia into two parts.

We stopped at a little town called Poticeljia with Turkish architecture, domed roofs and again more steps leading up to a wall and fort. I have a feeling this was more a retail opportunity for the locals than anything else.

The road leading into the central area of Bosnia Herzegovina is flanked on the western side by the river and beyond that steep granite escarpment on a massive scale.

We were taken on a walking tour of Mostar old town, over the famous bridge (first completed in 1566, destroyed in 1993, and finally rebuilt around 2005-6). The old town is very commercialised. The locals supplement, or perhaps earn, their living by jumping from the bridge, at 25 euro per jump from any person or group willing to pay. The drop is about 20 metres.

We also saw a private mosque, and visited a Turkish house. I particularly liked the carved furniture and fine cross-stitch hanging on the walls.

Some of the modern buildings are quite a contrast to the old 0nes.

We have resisted purchasing any souvenirs this trip, especially when it all looks mass produced and on a closer look there is a “made in China” sticker inside.

While there are some interesting things to see in Mostar a day trip from Dubrovnick is probably not the best use of time. Half a day is enough particularly if you’ve already seen a walled town so it would be better to see it as part of a through trip to somewhere

Today we met a lovely couple from Perth. We lunched together and rather enjoyed a good dose of Aussie humour. We eventually made it back to our accommodation in Dubrovnik about 6.00pm and were greeted with a nice cup of tea by the owner. She left us to go shopping and soon another couple from Canada joined us on the terrace. We had a rather limited conversation in English as their native language is French. At this point a lady from Switzerland arrived and wanted accommodation. She spoke only Italian and German; so with my limited school German I explained the situation and told her to come back later. Ewen and I decided to go to find some dinner, and left the French speaking couple to deal with her if she came back. Not sure if she came back but the Canadian couple made some comment about appreciating our humour.

Wednesday 19th September 2012

Breakfast on the terrace this morning was a wonderfully relaxed way to start the day. Ewen was keen to ride the chair lift to top of the mountain above Dubrovnik and from here we planned to walk back to the old town. Ewen disappeared through a laneway behind the fort on the hill going to check out the technology on top of the tower and it took me about 20 minutes to find him. The start of the track down was somewhat elusive as well but eventually Ewen found it and we zigzagged our way down. Thanks for the use of your runners Bruce. The view was worth the walk. We enjoyed a sandwich and iced tea before heading to the maritime museum.

The maritime museum contained pieces of glass dishes and objects from ships that have sunk in the 9th and 10th century. Dubrovnik has been a port on the Adriatic coast for centuries. What was of particular interest were the navigation charts and instruments used by the sailors. They also claimed it was the skilled sailors from this area that lead the Spanish Armada to their victories.

Our attempt to take a trip in a glass bottom boat was aborted, as when the time came only an ordinary boat was available. We used the time to visit the Franciscan monastery and the church and garden nearby. Rather enjoyed sitting in the cool courtyard.

We took a chance with the local buses and managed to get down the main bus station to purchase our tickets to Zadar for Friday. Mission accomplished we returned to our wonderful accommodation and have been refreshed with a beer.

The other highlight of the day was hearing the Dubrovnik String Quartet who played in the small St Saviours Church. There were only seats for about 30 people. A very intimate performance indeed and wonderful music.


Farewell Serbia – Croatia here we come

Sunday 16th September 2012

Early rise today to be ready for the trip back to Belgrade Airport at 7am. We did have some supplies, smuggled out from dinner the previous evening, for the trip but it was rather good to find the resort had provided us with a packed lunch. The trip back was uneventful and even so it took till almost 12.30 to get there. Bruce was doing his best to keep calm when we said goodbye and left him to check in at the Fly Dubai counter as we headed to the JAT check-in. Kristian had quite a considerable wait for his flight to Istanbul.  We wandered around a bit and then thought we would go through security and passport control and spend time there instead. It was here we met up with Bruce and members of the English team and John from Norway. The queue was unbelievably long and snaked around several times. It was close to about 1.15 pm when we got through the formalities and caught a glimpse of Bruce waiting at this gate (stress eating- well that’s what it looked like.)Our flight to Dubrovnik left on time and we arrived here at 3.30pm. Our prearranged transfer was waiting for us and by 4.00pm we were sitting on the vine covered deck outside drinking real tea. House Boninovo is situated half way between the old town and the Port Gruz and although can be a little bit noisy with traffic during the evening; it was a real find and rather homely and ample room for cat swinging. The shutters on the window work well in hiding the washing from street view.

Walking tour at 6pm was followed by dinner in what Ewen has dubbed spaghetti alley, an outdoor restaurant in a narrow alley at most 2.4 metres wide, room for tables on one side and space for people to walk up and down on the other, covered with a canvas awning.

Purchased some fruit and a couple of croissants for breakfast on the way home.

Monday 17th September 2012


We made it to the bus stop by 7.40am in time to catch our tour to Montenegro. The view leaving Dubrovnik was spectacular. There is an extremely narrow coastal strip with very steep escarpment immediately behind it and right on the edge you can see the old town and its fortifications. They obviously have to use every available fertile land for production and the terraced gardens stretched some way up the escarpment. It was a fairly rough road due to road works, and few more delays at the border crossings, but the view of Kotor Bay was spectacular. We stopped at Perast and wandered along the foreshore. There were a couple of groups of swimmers who were swimming behind speed boats across to the island in the middle of the bay. Ewen didn’t opt to join them. Thought the water was a bit too chilly.

Next stop was the walled town of Kotor. Any thought of walking around the wall went out the window when I realised it was over 1300 steps to the viewing area. We had a walking tour of the town, more facts and figure that I had no chance of remembering. Apparently they had very original names for the city squares, the square of flowers, the square of milk, the square of meat, and I expect the squares of fruit and vegetables. We did get a chance to visit one church, rather elegant with the white walls and pink brick work. The museum attached had some relics hundreds of years old, but what caught my eye was the lace that was still intact even though it was very old. There was not a lot of free time here as we had to move onto Budva.

Budva, like Kotor had buildings that were built by the Venetians back in 16th century and the only damage to them has been due to earthquakes and not the 1990s conflict. We(along with Alice a very sociable immigration officer from Hong Kong) opted for some seafood (mussels) for lunch and it was rather pleasant sitting under the big umbrellas overlooking the sea. Lunch was a bit too long and it left us with less than 45 minutes to check out the old town here. The three of us set off for a route march around the old town. Again more narrow streets, 3 more churches and a citadel. The view from the citadel was worth the 2 Euro entry and just had enough time to check out the library attached and make it back to the bus via the ice-cream shop by 3pm. Dare I say it was Jenelle who found the way back!!

Many locals are not happy with the extent of Russian development in the area; it is becoming rather glitzy and losing its quaint old town charm. There is the casino where James Bond – Casino Royal was filmed and an overdeveloped island called Sveti Stefan now rented by wealthy Chinese, maybe, there seems to be some about the actual arrangements.

The only entertainment of note on the way back to Dubrovnik was at the border crossing. It would seem the border police take great delight in stopping suave young males in expensive vehicles and spend considerable time examining every inch of their vehicle.

Tried a different place for dinner, magnificent trout with almonds. Sorry no picture, but I can assure you it was good, along with fish pate. We are also becoming addicted to Limonada, old-fashioned homemade lemon drink made from fresh lemon juice, just like Pullos’s café in Goondiwindi used to make.

Strugara Struggles


Been a busy couple of days, so this is the first chance to update.

Note, the next Region 3 champs are in Hongcheon, Korea, a scenic resort town in the NE (of Sth Korea, of course). Hard to imagine it was as far back as 2008 when we last went to World Champs there. 1st->6th September 2013.

Sept 20th, 2m ARDF

All of us were on 2m yesterday. If you thought the first day was steep and hilly, this was extreme !  Very steep hills all over the place not only makes it physically demanding, but the 2m signals bounce all over the place, giving many odd bearings. You are sure to climb more of those steep hills mistakenly, or perhaps just to get a decent bearing for once, which you wouldn’t orienteering.

