After a couple years of developing and coaching farm stay partners, we had begun exploring different hut to hut mountain biking and hiking opportunities. These would be a range of options including MTB trail riding, adventure cycle touring in Montenegro, thru-hiking, and engaging family travel possibilities.
Our plans were jump-started when we received this email. “We are a Canadian couple who loves to travel and cycle. We will be arriving in Montenegro in May…. While we are both in our 50’s, we just finished a 1000km cycle tour in Cuba and at home are avid, intermediate mountain bikers in our mountainous town of Rossland. We would love to spend time biking in Montenegro and have a more active holiday, however, we want to do this at our own pace. We would like to organize a hut/farmstay to hut/farmstay tour over 7 to 10 days.”
Meanderbug shared that we were well-positioned to pull this off, but that they would “be our first MTB hut to hut guinea pigs.” Elaine replied: “After reading through your message, we are even more excited about visiting Montenegro. We are happy to be your guinea pigs for MTB touring!”
Pioneering a New Destination in Adventure Cycle Touring
How did you find Montenegro and what were your expectations?
Rob: To the surprise of one of our hosts, Montenegro was not on our radar until our daughter started going to school in Bosnia. Our daughter thought that we would really like Montenegro because of the beautiful nature and outdoors, and because of her suggestion, we decided to visit.
Elaine: We were surprised to find Montenegro is very “non-touristy.” People are really down to earth, helpful, warm and hospitable. Montenegro is not a place that has really been discovered. Montenegro far exceeded our expectations. We found Meanderbug through googling mountain biking in Montenegro and adventure cycling, hut to hut and biking.
This was an economical option; how did your expectations match up with the reality?
Rob: We weren’t sure what to expect. I had seen some pictures, but I didn’t expect the majestic mountains and forest we encountered as we were traveling.
Elaine: Since I had done more research online, I already had a picture in my mind of the natural beauty. However, what we saw far exceeded my expectations. A picture is never as good as the real thing. Another thing that surprised me was the lack of people hut to hut adventure cycle touring. Often, we were the only people out there.
How would you tell someone to prepare?
Rob: If they are looking to travel by bicycle, be prepared for the road riding. You also might want to travel by mountain bike because some of the roads are rough. The most fun riding was on the gravel surrounded by beautiful scenery. It is hard to know how to gauge these situations until you get there. How you handle the conditions of the cycling depends on how active you are at home, but this doesn’t mean you have to be an elite athlete. Because of Meanderbug, we did not have to travel with much gear. If you travel with Meanderbug, you will be traveling with the same equipment as you would at home (a water bottle and a rain jacket, maybe). They let us know we would have large lunches packed so we didn’t need any snacks. If you’re a vegan you might die though; there is a lot of dairy.
Elaine: Prepare yourself by putting aside any anxieties concerning your physical abilities. Don’t let that put you off. Get on the bike, and if on your first day you only go 5 kilometers, that’s fine. Next day you will go 6 kilometers, so adjust your pace as needed. Don’t let yourself feel like you’re too old or too unfit. Bring warm clothes and travel light. Also, at the farm stays, we were never wanting for food. We didn’t have snacks packed. If you’re vegetarian, you can get by with the food you wanted, but most meals have a lot of meat.
Hut-to-Hut Adventure Cycle Touring Tips for the Balkans
What kinds of trips in Montenegro do you think would be appealing to you and others?
Elaine: Having traveled a lot with our kids since they were young, we think Montenegro would be a great country to travel to with families. The farm stays would welcome you and your family. Instead of going from farm stay to farm stay you could stay on one farm stay and experience milking cows or participate in activities with the host family or go on a nature walk. After spending some time at one farm stay, you could then drive to the next farm stay. You could even do zip lines or go swimming.
Rob: We loved the journey to the destination, but the destination, despite how you get there, is beautiful. Meanderbug could advise you on what kinds of activities are available such as fly fishing and rafting. By biking, if you prefer your own bike, bring it but know there are bike rentals available. You could tour with your own gear, but I like how Meanderbug drove the gear from place to place for us.
What are preferences people should communicate so Meanderbug can plan the perfect trip?
Elaine: What kind of accommodations do you like when you travel? Do you like host homes, hostels, camping or a 5-star hotel? How comfortable are you with traveling alone in the mountains?
Rob: Let Meanderbug know the level of your adventure tolerance. Not everyone can speak English, so are you comfortable getting around without the guarantee of an English speaker near by? If you plan on biking, be honest with your abilities.
What food do people not want to miss out on when they are on a hut to hut farm stay?
Rob: Deep fried morning donuts (priganice). Pita and cheese.
Elaine: The cabbage rolls were good (sarma). Try the rakija! It’s really fun to try everyone’s homemade rakija.
Reflections on Hut to Hut Adventure Cycle Touring in Montenegro
Your thoughts on adventure biking?
Rob: In North America the route is nice and groomed and the trails are maintained, but single trails don’t really exist very much in Montenegro. It is challenging riding through a pasture or on rocky roads, but there are paved roads. All in all, the scenery is amazing and it is a fun challenge getting from point to point.
Elaine: Adventure biking is a little bit of everything in Montenegro. It is not the same as in North America, so come prepared knowing that getting from point A to B it is not riding on well-maintained roads or trails but these elements make the cycling fun and more importantly, adventurous. We did not do any city time but we enjoyed seeing the old towns.
What were some of your highlights?
Rob: I loved the scenery and really enjoyed biking from hut to hut. I really enjoyed the people, home stays and all of the foods are amazing.
Elaine: It’s fun to get from point A to B in your own power. When I look back and remember Montenegro, the beauty in nature, the mountains, the hikes and the people are what stand out.
Would you come back to Montenegro?
Rob: Yes! And we would bring some friends.
Would you do anything different?
Rob: I’m pretty happy with what we did. I’m sure there are some other things we could explore, but all in all, a fantastic experience.
Elaine: I would bring my own bike. To add on to what Rob said, overall, an unforgettable experience.