Packrafting through ‘The Canyon’

Packraft Montenegro - Komarnica river

Packrafting through 'The Canyon'

My brother catching Covid-19 in July meant the ‘siblings holiday’ was over before it even began. But what I didn’t know was how awesome the adventure I was about to have would be.

All Balkan Expeditions’ adventures are tried and tested and on this occasion, I was the guinea pig. With much excitement I was told the plan: “we are going to kayak down the Tara River Canyon and wild camp for 3 days!” What I wasn’t told was the amount of fishing that would also be taking place…but I’ll get to that later. We bought our supplies from the supermarket, packed our things and made the journey from Niksic to Grab.

I was a bit apprehensive before we left – we had a lot of stuff: tents, air beds, sleeping bags, clothes, food. Given that I hadn’t kayaked on whitewater before I did not want the responsibility of paddling our equipment. Also I’d been told that I would end up in the river at some point…

Spoiler alert: I did not fall out or capsize my packraft 💪🏼😁

A packraft is an inflatable kayak that makes remote paddling adventures a lot easier. Packing down to the size of a small tent and weighing 2.5 kg means that you can hike to more inaccessible places to start your river adventure.

You will get to try two brands with Balkan Expeditions Kokopelli and Alpacka Raft.

After a few hours of paddling in the crystal clear waters we set up camp on the sandy shores of the River Tara. As soon as the tents were up the boys were off fishing. This was to become the routine for the next three days. Any time we were not on the water at least one person was fishing at all times. The peace and tranquility of the river flowing past the camp is truly magical and is the perfect place to disconnect from the world.

The final section of the river is where things get really exciting – this is where the big rapids are. The third day of our adventure started off much like the previous two, in glorious sunshine, but that soon gave way to summer thunderstorms and even hailstones! The closer we got to the end point, the worse the weather got. Flashes of lightning streaked across the sky illuminating the steep sides of the canyon. In addition to this an eerie fog appeared before us – just as we were coming to the most difficult stretch of the river. This is when we were well and truly tested.

As with each section of rapids before, Gigo explained to me the best course to take and reminded me that “if all else fails, keep hold of the paddle no matter what.” Zvicer went first, then Gigo, I took up my position next and Ivan was at the back. The first rapid was fine, I came out the other side. We could just make out Zvicer in the foggy distance entering the second set. Suddenly, in a split second, he capsized, the rapids got the better of this well seasoned pro. Without hesitation Gigo was in ‘rescue mode’ and shouted back at me to “just keep straight!

At this point I was thinking to myself, “well – if Zvicer just capsized – I stand no chance.”

There is no stopping the flow of the river, once you’re on it, or in it, especially in the rapids, you can’t go back upstream. As I was being bounced about by the forceful water I saw Zvicer’s belongings floating past – his reusable water bottle, followed by a pair of trainers. The two items that he forgot to strap onto the canoe. After I was spat out of the rapids and calmness returned to the river I turned around, only to see that Ivan too had fallen victim to the mighty strength of the Tara. A second capsize of the day within minutes of the first – Gigo really had his work cut out 😅

To say I was pleased with myself that I didn’t fall out of the packraft would be a huge understatement. A lot of that is down to Gigo who is a fantastic tour guide. He immediately made me feel at ease on the water. Gigo showed me how to hold the paddle properly and how to use it efficiently. He explained the importance of body position at different stages of the river especially whilst going through the rapids. He also told me this piece of advice, which I will share with you: make sure you smile and have fun!

Heather B.

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