Saturday, 28 November 2009

Monty B goes all French TV, ooh la la

Can't remember whether this made it onto my blog at the time, and am too shoddy to bother checking.

Way back at the end of August (a lot has happened since then), we were chartered by a French TV company, Canal 5, who were filming for their prime time travel show, Echappees Belles.

The day had kicked off with air in the fuel causing numerous break-downs on our way to the rendezvous point in Herceg Novi. Completely stressful as we hadn't left any time for arsing around and were late to pick them up - though luckily, they were also late so thankfully it didn't cause any massive dramas. We managed to get ourselves onto the tiny fuel dock in Herceg Novi (not really big enough for yachts our size) and filled up to try to stave off any further air in fuel worries (we were low which was why we were pulling air through).

We headed out of the bay into what would have been a surprising amount of swell, had it not been for the immense storm clouds out on the NW Adriatic. We would not usually have headed out with what appeared to be a nasty looking bit of weather headed our way, but hey ho, we were on telly!
We were heading for a well known dive spot, Blue Caves, where on a sunny day, the light refracts from inside a sea cave turning the entire cave and water a trippy deep blue. But not on a day like this, with the wind building and the sea turning an angry green grey. The film crew were undeterred and had already set up on deck before leaving harbour so started filming our journey. They were unexpectedly friendly and laid-back, loved the dogs and we started to enjoy ourselves. It was SO COOL! The rather suave and friendly (womaniser?) organiser type started to get sea-sick within the first 15 minutes (there is always one on a day like that) so I stuck him on the helm.
On arriving at Blue Caves, a small dive RIB picked up the film crew and we then spent an hour circling, much to close to a viscious rocky shoreline, whilst the wind picked up and a storm started to brew further up the coast. Mmmm.
The dive boat eventually emerged from the caves but the director wanted to shoot footage of the presenter, Sophie, and our mate Jack from Black Mountain (adventure travel) in the water by the boat. This was becoming increasingly dangerous, particularly for Sophie, who was clearly exhausted and kept disappearing underwater as waves covered her face. The final straw as I anxiously watched the fast approaching vile-looking clouds was lightning forking down into the entrance of the bay, in the direction we were having to head. We insisted that they got back on the boat and a good job too as by this time they were struggling to get out of the water, with the waves causing the stern to slam and their heavy dive gear weighing them down.
We tore off into the waves but no sooner had we got underway, we were hailed by the dive RIB which was struggling against the conditions so we picked them up, got them on board and towed their RIB behind us. All exciting stuff.

Unfortunately, the camera gear and less hardy amongst the crew were put below decks, the organiser guy being flat out seasick in the saloon (his choice). So none of this was filmed. And it would have made great TV.
This is the TV programme which was screened last week in France. We are on the first 5 mins or so but even though the programme is in French, it is worth a skim through if just for the footage of this incredible country that we live in, particularly the Boka Kotorska which features in the first 10 mins or so. See

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we made it back into the bay, catching only the edge of the storm which had taken the familiar route into the bay and across the Orjen mountains rather than tracking the coast. So it was exhiliarating without being frightening, we were aware of the risks and took account of them without the situation feeling remotely overwhelming. Which made me realise that we have come a long way since the first few months on the boat where we encountered situations which were way beyond our experience and thus frightening. This was, of course, a minor situation compared to those incidents back in 2007 but all the same, we quite rightly have a lot more confidence now and it was useful to be put into a more demanding situation than usual.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wow! This is hardcore.


Wow, what a walk! We headed off on the road which tracks the southern and western sides of Durmitor NP and parked up near to the bottom of the peak of Stozica as there was snow on the road ahead.

We walked down into the silent, vast U-shaped valley with steep, pine-covered sides giving way to breathtakingly steep cliffs which jutted out, above the clouds. The path ran beside a deep green, menacing glacial lake which shuddered and turned black with the gusts of icy wind that blasted down from the snowy mountain tops.

We walked separately, over rough, tussocky ground, enjoying the emptiness.

