Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania

16 Oct

Hello. It hasn’t been long since my last post but it is a bit rainy today, as the last few have been so I am catching up whilst taking refuge.

I left you, stinking, in Mostar. That afternoon I got a room at a ‘pansion’ or guesthouse  (only 20 Euros, a bit of a splurge but not too bad). I had a much needed shower and did my washing, also in the shower. I spent the afternoon wandering the city, taking in the sights of old cobbled streets, a plush new shopping mall, which felt very strange and saw husks of apartment blocks riddled with bullet holes.  There was an interesting guy working at the pansion who was the same age as me; already married and divorced to an American Bosnian. In the evening I drank beer, watched Discovery channel and then Juno which was a nice change.

Cycling through Bosnia was interesting; the further I got the more alien I felt and the more foreboding the scenery and weather was. All around me was scrubby land, and high mountains of various hues. Some were yellow, orange or green depending on the foliage of the slopes but predominantly they were a deep purplish grey which gave the place an eerie feeling. This was intensified by the signs warning of landmines that were by the side of some roads. (Don’t worry I have been very careful choosing camp spots, never straying far from the road and picking places that had signs of others being there.)

The weather has been cloudy, big dark ones that hang low and fill the sky. I have had quite a few rain showers since Mostar, not normally too bad, but yesterday I stopped early at a campsite near Shkoder, Albania in order to get all my clothes dry before a big climb into Kosovo in the next couple of days. The most challenging day was my ride from Bosnia and Herzegovina into Montenegro. I had had a fast morning, up a climb and then skirting down and round the mountainside into Trebinje, covering 70km before lunch. I timed a cup of coffee well, avoided a heavy shower and set off as the sun was reappearing. I thought the 33km into Montenegro would be simple following a river, how wrong I was.

The first 20km were great, following the river and then I turned off, and up.  I think what made it hard was that I did not know it was coming, every corner I expected the incline to end (it looked straight on my map) which bred frustration when it did not. About halfway I up I stopped for a banana and jam sandwich and the rain started to fall, increasing to a torrential downpour. Normally I would have stopped but I was in a race against the light; I needed to cross the border, to get water and ideally a beer. I reached the Bosnian checkpoint thinking it was over only to be told the climb carried on for another 5km. I entered Montenegro and still it continued. Luckily I had spent my last Bosnian Marks on bread and soup so when I got to the top I could get water from the petrol station, and a tin of beer and find a spot to camp and get warm as darkness was setting in (About half 5!).

Montenegro had similar scenery to B and H and similar weather. I had a great thick coffee in a ‘caffee bar’ furnished with chipboard and run by a woman with about 4 teeth. I got bought a whiskey and then brandy and given the snack of choice, a hard boiled egg by some red faced chaps drinking spirits like water. That gave me the necessary Dutch courage for a long dark, dripping tunnel and then a long descent in the rain to Podgorica; I think it made my singing down the mountainside better too.

Albania definitely feels like the most ‘foreign’ place I have been so far with the town center resembling the organised chaos of India. I’m am enjoying the regularity of horse and carts driven by dirty old men in blazers and hats and the feeling of stepping back in time. My route may change as it seems I can’t head into Serbia from Kosovo because of a lack of Serbian entry stamp (they don’t recognise it as autonomous)  and the lure of the Greek coast may entice me away from the planned destination of Sofia, but we will see where the wind takes me.

 

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5 Responses to “Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania”

  1. ray October 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Keep your spirits up. it,s only rain!at some point in the near future you,ll be sweating your proverbial,s off.

  2. james botting October 20, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Can’t believe how far you have got! Hope you haven’t been taking advice from Lance ‘The cheat’ Armstrong! Keep ’em coming mate; we are keenly anticipating a story about a dual with some wild animal and possibly a hugely coincidental experience (and a few lookalikes if possible please!)

    • philb0412 October 24, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      No, just bananas and coffee. The closest I have come to a duel was a pesky cat that kept trying to get some of my stew the other day. I did see two in Albania, a Mr Bean on a scooter who gave me a Bean smile and limp wristed wave. About 2 minutes later Mike Badcock complete with cap and bicycle cycled past. Alas no photos though.

  3. Dijana July 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Great blog! I would love to cycle through Bosnia. I moved out in 97 and will visit this year. But i’m coming from Utah so I can’t ship my bicycle. I wish I can find some people and bikes down there to do a one or two day ride…

    • philb0412 July 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      Hi Dijana. Bosnia was great for cycling , definitely recommended. You could try Couchsurfing or Warmshowers (like CS but specifically for cyclists) to see if there is a kind soul out there who might have a bike you could borrow for a while, or ride with you. If not then maybe look up some bike shops. Try to avoid Raiki at lunch times though if you want to go far!

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