Sunday 16.8.2015 Countries:8 390km Total:2499km
I really thought they had done something wrong when they brewed the coffee yesterday but now I can only conclude that there is no known universe where this will pass for coffee.
It tasted like someone had ground coal into the dishwater from the hotell and then tapped into cantines and stored it for a couple of years before reheating and serving it.
I definately didn't drink any great quantities of the ratpoison they where serving (thank god for my stash of instant) so it must have been something else I ate or drank that caused the projectile vomit when I got back to the room.
With IBS I can only guess since the tolerance for different foodstuffs seem to vary daily and makes travelling a bit more challenging sometimes than it has to be.
Overall not the best start to the day.
Early starts aren't really our thing and today was no exception.
We head out on a wild goose chase for an old single track railway called the Old Eastern Railway which according the almighty internet would be a scenic ride.
At this point I feel the need to point out that even though the webpage I found this on is called "Dangerous roads" it looked like a scenic ride in a spectacular environment, I don't deliberately seek out dangerous and/or stupid things to do with my time. With that said, on with the story:
I've checked satellite photos (since it isn't a road and have been discontinued as a railway for so long it doesn't show on any maps) and seem to have found where it is.
We get to a paved bicycle path which eventuelly turns into a gravel road.
Even with the gravel and a pretty wildgrown string in the middle, the road was well within our collective capacity.
But even so the signs warning about the landmines by the side of the road gave a bit of a hint that perhaps this was not the healthiest of travelling options.
The path detoriorates at a rapid pace but it was very cool riding through the old railway tunnels so we press on.
What a huge misstake that was.
The surface soon turns into railway single which is far to big for our graveltires to dig through and get traction.
It was more like rafting in a rubber dingie than riding really.
Having a lowside in a tunnel is one thing, I think battlescars with a good story behind them just gives better bragging rights on an adventure bike but between the tunnels there are precipices you can't even see the bottom of.
Trains run on tracks, they don't need railings.
Coming out of a tunnel the bike suddenly head right for the edge so I make a split second decision to just throw it pretty much uncontrollably back towards the woods, I'd rather take a gamble with the landmines than plummet towards certain death.
How I managed to save it I have no idea but it's definitely about this time I conclude that continuing like this would most likely only result in a spectacular suicide.
Turns out the "road" takes that decision for us because soon after it just ends where a railway bridge used to be but is long since demolished and forgotten.
The good news is that we can't continue to ride with the risk of it getting even worse but the bad news is that we had to ride through what we just barely managed before to get back from where we are.
We do manage to get back without incident but by that point I'm pretty much a nervous wreck.
I rode back mostly in first gear with my feet down like an old lady riding a moped to church.
I'd rather be a coward for half an hour than dead the rest of my life and I don't think I've ever been so glad so see some asphalt in my life.
The upside is that I guess my heart must be in a pretty healthy condition to survive those amounts of adrenaline and the pulse rate didn't venture back into the normal range until sometime in the afternoon.
We navigate our way out of Sarajevo in an almost ridiculous amount of traffic. For some reason¹ the Golf MK2 Diesel is severely over represented and they seem to communicate with each other through smoke signals.
Overall the smoke coming out the back of diesel vehicles in this region is so horrible it feels like you're being spoon-fed crude oil.
Progress is slow but sometime in the afternoon we get to Durmitor national park and this is as wonderful as the railway was awful.
Winding roads that never end and beautiful scenery that just takes your breath away.
This some of the most scenic nature I've seen in my entire life and why I have never read about this in any bike-related context is completely betond me, this riding is sublime and up to this point the best I've ever done.
Not even the rain clouds hanging over us could take anything away from this experience.
I was sad to leave Durmitor behind me but we need to press on to Podgorica with a sky that's only getting darker and soon enough the rain is pouring down and just to add insult to injury the traffic is almost at a stand still.
I would guess we're riding at an average of about 40kph.
I can only assume that speeding in Montenegro carries the death penalty with the abolute majority of motorists queuing up tucked in snuggly behind lorries sucking up the diesel fumes for mile after mile waiting for the hand of god to reach down from the sky and lift them over because they definitely aren't doing anything themselves to get past.
All the while blocking the opportunity for everyone else to overtake.
Completely exhausted we arrive at the hotel at about 8.30PM and can only conclude that if we were to stick to our itinerary we wouldn't get to see this town either.
We immediately got a good impression of the place.
It just exuded class and the porter had not only responded to every one of our questions with "no problem" he also in his white shirt and dress pants help to lift our bikes so we could park (at no extra cost) in the entrance to the hotel!
It would be a shame to just sleep here and then leave the country so we asked him if we could stay an extra night for the same price and got the obvious response: "no problem".
