This is a difficult tour which requires a very good fitness level, but in return offers even more satisfaction. Therefore, we recommend it both to those who can complete it, and those who think they will not make it: no matter how long they go before they decide that it is time to give it up and return, they will see and experience much more than they had hoped for. The first section is easy, and during it there is the wonderful Zlorečica Valley, and the no less inspiring Perućica Valley. In fact, this section will definitely be so magical that the enchanted biker, having forgotten to check his speedometer and mileage, will almost certainly reach even as far as – Japan. Even when the road sign with that inscription startles him and brings him back to reality, and in fear turns his bike back towards the far, far-away Andrijevica, an eternal memory will remain not only of the beauty of this area, but also of this remarkable feat. Is it a small thing for someone who doubts his abilities?
We start, as usual, from the park in front of the Komovi Hotel, along the road towards Plav. Nevertheless, after less than 500m we turn right, onto a side road which leads to the nearby village of Božići. Soon we cross to the east bank of the River Zlorečica and head up along its narrow valley southwards along the pleasant and quiet asphalt.
At 5.7km there is a V-shaped junction at which we turn right and go downhill, to the village of Đulići. (The left road goes towards Kuti – Route AN 06.)
Đulići exists so that the little River Perućica and the River Kuti (the people of this region call it simply Kuckaja) have a place to meet and create the River Zlorečica. At that juncture, acting as best man, the village has provided a stone bridge and a stone watermill as wedding rings; there is also a miniature gorge as a wedding arch and they are just waiting for us to attend this ceremony as wedding guests. Therefore we must stay here as long as is necessary: we will leave our bikes, walk to the watermill, look at the gorge from different angles, and descend to the newlyweds – to touch the foamy wedding gown for luck, to breathe in the scent from the green carpet which rushes to throw itself under the feet of every wedding guest.
The Rivers Kuckaja and Zlorečica are fly-fishing areas run by a fishing club from Andrijevica, so there is an opportunity for additional fun on the journey. (For some, fly-fishing will be maybe the main goal, and the bike just a nice way to reach it…) In the River Kuckaja there is trout, and in the River Zlorečica trout and grayling.
From Đulići we will however go along the River Perućica. The road and stream play with and chase each other, but they do not forget about us: whenever they weave in front of us, they offer us a little bridge to cross over. In Košutići, at the very beginning of the eighth kilometre, a track forks left leading to the remains of a monastery from the seventh century a few hundred metres away (reconstruction is in progress). This place is called Namastir.
Four hundred metres further on, on the right of the road, there is a watermill dating from 1930 which still operates. Here we will see some interesting cliffs as well – a new motif for our photographs.
At 9.2km we pass through Konjuhe – a village which, judging by its centre, has seen better days, and had more inhabitants that it does now.
After a gentle ascent at the 11th kilometre we reach a place at which a concrete bridge crosses over the River Perućica (at 12.2km). In the vicinity, the asphalt ends, but there is also a road sign claiming that we are in – Japan. And it is written in Japanese as well. Those who make an effort to start their tour early in the morning will get proof that here they are really in the land of the rising sun. More precisely: in the village of the rising sun. The yellow ball rolls over the distant Mt. Hajla, and then it trembles over the nearby Mt. Piševo only to cast first rays to hit the entire forgotten valley right here, on the south-eastern slopes of the Kom Mountains. And there are also a lot of cherry trees in the Montenegrin Japan, so in spring the hills are clad in white just like in the real Japan.
From the road we will not be able to see much of the village: the houses are located higher up on the hill, and in the fifty-odd houses which are still standing, there are only about ten active households. The village is very old, dating as far back as the 13th century, but it became famous only in March 2011, after news that its locals offered their help to the “real” Japan after the earthquake and tsunami which hit that country. Then the Government of Montenegro sent a donation of €10,000 on behalf of this village, thus connecting big and little Japan. A year later journalists from the Kyodo News Japanese news agency came here. And long before them, and even before the earthquake as well, a group of students from the University of Tokyo came here and donated a Japanese translation of “The Mountain Wreath” to the village school as a present…
The difficult section of the road starts in Japan: about 400m after the bridge we turn right onto the gravel road and start a steep ascent which – with a few minor breaks and easier sections – lasts a total of 13km, up to the most distant and highest point of the route(1,835m), right below the mass of Vasojevićki Kom Peak. From the bridge (at an altitude of 925m) to there one has to tackle an elevation gain of 900m.
So, let’s start… the first 6km marks the more difficult section: along the steep slope of Konjuhe we climb towards Stražnica Peak, on an occasionally poor macadam road. After 3km (16.0km from the start) we get onto a better road.
On Stražnica Peak (at 16.3km) there is an important junction at which we proceed straight ahead.(To the right and back, the road towards Andrijevica forks, and we will go along this when we return here from Štavna. We continue our ascent along the open ridge of Milanovac from which we have a stunning view all around – to the peaks of Mt. Bjelasica and the crown of the Kom Mountains which grows ever taller on the left-hand side.
