At the beginning of September we were still in Croatia and spent 2 days at the beaches of Žuljana, relaxing and swimming. Taking turns at the beach while one of us stayed with Binkie who was enjoying the shade, grass and bugs.
Until we were “asked” to leave by a not so friendly local. As we’re not looking for any trouble we found a different spot to camp. Strictly speaking it is illegal to camp in the wild in Croatia, although we never had any problems before. Most Croatians simply ignore you.
From the beaches we left for Dubrovnik. We visited the old centre in the evening when it was cooler.
A nice city, quite different from the ones we usually see, so worth a visit. Small streets lined with old, well maintained buildings. Squares with restaurants, old walls, churches and sea views.
We then drove in to Montenegro, again without any Covid related problems, no questions asked. We drove past Hercegovi, near the border in the direction of Grahovo, a beautiful mountainous area. Strangely enough it isn’t really well known. We found a lovely place to camp in an almost hidden little valley with flowers.
The next day we decided to go for a walk. As there were no trails we made our own. Walking through a little forest, lush green hills and across an farm field. After first asking for permission from a woman who didn’t speak any English, but with some pointing and signing she understood what we wanted and it was fine. It was nice, having the time to explore an area like this. Having time to do so was one of the reasons to go travelling for an unknown amount of time.
We drove on to one of the Nikšić lakes, Slano Jezero.
We camped there 2 years ago, but water levels have sunken since then, resulting in a less desirable camp place. We decided to drive around the lake, but there weren’t much possibilities to camp, still, we found a place that met our needs, near an abandoned building close to the waterline. With such an abundant source of water we did the laundry and stayed until everything was dry.
From here we drove to the Ostrog Monastery and our plan was to find a camp spot near to it, and then visit in the morning. But when we arrived at the lower monastery, there was still daylight left. This lower monastery is a popular place for pilgrims to stay overnight. From here it is a distance of three kms uphill to reach the upper monastery. Pilgrims do this on bare feet or knees, but to our surprise it was possible to drive all the way up as well. We drove up when there was still sunlight left and found the monastery bathing in an orange sunset.
We went inside the monastery which is build in the mountain walls. We’re not religious, but this an extraordinary place. Very peaceful with religious murals and artefacts and cave-like church areas. We filled up our water tanks with the blessed water of Ostrog. I don’t know if it really works wonders, but it tasted really good. We even went back for more about a week later when we were somewhat in the area!
After Ostrog we drove to the Nevido canyon. This “unseen” canyon wasn’t discovered until 1965 because it is so narrow and deep. But before visiting the canyon we decided to drive further into the valley leading to Dobri do. We were waved down by a friendly local, Milan. We ended up camping at his property and eating the delicious food his wife cooked us. We communicated through Google translate.
The next day we went onto the hike to Dobri do. It was a nice hike through forest, rocky hills, a river and in to a meadow. The only downside was that we had no idea where we here hiking to! There seemed no end point. From here you can hike to Durmitor, but that requires overnight stay(s) at a guest house. So when our GPS-system told us we where at the end point, a large meadow, we turned around as it was also getting late. On our way back we saw a snake, the Vipera ammodytes. Which is apparently the most poisonous snake in Europe. But it was lying on a branch, not even remotely interested in us.
We explored the first part of the Nevidio canyon but couldn’t get far because soon the water was to deep and we would have needed special equipment.
We drove on to Žabljak and the national park. We saw the Tara canyon from above. We already visited this 2nd largest canyon in the world in 2018.
Passing Nikšić, Montenegro 2nd largest city again, we went to visit the Horseshoe Bend. The pictures don’t do this natural phenomenon justice.
We visited Kotor, an nice old city but not as impressive as Dubrovnik. One of the reasons I wanted to go there, is because of the Cat museum they have. It was really difficult to find, even though the old city isn’t very big. We had to asked several times and were sent in opposite directions….And when we finally found it, it had a notice on the door saying it was closed to may 2021 due to reconstruction 🙁
At the other side of Kotor bay we spent the afternoon on the beach as it was bloody hot again. Relaxing at and in the bay of Kotor was really nice.
We spend two days up in the cooler mountains to get a break from the heat, making Binkie very happy. As we were close to a new border crossing with Albania at a small place called Cijevna we drove there. It was unclear if the border was already open or not. Everything looked good, the building was there, the road led on, there was a customs officer, but it was still closed. We don’t know why it isn’t open yet. So we drove back past Podgorica and crossed the border at Han i Hotit. Not the most beautiful area to enter Albania.
We did some shopping in Koplik and got some Albanian money before driving in to Theth. We spend a few days there, at the river. Enjoying the beautiful area and meeting some other overlanders. Kilian went for a bike ride and I walked to the village. You can read more about Theth here. Binkie enjoyed the area as well until he was bitten by a small snake, you can read more about that here.
We did some shopping in Shkoder and bought a simcard for internet access. We drove on to Puke and camped in a small valley, surrounded by pine trees on one side of the small stream and deciduous trees on the other side. We stayed here before in June 2018, but now, late September, the stream was dry. We really see the difference in seasons now.
From there on we drove in to Valbone, you can read about that here.We wanted to take the ferry back from Fierze to Koman across the Komani lake. This lake is surrounded by mountains and is really beautiful. The ferry is rather popular so we booked it in advance, in the high season you have to book it several days in advance.
We spent a few days in the mountains between Koman and Tirane. Where we had some pretty bad thunderstorms for about three days and torrential rain. The bad weather did some real damage to the already bad roads. Rocks and dirt came down from the mountainsides, damaging the roads. Due to the huge amount of rain, small rivers ran across the roads, also the unpaved ones, making them more slippery.
We ended September with a three day stay in Tirana. We found a really good camper place at hotel Baron. It even had some green, making it a nice place for Binkie too.
We were able to catch up on the washing, using the hotel washing machines. Kilian did some repair work on the van, you can read about that here. And of course we visited the city. We went to the National Historic Museum, walked through Blloku area and saw Skanderberg square and the pyramid.
We ate the local food and also fast food. A nice change from all the home cooked meals and no dishes! Down town Tirana isn’t that big so you can walk it. Which is a good thing because traffic is horrendous. It can easily take half an hour to move a kilometer! Most roads only offer just enough room for 2 way traffic. But because cars are (illegally) parked on both sides of the roads, there is really only enough room left for one way traffic. This however doesn’t change the fact that there is still two way traffic. Some cars are double parked or even sideways, also blocking the side walk. When traffic comes to a complete stop everybody starts honking until something is moved out of the way. Then another driver parks or tries to turn around and everything comes to a halt again.
Everybody basically does as and when they please, road signs and traffic rules are only to be followed if it is convenient. We did wonder if people actually need a drivers license, but we saw a few cars with “autoshkolla” on it. So walking through the city center is a good choice. We used our bikes to get from the hotel to the center, which was a 5km drive. And not without risk. Cars easily drive 60-80km/h, even though the speed limit is 40. Outside of the center there are no bike paths, so we used the side walks. But they are uneven and have very high sides, so we often had to get off our bikes. In the center there actually is a bike path but it is sometimes used to park cars and pedestrians walk there as well. We were cautious and no accidents happened. Up until now the worst city we’ve ever ridden our bikes, was Budapest. In Tirana, despite the honking, everybody accepts traffic is crazy and don’t mind if, for example, a donkey decides to cross a roundabout. In Budapest anything without a motor was obviously not welcome and therefore needed to be ran of the road. From Tirana we drove on to Gjipe beach, but you’ll be able to read more about that in our October blog.