Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Road to Albania - day 8 - Kosovo to Montenegro

We slowly wake up as the sun starts to shine on us and our motorcycles. The hotel staff was nice enough to let us crash outside of their hotel for free!

We order some breakfast and coffee and then slowly pack up our belongings to head back out to the open road.

As we wonder through Kosovo we try to find our way to the border of Montenegro. We decide we will head to Kolasin and get a better map and then decide from there. We enter the city in our GPS and let it take over. After about 20 minutes on one dirt road we reach a bit of a problem: rocks and holes made from grenades blocking the road... for cars at least!

Radek goes to check it out...

And as Radek and Mrazik decide what to do I take some pictures of the gorgeous view.

We notice a sign stating that we are leaving Kosovo... but nothing about not crossing the border.

After thinking about it some more, we decide to go for it. The GPS did say it was ok! We take the motorcycles easily past the "blockade" and head up into Montenegro. It was worth it, the view we got on this dirt road was spectacular!

At the top of the hill there was a memorial site, we figured it was for some war but were not sure which one.

And the other side of the mountain was just as beautiful!

There was also what looked like an old bunker. I personally wanted to go exploring inside but was persuaded by others in the party to not even think about it.

We head back down the mountain, seeing farmers here and there. Soon the road turns to asphalt, and when we have to stop due to a bee in someone's helmet I take some more pictures.

We reach Kolasin and get some food and find a map. We decide to head on even though it is raining. Luckily it didn't rain much and soon the clouds started to break up.

From the highway we were on you could see a nice view of some of the cities below, getting a real feel for how high up we were!

And I pause for a beauty shot.

Soon the highway starts to become smaller and has less and less traffic. When I see goats in the road I realize we are no longer on a highway.

We head to Savnik getting a bit lost. We end up in a residential area where the children were very interested in our motorcycles.

Deciding to go a bit further, we eventually find a pub for dinner. A man there says that we can sleep in his garden with our tents. I go to bed early, being a bit sick. When Radek and Mrazik make it later, Radek wakes me up to show me the stars. A most amazing site, as we are away from the city and there is no moon in the sky the stars are shinning brightly. Another great day on our adventure!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Road to Albania - day 7 - Kosovo

We wake up in the morning to another beautiful day in Albania.

As we pack up and ready to head out we don't even consider if it will be difficult to get to the road. After all, the small off road trip to the camping site was not so hard. However, heading out proves to be a bit more difficult, and Mrazik ends a bit stuck.

After a bit of pushing, we got Mrazik free and headed off, back to Byram Curri.

We had tons of Albanian money to spend and no place to exchange it. So we went shopping! Walking around the markets was a great cultural experience.

Radek purchased tons of Raki (the Albanian national drink), I get a scarf and a backpack. The backpack was an interesting experience, the seller tells me it is 8000 leke, which is super expensive. I was confused. A guy on the street stopped by and translated for us (he was in the US), turns out that it was only 800 leke but because of the money change, some people say 8000 for 800 while others say 80 for 800. Talk about confusing!.

After stalking up on water, souvenirs and gifts for our family we head off to Kosovo. We reach the border realizing that there is no gas station, so we turn around and go to the last one we saw. It's a good thing, we spend some Leke and exchange the rest for Euro. At the gas station was a poor dog with a injured mouth just hanging out. I felt sorry for the guy, had to take a picture.

We head back to the border, excited that there is nobody else waiting. We find out, however, that we are missing the papers. Remember way back when we entered Albania and someone told us we needed to buy some motorcycle papers for our motorcycle, but then someone else told us no? Well that "no" was wrong, and now we were having some trouble leaving Albania! Luckily a guy coming from Kosovo spoke French, and was able to translate for us (I know some French) the problem. We ended up paying 2 Euro each and heading off.

