Kotor and the ride to Dubrovnik

Sorry about the lack of text!!

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Kotor city centre

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kotor from above

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The view from the top of the fortress

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Ethan and Bec

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Entering Hrvatska, or as you might know it, Croatia

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On top of the last hill before Dubrovnik

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The Japanese guy cycling around the world

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Dubrovnik from above

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Dubrovnik from within

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From albania to Montenegro and the rules on cheating part three

After getting up and having breakfast at Florian’s guest house in shkodra (this is an official recommendation, we had an amazingly relaxing evening, the family is so friendly and the whole of the garden is overgrown by vines and there are chickens, chicks and cockerals and cats all over the place, with secure indoor bicycle parking) we set off towards Montenegro.

Florian told us before we left that in order to get to Montenegro, we had to pass through a small town where all the (insert politically correct term for gypsies here) lived. It was a bit obvious when we went through that it was where he had meant. We saw a pony crossing the road in a weird way, as if it had broken its leg, and when I rode past and checked to see if it was injured, I realised that its front legs had been chained together with only about 10cm of chain between its front legs. Does it count as self defense if you help a clearly mistreated animal?

The road was fairly flat but for about 5km it had so recently been tarmacked that our tires stuck to the ground, making it almost impossible to move. That in the blistering heat, a cloudless sky and a relentless sun made for me to break down 20km before we got to a town called Bar. I was being sick and sleeping a little on a cafe table (mysteriously, there was no headache involved so I am blaming this episode on the medication I had to take that morning) and whenever I went to drink my fanta, my hands shook so muh that the glass clattered against my teeth.

After a little nap and about an hour’s break, I felt well enough to try and get the 20 km into Bar as Mike had promised we could get a bus from there to Kotor if I didn’t feel up to cycling any further.

The countryside reminds (for 7 or so km after we had a lovely snack of nectarines, cucumbers and a tomato at the top of the hill) us of yorkshire. Every wall is made of limestone, the drivers are extremely respectful ahd the landscape is just incredible with a new type of scenery around pretty much very bend. And then we saw the sea. I had fallen in love. Montenegro is so far my favorite country, the drivers have stopped beeping just for the sake of it, people seem generally incredibly friendly and it’s relatively easy to commumicate. Also, don’t forget about the ever-changing and increasingly beautiful landscape.

That day we made it about 30 km further than we had expected and decided to camp where the old road used to meet he new one at some point in history. We dragged the bikes across a mogley field of dirt with garbage everywhere and then across a really thin ledge up a little but steep gravel hill up to a mountain wall because we thought it would be less windy there. Big mistake.

As a cyclist,  do not ever!!! attempt to set your tent up when it’s even remotely windy. Continue until you find a better camping spot or a hotel. Trust me. Setting the tent up was pure torture, the wind making the tent act as a sort of kite, so not only did we tie it to rocks we found around there, but we had to use at least ten heavy rocks just to weigh the tent down enough so it wouldnt blow away. Then we tried to cook in the doorway and not only were we constantly worried the tent might catch on fire but halfway through the water stopped boiling as the cooker had run out of fuel and I had to crawl outside the tent to get more. The food ended up being delicious which was a bonus, but all the while we had clearly (or so we thought) been caught in a full-blown (pardon the pun) storm. I had about 5 hour’s sleep that night. It was blissful. Not.

And here comes part 3 of the rules on cheating: what we went through made up 10-fold for every time we took the train or bus to get to the next destination, bearing in mind I had been in so much pain i had to go to hospital just the previous day and we were surprised by a massive storm and still managed to camp.

The next morning it was much less windy and therefore easier to get our stuff together and I felt well enough to attempt the next 60 or so km into kotor. The climb and shoving of the bikes from our camping spot to the road was horrible but luckily didnt take particularly long. We faced a climb straight away that punished us with numerous fabulous wind-shaded camping spots within the next 200m and we bit ourselves for not trying further last night. However, that same climb was responsible for us burning 500ish calories during the first hour of the day. The GPS might be wrong and might overestimate but bear in mind the weight we are lugging around. Also, as we continued on mike looked back at our camping spot at one point and realised that we actually had camped in the one place that the wind would get funnelled through from beyond the mountains.

After an hour and a half we found a lovely beach that we went to cool off in the sea for and then had breakfast (22 € for a big bottle of water, two salads, the best pasta I’ve probably ever had and a three-course fish based meal. If that’s not cheap, I don’t know what is.)