All made it back on time. Ewen and Kristian down a couple of TXs, but still had value for money both close to the 150min time limit.

The podium was dominated by Czech Republic, followed by Russia and Ukraine. Others with an occasional mention were Hungary (Karoly who gave me a lift to Budapest placed in W60), Germany, Slovakia, Croatia, USA (Ruth and Karla in W70), Great Britain (a long strived for Gold for Bob Titterington in M70) and Swedon.

This time we bussed to the map rather than walking as it was a few km down the hill. Once you saw the map it was clear there was little point in taking bearings before you’d scaled the large hill ahead of you. In retrospect my bearings weren’t bad, but since they all seemed to point much the same way it was very demoralising and not confidenence inspiring. Turned out they’d cleverly aligned 3 of the TX’s such that from the top of the hill they do appear in a line. They all seemed much the same signal strength too (as the most distant was on a hilltop, and the middle one was obscured. This leaves you with not much of a plan of attack. There are 3 that all seem the same, and another that is down south of the finish, so despite it being strong-ish, ignore that one. In M40 you skip the other one so ignore that too.

I chose to head for the one that gave the most consistant directions and seemed slightly stronger, and take it from there. An unfortunate decision, as I managed to bypass the other 2 in that line-up (when they were off), and get clear over to the complete opposite corner of the map before I finally got my first control. Just under 50mins and all I had was one, and traversed uncountable number of contours !! Even worse, after all that high altitude clambering, I’d lost contact with the map.

Things got gradually better. I got another control, and then regained proper map contact after getting to a good intersection. Things are looking up, only 2 to go, and I now have a better idea where they are (or at least, know where they aren’t). Knowing where you are results in saner route choices and much more confidence, so I knocked off the rest of the course in 40mins, at least moving all the time, if not able to keep a fast pace on the mountains. Only another 12mins to scramble back to the finish beacon along a tree strewn creek. And a mostly downhill finish chute (long though!).

I thought my disastrous first leg would consign me to the nether regions of the results. Yet another ARDF event where things could have gone better.  I was therefore quite surprised at my 16th place. Not a great result, but in the circumstances a bit unbelievable. Seems others had difficulties out there too. Many had more problems closing in on transmitters, whereas my problems were more strategic, and finding the transmitters went reasonably smoothly, once I actually started.

Kristian made some even worse decisions early on which meant he never had much idea of where things were. He finally got atop a hill and worked a few out, but he was not able to get his M21 5 TXs. He did, however, amke it back on time.

Ewen appeared to fare well initially, even finding one by accident, but spent a lot of time struggling with the more distant controls. He found 2 of the 4, but again just made it back on time. He has become an expert at stringing out those waiting for his return, and on the point that it seems all is lost, Ewen will appear in the distance.

Bruce’s 2m map board

There was meant to be FoxOr training this evening, but since the organisers were delayed searching for some missing competitors, it was delayed so much that most had no idea it happened. Apparently it started sometime during the closing presentations.

A busy day as immediately after the presentations and closing there was the Banquet. This was called a “HamFest”. Long time blog readers will know that we discovered, way back in Germany in 2001, that a HamFest is not the same thing as HamFest back in Oz. This has nothing to do with 2nd hand swapping of goods that will no doubt appear at the next hamfest, but much more to do with food, and beer. Banquet was held in the ginormous indoor sports hall as part of the hotel complex here, and I’d rate it above the MTBO one.

Jenelle: The banquet was a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye to the new people we have met, the girls from the Czech team, the young Chinese girls that James and I met at R3, and the old friends from our last trip in Croatia.

Sept 21th, 80m FoxOr Championships


It was a bit alarming this morning as ordinary commuters hopped aboard our bus (one of many) going to the FoxOr. And then again at the next bus stop. What’s going on ? None of the other buses stopped ! Are we in fact the normal town bus that just happened to be parked amongst the others, and we’re instead on our way off somewhere else ?  However, it did stop at the right place, so we all got off quickly just in case.

Now this event is one we should do well at, surely ?  We’ve had lots of orienteering and FoxOr practice; should be a cinch, right ?

Well, have to say the outstanding result from today Jennelle T, who thought she was hopelessly overtime, but in fact had miscalculated the time, and ended up 5th in W60. She managed 3 controls, and probably could have done more, but the time limit panic meant she was back in good time. This feat is with a borrowed 80m sniffer from the Brits, as our ARDF club one couldn’t be coaxed to cover the frequencies needed. Jenelle hasn’t used an 80m sniffer before.

Jenelle: I have been severalmeltdowns this week as to whether I could use an 80m sniffer, so with about 10minute tuition from Ewen after last night’s banquet, I was still melting down this morning. This probably explains how I short changed my finish time by 20 minutes. I took a rather leisurely walk down the finish chute with a short run to the control and didn’t even bother to check the results board.  The only casualty was my only pair of shoes that are now drying out. Not sure how many creeks I crossed. Special thanks for the loan of the equipmment from David (It worked like a dream) and the SI stick and compass from Bruce.

Ewen and Kristian both miscalculated how far they were from the finish, and both overtime by a few minutes. Kristian was most complimentary about Greg W’s sniffer, so he may have difficulty getting it back, especially after the various mods we’ve made to it over the last few days.

I was back in time, in fact in better time than I thought (18th) because the start was in fact 2mins after our advertised start time. However I had to skip two FoxOrs, one heartbreakingly only a couple of minutes detour, as I headed to the finish, due to lack of time. The reason I was lacking time was I had in fact no working DF gear at all !  Yes, I managed to do all but 2 controls at an International FoxOr with no sniffer at all. I did wave it about a bit near controls, just to let the transmitter sitters think I was doing something, but in fact I was watching them, looking at where they were looking, watching other competitors, or pretending to search while I waited for some M70 competitor to finally puff up the hill and lead me in.

Basically at some point after the 2nd control, my headphone socket ended up irretriveably inside my 80m sniffer. It’s perhaps ironic that I had decided to not use the FM headphone link today, as it had given me some issues on the sprint event, and had elected to go the simple headphone route…..   Mind you, my sniffer could barely hear the FoxOr transmitters more than 10m away anyway, so it was of limited utility, even when it was working.

The “watching”, or in foxhunting parlance “following from in front”, backfired badly twice though, as I followed a likely looking competitor away from the FoxOr instead of towards it. I had no way to know they had already punched. Even worse, in the 1st case I had to relocate after I finally figured out I was following the wrong horse. This all was the main reason I was running low on time.

Back at the hotel Kristian and I had a beer or to two, in one of the many pubs/cafes, with the British who were drowning their sorrows (they hadn’t had a great day at the FoxOr either). Some really interesting discussions about getting people interested in ARDF, how the Czech’s did it, and how trying to get typical Amateurs to try is largely a waste of time. With all those I’ve talked to in various countries, diffculties in growing the sport appear to be universal. One of the Brits works teaching english in the same town in Czech Republic Jiri Marecek lives, and there seem to be many parallels with the Bendigo O.C. success in promotion in orienteering. Not too large a town, easy access to terrain, only a few (or one in Jiri’s case) school to target. Lots of events.

Time to pack up the bike and get ready for early morning departure tomorrow. I never did get to do the downhill ride.the  A deep fog moved in temporarily, obscuring the fact the lift was turning, but I eventually managed a conversation, with lots of hand waving and about 2 words of English, with the lift towie. Found it closes at 3pm (it was 3:05pm) and takes only 200 Dinar (A$2) for a single ride up.

It’s been fun, hope you’ve enjoyed following our adventures.

Oh and Strugara of the blog title ?  For those who made it all the way down this far, it’s the name of today’s FoxOr map.

Keep on Sprinting

Thursday 13th September 2012


Today’s event was the 80M sprint.


