So, the plan that we made yesterday was pretty ambitious. If we were to make it we had to get on the road early. Getting back to Podgorica would be a 2 hour ride, even on the major roads. Provided there weren’t any long delays at the border. We were on the bikes well before 8AM.
There are pretty long lines at the border crossing, but we still make it to Podgorica before 10AM. Blazo, our savior of the day, is waiting for us with a spare inner tube and directions to the Vujačić tire shop.
While I wait for the tube to be replaced at the tire shop, Sofie rides to a nearby supermarket for some provisions. The new tube is installed, the old tube patched and vulcanized and the 21inch tube goes back into my spares pack. But only after the kind mechanics sucked out all air with a compressor to minimize the storage volume. It all only costs me 11€ and while I am waiting I can use their wifi.
The queue at the border is a little less crowded than this morning. Contrary to the Albanian border guard near Gusinje, the guys at this busy crossing are a lot better informed, but I still try to blag my way through without having to buy insurance. I figure it is not really worth it for the 2 days we’ll be in the country and I’m pretty sure the insurance won’t be worth the paper it is written on when push comes to shove. So I give the guard my ID card and the ownership papers of the bike. I don’t immediately volunteer the insurance papers. He asks whether I have insurance and instead of answering I dive into the tank bag for the green card, waving it in front of his face. He waves me through.
By the time we reach the turnoff towards the SH21 near Koplik it is already 12 o’clock. The road into the Thethi Mountains starts of as a pretty nice tarmac road through wonderfully fragrant lavender fields. Beyond the last village before climbing up into the mountains the road turns into gravel. But it is a wide and well maintained gravel highway. Very smooth and with all necessary drainage and curbstones already in place to tarmac the entire thing.
About halfway up the pass we have a little lunch break. Just before we want to ride off, a group of 2 GS-es and a Super Tenere ride past. We spend the rest of the climb leapfrogging each other at various photo opportunities.
One of the GS riders is clearly a lot faster than the other two and he tends to catch up with us pretty quickly after the stops. At least as long as we are on the nice smooth and fast gravel sections. When we reach the top of the pass the road becomes a lot narrower and potholed. It takes a lot longer for him to catch up again there, but when he finally does we let him pass. Only to see him bite the dust in the next hairpin. He’s up again before I can even get off my bike and he’s off again quick as the wind. I guess the embarrassment encouraged him to get up and get out fast.
Despite the abismal state of the road here it is pretty busy with traffic. There’s plenty 4x4s and old Mercedes buses hauling tourists to and from Theth. And just before we arrive in Theth ourselves we run into a familiar face. Mirec seems to have found his companion and they are riding the loop in the opposite direction.
We arrive in Theth and wait with the fellow on the GS for his 2 mates.
It takes a while for them to show up. When they do they make it clear they have no interest in continuing the rest of the loop. They ran into Mirec as well and he told them that the second part of the route was harder than the part they had just done.
We don’t think the section thus far was all that bad and the rest of the Thethi loop is pretty well-traveled, certainly compared to the track between Morača and Nikšić we did a couple of days ago. So, onwards and upwards!
Mirec was right that the second part was a bit harder than the first, but I’d say it is all quite “GS-able”. There’s some sections of loose, smooth pebbles and a few hairpins before you get down to the riverbed, but nothing major. And the views are so worth the effort.
A few clips to give you an impression.
After that the road starts climbing again and becomes a bit more slippery and a little muddy in places.
We have to cross a few streams, but it is all pretty straightforward. Why take the easy road anyway?
Well, mainly because the small bridge you see in the picture is for pedestrians and has some steps to get off again.
There’s a couple suspension bridges along the way as well.
But did I mention the views already?
On the last (and steepest) section of the climb out of the valley we pass a couple of cyclists. You have to admire their spirit and stamina, they have already come a long way from Theth and the toughest part of the climb is still ahead of them. And then, suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, we run into this little cafe.
After a coke it’s downhill all the way and eventually the road conditions improve as well. Everything is well and we are thoroughly enjoying the ride. Until I hear a metallic sound. The sound of something metal bouncing on the rocky road. I skid to a stop and don’t immediately spot anything lying on the floor behind me. But the missing cap of the tool tube mounted on my SW Motech rack doesn’t leave much to the imagination. The tools are all gathered up pretty quickly, but the cap must have come off a little further back. I turn the bike around and go looking for it. Just when I start thinking I’ve ridden far enough not to ever find it back I spot it in the middle of the road. Hurray!
The up side is I get to enjoy these views for a second time.
Meanwhile the sun is starting to disappear behind the mountains so we pick up the pace and return to the Shokdra Resort camp site for a well deserved and tasty dinner.