04 & 05 September 2015 – a brief stop in Montenegro, then on to Albania

The country total is starting to mount up for this tour; Albania is number 17!

Routes and stats for the last 2 days below:

–> 04 September – to Montenegro (121km)
I’ve climbed over 1,000m on each of the last 3 days, and regularly well over 500m for the last 9, with one day exceeding 1,500m; the Croatian Coast is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s worth it.

Today I left Dubrovnik behind, after a good day off, and pedalled South East. On my way to the border with Montenegro I tried to use up my remaining Croatian Kuna; I did quite well, buying food and replacement toothpaste shampoo etc, but then found another 100 Kuna stashed in my panniers, so I’ve got about £20 worth left for next time I visit!

There was quite a queue of traffic waiting at the border, but I bypassed most of, pulling in beside some Austrian motorcyclists just before the checkpoint; hello’s duly exchanged.

Once in Montenegro the roads seemed to get a lot busier, and the driving more erratic. I don’t know in which countries it’s illegal to drive whilst on your mobile phone, but people have been using them all along the Dalmatian coast; makes me nervous. I’m also getting irritated with coach drivers, who all pass far to close for comfort. I know they could give me more room as I don’t have the same issue with lorries.

I cycled along the coastline around to Kamenari, where I could have got the ferry across the narrow stretch of water to the other side of the bay, and avoided an additional 25km haul, however I decided it would be for more pleasant to take the scenic route around to Kotor. It proved a good decision, with lots of small villages and some fantastic scenery. It looks like a lot of it has been redeveloped for the tourist industry, but it’s all been tastefully done, and hasn’t spoilt the bay. I loved Perast, where there were quite a few English people on holiday. I stopped for a break and an ice cream.

Once I reached Kotor I had to pedal through a long tunnel (1.6km), which was a nasty experience due to the traffic, fumes and dust. It did however cut out a long climb, and I made it through unscathed, joining the road to Budva.

Budva is a big tourist town on the Montenegrin coast, and is supposed to have a ‘kicking’ nightlife, not that I was likely or wanted to see it. I stopped at the tourist info on the way in and asked about campsites; they directed me to an open one, rather than the one I had intended to go to which was closed. I found Avala camping, which was a bargain at €6 a night, and set up. It’s a bit of a noisy campsite, as it’s next to the main road, but has a supermarket just next door, decent wifi, and a friendly owner. The only drawback was there were no convenient trees for my hammock, however I can’t be lucky all the time.

I grabbed some food and a few cold beers from the supermarket, then relaxed. Convincing Lobster to pose for a still life with the beer and cycle tour festival bottle was tricky, however bribery with chocolate always works. The Niksicko beer, although sounding unappealing, was very refreshing, and pretty similar to the others beers I’ve been sampling down the coast from Slovenia. I do miss a pint of ale though, and am looking forward to visiting the Fat Cat pub in Norwich when I get back, for several; think it just won an award for good beer again, brill.

–> 05 September 2015 – to Barbullush, Albania (111km)
One night only in Montenegro, then it was on to country number 17, Albania. I was keen to lay my fears to rest over what awaited, having been quite anxious about the route and where I’d be staying. Things almost always work out one way or another, with camping, wild camping, hostel or hotel opportunities, and people seem to live successfully in all these places, so what exactly am I worrying about?!

From Budva to the border wasn’t a particularly long way, however the road decided to go up & down all available hills along the coast, which proved pretty taxing. I stopped to buy a few supplies, and to get some more Euros out just in case ATMs aren’t working in Greece; could be handy in Albania too. To get to the border I had to turn inland, and climb up a fairly long pass, through some picturesque Olive groves and farmland, before descending to Albania; I stopped for an ice cream before crossing, just to keep energy levels up.

My sat nav and phone kept changing their mind as to what time it was as I pedalled along. I thought it was early afternoon, then it was before midday, however when I got over the border it was early afternoon again and seemed to stabilise; not sure what all that was about. No stamp in my passport for Albania; got one for Montenegro though – the only one of the tour so far 😦

I had the best greeting of the tour to date as I entered Albania; high fives from two children on the other side, waiting by the roadside. Pretty neat and something that would repeat itself several times over the next day or two. As I cycled along I noticed the cars were all a lot less expensive looking, aside from the tourist ones (Italian, Dutch and German mostly). There were also quite a few mopeds with large trailers attached to their fronts, transporting all sorts of things from whole families to farm goods, and in one case a bed; they looked a bit rickety to me. There are more modes of transport on the roads in Albania; cars, lorries, motorbikes, bicycles, combinations thereof, horses & donkeys, with or without carts etc. Everyone appeared really friendly, with lots of smiles and hellos; I lost count of the number of people who shouted hello today. Could Albania be the friendliest country so far?

 

I briefly diverted to Shkodër, a big town not far from the border, to withdraw some Albanian Leke, then continued South to Bushat, turning off the main road and heading for Camping Albania in Barbullush. I ended up missing the turning as I was too busy looking at Albania life going on, so had to back track, adding about 6 km on to my ride. Camping Albania is a good set up, with a large restaurant and swimming pool, and decent toilet block, and a grassy field to pitch in, bliss! Unfortunately the restaurant was closed due to a wedding, however that gave me the opportunity to visit the village and grab a few supplies; basic stuff but fine for dinner – bread, cheese, jam, crisps and a couple of cold beers, with sardines and a tinned couscous salad added from my panniers, a veritable feast.

Four Dutch camper vans turned up around the same time as me, so I spent some time chatting with them, before doing some planning; campsite has wifi, but it’s a bit intermittent, especially with the power cuts that kept happening. I think I’m heading for a hostel tomorrow, after what’ll be a long ride to Ebalsan. There aren’t any campsites on route until I get to Lake Ohrid, the day after tomorrow, and there don’t appear to be that many in Greece either, so there may be some wild camping coming up, however I’m more likely to go for a cheap hotel or hostel as I really value a shower at the end of the day, and that extra bit of peace of mind.

As I closed shop for the night the sky was being illuminated by flashes of lightning, quite along way to the North, and the wind was getting up. Could be in for a rough night so I deployed the guy ropes. Next update could be a few days away, depending on wifi.

4 thoughts on “04 & 05 September 2015 – a brief stop in Montenegro, then on to Albania

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