The Undiscovered Beauty of North Bosnia: VODOPAD BLIHE
I had to get away from there. Two years into the pandemic, I was beyond frustrated and longing to see the world. Before that time, I had previously visited numerous locations.
We’re talking about exactly 65 different nations. The question, “What should I do now?” This was a query I had, and one I was able to quickly answer by consulting the “countries been” app on my phone.
The most logical option was Bosnia and Herzegovina. The question is, “Why did I pick this country?” Just what makes it special? I’d like to take you on a short trip to a unique location in the unpopulated and unreachable northern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A trip I made for the sole purpose of taking one photograph.
SEEKING VODOPAD BLIHE
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a lovely Balkan country with a lot to offer, despite the common misconception that it is poor and polluted.
It’s not hard to locate interesting things like fascinating history, great talks with welcoming locals, and mouthwatering cuisine. Bosnia is also a great place to go on a budget because of how inexpensive it is.
But there was one sight in particular that really drew me in. Vodopad Blihe is a natural landmark that I had to see after seeing photographs of it (called Blihin Skok by locals).
This waterfall has a drop of around 56 meters (183 feet) and is located in a remote valley not far from the northwest border with Croatia. After learning about this area’s natural splendor on the internet, I wasted no time in reserving a trip and car.
My trip began in Banja Luka, a tiny city about three hours north of Sarajevo, Bosnia, just three days later, at the start of March 2022. I started out heading west on the M4 towards a place named Prijedor for the first hour. You could sum up the entire drive by saying there wasn’t much to see.
But if you’re a photographer like me and you enjoy exploring abandoned structures, this place is heaven. In every city I traveled through, I saw dozens of derelict structures and war-era ruins.
Everything I needed was right in front of me, and it was simple to get to. Avoid taking a detour. It only took a few minutes of parking time to get some fantastic shots.
As I made my way through those neighborhoods on that dreary winter day, the cold and foggy weather only added to my gloomy mood. Similar to many of my past trips, I was left wondering how anyone could make a living in such a place.
It was as if the passage of time had ceased long ago. No one out and about, no businesses open, nothing to do. None of that, just a bunch of rubbish and the occasional crossing of stray dogs.
I rode the R405 southwest from Prijedor to Donji Kamengrad and on to Fajtovci. Despite having the GPS set to the waterfall’s (“Vodopad Blihe”) coordinates, I ended up completely lost. A welcoming voice greeted me and informed me, “You have arrived at your goal.” Of course not!
TURNED AROUND FOR VODOPAD BLIHE
Backtracking a few minutes, I came across a bright yellow “Vodopad Blihe” sign by the roadside. It appears that I was merely unaware of its existence. It occurred to me that it wouldn’t harm to pay less attention to the GPS and more attention to the road.
After continuing along the paved path for another two minutes, I came across a wooden information kiosk, a children’s playground, and a tent that doubled as a restaurant (I should have directed the GPS to “Bistro Vodopad Blihe” rather than just “Vodopad Blihe”). It should come as no surprise that businesses were closed and that there was not a soul in sight.
In the same vein as the previous half an hour of my trip, that was my sincere desire. Off-season travel is highly correlated with positive emotions I feel while out in nature.
I’m happiest when there are less people around. It’s not simply because I’m a photographer; it’s a broader thing. Being as isolated as possible in the wilderness fills me with an overwhelming sense of emotional joy.
Moreover, at that very moment, I was the only person there in the entire nature reserve. I left the car parked beside a tree just below the playground and started walking in what I hoped was the right route.
As I stepped out onto the wooden boardwalk, the rain and snow began to fall. Because of the slick surface, I had to take extra precautions to avoid slipping and falling. In a matter of minutes, the wooden stairway transformed into a proper hiking trail, and then back into a wooden track leading to a small shelter.
At this rest area, I set up my camera equipment (tripod, drone, and lenses). Despite the fact that the GPS said I was standing in front of the waterfall, I still couldn’t see it. The wind and the rain were too loud just now for me to hear it either.
After gathering my wits, I walked for another 30 seconds before I spotted the waterfall around a sharp right turn. There had never been anything so magnificent, stunning, or powerful.
Extremely larger and more impressive than I had anticipated based on the photos I had seen online. Once I got to the end of the wooden boardwalk, I found a little platform that was used as a lookout.
CAPTURING VODOPAD BLIHE
The front of the structure was open, allowing visitors to get as near to the waterfall as they wished. Difficult to put into practice. It was difficult for me to get much closer because of the wind and water mist caused by the power of the water falling into the pond in front of me. The task was complicated by the slick and muddy surface.
My entire camera rig and I were soaked before I could decide on a lens and a shooting angle. I was feeling so uninspired right now.
For my purposes, only one image would do. I had a clear mental image of how I wanted it to turn out, but I couldn’t figure out how to carry it out in the hard conditions.
Nearly hard as it was to place the tripod far enough from the waterfall to prevent the mist from wetting the camera, but close enough to allow me to safely reach my intended position within the 10-second camera timer. All without slowing down for a sip of water from a rock and risking an injury.
Just as I was about to call it a day and head home with “just” a few shots of a waterfall, the wind shifted in the valley, and it began to press against the mist. Timeframe I have available. In a matter of seconds, I was able to reposition everything and fire off another shot.
OFF THE GRID
Having checked the image quality a second time, I retreated a few paces and took a seat inside the tiny shelter I had previously passed. I sat there in silence for a good hour.
While the weather was less than ideal, this is exactly the kind of thing I look forward to the most every year. What I enjoy most about going on these trips is relaxing and taking in the scenery after all the hustle and bustle of getting to these locations and taking the photos you want to take.
Not even a camera or a drone is allowed. Me and the great outdoors. It had been becoming dark in the valley for almost an hour, so I gently got up, climbed up the wooden walkway, and headed back to Banja Luka.
This is a must-see destination if you value natural beauty and scenic vistas. As a country that hasn’t been overrun by tourists (yet! ), Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a unique chance to see natural wonders without the usual crush of people.
In the off-season, you have a higher chance of complete seclusion if you are ready to brave the cold and trek that extra mile. Vodopad Blihe, though, should be on your itinerary no matter where else you go in Bosnia and Herzegovina.