This event has 5 transmitters on 3.52Mhz, running on a 12 second cycle which you can find in any order, followed by a spectator control on 3.54Mhz and then a second group of 5 transmitters on 3.56 Mhz on the 12 second cycle, followed by a homing beacon near the finish. The number of transmitters to be found  in the second group depended on your age group, with Kristian needing to find all 5 and Bruce and I needing only  1, 2, 4 and 5 although, getting carried away with things a bit, we both also found 3. Bruce started the event a few minutes after me and as I expected Bruce caught up near the end. I was hunting the homing beacon at this stage and decided to give him a run for his money. Bruce however was hunting transmitter 2 and thought I was doing the same so, as he was having equipment troubles, decided to see where I went. This did not end up well for Bruce. Bruce is once again having stern words to Bruce.

A great short sharp event!!  Not sure yet what the winning time is but Kristian did it in 30 mins, myself 36 and Bruce 39.

Bruce: Around 15mins for both M21 and M40 winning times. NB: I really did think #2 was that way, 180Deg out….

Some time was spent in the afternoon washing and drying Bruce’s right running shoe. Why, well I only brought spikes to Serbia and the sprint required running shoes. Bruce kindly lent me his old running shoes with the request that I try not to get them wet. Well I only got the right one wet………. Hence the washing and drying at great expense to the environment.  Another unconventional use of the hair dryer. This job was somewhat important as Bruce had managed to get his right shoe wet also, leaving him with no dry shoes.

Later in the afternoon the organisers arranged a picnic. Now Serbian picnics are not like the traditional English picnic with tea and cake. The food is largely, actually entirely, replaced by beer. And a very good brass band.  The beer came in 2 litre bottles “250ml gratis”. The Czech team provided some impromptu dancing, clearly they had been there for a while before we got there. We joined in for a short time as the sprint and some red had left me a bit weary.



The start today was not far from the front of the resort and again we filed out through the narrow door and only a short walk. We secured the only picnic table in sight, thanks to Kristian and no sooner had we settled in, they started calling for the equipment as of course AUS is always first. After all the AUS team left I headed to the finish line to resume my cheering duties. It is such a terrific atmosphere as spectators cheer in their respective runners. I made an attempt to run with Ewen beside the finish chute and lost the flag in the process. I left it to Ewen to run to the finish with Bruce, and together they escorted Kristian to the finish line.

Ewen failed to mention that some pressure had to be applied for him to join in the Serbian dancing and I am not ashamed to admit that it was all I could do to manage one bracket of the music. Seeing how well they run as well, maybe it is part of their training regime. I felt about as active as the friendly Serbian bear that resides here.



The sprint was fun, despite our mediocre performance. We had never done one of this style before though. We should try something like this at home. If nothing else we need practice; it’s more instense than even a 5-in-5. My 80m receiver needs work, or more accurately, it needs replacing altogether !

Note to self: If wearing shorts and a knee brace, ensure the other knee is protected from the nasty scratchy velcro, or you’ll be forced to run the rest of the sprint in an odd bow legged fashion or risk removing skin.

Time for another short ride this afternoon, this time to a neigbouring ski area and back. Got the other shoe wet this time, so yet more hair dryer action.

The wine was sucessfully opened finally at the picnic, thanks to the swiss army knife form Ole, the Region 1 ARDF chairman.

I ended up in a rapid card game at the picnic with a bunch of German’s, some Chinese juniors and a Polish youth. Took a round to get used to it, as the rules were somewhat opaque to me at the start, but I got the hang of it and it was quite additive. Also, since it used special cards with symbols it was essentially lingual neutral (but being able to count your cards in deutsche helped save time). Kristian got a game right at the end. Anyone played Jungle Speed ?

Note we are updating this blog from2 different hotels, so plese excuse any weird inconsistancies that may crop up.

Seems like the fires over the hill, for which we’ve seen the water bombing helicopter,and aircraft flying over, were apparently started by a cluster bomb explosion during mine clearing on Mt Kaponik. One worker was killed in the explosion.
Hope there are a) no unexploded bombs on the competition map and b) that the fire is brought under control !!

Kristian has headed off to endure another team leaders meeting, which may happen, or not, and may happen on time. Or not.

A town called Bruce (ok, Brus)


Monday 10th September 2012


Another brilliant day for our final day of our Best of Serbia tour. Last night we enjoyed the lights of city of Nis from our vantage point at Hotel Alexander and this morning the view was equally as good.


We enjoyed a later start this morning (9.30), and headed for Mediana, yet another Roman site in varying stages of restoration. On display were some replica weapons, a catapult and battering ram. Unfortunately the museum wasn’t open (yes it is Monday), so we just wandered around the site, checking out the remains of different buildings. There was a large area covered with sand to protect the underlying mosaics, this was surrounded by a box hedge and even some rose gardens.


From here we attempted again to see the Skull tower, built by the Turks from dead Serbian fighters during an uprising in the 18th century. We could just see it from outside the fence, probably a good thing it was closed on Monday as well. There was also another fortress in the centre of Nis and this necessitated the mandatory climb to the top of the wall to take in the view.


Fortified with a light snack we set off to find Đavolja Varoš ( Devil’s Town), geological formations (sandstone pillars with rocks on the top) not far from the Kosovo border. It turned out to be quite some distance from Nis and along with road works it took till almost 2pm to get there. Like most tourist maps the map of the area was open to interpretation but the path was easy enough to follow. The creek that flowed through the area was most unusual. The water was clear, but the dirt under it was bright orange. The brochure suggested it had a ph of 3.5 which I think makes it very acidic. At one point there was a Red Spring bubbling through the ground. The view from the top of the observation deck was stunning, the recently commenced night light show would have been even better. The sign not to lean on the safety rail was a bit disconcerting. The light was quite eerie walking back through the forest now that the sky has begun to cloud over.


As we were pressed for time we opted for a quick lunch, although it quite a while to work through the monster roll with ham, kaymak (soft white cheese) and hot peppers. Bruce was keen to ride down the valley road, so he set off on his bike about 4pm. It took Danny, Ewen and I about 14 km to catch him in the van. More windy road and detours for road works slowed progress, but we were reassured when we discovered we were on the road to a town called Brus (pronounced Bruce). Another 50 km of windy, uphill road and we eventually arrived at the ARDF site just before 7pm.

Bruce: Brus was otherwise not particularly notable 🙂


A note to Zlatan: Dany has been consistently good humoured, despite some long days driving, translating numerous menus and signs and answering our many questions. Today was another sterling effort by Dany, considering once he left us he had to head back down the mountain for the return trip home.


After sorting out some SI stick numbers at registration we checked into our hotels and had dinner which was excellent. Yes we are in 2 separate hotels which is pain. We will be able relieve this a little as Bruce and Ewen have handhelds. A minor problem being Bruce didn’t bring his battery charger, to save weight. This has now been fixed with the unconventional use of a hair dryer and a laptop power supply. The hotels are about 4 star standard so very comfortable.


It was very enjoyable meeting up with people we had met in Croatia, Bob and David from the English team and John from Norway. Also spoke to one of the Chinese girls that came with James and I on the street orieteering in Maldon for the R3 last September. She was quite excited that we recognised her and gave me a big hug. Someone else to cheer for.


We are quite settled in now with the flag flying out our window and post card on the door. I can even have my early morning cuppa of green tea, but Ewen is having withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of English Breakfast tea (there is herbal sweet stuff, as normal here, and sometimes Earl Grey (ugggh))

Bruce: As the model event was so short this morning,I had plenty of time to go for a ride before lunch. After some adventures finding someone appropriate, I got a map that included cross country ski trails, so that seemed a good enough thing to try. Not bad riding, except the map was wrong (we have come to expect this from Serbian maps; certain Rogainers would thrive), and the pine tree or 4 across the trail I had to stop to lift over. I’ve discovered, I think (may have got lost in the translation), that the chairlift takes bikes on Saturday, so there might be a chance for some MTBing after the FoxOr.

Bruce: Incidentally, the food has been pretty good here so far, way way above MTBO uni caf standards.