The hike along the valley soon turned from a gradual incline to a fair old climb, and with the altitude came increasingly thick snow underfoot. The skies had been darkening since we had begun and as we reached around 1800 metres, we could see swirling snow-clouds heading our way. The sleet gave way to full-on snow and everything around us started to disappear into the murk. Usually, in the depths of the Montenegrin wilderness, you would be getting a bit worried at this point. But it was impossible to get lost as the landscape was open, the valley ran in a straight line and we had compasses. Barring injury (like a sprained ankle!), we were fine. So we just gritted teeth and trudged onwards and upwards towards the col (Sedlo) where it joined up with the road at 1908 metres.

And we made it. And it was incredible – the views from either side of the col were incredible. Thunder rumbled distantly and we sat on our gloves, on a snow-covered bench and hastily ate our sarnies and my homemade cake.

Then being total chickens (or sensible sailors), we walked the snow-bound, winding road all the way back down. Just in case.

Fantasy life aboard a yacht

When I’m away from Monty B, I spend a lot of time day-dreaming about what I could be doing if I was on the boat. These day dreams usually involve heroic passages in unexplored waters, helming the boat with a grin on my face through heavy seas or laughing heartily with some welcoming locals as I buy sumptious fresh mangos. They don’t normally involve sitting with my head in my hands, eyes cast skyward whilst teaming rain turns the hatches ablur, or shouting “Fking god almighty” as the shower bilge pump decides not to work whilst you’re soaking wet and cold, dressed only in a damp towel, or feeling claustrophobic when someone stands too close to you in the galley. That desire to go adventuring, to be brave, seems to gnaw away at me a hell of a lot more when I am not on the boat.

But fantasy may become reality this spring, April to be exact, when we plan to depart our berth in Tivat and head south. The idea being we can spend April and some of May doing some much needed cruising, rid us of the Bogeyman that is the passage from Greece to Montenegro, pick up spares in Greece and try to get some springtime rays a little earlier in the season than they arrive in Montenegro.

And adventures abound. I need adventures. That’s what it’s all about, is it not? Even if they scare you witless.

Honeymoon tales 1 - Smoking Gun

The day before yesterday kicked off with breakfast burritos, which had come to mind whilst I was day-dreaming about a Coffee Shop in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, which I frequented a decade ago. Large mugs of coffee and a smoke to start the day, followed by huge veggie breakfast burritos. It was heaven. Don't know why I'm daydreaming about Amsterdam....mmm well, maybe I do..... it must be the rain. What else do you do on a day like this, eh?

Anyway, what WE do on a day like this, is get our wet weather gear on and go for a short hike. Well, more of a walk really as I'm resting my (slightly) sprained ankle, got whilst attempting to copy Louis' athletic 4-legged leap over a stream (ankle twisted on crappy landing and I ended up collapsed in the mud). Four legs good, two legs bad in this case. Plus he's younger than me. And a dog. Which is probably the crucial bit of information that my over-stimulated brain failed to register when I impulsively followed him.

So we went for wet walk around Crno Jezero (Black Lake) which, though tame for a Montenegrin walk, was still beautiful with the cloud occasionally giving way to a mountain view and mists rising from the pine forests. There was a few minutes of adrenalin when I thought I'd seen a big, black/grey, dog-like animal in the woods and Mollie had legged off in its direction. The previous evening we'd had dinner and lots of booze around the house of a local man, Mina, and his family. During the journey to his house, he stopped off to buy a crate of beer and whilst putting it in the back of his aging Volvo, he asked Tim to budge up as he happened to be sitting on his rifle. Amongst other things that Mina "needed his rifle for", were killing foxes and wolves. We'd seen wolf icons on our Durmitor map but assumed they were as out of date as the cartography - but apparently not. This shored up my suspected wolf-kill find last week, where I disturbed a gang of huge ravens gorging on what had been a sheep, only identifiable by the bloody horns lying on the path and a hairy hoof. The rest of its body had been ripped to shreds, pulled apart and strewn about in what looked like a violent attack. This was quite a shocking sight and slightly unnerving as I was alone, on my way into town to get some bread, which involved walking through part of the forest. The city dweller element in me cannot help but find forests eerie, dark places full of mysterious, watching eyes darting behind trees when you look too hard. It is all part of the fun, of course.

Anyhow, back to the original tale. After a few nervous minutes of rounding up our uber-independent hounds, I had managed to talk myself out of seeing anything at all. Then, from the trees ran a large, black/grey dog-like thing which…..wait for it…..was, in fact, a dog. We did see a pretty cool eagle the other day though.