to, Zabljak, Montenegro
Over a twisty, small border from Kosovo, into Montenegro.
I’m writing this in a small cabin in the very far north east of Montenegro, looking out at the most amazing electrical storm, up high above the tree line in the mountains.
A good night’s sleep in a very pleasant room, though awake early as still adjusting to the extra hour from the Bulgarian and Greek time zones (as well as yesterday’s rude awakening)...
Bikes prepped for 07h00, we grabbed a light breakfast at the Centrum Hotel (great coffees), heading out just after 08h00. After a slightly impromptu tour of the town, owing to a misdirection, we were soon on track. Heading north for 60 miles towards Peje and the Montenegro border.
The people in Kosovo a really lovely and smile far more than elsewhere. Whilst some of the dress and jewellery shops are managed by women, it is striking that it’s mostly men who seem to have the dominant jobs elsewhere, in hotels and restaurants. This said, Prizren is still a very vibrant, westernised city. Evidently Muslim, from the regular Calls to Prayer, there are nonetheless, lots of young people, dressed in western clothes enjoying the cosmopolitan centre and sunshine.
Initially as we head out, the landscape is flat, arable and dusty. People work the fields in small groups, often by hand. The main drag towards the mountains in the distance is straight, with lots of traffic, both local and goods vehicles. Passers-by smile at us as we ride by, some cars tooting horns, a few kids and pedestrians waving.
We pass an amazing old bridge, undulating with the shape of the arches beneath. Slowly the landscape begins to change; it becomes greener, more vibrant in colour. A small diversion around the penultimate town takes us more or less into Peje city, a dusty and vibrant centre.
From here we begin to wind our way up the mountainside towards the border, arriving after 10 miles or so. This is the Kosovan check-out / crossing, the border official bemused by our short time in country. We also learn that there is a divide of over 10 km between the Kosovan border and the Montenegro passport control.
Climbing further through no mans land, we pass some cows at the side of the road sitting in a layby. A few people seem to have created some shacks in this stateless environment.
The landscape is stunning, fir-tree lined winding roads. A quiet border, the Montenegro official is very pleasant and stamps us in efficiently, before we purchase the obligatory 3rd party insurance. Turns out he’s a big Liverpool football fan.
Montenegro is a stunning country. Clean mountain air, fir-tree forests and great roads; a pleasant break from the dusty lowlands of Kosovo and rather dirtier towns of Albania. It’s very reminiscent of Switzerland, the houses scattered across the hillsides with lots of land between each, the towns well-kept and orderly.
Great riding, a mixture of winding main roads, with more twisty farm tracks and hillside passes. We stop for fuel and the skies begin to grey, there are lots of storm clouds brewing and there is a crack of thunder and the sky turns darker. As we make our way towards the north east corner of Montenegro, we start to climb. We are staying at approximately 1500m, in an area of outstanding beauty, close to the National Park.
Hopeful we might avoid the rain, to start with we are riding towards brighter skies. Our route however slowly turns towards the storm clouds, as we start to ascend one of the final passes of the day. It’s not long before we are donning our waterproofs, then passing through driving rain hail, on incredibly slippery roads. It’s now that we contemplate seeing if the campground has cabins available.
The landscape up here is a little more like Norway. On our final approach, the Sat Nav sends up a small track of gravel that runs out and turns into grassy ruts; it doesn’t look like a campsite exists. We turn around, to rejoin the main road; half a kilometre further on there is an official sign for the campsite and we turn up a tarmac driveway that leads to the reception.
A very smiley local girl check us in and fortunately there are two cabins available for this evening (for less than €10). It’s still raining however, so we decide to leave our motorcycle gear on and head into town first, for a very welcome pizza...PP goes for one that is half a meter in diameter?!?!
A quick trip to the supermarket, a short ride back to the cabins, we decant the bikes for the evening; very friendly fellow ‘campers’ all say hi to one another. Listening to the thunder rumbling outside. Having fun charging my supposedly waterproof intercom, it looks as though this weather may be setting in and we could have a wet start tomorrow!