Bruce: PS: I finally looked on Google maps at what I’d attempted to ride the other day at Silver Lake; looks like I’d have got through, but I’d lost all confidence. I also didn’t even know the lake was that shape, so I’d have worried about riding “away”from it on the northern side. The southern route I took doesn’t appear on Google at all.

View Larger Map

Devil’s Town), geological formations (sandstone pillars with rocks on the top) not far from the Kosovo border. It turned out to be quite some distance from Nis and along with road works it took till almost 2pm to get there. Like most tourist maps the map of the area was open to interpretation but the path was easy enough to follow. The creek that flowed through the area was most unusual. The water was clear, but the dirt under it was bright orange. The brochure suggested it had a ph of 3.5 which I think makes it very acidic. At one point there was a Red Spring bubbling through the ground. The view from the top of the observation deck was stunning, the recently commenced night light show would have been even better. The sign not to lean on the safety rail was a bit disconcerting. The light was quite eerie walking back through the forest now that the sky has begun to cloud over.

Sokograd re-conquered, again

Sunday 9th September 2012


Weather Report: Another perfect day in Serbia.

Breakfast (do rucak) at the Serbia Tis Hotel was exceptional and stood us in good stead for the day’s activities. First stop was another Roman walled city Felix Romuliana on the Roman road. It was established by Galerius in conjunction with Alexander the Great. We spent some time here exploring the ruins. There was evidence of Galerius’s Royal quarters (including his bath house and private chapel) and also a larger chapel with steps and the footings of the columns at the front, a larger bath house and barrack block. An outer wall around the original city was built later when Galerius’s mother, Felix Romuliana came to live there.(Nice to know he was looking after his mother.) The mosaic floor was covered with sand to protect it, but the drawings and patterns were on display. Replenished by icecream we drove up to two mounds above the city. It is said this is where Galerius and his mother made their ascension to the after- life. This practice was abandoned after the conversion to Christianity.

We headed south from here to Sokobanja and prepared for our assault on the Sokograd fortress. Following reconnaissance by scouts Ewen and Bruce, the fortress was finally claimed by the Victorian ARDF group and the flag proudly flown. It was at least another hour before we could celebrate our victory at the “Cave Restauant”, a cool and shady retreat on the banks of a creek. Not sure just what path we were on (two creek crossings and only one wet foot), but tough enough to do justice to the good food and drink consumed and excellent preparation for the coming week’s activities.

About 5.30 we left Sokobanja and took some back roads before entering a Toll road and finally arrived at our hotel overlooking the city. In the cool of the evening we walked into the main city area and purchased a light meal, a burek and a drink each, totalling the princely sum of about $3 AUD for the three of us.

Bruce: Cleaned that pesky black dust off the bike and went for a short night ride through Nis just then. Fabulous night. The weather forecast for Kaponik and the RadiO is looking a little less inviting, but we’ll see what happens ! Check out the view from this hotel room below. Dogs are barking like crazy at who knows what.

Zajecar unbrakeable

Friday 7th September 2012


Cool, clear breezy morning and no sign of yesterday’s misty rain. The trip to the museum was declined in preference to a walk / ride around Valjevo, while Danny went to have the van washed. It was eventually 11am before set off for the trip across central Serbia to Smederevo. This area reminded me of the “patchwork quilt” farmlands around the Darling Downs (QLD) and the Southern Highlands of NSW, except the blocks are much smaller. (I know this description is not much use to the Victorians on the post list.)

The windy roads seemed to take quite some time to navigate and this necessitated the purchase of emergency rations (ice cream) to sustain us until we reached Smedervo. The anticipated trip to the Roman wall and little town did not disappoint. We spent some time here exploring and climbed to the top of one of the towers for a spectacular view of the Danube and the surrounding area. To add to the occasion there was a special festival for the town. Not unlike a country show, with people sporting big wads of fairy floss and something that resembled battered sausages on sticks (I’m told that’s a QLD thing too!). There were also many stalls with pigs being roasted on the spit, with every conceivable vegetable to build your own tortilla or roll. Bruce and Ewen opted for the fish soup and I discovered some rather tasty baked treats. There seemed a certain fascination with vegetables used as decoration, with a cauliflower sporting a red capsicum slit several times and placed on top as a hat. The displays of supersized vegetables caught my eye, as well as the handwork. Live music and girls in traditional dress added to the festivities. We gave side-show alley a miss.

From here we headed for Viminacium, a Roman city and Military Camp. This dated back to the 1st and 2nd century AD. (It seems the Romans were quite widespread in their travels) While waiting for the guide I spied the perfect outdoor setting for the vine covered gazebo (see previous blog). We actually got to walk around the excavated mausoleum with genuine skeletons exposed and then down darkened corridors to the frescos dating back to these earlier times. The scenes were still visible, but the glass protecting them needed a good dust. (No photos allowed here) Other parts of the dig included the porta (entrance) and the therme (heated bath house). As you can imagine there was some discussion about how everything went together.

Still more driving, and finally at about 7.30 we reached our destination of Veliko Gradiste on the banks of the Silver Lake and the Danube River. The accommodation is excellent and dinner at a water side restaurant was most relaxing.

Bruce: Shortly after the van overheating episode a couple of days ago, the brakes did seem to be doing a bit of squealing, but since it didn’t appear to have much relationship to the use of the brakes, so I relegated it to a background concern. Then later the right front wheel started to make grounching noises. I muttered stuff darkly about brake pads, but Danny didn’t seem to want to be concerned. Peter C may recall a trip back from Jindabyne with the brakes on my Subaru making noises hauntingly similar to those I was now hearing. Yesterday the noises got worse. I explained my possible diagnosis a bit more emphatically to Danny, and later, once we got to the Hotel, I put together my headtorch to have a look. Yes, the outside of the RHS disc was badly scored. Therefore, whilst Danny had to go off this morning in search of a mechanic, I went for a ride around the lake. It was supposed to be 13km around, but perhaps I took the scenic route right beside the lake, as after 10km I got to a small village, Kisiljevo, still on the East side of the lake I’d started on ! The track had gradually degraded from a pavement, to a nice track, to a grotty black sandy corn field thing that made the gears grind, so though I was glad to get somewhere, the 13km wasn’t looking likely. 5km after tjhe village I gave up when the ashfelt road turned to dust again and decided to retrace my ride back. As it was, Danny had only just got back after my 27km “brief” ride, so I was able to have a quick shower before checking out. New pre-loved brake pads fitted, but no disc machining possible, so it’s a sacrificial pad pretty much to last just the next few days.

Bruce: Silver lake at dusk

Saturday 8 September 2012

Weather Report: Fine, sunny, no cloud, winds light to variable and some haze.

Last night’s accommodation at Villa Dincic was very good, the rooms were large, cool and extremely quiet making for good sleeping conditions. Breakfast was just a short drive away. I a slowly getting used to the idea that yoghurt comes under the drink option at breakfast, making it a bit difficult to add fruit to the cup.

The van needed more attention this morning, new brake pads on the front passenger side. This gave Ewen and I the chance of a walk along the lake, while Bruce attempted to circumnavigate it. Stall holders were already setting up their wares, and one fellow was roasting capsicums, given the pile we saw last night, he had a fair job ahead of him. We were joined on our walk by a small companion who followed us for quite some time and took on anything with 4 legs.

This was the obvious place for a weekender, some under various stages of construction. There must be some highly artistic plumbers here, (perhaps you could try this Eddie), There were also private jetties on the bank and gardens (Apart from the roses and geraniums, this pompom bush was also familiar), On the other side of the lake there was a training lane for rowers. No bike path for the coach, just a speed boat instead. (Special note for Phil Ainsworth).

