June 10, 2019
June 10, 2019
The Light At The End Of The 56 Tunnels
Let me tell you about the Piva Canyon Road, a funny little track situated near the top of of Montenegro. The road hugs the Piva Reservoir, which at 675m above seal level is the highest artificial reservoir in the world. It was created by the construction of the magnificent Mratinje Dam. The road weaves in and out of the larger-than-life cliffs and canyons on either side of the river, through a seemingly endless stream of man-made tunnels carved out of the canyon side (56 tunnels, to be exact!).
While this route is nothing short of spectacular, it is also not for the faint of heart. Just as Odysseus had to deal with his own monsters, we encountered an arduous journey through the minefield that is Piva Canyon Not literally, of course. Montenegro claims to be mine-free. (The true minefields didn’t start until Bosnia, but that’s another story).
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It was a dark and stormy morning when the riders set out from the Montenegrin town of Niksic. They encountered bouts of wind and rain that seemed to ebb and flow as we neared Pluzine, just outside of the Piva Canyon. Like the winding road ahead, the unpredictable weather seemed to periodically switch from calm and overcast to intense downpours. At times, the narrow roads, the cold rain, the unrelenting winds and the oncoming trucks and buses were enough to encourage even the bravest of riders to seek shelter from the conditions. The only shelter, however, was the unlit tunnels along the route!
While the tunnels may have provided a temporary respite from the rainfall, they may have covered up a bit too much of the riders’ route. The short tunnels were manageable – close enough from entry to exit to see yourself through safely and come out on the other side. The longer tunnels – some stretching as far as 600 metres – proved a bit more difficult to navigate. The drastic shift from bright light to pure darkness was especially tricky for riders wearing transitional lenses that took their sweet time adjusting to the darkness.
It wasn’t until lunchtime that riders could congregate, relax, and enjoy the scenery in the newly emerging sunlight. And what a scene it was! Overlooking the dam was a breathtaking view across the rock formations that seemed to stretch from sea to sky. Below us, the mighty Piva River rushed and roared with swells of bright turquoise waters surrounded by lush greenery. Ahead was a smooth descent into Bosnia & Herzegovina. With the challenging tunnels behind us, the riders powered through the remaining few dark patches to reach the border crossing in no time.