National Geographic : 1965 Jul
farm village, it gave us the heartiest, most exuberant reception of our trip. Maybe part of the reason was the height-of-season price of watermelons-four cents apiece. We quick ly established a trade rate: one Polaroid pic ture for one melon. At our riverside camp, friendly crowds pressed in on us as nowhere else. We counted 253 curious onlookers just before supper. They unzipped our tents, pored through our magazines, stood entranced as Terry Fowler plucked his guitar. Dan eating an ear of corn drew 75 children (page 59). In the town youth center, under portraits of Marx, Engels, and Marshal Tito, we staged a rock-'n'-roll session. The villagers joined us with gusto. In a dairy shop we met a retired Yugoslav Airlines pilot who had just returned from a fishing trip in the Iron Gate. "I suggest you take the Sip Canal instead," he advised. "You might make it through the 62 Gate, but I have seen waves there eight feet high, and the current is at least 15 knots." We had heard others speak of this stretch of the Danube, and none of the comment had been encouraging. The Iron Gate, strictly defined, is a shallow, rock-studded stretch at the eastern end of a twisting trough the river has cut through the mountains. But the name is loosely applied to a coiling, eddying, surging section where the river drops about 100 feet in 70 miles. Tourists Ride "Rockets" to River Gorges With some trepidation, we launched for the passage through the Iron Gate. Russian-built rakete (rockets), 80-passenger hydrofoil boats, flashed past us at 40 miles an hour as if gliding on wings of water. These step-riding craft, with daily shuttle runs on a service out of Belgrade, have made the sullen but spectacular Danube gorges newly accessi ble to tourists. Beyond Golubac Castle and Babakai Rock (page 64), the mountains gained height. Forest Shooting rapids, Mike Lewis and Dan Dimencescu fight the swirling foam of Yugoslavia's Drina River. Steep, rocky banks add to the danger. Often com pared to America's Colorado, the Drina rushes and cascades through deep gorges. Canoeists took a 170-mile train ride from Belgrade to the Drina for the fun of running white water. Sudden dunking surprises the boys moments later. Although they navigated the rapids safely, a treacherous eddy flipped their canoe, dumping them into the stream. They had left their gear ashore for this passage. Only casualty: Mike lost his glasses. Serene stretch of the Drina gives the boys a respite from rap ids. Towering limestone cliffs, garnished with evergreens, re minded Dick Durrance of the Canadian Rockies. Lumberjacks float logs to mills along the Drina's lower reaches. Vacationers eager for a thrill may go to Foca and take a wild 70 mile ride on log rafts. Plans to dam the Drina threaten an end to white water. KODACHROMESBY CHRISTOPHERG. KNIGHT (TOP LEFT) AND RICHARDS. DURRANCE© N.G.S.