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful,  my antibiotics made for an even harsher-feeling sun, we passed a tunnel that was about 1700m long, I saw a run-over tortoise and a run-over badger (it may have been somethig else) and I realised that while the car drivers in Montenegro are extremely respectful of the space a cyclist needs, bus drivers seem to have a severe problem with us. Every time a bus passed it left us with no more than 20cm on the side. I was overtaken by one bus in particular that trapped me toward the cliff wall with only about 10 cm between us so I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. Mike didn’t like me getting scared and breaking at that instant either as he was only 20cm behind me and also had to break.

We have safely arrived in kotor now and are going to enjoy a well-deserved rest day tomorrow before setting off for Dubrovnik.

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Albania

We met another cyclist in Tirana who said entering Albania into Shkodra from Montenegro was a shock. We came from the other side of the country and by the time we got to Shkodra it was entirely blissful. Albania is probably the poorest country we’ve visited on this trip and we entered into Korce, its poorest city. Korce also makes the best beer in Albania, I wonder if this is a coincidence.

The Albanian countryside is beautiful and you’d better enjoy it because many of the roads are so small it takes forever to get anywhere. It’s not anyone’s fault the roads are bad, a lot of the country is almost impassable and building a fast road between Korce and Sarande would be a major challenge even for Switzerland. When you’re cycling this is all a bonus. The cars can’t go fast and lorries are seldom.

When we got off the bus in shkodre we realised that we had left my green jacket and kathi’s towel on te bus and durin our pursuit of said bus, Kathi suddenly felt ill, dizzy and nauseated. She said the pain was in her lower stomach and getting worse so we went to visit the shkodra hospital. The hospital was extremely poor (no wonder, they didn’t ven charge us when we left!) with odd means of drawing blood and the tiniest glass vile Kathi had ever been given for a urine sample. Safe to say she was scared of having to undergo an operation and said that if that was the case, we would have to go back to vienna instead.

She was only diagnosed with a UTI and given some medication, and we spent the night in a hostel called “florian’s guest house”.

We loved Shkodra in the north, the castle takes your breath away and the hostel where you stay in the countryside with an Albanian family and the food and wine made from things grown in the garden is simply amazing. Tirana was a great place to relax from for a couple of days.

Kathi and I never felt threatened, scared or intimidated and we can’t wait to go back. The countryside is really special and there are some great things to do we didn’t know about before.

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A guy on a bike.

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Kathi’s favourite modelling pose.

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They love their flags.

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Told you!

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People hard at work in Tirana.

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The presidents house. He has three legs.

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Our favourite hostel in Albania.

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A chicken riding a chicken.

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East Albania. Can you spot Kathi?

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North Albania.

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South Albania.

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East Albania.

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Shkodra castle.

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Corfu and The Pink Palace

This post has no cycling in it as it was the holiday at our destination so please feel free to skip if you just want to read about life on the road.

For the uninitiated The Pink Palace is a huge resort in Corfu, populated solely by backpackers. Backpackers are generally from the more outgoing and liberated side of society so imagine getting 400 of them together on a holiday island and you can understand the chaos.

We had a great time there and met plenty of people we’ll never forget.

Each day there are organised activities like kayak safari, cliff jumping, a boat cruise on a huge pink boat, Ouzo cup volleyball and many more but you can also rent scooters, quad bikes and other fun things too. Needless to say we did as much as we could.

We were only supposed to spend 6 days there but as quick as you can blink new friends feel like family and that turned into 11. It’s a tough place to leave (that and the 6am departure for the ferry back to Albania).
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Skopje to Sarande

This was probably the nicest part of the journey so far. There was hardly any traffic, plenty of lakes to swim in and we found the best wild camping spots so far. A few times we camped right at the edge of the lake and due to the 800m altitude no mosquitos!

The second night we were just about to go to sleep and two playful stray dogs came bounding up, they stayed outside the tent all night and the next day one of them followed us for 40km into Struga. The dog easily managed 14kph but struggled if we went faster so the journey took a while. On the way we found three more tiny stray puppies at a bus stop. It’s a shame you can’t help them all.

Ohrid town was really nice and well worth a visit if you go to Macedonia.

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Flooded church in Mavrovo lake.

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National park Mavrovo

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Kits

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Debar lake

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Camping by the lake

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Our dogs

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our dogs accompanying us to struga

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The centre of Ohrid

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Ohrid town

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Trying some tricks with the trailer.

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Our best camping spot so far.

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Morning swim in the lake.

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Monastery and springs at the south of lake Ohrid.

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Albanian transportation

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Bikes on the bus

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Albanian countryside.