We hit the town in what is now only a light drizzle but we don't get far until the sky opens up again for a torrential shower.
We grab some fast food and head back to hotel and catch a movie on the laptop before hitting the sack.
¹ I have since learned that VW had a factory in Vogošća just a few kilometres outside Sarajevo where they mass produced a cheap version of the MK2 between 85-92 so it wasn't so strange after all.
Monday 17.8.2015 0km
Some urban exploring and shopping is all that we had planned for today. Like always monuments and churches are at the top of the list and they don't let us down.
The inside of the Podgorica cathedral glistened so much from all the gold leaf it was as if the entire cathedral was made of gold.
The next attraction (there wasn't that many to be honest) was a clocktower from the 1600:s and while we're in that area we also unbeknownst to us at the time have lunch at one of the finest restaurants in town.
And what was also completely unbeknownst to me is that a burger in Montenegro is just a giant slab of meat, so burger & fries is pretty much meat and potatoes.
We also explore a few shopping malls and sports shops in my desperate hunt for a hydration system but alas to no avail. I'll probably have to get by until we reach Athens.
Tripadvisor recommends a restaurant called Hemera so that's where we are headed.
But since the poisoning in Sarajevo I've at least temporarily lost my nerve when it comes to local cuisine so I get a Nasi Goreng which was quite spicy but very good.
After that we head back to the hotel and pack it in for the night,
Tuesday 18.8.2015 Countries:10 300km Total:2799km
We reluctantly leave our luxurius parking and head for Kosovo.
After just a few dozen kilometers we get to a border crossing and thanks to our enormous ignorance of geographic realities we actually think that we're crossing over into Kosovo so we are both a bit surprised to be welcomed into Albania... in which we actually were to ride for most of the day before getting anywhere near Kosovo.
Two things happen when we cross the border. 1: My prejudices about Albania being and underdeveloped country istantly comes true as we less than a kilometer from the border encounter the first horse and carriage. 2: The extremly law abiding and well structured bear strikes Albania from the christmas card list as the traffic culture in the town of Shkoder is complete and utter chaos. It is as if Salvador Dali sat in traffic control.
After the initial chock I just embraced the chaos and adapted. Exiting Shkoder I'm pretty sure the only overtaking we didn't do was over other vehicles.
With blodsuger quickly approaching absolute zero and long after normal lunch hour we eventually manage to find a restaurant that will service for payment in Euros (the local currency is LEK).
Something tells me that Albania is one of those countries where people are rarely in a rush becuase no one seemed to have any problems with a two hour lunch.
But by this time the time-efficient bear who was already close to breaking point due to the traffic was so close to a massive brain aneurysm they probaby could have prepared the food directly on his forehead.
It takes at least an hour to get the food and when it arrives the portion is not really suffient for a starving bear and in my case the fish I ordered was also the whole dish.
Apart from a slice of lemon that is. I really have to start asking about side orders but for this time I guess it's very LCHF if you care about that sort of thing.
We ride on and we are almost extatic when we eventually get to a highway with a 100km/h speed limit which in Albania means: I'm giving 'er all she's got captain!
When we cross over to the Kosovo side of the border if anything the road gets even better!
Finally we seem to be able to get done with the days ride within a reasonable timeframe which will be a welcome change from Montenegro.
We get to the hotel in Pristina at about half past six and are greeted by the lady who arrived the previous day.
After a quick shower we hit the town to explore as much of it as we can while there is still some daylight left.
The city centre is pretty much like everywhere else in this region.
When we were leaving the reptionist at the hotell in Podgorica asked me why on earth we would want to go to Pristina when she realised that was our intended destination.
You get these kinds of questions from time to time but my philosophy will always be that I need no reason to go, I just need a reason not to go.
So I give her my standard reply: why not?
According to her it would be an impoverished country marked by the horrors of war and populated in it's entirety by nothing but thieves who would want nothing better to take advantage of gullible tourists like us and that we might as well just accept as a fact that we would get our bikes stolen.
Considering the magnificent super highway, all the newly built houses and a city centre like any central European town we can only conclude that prejudices between neighbours are live and well.
The whole thing reminds me of something I read about an explorer in south america travelling between tribal communities.
Between them they never met and in the village he currently resided they would always warn him that the next village was exclusively inhabited by cannibals and mass murderers.
Once he got there they where always surprised that he had manage to survive the visit to the other village since it was a well known fact that it had nothing but cannibals and mass murderers.
We take a stroll around the city centre of Pristina before settling down at Rings restaurant for supper.
I have obviously learned nothing since after ordering a plate of mixed grill am still surprised that it's the only thing I get.
Ok, so there was two small slices of potato but there was mostly just meat, a lot of meat.