When we arrived at Stavna yesterday we had no idea what the views on the surrounding mountains looked like. Everything was hidden behind mist and rain clouds. Waking up in the morning brings a revelation. The sun is out in all its glory, the skies are blue and the views are… well, judge for yourself.
This promises to be a great day… right? Breakfast definitely starts the day off nicely.
Fried dumplings (priganice) with cheese and local honey and jam. It looks like we won’t be needing lunch today.
We come down from our mountain and ride towards Plav for a fuel top up, water and some Snickers. After that it goes on to Gusinje and the border with Albania. The road meanders along wide and lush green valleys.
The Montenegrin border post has a high slapstick value with endless saluting, impeccable uniforms, huge hats and stern faces. I notice that every time Sofie or I says hi or waves at them the guard salutes. So I just keep waving at him, and he keeps saluting back. I can hardly contain my laughter. But the guys are very friendly and efficient.
On the Albanian side there is only a single lonely guard. He doesn’t speak any other languages except Albanian, but he’s very nice. With a bit of effort we inquire about insurance. He can’t get us any and seems genuinely surprised when we point out that our green cards explicitly exclude his country. He thinks we should be able to purchase insurance somewhere in Koplik, but he clearly doesn’t know anything more about it.
We set off and after a few meters into the country the tarmac road turns to gravel.
It turns out to be only a short stretch. Maybe it is just a way of welcoming tourists into the country. But then we run into a bigger obstacle.
Shabby wooden bridge vs. truck. The truck eventually makes it, but not without incident. Both a front wheel and a rear wheel break through the wooden floor with loud cracks at separate occasions. After the truck makes it over it is our turn. We get the advice to be careful. No shit, Sherlock!
You’ll see the holes made by the truck in this little clip.
The bikes aren’t a problem for the bridge, though. And soon we are on the SH20 road through the Hani i Hotit region. The entire place looks absolutely amazing. The road turns back into pretty easy gravel, but Sofie’s Terra is suffering from uncharacteristic on-off behavior. It turns out the chain is very loose, so we take a break to adjust the slack. While I get to work Sofie enjoys a little power nap in the sun. The setting for it is a pretty nice one.
It only becomes more impressive further down the road. Albania seems to confirm all our expectations and stereotypes and we’ve only been in the country for an hour or so. The pics tell it better than I can.
If you can find the bike, you’ll get a better impression of the scale of it all.
A bit further we come across another biker. We stop and say hello. Mirec comes from Poland and is riding his Transalp around the region. He asks whether we have come across his friend, who is on a new generation Transalp. Mirec is the first living soul we come across since the guys from the truck, so we can’t really offer any helpful info on his friend.
We continue on our way and the views just keep getting more impressive.
What was a bumpy gravel trail has turned into a very well maintained wide gravel road here. It looks like it is being prepared for tarmacking. Not much further I suddenly feel my rear wheel behaving very wobbly. Even before I come to a stop I already know I’ll have to break out the tool kit to replace my rear tube.
The cause of the flat is pretty obvious.
It must have been one of the fastest tube changes I ever did. But there was ample motivation, with big dark thunder clouds coming in fast over the mountains. I am not fast enough though. The rain reaches us before I get around to putting the wheel back in and pumping up the tire. With the rain soon pouring down on us again we decide to wait it out under the trees by the road. Fortunately the shower passes over us pretty fast.
Less fortunate is that the little mosquito pump I carry is taking ages to get some pressure into the 21inch tube. The rear on the Terra is a 17inch, but I usually only carry a 21inch spare. It works well enough in emergencies, provided you can get the bloody thing inflated of course.
After a lot of pumping action at least there’s enough air in it to get going again. The inhabited world isn’t too far off anymore.
We reach the main road and immediately spot a Gulf fuel station. They’re not equipped with compressed air or anything else that could be helpful. Not even a helpful attitude. The attendant indicates that if we buy some fuel from them he may be able to think of a place nearby that can help out. Well, if you put it that way… no thanks. I’ll find some other place to fuel up.
We ride on and come across an old disused gas station. At least it used to be, the pumps have been removed a long time ago it seems. 2 older guys are hanging around and start asking us the usual questions. Where are you from? where are you going? When we mention we’re from Belgium the both of them together exclaim loudly “Belgica? SCIFO! VANDERELST!”
Sofie and I find it hilarious that the first thing they associate with our country are some soccer players from back in the 80ies. They are a friendly bunch and tell us there’s a “gomist” aka a tire shop in a shed a few hundred meters back the way we came. Which is basically around the corner from the “helpful” Gulf fuel station. We thank them and are off to the tire guy. here’s no tubes in motorcycle sizes, but we do get some air. At least the rear tire is back up to a more normal pressure.
By the time we get to Koplik it is getting late. We don’t see any places that look like they could sell insurance, not even a bank or an ATM. And after the time we lost on the puncture I’m not really in the mood to go looking. I figure we can worry about all that later.
We follow the first sign for a camp site we come across. It turns out to be a great place. Maybe the title “resort” that they have given themselves is a bit of a stretch, but you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck (10EUR for the night). The place is right on the banks of lake Shkodra and has its own private beach.
After pitching our tent we treat ourselves to a mezze for 2.
Meanwhile I ask around and search the interwebs for places to get a proper 17inch tube. The 21inch makes the tire feel pretty unbalanced. I don’t have much success, but our friend Blazo offers a solution. I can pick up a new tube from him in Podgorica and even have it installed at his regular tire place just outside the city. We can do that tomorrow morning and than still have time enough to ride the loop of the Tethi Mountains that we were planning. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? Now where’s that cigar?