Yes it’s true, the marvels of small countries, having spent 10 days just crossing four of Russia’s 12 time zones in June, to visit three countries in a day. It was a slow and leisurely journey dictated by the winding roads. Rain gone, we navigate out of Tirana with a sigh of relief as we were completely unable to determine who had priority at roundabouts. It seemed to change at each one, we found the best solution was to use a larger vehicle as a shield and when they went we went. Well it worked for us.
Our first heavy rain cleaned Streak and Storm and only lasted a few minutes, a taste of what’s to come. We are already pining for warm weather – we are so fickle.
At the Albanian / Montenegro border, we will need insurance: Montenegro is not part of the Green Card system we have for motorcycle insurance, although I am sure this will change when Albania and Montenegro join he EU. Currently Albania has ‘Candidate’ status and Montenegro is in negotiation, a stage prior to Candidacy. Both have adopted vehicle number plates that mimic the EU ones. As we leave the Albanian Customs and Immigration, we find no Montenegrin counterpart, ah that was the meaning of the ‘Joint Facility’ sign, so no insurance = drive carefully in Montenegro!
Lunch is taken at a small restaurant where no one speaks English. The owner asks all the customers, ‘who speaks English?’ and a young guy comes forward. We ask if they have chicken, yes so chicken kebabs it is. Only as we wait and see a staff member return from the supermarket do we realise, they don’t do chicken, but got it to accommodate us. Very nice.
We continue on and navigate successfully to Croatia where our Green Card Insurance kicks in.
We start to see more and more tourist motorcycles and by the end of the day I think we have seen more travellers on touring motorcycles as opposed to adventure motorcycles, than the combined travellers over the previous few months. We are returning to civilisation. We are now riding the famed Dalmatian Coast: the road twists and turns, climbs and falls with the varied blues of the Adriatic sea on the left contrasting with greys, browns and greens of the rugged mountain landscape on the right.
Much as I enjoy this scenery, the volume of traffic and seemingly continuous habitation do detract in my mind to the glimpses of beauty laid out on both sides of the road. I wish we had more time to dive down a little lane to the beach below or ride the track up the mountain for a better view, but alas not this time. We both feel that perhaps the best way to see the region given the geography would be by boat, sailing along the coast, visiting islands and coves at will.
With only one road, long convoys form, with few overtaking places, it can be quite frustrating. We are lucky however on a couple of occasions to reach the front, pull away and have a quite few minutes of traffic free riding, a great experience and worth the effort to lead, not just follow.
Coming from the South, Dubrovnik is laid out below us on the other side of the road. Anne risked life and limb to take this photo, so savour it.
Like so many wonderful tourist spots today, we are smothering them by sheer numbers of visitors, we thought that this late in September would be quieter, but with over 91% of hotel rooms booked out, we were wrong. We joined the throng heading for the old walled city, with an equally large number of people leaving. While the buildings on the main streets within the walls are visitor focused, glimpses up the narrow passageways shows domestic washing hanging from the windows. All is not lost to the tourist trade. Still, we really enjoyed our short visit and had both dinner, down a little side alley and breakfast over looking the ocean. Could not have been better.
We came across the art gallery of Ivo Grbić, which was burnt down with the loss of all his work during the conflict between Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro in December 1991. It must be hard for an artist to loose so much of his work forever, but the building is restored and his work continues. A reminder of what was so recent and in Europe, not some far flung part of the world we had barely heard of. One can hope that the process of becoming part of the European Union will enhance the healing as a new generation grows up, hopefully without the baggage of the past.
From Dubrovnik we will head inland, the coast road is too slow for us as we now have about 10 days to complete this journey and 2000 km. / 1200 ml. to cover. We will fly past so many wonderful and interesting places that I do not want to look at any travel guides to see what I am missing, but this was a Northern Hemisphere Summer RTW trip so we are still following our primary goal, tempting as it is at times to just stay, wander off track, we would probably still be in North America! Not this time. Next we head for Bosnia-Herzegovina which has a small sliver of coastline which breaks Dubrovnik from the rest of Croatia.