The Kosovo border was interesting as well! Turns out we needed to buy expensive insurance for the motorcycles (20 Euro each!) just to legally ride there. However the guards were very friendly with us and spoke great English. They asked us if we wanted our passports stamped. Of course! He then stamped Mrazik's passport, paused, and then told us if we were going into Serbia it might be a problem for us... errrr... So Radek and I skipped the passport stamp! Hopefully for Mrazik there wouldn't be a problem!

Finally, we reached Kosovo!

Not too far from the border we reach a town and stop at a small coffee shop.

The drive was interesting, nothing special, but Kosovo seemed a lot greener than Albania for some reason.

We reach the city of Pec and are surprised by how many foreign troops we see! Most were Italian, but we also found some Czechs!

All in all Pec was pretty nice. Though not super rich, it looked better off then the Albanian towns we went through.

We decide to head to Kuciste, and we were surprised by a gorgeous road.

Not only was the road smooth, but it was full of twists and turns, and cool rock tunnels!

The scenery was breathtaking as well!

Though we weren't planning on sleeping in Kosovo, we loved the area we were driving in so much we decide to stop at a small hotel/pizzeria. The restaurant area and hotel was new, like a wood cottage, and fit in perfectly with its surroundings.

Fresh fish were circling the outdoor eating area, keeping the drinks cold.

It was a perfect spot for relaxing with beer and wine while Mrazik figured out where we would be heading tomorrow.

After a few drinks we looked back at some pictures of our trip before going to bed. An perfect end to a perfect day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Road to Albania - day 6 - A boat ride

We woke up in the morning slowly and got ready for our boat ride trip up to the city of Fierze. The sun is shining and the morning starts out slow, with people trickling in for the ferry, some even coming by boat.

We wait about an hour as more and more people come to the port. Soon the entire tunnel is completely full of cars. And in the distance is the ferry approaching.

I suppose nobody really thought how the cars in the ferry would be able to get out so other cars could get in!

For about 30 minutes the cars back up and make room for those departing. And in another 30 minutes the ferry is ready to start off on this already hot day and head to Fierze.

After we secure our motorcycles we decide to head up to the top of the ferry to check out the view.

What a view it ended up being! We were surrounded by mountains, and if you looked closely you could see houses where one would think no houses could be!

The river itself also was quite breathtaking.

Unfortunately the Albanians have no concept of what a trash can is. While there were trash cans provided on the ferry, nobody used them. Instead they simply threw the trash overboard, sometimes hitting passengers sitting on the lower deck if the trash was caught by the wind. A real pity as the shores of the river where slowly being destroyed.

After two hours on the river we see the port in Fierze on the horizon. With something odd curiously sticking out of the water.

As we become closer it is obvious what the object is...

A boat! Well, it is refreshing to know that we have made it to shore on this trip safely!

Debarking this boat is not so crazy as it was in Komini, though still not completely sane. We quickly start our motorcycles and head only a kilometer or so before we decide to stop to eat. Our waiter is a small boy who couldn't be more than 10 who speaks excellent English and gives us excellent service. We order locally caught fish, which hit the spot nicely.

After we eat the boy gives us our total, 1050 leke, but tells us we only have to pay 1000 leke. Supposedly bargaining meals is a regular thing. We ask him where we can get some fresh bread, and he has trouble explaining it to us. So he offered to go get the bread for us! We give him some money and in 5 minutes he is back with a huge loaf of freshly baked bread. We leave him a huge tip despite his protest and soon we are off again.

Now we are heading to Bajram Curri, a much larger city but very poor. We do not stay long, simply change some more money, get water and gas, and head off to Shpella e Dragobise. We don't get very far, we are all exhausted and tired of the dirt roads (we found ourself on another one). Radek's clutch breaks, and as we wait for him to fix it we decide we do not want to go much further. Not too far of the road is a great camping site. The only problem? How to get the bikes there! Luckily we had two expert off road riders and both Mrazik and Radek are able to get their motorcycles safely to our little haven for the night.

Once we set up tent we are able to enjoy a very cold and quick bath in the crystal clear river near by.

I am so exhausted from our travels that at 8 o'clock I go lie down a bit and end up falling asleep until morning.