Danny returned with the van and we left about 11am to travel the road alongside the Danube to see the Iron Gates. First stop was the Fortress at Golubac. It is hard to believe something so old is still standing; nobody knows who build the original and when, but additions were made in 15th century. The archways were only small and large trucks only have centimetres to spare as they passed through. There was a set of stone steps up one side but from here the path disappeared. Further up the road we visited a museum showing relics from 5500 to 7000 bce. This archaeological dig commenced in the 1965, and from this discovered the floor plan was approximately based on isosceles triangle with one vertex cut off. In the centre of the floor was fire pit with a stone surround. A replica of this type of building was outside the covered complex. Original early 20th century Serbian houses were also on the site.

A quick lunch today at 3pm of soup and bread , an empty soup bowl on a large plate topped with linen napkin and spoon appeared first, there was a high degree of anticipation as we waited for the food trolley to appear with steel jugs of hot soup. All 3 varieties of soup received our mark of approval. We left here about 4pm and the road travelled along the Danube past an amazingly steep narrow gorge, which I suspect is what is referred to as the Iron Gates. It was difficult to stop in places so we let Bruce out to run back down the road to get a photo, just like a foxhunt. We had a quick look at the Iron Gates Dam and ship lock. No photos allowed here either.

At 7pm we were still heading to our evening stop at Zajecar and light was fading.

Bruce:It happened yet again, Murray. Over dinner, any mentioning of my hotel room for tonight, with an extra seperate longeroom, complete with (live) potplants and longe chairs, was not to be tolerated. I heard dark mutterings about cat swinging and individual beds. I also just noticed the spa bath…

Noodle Railway

6th September 2012


It was an earlier start today and our chance to experience Serbia’s version of Puffing Billy, the Sargon 8 train near Mokra Gora,  4 older style carriages pulled by a  diesel engine. The interiors looked pretty original with wooden slatted seats and drop down windows. The ride up to the top took about 50 minutes with no stops along the way. There was a commentary pointing out the features along the way, the first in Serbian, and later in English, neither were of any use, just like Flinders Street in peak hour, so much noise it just blocked it out.

Bruce: Great fun on the train this morning. The back of the ticket showed the path the train takes, and the thing looks just like one of Louise’s noodle awards (see picture!). It runs up and over itself many times as it winds up the mountain. There are some extra photos just for Roger, as I know he’ll be looking for them.

The dedicated orienteers amongst us religiously followed the map on the back of the ticket most of the way.

There was a brief stop at the top just to turn the engine around for the downhill journey. 3 or 4 stops on the way down, one long enough to explore the upper terrace above the station and provide some good photo opportunities.

From here we headed to the ethno-village at Drvengrad built by Serbian film director, Emir Kusturica. Not quite movie world but it did have a cinema, some interesting architecture that served as hotel apartments and even a prison. A good place to stop for refresments (no not the prison). There were also some of the older soviet era vehicles used in his movies.

A short drive from here was the Tara National Park. Some of us took the opportunity to have a snooze along the way. The map left a lot to the imagination, but Bruce soon lead us on a route march up to the top of the hill. Our fitness levels are destined to improve rapidly at his rate. We even spent a little time acting our age in the playground.

I have to report we did see a bear, but didn’t need to run this time as it was well secured and preserved in a glass case. We timed our walk well as it just started to mist as we left the park on our way to our overnight stop at Valjevo. Today has been much cooler and a perfect day for being outside. Hopefully Kopaonik will like this.

Zlatibor Bound

Bruce: Well this will be another epic blog. We haven’t really had decent enough internet till now, here in a posh hotel in Zlatibor. Since some of you only look at the pictures, I’ll include them first this time, so you don’t have to goto all that effort of scrolling down so much. Most of the blog is by Jenelle, with the red comments by me 🙂

2 September 2012

A very leisurely start to the day with breakfast at 9 am and time to write some more blog. We have had several frustrating moments trying to login into the hotel’s wifi but rather embarrassingly it was more to do with operator error than hardware problems.

We are now reasonable confident in navigating our way around the old part of Belgrade. The morning’s activity was to visit the Residence of Princess Ljubica – a bit of culture and less technical, but the operation of the light fittings did attract some considerable discussion. Apart from the Turkish bathroom, it was more a display of period pieces with just a lot of sitting rooms and a notable absence of a dining table and kitchen. Come to think of it there seems to be more bars in Belgrade rather than proper restaurants. An earlier side trip to a street market, and some necessary purchases for the forthcoming ARDF did cause some interesting looks.

On return to our hotel to get some lunch we came across a street food and wine festival. It looked quite inviting and Bruce was most disappointed that Ewen could not be persuaded to stop and indulge in some free lunch. Given the security presence I don’t think we would have been welcomed.

Bruce: Actually they didn’t seem to care less what anyone was doing, or even that we walked through.

The afternoon activity was a bike tour of Belgrade. I approached this with some intrepidation given the hills around the old part of the city. There was some compensation for my senior status and scored a geared bike. The ride around the river bank soon restored the confidence and kept up with the pelaton. We crossed the river to New Belgrade with the aid of an elevator up to the bridge concourse and headed west. Nathan our tour guide told us about the Nato bombings of the Hotel Yugoslavia and the Chinese embassy. The hotel was not badly bombed but is now largely abandoned. From here we headed to the Western Gate, two concrete towers, one an apartment block of 30 levels and the other office space, currently only half occupied. Quite spectacular from a distance but all a bit run down and dejected looking close up. It would seem bike paths are an integral part of footpath construction here and I was quite pleased that there was not too much street riding, but you certainly had to be alert to cars appearing in the slip lanes from unexpected directions.

Bruce: My photos of the bike ride slipped into the last blog, so now you know what they were about 🙂

It was thirsty work getting to the lake and the plan of an alcohol free day went out the window. The water was quite a good temperature and it was quite mistake not to have taken the bathers with us. On the ride back to the start, Ewen lead a breakaway from the peloton, closely followed by Bruce. Somehow I don’t think the locals were too amused!! All good fun and definitely gave a different way to see Belgrade. We met a young couple from England (IT students) who were making the most of their last long holiday before their final year at Leeds University. They had begun their holiday in Istanbul and were heading to Venice via Bosnia and Croatia.

We dined on a converted barge on the river bank, a really pleasant way to spend the evening. I was rather glad to get back to the hotel after another 4 km of walking along the river bank and through the back of the bus depot. Well exercised and guilt free after the earlier indulgences.

Bruce: Since we’d gone to dinner straight from the bike ride, I still had my bike so I was able to zip back the the Hotel.

Special Note to Raf and Shona.

All those leg exercises in pilates worked a treat. All I have to do is find the thera band hidden in the bottom of my case.


3rd September 2012

There was a rush to pack this morning to be ready for our 9am departure. We thought we had it all organised but needed to take a drive around the block to allow Bruce to retrieve his special purchase from yesterday. Our tour leader and driver for the remainder of our trip is Daniel, a graduate who majored in German and English. We took the scenic route to Topola, via a communications tower.

At Topola, we visited the Peter 1 Church and Mausoleum, built in local white stone and it was the intention of Peter 1 to have the names of the huge number of Serbian troops who had lost their lives in WW1 inscribed on the walls. Too many names and so instead the walls are covered with about 6 million mini tiles in 1500+ colours. 720 scenes on the walls in stunning colour. Underneath was the crypt with even a few spare spaces for future deceased royals. During its construction King Peter1 lived just across the road so he could supervise the construction. This villa which is quite small has ben opened as a museum. There was a picture on the wall that looked familiar(a bit like the Queen Mother), not surprisingly Queen Maria wife of King Alexander (son of Peter1), was a descendant of Queen Victoria. From here we visited Karagorge’s church and museum, the ethnographic part was interesting, the corner cupboard and the wheat storage – a hollowed out tree stump with a piece of wood on the top. The mandatory wine tasting and tour at the Royal Winery followed, huge vats on separate floors for red and white wine, some old wine making equipment (more technical discussion, specially decorated vats for the wedding of King Alexander and Queen Maria, and a magnificent vine covered gazebo, the like of which Ewen is going to build in Greensborough. The grapes hanging underneath were very tasty.

