As I’m writing these lines, we’ve been home for a week now. I’m browsing mobile phones, SD cards and external hard drives for photos of our trip. Now it’s time to remember what happened in the last few weeks and try to put it into words.
It was the last vacation before the start of our “big trip” next year. At the end of May this year we were already in Montenegro once. “Why do you go back 6 months later?” you could ask us now. The simple answer: In May the weather has put a spoke in the wheel for us, in Montenegro there was still too much snow and that is not funny at all on asphalt as well as on gravel and stones – believe me! During our holiday in May we rode mainly in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Albania gave us heavy thunderstorms for days on end, so we tried to escape the nasty weather back to the north. It didn’t quite work out, so we thought to ourselves, “we have to come back one day”. Besides, Marius didn’t want to celebrate his 30th birthday at the end of August at home but out and about and somewhere else 😀
Only two weeks time, many kilometers to get there and only a rough plan of which routes we wanted to ride on the spot. I think the only thing that was certain was the SH21 in Albania, but this time we not only wanted to ride towards Theth but also spend a night there.
The way to Dubrovnik was finished in two days. Here we had found a camping site where we were allowed to park our van – a 9 year old Peugeot Boxer in white, also affectionately called “Kackfass” (shit barrel?!) – free of charge for two weeks. The way there is somehow always flaky, we were looking forward to what is coming and couldn’t hardly wait to get the motorcycles out of the van.
Finally on two wheels we rode directly to Montenegro to visit the Durmitor National Park. We were not able to visit it in May (snowy, cold, grey, blocked). Now we could see what we missed the last time, the narrow mountain passes winding through the rough nature, the rugged mountains and this view! On the gravel roads through the national park we were completely alone, apart from a few sheep that crossed our way from time to time.
As one is relatively high up here, it is possible that the weather changes very fast. Just now we rode in the sunshine with pleasant 24 degrees over green meadows and 10 minutes later we hectically set up our tent in order to be safe from dark clouds and the inevitable downpour.
After half an hour it was all over, the sun could lure us out of the tent again, or was it rather the hunger?
After another day crossing the national park we found a small campsite near the Black Lake (Crno Jezero) in the evening. After setting up our tent and having dinner we walked to the lake.
This glacier lake is one of the main attractions in the national park, therefore it was not surprising that hundreds of tourists came towards us on the asphalted footpath. So we were almost alone at the lake and could take some pictures.
The next morning I stood under one of the ice-cold showers (and when I write ice-cold, I mean I-C-E-cold!), later Marius told me that there was hot water in the second sanitary facility (100m away) 😀
A few hundred kilometers later…
On the way to Albania we passed Lake Skadar (Skadarzko Jezero). The lake lies in the border area between Montenegro and Albania and is definitely worth a visit, you don’t see something like this every day.
Our breaks for taking pictures were relatively short because it gets quite warm at this time of year (what a shock) and we didn’t want to burn in the sun. So we went on quickly towards Albania, at least we had planned it that way until my rear tire thought it had to pick up a screw.
Fortunately we had already practiced changing the tires several times at home in the garage. The first time took about one hour (!) per rear tire, the third time we could improve to 15 minutes. But that was just in the garage, at pleasant temperatures and without time pressure. On a narrow, not asphalted mountain pass in Montenegro with 35 degrees in the shade and oncoming traffic the whole thing looks a bit different. Of course we didn’t reach our garage best time, but after about 45 minutes sweating and working it was done and we could go on.
We crossed the border between Montenegro and Albania one day later and rode via Shkodra directly to Theth. The traffic in Shkodra makes us smile every time, how the people, in spite of a chaos of cars, mopeds, bicycles and pedestrians who partly drive and walk as it comes to their mind, are all relaxed and the traffic just runs. Unfortunately this time we didn’t think about turning on the camera during our passage (again!) – so you just have to believe us 😉
The only firm plan for this vacation was now to come: Theth.
