Albania and Montenegro (Mr Business, Multiple Entry)

16 May 2013

The route from Igoumenitsa in Greece to the border crossing at Karispol is only a few km but I am glad Aaron is there with his SatNav as the path is ill defined and the road often no more than a driveway between or behind buildings. About 20 minutes later we leave Greece and enter the Albanian border post, where I am grilled about the ownership of the bike (not mine) and then have to pay road insurance, which I expected. This takes quite a while on account of the officer having first to print out a form from his computer, then put this in to an old typewriter where he adds the details with his right index finger. I’m not quite sure what is going on due to the language barrier (No Albanian by me and no English by the officer) and so don’t realise that he mistakes an Indian VISA in my passport for my personal and passport details, so when he types “Business” as my surname and “Multiple Entry” as my first names I think he is giving me a VISA for Albania, thus my vehicle travel documents have my name down as “Business”. He notices our perplexed faces after we left the office and comes over, with a “problemo” and soon adds another line for my brother “Unkovich Murray” also duly authorised to ride the bike!


Very classy transport, Albania


The beach, Albania

Aaron leads off with the SatNav, thankfully, as the roads are a series of unmade tracks or ill formed pathways, barely roads. After a peculiar route the SatNav wanted us to do a U turn but I felt we are heading in the right direction, so we persist and a short while later come to the lovely “ferry crossing” at Butrint, a small wooden raft pulled by some cables, sufficient for 4 cars and a motorbike, for the 75m journey across the water, where we are quickly ejected into a cacophony of tourist buses, presumably on day trips from Corfu where their giant cruise liners are moored. It seems criminal but we opt to bypass the attraction and not join in the queue of tour groups going to see the ancient monument. The road improves somewhat after this point and an hour later we are in Sarande where we have our “picnic” lunch on the beachfront followed by a stroll among the locals where there seems to be some half hearted festivities going on, including what looks like “Sarande’s next top model” winding down.


Sarande's next top model?


NOT Sarande's next top model!

We head further up the coast, through Himare and Dhermi but the road doesn’t really improve, we have almost every obstacle thrown at us, in addition to the pot holes, some filled with water, the road has subsided in many places, there are big dips, breaks, humps and places with just rubble making up the road surface, then there are cattle everywhere, sheep and goats, dung, and a dog even has a go at us at one point, luckily at least the weather is fine so we don’t have to contend with rain. After Dhermi the road begins to climb, up into the wonderful Llagora National Park, and the Llagora Pass. The road and the views are nothing short of spectacular, and on this part of the route the road is thankfully in much better condition. The mountain and sea views are breathtaking and we all enjoy the amazing road journey. The mountains and road are well over 1000m. As we make our way down the other side of the mountain native pine forests clothe the slopes, the sun emerges and we make a final run into Vlore. This turns out to be more like a war zone than a city, the roads a complete quagmire, buildings half up everywhere, piles of rubble take up half the road, or all of it. Great chunks of concrete block off roads here and there and the SatNav gives up. Fortunately we have the bike to scout forward and find a way through to the Hotel. We enjoy an excellent and cheap dinner and stroll toward the port. It is very busy on the street and the footpath and busier as we head further down. It starts to rain, then heavier. The port is nowhere in sight so we opt to grab a taxi back to the hotel. The road is gridlocked, even for the taxi driver, who appears to be taking us in the wrong direction. After some protestation he stops. Aaron tries talking Greek to him. Turns out the driver is Greek so all is resolved, there are two Hotel Lux’s in Vlore and he is taking us to the other one. By the end of our “tour” he is a new friend.


The hills above Kotor, Montenegro


Bike with double over head terriers, Greece

Awake to strong thunder, lightning and heavy rain the next day. By the time we head off there is no rain at least. The move out of town is through the now normal maze of potholes and side streets, but soon we are on our way. The countryside is now quite flat with farmland interspersed with houses, apartments, car sales yards, bits of industry, the occasional café or hotel, and a myriad of car washes thrown anywhere in between the cropland. Donkeys, horses and carts plied the road with produce or building materials, sharing the road with modern trucks and plenty of cross town buses. There isn’t a lot to get excited about in the scenery so we decide to push on to the border with Montenegro at Mushian. To get to this we have to head up into some hills and down came VERY HEAVY rain, it just pours down. Visibility is low and the road is awash with water, the heavy downpour lasts about 20 minutes but we push on through it, then light rain for a while. When we reach the border there is quite a queue with all the Montenegrins heading back home after the weekend. Fortunately, being on a motorcycle, we are ushered straight to the front of the queue and sent through the “foot traffic” gap, so in 10 minutes we are through the double border crossing and awaiting undercover for Caitlin and Aaron. Once through it is a pleasant drive down into the coastal town of Ulcinj, the scenery in this part of Montenegro is wonderful. We have a very funny meal at a restaurant courtesy of the usual language confusion, and end up with four salads instead of one burger!

Next, revisiting the ancestral home in Croatia. See you soon!


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