Bruce: It seems 1st September marks the time when many a rural Serbian starts to consider firewood. The roads are jammed with tractors, or smaller craft, pulling mini trailers piled high with cut logs, and many front yards feature families industriously chopping and stacking impressively large stacks of firewood for the winter months ahead. In front of other houses are messy piles of unsorted dumped timber ready for chopping.

It was quite a drive from here over Rudnik Mountain to Gorni Milanovac and we were starting to get pretty hungry by the time we arrived at about 3pm. I now know why Daniel was keen to get to our evening stop, a guest house fairly high on a hill outside the town. We were greeted by our hostess Ziza in the traditional Serbian manner, with special bread (wheel shaped) with salt. This was followed by a cool mint drink, a small glass of liqueur (your choice of walnut, cherry or black currant?)  and then a hot minty tea. This was served outside. We were then invited inside for a light lunch of 3 courses. Salad of tomato and cucumber, sliced belly pork, white cheeses and some magnificent tri coloured plaited bread – that was first course. The chicken soup, the flavour was just superb, and then the fried chicken, buttery mashed potato and carrots. Dessert was served outside, a bitter chocolate topped slice.

We were definitely in need of some exercise so Bruce headed out on his bike. The husband of our hostess had just arrived home so Ewen and I sat and chatted with Daniel interpreting some parts. There was just enough time for a short walk (straight up a big hill to a spring on the side of the road) before we were to help with the evening meal preparation.

Bruce: After our late lunch arrival at the peaceful Melodai villa, I took the bike and our hosts recommendation to go for a ride up the hill and out along a spur to see a view of the town. As it turned out, I rode all the 6km or so into town and had a look around, but the 3km hill back up onto the spur just seemed to take forever. On the way back stopped at one of the clear water springs (with convenient tap) that seem to be a fairly regular ocurrance in Serbia. Evan, the husband (who runs a shoe shop in town during the day), asked later, with a smile, if I had any trouble riding back up the hill (I suspect he expected me to say I had to walk up).

Instructions for White Cheese dish

Grease and dust with maize flour a 25 cm round enamel pie dish.

Break 3 eggs into a basin (Ewen’s job), Beaten with a fork (Bruce took over at this point)

Add 4 lumps white cheese and mash to a uniform consistency.

Add 12 heaped spoons of maize flour, 6 heaped spoons for flour, a packet of baking powder, 3 small coffee cups of oil and a glass of mineral water. Mix well and tip into pie dish. Smooth top and arrange slices of belly pork in a wheel pattern on top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 150 degrees C.

It seems in this part of Serbia that lunch is a large meal and dinner is a small light meal.

The weather was so nice we then sat outside and more chat. After about 35 minutes I mentioned the pie and Ewen and Bruce went running inside, but our hostess had already retrieved dinner from the oven. The pie was served with homemade yoghurt. Very tasty indeed, but needed some lubrication to help it down. Homemade Schnaps appeared and some of us were a little slow in saying stop as the host Ivan filled the little glasses. Lots of laughter ensued. Just before 9pm the boys all headed out to get water from the spring, and so our hostess and I took to the recliner chairs and viewed the stars and made conversation in slow broken English. (All that practice at work helped!)

Bruce: In the interests of an authentic record, I feel bound to mention that it was I who actualy made the pie, under instruction from Ziza, and some excellent egg cracking by Ewen.

By the time the guys had returned with the water, it was becoming quite cool outside, so were retreated inside for sleep.


4th September 2012 (yes it’s Tuesday)

Quickly losing track of the days. This morning began with a traditional Serbian breakfast. More bread but this time with finely sliced potato in the mix. Quite yummy. It was served with yoghurt to which I added some sliced banana. This was met with some puzzled looks. Toasted tri-coloured bread and hibiscus jam and more of the hot minty tea. Made from mint, lemon balm, stinging nettle and flowers of the linden tree. After the water is infused with the herbs, the mint and lemon balm are replanted in the garden – the ultimate recycling.

Today’s adventure started with a trip to 2 monasteries. Zica monastery dating from the 13th century. Like all buildings of this age there was some restoration being done. This was actually a nunnery. Apart from the main church there were several outer buildings surrounded by a stone wall. I’ve yet to work out what “male” and “female” are in Serbian, so it was a good job there were no other tourists around to embarrass either me or them.

From here a fairly circuitous route to Studentija monastery, we ended up on the same road we had started on to get to the first monastery. This should have been a signal that the sat nav was not behaving. After repositioning ourselves, we made it to Studentija via a rather mountainous diversion (Bruce: see haybale picture). A good view of a national park which I suspect is somewhere near the championships next week. This monastery (built in 12th century)was another walled community with a main church and several outer buildings. It seems they liked to redecorate back in the 16th century, so to get the new frescoes to adhere to the wall they virtually had to destroy the originals underneath. (No pictures of this or other works allowed inside.) There were several caskets containing the remains of the original founders of the monastery. The one for St Anaesthasia was made of made of solid silver and elaborately decorated in scenes of her life. In the refectory outside I rather liked the white marble tables as they would have made an excellent kitchen bench.

The planned diversion to visit Vranga Banka for a late lunch on the way home didn’t work out as planned. It was a very scenic route and much slower than the main highway. About 3 pm a car behind started to toot, so we pulled over to find we had a flat tyre. Out with the “mini” air compressor, this didn’t sound too healthy from the time it was turned on, and realising it would take some time to work its magic several of us went exploring the creek alongside the road. Ewen soon alerted us that it had thrown in the towel and luckily there was enough air in the tyre to make it to a fuel stop nearby. Both tyre and occupants replenished we headed up the mountain. Just about 10 minutes past the entrance to Kopaonik the temperature light came on. Another road side stop, Danny certainly appreciated the engineers on board as they took over and ascertained that the water in the radiator was well below the minimum. We quickly consumed the drinks we had purchased and proceeded to fill these bottles (and others lying on the side of the road) with water from the creek beside the road. The human chain gang began with Bruce filling bottles in the creek and launching them up the bank, me retrieving them and Ewen filling the radiator. All this with lots of laughter helped lift Danny’s spirits and soon had us back on the road. With all this nervous energy consumed Ewen was in need of real food and we stopped about 5 pm for a recharge. There was still the tyre issue and not long after starting off again we discovered the tyre had gone flat again. Danny disappeared into a nearby house and reappeared with a manual tyre pump and we took it in turns to pump up the tyre again. This allowed us to get to the town where we were to have had lunch. Danny went off to have the tyre repaired and we investigated a large mall sort of area with many shops and stalls. It was about 7.30 before we set off again and eventually returned to Villa Melodie around 9.30. A fairly tiring drive for Danny.

We settled in for some serious eating (and drinking) which Ziza had prepared in our absence. Sunflower bread (wheel bread in both rye and white with a star pattern on top and sprinkled with sunflower seeds, floured and egg battered roasted capsicum, along with the usual tomato and cheeses, with cinnamon spiced apple and walnut slice to follow. Time to unwind after the day’s misadventures. Bruce: see photo.

5th September 2012

Late start this morning as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast outdoors. Again more of Ziza’s beautiful cooking, special breads, savoury omelettes and the usual accompaniments. We would have willingly stayed longer here but still more to see in Serbia.

Here the scenery had more rugged quarried mountains, deep rivers by the road side and more greenery than further north. We had an impromptu stop to check out a dam wall. More technical talk. From there we headed to the cave at Potpeck. The climb up to the upper cave was about 100 steps, certainly keeping up the fitness levels. At the entrance to the upper level small ferns were growing out of the rock face, and further inside the cave there were some interesting shapes. Apparently the cave stretches for 10 km but only 2 km is open to the public. The stories of how the patriots used the caves as refuge from the Turks were pretty harrowing. They actually perished as they held under siege.

The ethno village nearby had a some artefacts dating back to Roman times right through to 20th century, including more versions of coffee pots that you could imagine. Bruce, Ewen and I sat up at the desks in the school room, and gave more cheek as Danny tried to keep his class in order. He even threatened us with the cane.