Everything here revolves around those two enormous cruel stone teeth, two towers on the gigantic cathedral sculpted by nature and which strives towards the sky from the greenery below it: Kučki Kom Peak and Vasojevićki Kom Peak in a fierce grip block each other or break free from the shadow the other, strive against each other on the battlefield and attack with their eagles, while the eye of the observer travels across them with excitement and fear. In the deafening silence of that battle everything remains between the two of them, every collapsed cliff and every fallen rock, and only the sweaty wind can sometimes spill out from there into the neighbourhood, to embrace the medicinal herbs and lie down on a mountain saddle.
We slowly approach the rocky mass of the Kom Mountains, in a wide circle. After Dubačka Glava Peak(1,651m), at 19.7km we come across a junction in the forest at which the asphalt starts. Advancing is easier from here – we go right (later we will return to here from Štavna from the left side), and after slightly more than a kilometre we leave the asphalt (which goes towards 1.5km-distant Trešnjevik mountain pass and Savo’s Pub) and turn left, onto the macadam. Over Razvrše Hill (1,784m) it takes us onto the open, long slope of Štavna – an exceptionally beautiful area with an equally beautiful view of the surroundings. We pass below the peak of Šančevi Hill, then past the memorial drinking fountain of Zoran Vučićević (at 23.5km) and the top of a small disused ski lift. On the left below us and a few hundred metres away the Eco-katun of Štavna is located – now hidden from sight, but we will descend to it on our return. On the left side there is also a weekend settlement, whose log cabins are scattered over the long, spacious meadow; one of them (at 26.7km, a few hundred metres from the road) belongs to the Železničar Mountaineering Association from Belgrade.
We ride along a narrow ridge which starts from Razvrše and which will soon crash into the cliff of Vasojevićki Kom Peak at the place called Konjic, and stop there: the southern side of the world does not exist there, it is cancelled by a giant protrusion of rock rushing into the sky. But to the east and the west the depths and distances become dizzying: Mt. Zeletin and the Prokletije mountain range on one side, the peaks of Mt. Sinjajevina and the Morača Mountains on the other. As we have already mentioned, this is the highest point on our tour, but that in itself does not say much: the thing that is memorable is the fact that we are in one of the most attractive spots of our entire network of mountain biking routes in the region, so by no means should one hurry to leave that high throne in the clouds.
And once we head back, we start a long, almost continuous downhill ride (with several shorter uphill sections) to Andrijevica – over 16km! About 200m after the memorial drinking fountain of Zoran Vučićević (27.6 km from the start) we turn right and downhill, through a katun. In the lower section, the trail quality is bad, but this section is short, so in a second we find ourselves on the asphalt at Kamenička voda. We turn right and after about 300m we are in front of the entrance to Štavna Eco-katun.
This katun has everything we could wish for on such a journey: comfortable accommodation in wooden cottages (capacity: five people), a restaurant with excellent food, kind and hospitable hosts. Here we can even rent a bike in order to ride a little in the surroundings. Oh, yes, of course… we are already sitting on a bike and visiting the area right now.
From the katun we will go back along the asphalt until we reach (from the other direction) the already familiar junction near Dubačka glava (at 30.2km). We continue right, along the also already familiar macadam towards Stražnica. In order to make our descent more interesting, at 31.5km we turn right, on a little detour (800m) through wonderful meadows from the edge of which the steep slopes collapse into the valley of Konjuhe (and Japan). In this section we will shortly ride through the forest as well, along a lovely leaf-strewn trail, before we join the “old” route again at the next junction.
At the junction in Stražnica (at 33.1km) this time we proceed left. Hovering in the heights from which (if we are in luck) a few rays of sun drip down, we also pass the junction above Rajčića Do (Rajčić Dale): after a short ascent, just after the monument at 35.3km, we turn left. About 500m further on we go past a sporadic spring on the right-hand side, and on that same side the repeater antenna rises above us on the peak of Veliki krš (Big Rock). Soon we enter the forest on Zulevo brdo (Zule’s Hill), and along a lovely dirt road after a few kilometres we get on a bad-quality asphalt surface in the hamlet of Gloštica (at 39.9km).
The road soon improves, and there is still quite enough of the downhill section left, so we will ride the remaining few kilometres in a few seconds and land straight into the centre of Andrijevica. That landing is quite sudden: almost up until the last second we are riding through a rural setting, then we enter a short labyrinth of buildings, and on exiting from there – suddenly, here we are on the high street, near the park and the hotel. With our eyes still full of the Kom Mountains, their ridges, pastures and horizons it will be difficult for us to gather our wits and realise that, due to the demands of everyday life, we should store away somewhere all those things we have left behind in the heights above us. But, some important batteries have been recharged, and that “somewhere” where we will store away this tour is a showcase of beautiful memories.