Due to forest fires in 2012 a nation-wide ban to enter the forests was proclaimed. The fine of 3000 euros made it not very attractive to to ignore this ban!
However, it was possible to obtain personal and temporary permits for individuals, although the authorities in charge most of the times were not aware of the possibilities and exact rules.
We obtained a permit for our hike (from the parking place in the tunnel near Demir Kapija to the village Koresnica) without many problems from the local Forest Authorities in Demir Kapija. The people were very friendly, we were offered coffee and the permits were arranged swiftly. They did not speak English though.
They also told us about the nearly Bela Voda Cave (White Water Cave) and arranged a local man (his name was Dejan) to take us there.
The office is right at the (north) town limit of Demir Kapija, surrounded by a green fence.
This hike is described in the Bradt Travel Guide Macedonia by Thammy Evans, second edition 2007.
The hike starts at the parking place between the two tunnels of the M1/E-75 road near Demir Kapija.
There is only place for a few cars at this parking place. If you enter the tunnel, make sure you are not driving too fast so you can stop and park safely.
From the south parking you can descend to the small river that flows through the canyon. Be careful, because this is a popular outdoor public toilet!
Walk north underneath the bridge and follow the water upstream. On both sides of the stream there are vertical rock formations, and this is really a special place to walk.
You'll have to cross the water several times from one bank to the other. When we were there in August 2012, this was not problem at all since it was just a small stream of water, which could easily be crossed without getting wet feet.
After a bit more than an hour you reach the rural village Celevec. We didn't visit the village but just followed the stream. You'll pass an old Ottoman graveyard with characteristic gravestones.
After Celevec you follow an unpaved road along the creek until you reach the deserted village Iberlija two hours after the start. Just after the first building on your left hand, turn left (west) and follow the water stream. This is an easy point to take the wrong road or direction.
Before we continued the final part of the hike to Koresnica, we wandered a bit around near Iberlija, followed the unpaved road to the right (east) for a while and went back to Iberlija, this took about one hour. Then followed the creek uphill to the north for about an hour and then went back. Especially the trail next to the stream up north was really interesting but pretty overgrown at some places. It looked like it had not been used for some time and this really felt like exploring!
Back on the right track to the west (left) from Iberlija it goes uphill along the creek untill the stream runs dry. Keep on going uphill until you reach an unpaved service road for the waterpipes. Follow this road to the left (south-west, downhill) until you reach the village Koresnica. This last part took us about 2.5 hours, including breaks.
In the village shop they can call you a taxi back to the parking at Demir Kapija. You can buy refreshments while you wait, and believe me, a cold coke and an ice cream were very welcome! The taxi should cost about 120-180 denars or 2-3 euros.
Including our detours around Iberlija this walk was almost 20 km and took us 7 hours and 40 minutes including breaks. You can see and download the original GPS track here: http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=bsovsbzczppgcbtw
The hike as it was meant to be in the Bradt guide is 12-13 km and will take you about 5 hours. You can see and download the "polished" GPS version here: http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=ltzmpkmfckrraiah
In August 2012 there was a nation-wide ban to enter the forest in Macedonia. We obtained a permit for this hike at the Macedonian Forest Office in Demir Kapija.
Our visit to this beautiful cave was completely unexpected.
We did not know about the cave until an employee of the Macedonian Forest Office told us about it. We were at the Forest Office to get a permit for our hike from Demir Kapija to Koresnica. The employee arranged for a local man from Demir Kapija, Dejan, to show us the cave.
It was a good thing that we had headlights with us, because there is no artificial light in the cave.
The entrance of the cave is a few hundred meters after the German tunnel from the first world war. When Dejan showed us the entrance, we immediately got second thoughts about our visit! The entrance is very small, you have to crawl to a tiny hole to enter the cave. And what would await us further down the cave??
Dejan assured us that it soon would get better and that you even could easily walk in the cave. We took his word for it and crawled into the cave. And he was right, almost immediately after the entrance we could stand upright.
The cave is very long, 955 meters! This is pretty impressive, although there are no spectacular stalagmites or stalactites. It's the size that matters!
We could walk through most of the cave with minimal crawling. After maybe 600 meters we had to crawl again to a very tiny space that was caused because part of the cave had collapsed during an earthquake, according to Dejan. We decided that this was a good point to return to the entrance :-)
The cave houses many bats, as can be seen on the picture. Just near the entrance there also a cute little frog that scared my girlfriend :-)
Bela Voda Cave is translated as White Water Cave. Allegedly parts of the cave fill up with water after rainy periods.
It is a good idea to travel light when you visit the cave, because backpacks will hinder you...We had our backpacks with us but left them inside near the entrance of the cave, so they would not bother us.
There is at least one other cave in the neighborhood of Demir Kapija, but unfortunately we did not have time to visit it.