We had our lunch here and tried some Serbian pear cider. The food was incredibly good value 350 dinar for a big bowl of beans and smoked meat. Both Bruce and Ewen opted to supplement their meal with apple pie (more like apple strudel).

No worries with getting to our final destination today. We even found time for a walk through the market before tea and another brisk walk to a monument afterwards. (The speed increased as the flashes of lightning appeared in the distance.)

Bruce: This afternoon we walked past a stand in the Zlatibor village centre promoting downhill mountain biking at the nearby ski resort. It looked pretty cheap, including the chairlift ride up with bike, and a number of diffrent grade tracks down. Danny checked at the booth for us and we discovered, unfortunately, it only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Pity, since I just happen to have the bike right here with me.

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Karlovci no Exit

1 September 2012 

Jenelle (with extra Bruce comments)

Today we visited the Vojvodina region west of Belgrade. We were collected by our tour guide Zlatan from Tours2Serbia about nine o’clock. Zlatan was not only a very informative tour guide, but more importantly a good navigator and driver as well. Serbia has a complicated history of invasions and takeovers for thousands of years.

After some high speed (120 kph) roads down to narrow potholed single lanes we reached our first stop at the Krusedol monastery on Fruska Gora mountain. It seems even there you can’t avoid the tourist buses. Small but beautiful Orthodox Christian chapel(built ~1726) and tower, but unfortunately no photos inside and definitely no climbing of the tower was permitted. Apparently the Austrian Hungarians let the Serbs live here unhindered, on the condition they would be the first line of defence when the Turks attacked.

From here we headed to the Petrovaradin Fortress on the outskirts of Novi Sad. An amazing construction with 16 km of tunnels in 4 levels. Another feature of the fortress was the Drunken Clock, fast in summer and slow in summer. There was a museum of artefacts from bronze, iron age right up to early 20th century. A display of beautiful furniture from late 19th to early 20th century was upstairs, and included musical instruments and porcelain (of interest to some of the group). The moats and escarpments surrounding the fortress have to be seen to be believed. Just huge.

Bruce: Each year in June the Karlovci (Pertovardin) Fortress has it’s own Big Day Out style, 14 stage music festival called the Exit festival I’d heard of it before, but didn’t connect it with Serbia.

Next stop was Novi Sad, where we bought some fruit at the market, and to be ecumenical we visited the Jewish Synagogue. This was quite plain but also quite elegant inside. From here we took leisurely stroll past municipal offices, a statue of another important citizen and then through the main pedestrian area down to a lake and gardens – a good place to end our walking tour. We spent some time enjoying the coolness. On return to Belgrade there was a little time to attend to some housekeeping issues, before heading out to dinner.

Dinner was at Belgrade’s oldest restaurant, called “?”. Why “?” ? When the restaurant changed owner’s early 20th century it was given the name “Cathedral Café”. The priest at the nearby church complained that it reflected poorly on the church and requested a name change. Not knowing what to call the place the owner put up a “?”. The temporary name stuck, but only through a couple centuries so far. Appetiser of beans, several varieties of cheeses and sliced meat, tomato and cucumber salad and a platter of barbeque meats with bread, wine and beer as well. All in good supply. We said goodbye to Zlatan and yet again found the scenic route back to the hotel.

Bruce: Bumped in Tyson again (!) just outside our hotel as he was heading to the railway station opposite with backpack and we were about to head out to dinner, on his way back to Switzerland. There has to be something weird going on here with the laws of chance !

Bruce: Note the picture of the emply block in New-Belgrade. Why take this picture ? Well, here used to stand the Chinese embassy, till last year. It was demolished because it was bombed in the 1990’s war by NATO. It is still not clear why US decided to bomb the Chinese embassy as one of their selective targets. They claim they got the address wrong. This was taken on a bike tour we took around Belgrade today (more details to follow later).

Belgrade Upgrade

Bumper Edition !

This is a bit of a combined blog form 2 different blog streams, so it may be a bit disjointed this time !

First is Bruce’s stuff, followed by Jenelle’s & Ewen’s extra details of their adventures.


Visited the Pecs city centre by bike this morning, and had memories of seeing parts of it before, on a whirlwind tour given by Gyrui’s former wife quite a few years ago.

Zsolnay mausleum
The cobbled malls of old Pecs
The combined christian church and mosque I remembered from last Pecs visit


Gyrui and Anna drove me to Kelebia in the afternoon, in order to catch the train to Belgrade. Unfortunately a couple of hours drive, but other options were limited (eg. catching the train back the wrong direction to return again on the Belgrade line). The train was running late, and ended up in Belgrade over an hour after it was due. Perhaps this was due in part to the two lengthy passport checks each side of the border, and the somewhat languid pace the train maintained till we finally sped up a little getting closer to Belgrade. Perhaps the track improved ?  Still, not quite up to the expectations set by the Austrian and Hungarian high-ish speed trains. Once within Belgrade we seemed to spend inordinate amounts of time waiting at non-descript stations, or even in between stations.

Red Serbian sunset from the train




Still, I didn’t mind too much. I’d stocked upon munchies, fruit and water before the journey.


My room in Belgrade appears to have been upgraded to palacial, also with balcony (complete with flowers).  This is of course with keeping with the superior accomodation allocated to Murray and myself in Veszprem, for no particularly good reason 🙂

My Balcony



We walked to the Nikolay Tesla museum, an essential visit for any electrical geek. Tried to see if they happened to have a circuit diagram of the remote controlled boat Tesla demonstrated (surely the staff here must be used to geeks by now..). Alas no, his documented notes only started in 1899, a year after the boat.

Just on the point of departure I hear my name mentioned ?  Huh ? Well well, it’s Tyson B from Tele-IP days. What are the chances ?  He’s here in Serbia because his Schengen visa (elsewhere in Europe) has nearly run out, but he’s also trying to get into Russia where his girlfriend is from. He’s been living in Switzerland recently.

Postman Pat in the PTT

Also at the (free) PTT (Postal & Telecoms) museum we each were given a small book. Like the small telecommunications museum I visited in Zagreb, I think they are just thrilled when anyone techo visits them. Other  than 2 pages of English text it’s all in Serbian (ok so the pictures aren’t in Serbian, so you can look at them too) but the thought was nice.

Joined Tyson for dinner this eveing in the cobbled resturant district.

The fortress is simply massive
Ewen’s is serenaded over dinner
Along the watchtower…Belgrade Fortress

Full Photo Gallery down the bottom.


Now over to Jenelle T

29th August 2012

Having left work at 4.30 and a good run home on the Ring Road managed to get ourselves sorted and attend to the last minute bills and garden watering. Lindsay took us to the airport with plenty of time to spare to peruse the duty free and chill. Not that we needed to worry as the flight was 30 minutes late boarding. Thank you Jill for the advice to choose central seats in the aircraft. That worked well and although I did not sleep a great deal could get up and wander around. My advice to you is take your air cushion, it worked a treat and did not get a sore back for the whole flight.

30th August 2012

Arrived in Dubai at about 5.15 and 30+ degrees and 90 percent humidity, took a bus to main terminal and then another to the terminal 2, a little down market but the best bit was they had proper toilets. Phew. Another wait. Realised I’d swapped my purse from the one with the 20 UAE Dhirans to the one with 50 US dollars, so need to change some money to buy some snacks. The Fly Dubai flight left on time and the flight went quite well apart from the altercation between the petite steward and some gent who had consumed a third of a bottle of Johnny Walker. Needless to say she confiscated his bottle and the ensuing argie bargie was rather entertaining. She won and in the end he apologised after he had slept most of the remainder of the flight.

We were met at the airport in Belgrade (under going building work) by Zlatan (husband of the woman we had been corresponding and his side kick Danny who is taking us on the country part of the tour). Very happy to see the sign “Ewen and Jennelle” in the arrivals hall, almost correct spelling but who cares. A quick trip into town and we were installed in our hotel opposite the Railway Station.

