I had heard rumors about this place called Grab Ethno Village and Camp aka Camp Grab from other Balkan connoisseurs….a secluded nature resort unlike most camps along the river Tara, the “tear of Europe”, but never could I imagine 1) the insanely gorgeous journey it would take to find it and 2) the insanely unique experience I ultimately had there.
To begin with, it should be on anyone’s Balkan bucket list to drive clear across the northern part of Montenegro. As I was I coming from Western Kosovo, I didn’t have any other choice, but now in retrospect I wouldn’t have had it any other way even if it meant trimming off a few hours. It took almost ten even though Google predicted it would take only seven (never trust Google Maps in the Balkans!).
Entering Rožaje from Peja, we made our way through windy mountain roads, stunning meadows and small lakes of Durmitor National Park, past the famous Đurđevića Tara Bridge, and alongside Lake Piva near Plužine. It was a hell of a drive mentally and physically, but worth every single moment.
Ten kilometers out from our final destination we hit the Montenegrin/Bosnian border at Šćepan Polje which seemed odd as the camp’s address is in Montenegro, but upon mentioning “Camp Grab” to the police, we were waved through without any stamps or questions and told to follow the road to the right. This to me defied all logic as we were essentially making our way through “No Man’s Land”, but low and behold we finally caught sight of the elusive ethno village and made our way down to the riverside.
We were greeted by the friendliest group of people which included the proprietors – the Vujanovic family – and what unfolded over the next 48 hours was one of the coolest camp experiences I’ve ever had. A step up from “glamping” (though a campsite and dorm-style bungalows with nice facilities are also options), we were set up with a comfortable triple room in one of the cabins which also featured an en suite bathroom and pretty great wifi for being in No Man’s Land.
As hidden as it comes, the compound there was the perfect escape as it literally felt like we were so far removed from anything and everything with our bat shit coordinates. Like how do you really explain to a taxi or someone important to come find you INSIDE the border of Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina? It’s definitely a location I wouldn’t mind permanently hiding out in should the world continue falling apart.
I wish I had a week there, but with only 48 hours and the season not yet in full swing (it’s open officially May 1st-October 1st though best rafting and kayaking is in the second part of April), we had to make the most of it which included a canoe session down the Tara the next morning. Camp Grab’s position is unique in that the canyon here has the largest drop in elevation along the shortest distance.
Not quite the canoeing session I had in mind, I quickly learned that along the deepest canyon in Europe (1,300m to be precise) and the second deepest in the world behind the Grand Canyon it is FULL of Class III and IV rapids. Therefore it was to be more of an extreme canoeing experience that would require a sexy wetsuit and helmet – a far cry from the “party rafting” I experienced further down the Tara a few years ago which looking back on was one of the stupidest things I have ever done.
Safety matters so much when you are all up in Mother Nature and unable to predict any move she might feel like making. Because of this I was highly impressed with Camp Grab’s safety policies and most importantly – the quality of their equipment which should never be ignored, regardless of the price tag.
Photo Credit: Dimitrije Vujanovic
Some people say the river Tara is nicknamed the “tear of Europe” due to its purity, but my hypothesis (which was semi-proven by myself) is that it comes from the fact that it’s so beautiful many people are moved to tears when they see it. Words can’t describe the wild beauty and uniqueness of the landscapes there.
After a couple hours on and in the water, it was time for lunch and to just chill by the water which is another perk of Camp Grab’s position. The only camp along this stretch with their own private beach, I could have spent 48 hours alone just chilling there in between the sand, the hammock, the bar, and the oh-so-cute “Little Library”.
Coincidentally, our visit happened to fall on the weekend of the Orthodox slava, Saint George’s Day, and the owner was kind enough to ask if we wanted to join in on a little local celebration for it at his neighbors’ house higher up in the mountains on our last night. Ummmm, yes please!
After a rugged ride up to Mila & Bozo’s, we were met with some incredible views and their super cute farmhouse that is the second place I wouldn’t mind relocating if the world continues falling apart. I mean, they had wifi, satellite TV, cheese house, and all the cows we would need to get by. Plus it had Mila and Bozo.
Language barriers are a mofo, but from what I could gather, Mila and Bozo met in a discotheque in Foća, Bosnia & Herzegovina many years back, fell in love, and moved to this village where he is from. They are quite the characters and also supply Camp Grab with many of their fresh products which made the experience all the more organic. Things happened, lots of rakija was dranken and DRUNK, and bread was touched. By the time we said our goodbyes, I felt like I was leaving my aunt and uncle’s house – and a little piece of my heart in a place in the Balkans I never imagined that could happen.
Mila and I remain Facebook friends to this day and I visit her profile anytime I feel like bringing myself back to that special time and place through the frequent photos she posts of everyday life in that hidden corner of Montenegro. I say it a lot, but it’s how I roll when it comes to most places I choose to visit – Camp Grab wasn’t just a camp, or a location on the map, it was an experience. A friend I can always go back to when I’m looking to spend some time far, far away (yet pretty close for emergency purposes).
Tara Canyon is not to be missed if you find yourself anywhere close, and I promise it’s worth the extra kilometers (or ten) to spend the time making it to a true corner of the Balkans not very many people have a chance to visit but definitely has an incredible amount to offer.