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.