On the SH21 there was hardly anyone on the road except us, so we could stop again and again, take pictures and marvel at the surroundings. We literally turned around our own axis and didn’t know where to look first. When I see mountains, my heart opens and I immediately feel at home, funny that Marius feels the exact same way.
The moment the asphalt gave way to a rough gravel pass, it was no longer that easy with the photo stops. Now we also knew where all the traffic had been, namely here. On the pass we met countless 4×4 vehicles, small tour busses, jeeps and normal cars. When we finally arrived in the valley, shortly before the camping site there was the last, relatively steep bend, in which Marius suddenly crashed in front of me and then laid on the gravel next to a rock.
My heart stopped for a moment.
I asked Marius via the headset if he was all right, he replied that his hand was bent. “Shit”, I thought, put my Rally down a little further where it could stand stable, ran back and lifted the bike with two friendly hikers passing by. Marius sat down on a small rock ledge and we inspected his right hand, which was overstretched when he fell. A few minutes later Marius was able to carefully ride the hundred meters to the camping site. It was clear, however, that we would stay here until we could either get help or Marius was better.
After a few hours Marius’ hand was neither swollen nor strangely discolored – I was relieved. We tried to look at the whole thing soberly and make the best of it. After all, there are worse things than spending time here. We used the two days on site for hiking and recreation, which in the end led to Marius’ hand still hurting but feeling safe enough to continue.
++ UPDATE ++ 10/2018 ++
In the meantime (back home) Marius was in the hospital to have his hand examined. Luckily it wasn’t broken, only the ligaments were overstretched during the fall, which he still notices when he stretches his hand backwards. According to our doctor, this simply takes time until everything heals and is back to normal. We are glad it didn’t get any worse!
Now we had to go back to Montenegro, finally we wanted to be in Kotor for Marius’ birthday to celebrate.
Shortly after the border we stopped at a supermarket, Marius went in to buy food for the next day while I waited outside next to the motorcycles in the shade. Opposite the supermarket a few older men sat and played cards. I leaned against the front of the house to avoid getting a ray of sunshine, when I heard from across the street “from Germany? Deutschland?” one of the gentlemen looked at me smiling, I answered “yes, ja!
After a short conversation about where we had been and where we wanted to go, I was invited to sit at the table and was provided with coffee and Coke. We talked about traveling, family, the people in Albania, Montenegro and Germany, and many other things.
When Marius came out of the supermarket, he was immediately called to our table and supplied with drinks. We talked to the friendly people at the tables for about an hour and learned that the small shop is an institution for pensioners who meet there daily and can buy coffee and soft drinks at reduced prices. One of them was so nice and accompanied Marius to a hairdresser who shaved Marius’ head. With this fresh haircut he got an applause back at the table 😀
As much as we would have liked to sit here for hours and talk about all the world and his wife, we had to go on. After all we still had a few kilometers ahead of us today, so we had a short photo session, said goodbye, grabbed our helmets and went on.
What followed was not just a few kilometers, it was 150 kilometers of a trail that was so remote, steep, overgrown and full of erosion that we expected making our way back on the trail at some point because we simply couldn’t go any further.
When we had reached the inner point-of-no-return and on the last kilometers before a near road (yeah, finally!!) we met a kind of fence, we put the branches aside, rode through and put them back again. And yes, a few kilometers later we were back in civilization, or at least a huge construction site (Chinese workers are building a highway through Montenegro here), where we came out – ready and done – but happy.
The next day we reached Kotor, the last stop of our holiday before our journey home. Here we had a good time for three days, went swimming, did the serpentines up to the Lovćen National Park and enjoyed the view from the summit. Of course, we also visited the old town of Kotor, but here, as in Dubrovnik, you have to expect crowds of people at any time of day or night. Nevertheless, on Marius’ birthday we found a small corner that wasn’t so crowded and celebrated his birthday there 🙂
Now it’s been over a week. But after the trip is before the trip, or in our case, after the vacation is before the world trip 🙂