For the next 9 hours we managed to get ourselves geographically misplaced 3 times (I keep telling Ewen we need to take the compass with us, not leave it in his bag). Each time it took us 45 minutes to sort it out. There are some vital tips we need to follow, the sun is in the south, look for land marks and if lost ask where the hotel Moscow is. A gorgeous old hotel in central old Belgrade. We did find somewhere to have dinner and for just under 20 Aud for the two us we considered it good value and that included salads and of course the mandatory beer.




Eventually got back to the hotel, rather feeling rather guilty thinking we weren’t back in time to meet Bruce, only to discover that he was yet to arrive. However his train from the Czech border was 2 hours late. Metro doesn’t have it on its own to be late. About 10pm the hand held crackled. Bruce had arrived .There was only time for a quick chat and then sleep.

…and over to Ewen T

(Ewen’s notes follow, done on very little sleep)

Left home about 1815. Lindsay took us to the airport and we arrived there about 1900. After we checked in the baggage Lindsay left and we went thru customs. After looking thru the shops we had a some coffee and cake and went to the departure lounge. We needn’t have hurried as the flight was 30mins late boarding & departing. U’d think it would be reasonably easy to load an aeroplane with people but some confusion was evident. Eventually we were on board and departed. Managed to sleep for a reasonable time. Flight was a bit rough at times. Arrived in Dubai about pretty much on time at 0515 and caught the bus to terminal 2. Converted some $US to Dirhams and bought some munchies and drinks. Flight to Belgrade wasn’t till 0910 so had some time to read the New Scientists I’d brought along. Flight left on time and once again managed to sleep a bit. Not much provided on the flight entertainment, had to buy everything except the most basic video. At least we could see the flight path. We were glad we had some Dirhams. Flight attendant had a bit of trouble with a somewhat drunk passenger. Fortunately he didn’t cause too much trouble. Very smooth flight over some very rugged country.)


31st August 2012

Woke about 7am, feeling considerably refreshed. Headed down to the breakfast room, rather good spread and tucked in.

First job of the day was to relocate Bruce(room upgrade). We headed off to find the tourist info office at Republic Square. 3 orienteers, 3 different maps and a compass. In the end I had to ask someone and even then it was difficult to find. The course setter has a lot to answer for, dodgy maps, poorly placed controls and controls markings obscuring vital parts of the map. From there we went to the Nicola Tesla Museum, the information provided by the museum was supplemented by much technical discussion by you know who. The main attraction was a large Tesla coil which failed to light up Jenelle’s fluoro tube. Also there was much deliberation over the remote controlled boat. A request for a circuit diagram was not forthcoming and so we headed to the next control.

Does she glow ?
Tesla’s remote controlled boat

It would appear that much of Belgrade is having renovations, this museum was no exception.

Lunch was purchased for about $5.50 for the three of us and consumed in a park near St Mark’s cathedral. The next control was Museum PTT, public transport we thought. Wrong! Postal, Telephone and Telegraph. Another case of checking the block on every side before we could locate the entrance. Quite small but interesting and again more technical discussion. We were each given a book about it, very useful if only we could read Serbian.


Next point was the Kalemegdan – the fortress. Very good control easily seen from a great distance with good catching features – the Danube River. Not lot off guard rails, just a sign. Note who is sitting and standing on the edge. There was a good view of the walls from the top of the tower.


Fortress safety
Belgrade Fortress wall


Fortress watchtower


Next challenge was to locate the Residence of Princess Llubijana. Alas we ran out of time on this control (they locked the gate just as we arrived) and had to head back to the hotel via the icecream shop.

On the right Pecs

The Hungarian RadiO people don’t do things by halves !

Three full scale practice ARDF hunts in 2 days (and that’s following 2 days of ARDF championships over last weekend whilst I was in Veszprem). Some much needed practice for me, albeit slower than normal as I’m just being cautious not to stress my knee. Good news is I was able to run OK when it was clear underfoot.

The two maps used were 2007 World Orienteering Champs maps from 2007. Anyone go to WOC in 2007 recognise this ?

Here is one of the ex-WOC maps used for the RadiO training





Due to too much luggage and people to fit in Gyrui’s car, and the fact Vadim wasn’t all that taken with the idea of tying him to the roof, I caught a lift with a Budapest couple to Budapest, and train-ed it down to Pecs. Vadim is also here, staying at Gyuri’s place.

Rode around this park near Buda-Deli station whilst waiting for my train
Karoly and Piroska, and my lift to Budapest
Vadim busy hacking into US security, and Gyrui fending off a work call


I went for ride up into the hills a bit this morning, but the Pecs road map was somewhat optimistic as far as which roads actually existed and/or went through, so a fair bit of time was spent relocating 🙂  Ended up on some single track, well sort of.

Old mine head, on my bike ride around Pecs
Single Track !


Found out today there is a special deal on train tickets from Budapest to Belgrade (15 Euro only), so it’s much the same price as yesterday only to Pecs. I’ll catch the train at Kelebia though, on the Hungarian-Serbian border.  The train does carry bikes, but bike carriage tickets can only be purchased in Budapest (don’t ask, I have no idea, grrrrr), so I’ll pack it up in the bike bag instead and pretend it’s luggage.

Later this afternoon we drove out to one of those infamous Pecs maps (Geoff send some out in his WMOC blogs last year), I ran out and hid a single 2m transmitter so Gyuri could demonstrate to Anna, his partner, how the signal behaves as you approach a hill the TX is on the other side from you. Maybe we should do a simple training exercise in this too ! ?

Good luck to all those heading to the World Rogaine Champs this weekend in nearby Czech Replublic. I think the weather may be a bit cooler than it was !

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Cheers, Bruce


Touring Hungary

Well, surprisingly I do have internet.

I’m at a small hilltop town in NE Hungary called Bükkszentkereszt. We had some adventures getting here !

Gyuri (a radio orienteering guy from Hungary/US/Canada..depending on which hat he is wearing), mentioned in an email that there would be 2 days of training, after the weekend’s Hungarian ARDF championships.The champs also serve as a selection trial for the Hungarian team to travel to Serbia. Murray and I decided we’d head that direction, via a scenic route and see what happened.It also meant I could get a lift to Pecs with Gyrui whilst Murray returned to Budapest to fly home.

We headed north from Veszprem, as I’d noted how scenic the train journey was from Gyor, then the idea was to head NE towards the Danube and travel along the bank, avoiding the centre of Budapest.

The scenery was great, and a cool change was blowing though at last. We saw this ruined castle and windfarm on the way:

Ruined castle
Hungarian Windfarm


We momentarily visited Slovenia, due to an inadequate map, but then crossed back to Hungary (the hire car isn’t meant to leave), and then a bit later had lunch on the bank of the Danube. Unfortunately a bit windly so not as pleasant as it sounds.

Bükkszentkereszt is about 200km ENE of Budapest, so we ended upon the motorway.The normal highway limit is 90km/h, but the motorway is 130km/h !  I got used to it eventually my first day back driving on the wrong side.

We had to contact Gyrui to let him know we were coming, so sent a text from Miskcolc to his mobile. No reply. Oh wellwe’ll keep going. A few km up the road we came across an official waving at us. He couldn’t understand us so waved us on. Soon it became clear.There was a rally stage in progress, and we could go no further. Only a few km short. We watched the cars as we wondered what to do. Murray happened across a “block road ahead” setting in the GPS, and it found us a roundabout alternate route. Good thing as it turns out as it was a beautiful drive around the mountains.

We wandered up and down the rally car and fume filled streets of Bükkszentkereszt hoping to find a free WiFi so we could ring Gyuri on Skype. No luck. Tried the public phone….phone card only it seems (the Visa symbol on the front Gyrui later told us is a lie). Finally a return text !  GPS coordinates. Off we go, onlya couple of km down a side road to here, a sort of basic cabin style thing. Went out to dinner with the Hungarians, so all turned out well.


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