In the northern mountainous region of Albania, near Koman, I make a stop. I see a sign with jars of honey on it. I decided to buy one for on the road. I walk into the yard where I find chickens, pigs, goats and other livestock walking around. A boy comes running towards me, “honey honey !?” I nod and he runs back inside. One by one, the whole family gathered around me. The boy comes back with a jar of honey that is about as big as my rear bag. “20,000 lek!” He shout. Just for clarification, 20,000 lek that is about a small monthly salary for the average Albanian. The exchange rate is one euro 140 lek. This jar of honey costs nearly 150 euros. I look at the boy questioningly and his father opens his wallet and shows me a note from 1000 lek. Aah, that’s different than the boy is shouting. I only have a note from 500 lek and 5 euros in my wallet. The whole family is talking to me. We can’t agree on the price and the language barrier is a disaster. Shall I just walk away? That jar is way too big for taking with me.
Along the coast of Croatia I met two cyclists, Chris and Ivona from Poland. They came from Istanbul after taking a plane from Singapore. Their journey was from Poland through Russia down to Singapore. Chris was the first one I saw cycling. He rode in the opposite direction. And after a brief greeting, I decided to go after him. He was the first cyclist I saw since I encountered the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Italy. I just wanted to have a chat. Later on his girlfriend Ivona also joined the conversation. Their advice was to tackle a beautiful mountain route in Montenegro after Kotor. Ok, that I’ll put into my phone.
After the border of Croatia to Montenegro, I had a wild search in for a place to camp. It appeared that here just after Hercegnovi it was virtually impossible to camp wild. A large airport, surrounded by filthy garbage wide areas with lots and lots of incentive bushes. An inspection brought soon a hole in my only long cycling short. Luckily I found later that night a reasonably quiet place in a hidden forest.
In the morning I was awakened by loud sounding gunshots. I was scared shitless. Where the hell did I put down my tent? The war was already over here for a long time right? Not much later, a hunter walked along the entrance From my tent, the gun which he had with him was even bigger than his hunting dog. He cheerfully greeted me with: “dobre joetroe.” Which means good morning. Well, I was pretty much in his shooting range but the gentleman seems to not care about that.
This morning I was thinking about what I had cycled and I suddenly remembered something. I looked at my phone and saw the city Kotor. Chris and Ivona had advised me to cycle the mountains called Lovćen there. Oops, missed that part. Did I really missed something? I’ll never know, this route was also pretty good!
And above all, I would miss a great meeting. When I went to drink a cup of coffee at a gas station, the serving boy began to chat a lot to me. Cozy about football, I just now nothing about. Fortunately, I can act very well in that I know something. Later on I got to know the whole station crew and we chatted all afternoon. Making kilometers? Oh yes! Totally forgot about that!
After two days of making kilometers, I arrived at the Albanian border. Exciting Albania, I thought. “You speak Serbian?” Asked one of the custom guys. “No, English,” I told him. “Where is your document for bike?”. I was shocked, did I needed to arrange something in front? “I do not have a document for bike, did not know you need one,” I explained. He looked at his colleague and said very seriously: “no document for bike.” His colleague stared at me. I began to think of a solution because cycling back was not an option. Maybe I could try to buy him over for that stupid bike document. “We have problem,” said the gentleman behind the window. “Yes, problem,” repeated his colleague wisely in the back. I had no interest in ‘problem’ and at the moment I wanted to ask him what he wanted for money to arrange that document, they began to laugh both very hilariously. “Ha-ha-ha no document for bike, just joke, go!” Hmrrrggff, accompanied by palpitations I laughed nervously along with the guys. Gave him some respect for his joke and thought to myself, this was a good one. Very nice, maybe a little too good.
Albania pleases me, you can see that the country is a bit more poor than my previous crossings. But that makes the people no less kind. What touches me is the incredible mess everywhere in plastic bags and bottles unto entire contents of trash containers along the way.
Ok, back to the jar of honey.
The daughter of the relevant farmer who showed me the 1000 lek, grabbed undisturbed in my wallet between five different currencies and found a two-euro coin. Together with the 500 lek and 5 euro that turned out to be enough for a kilo of honey.
With no money in my pocket I cycled through the mountains to the big city Koman. Arriving in Koman it proved to be not a big city but a village with five houses, a restaurant and a hotel. Here I wasn’t able to get cash anywhere and in no way I could pay with my bank card. Fortunately, the hotel owner was a very friendly man who wanted to help me with borrowing of 20 euros in lek. In good faith I would pay back the money on his bank account. It allowed me beside buying some food and drinks also to take the boat from Koman to Fierze. Not only a wonderful trip but it also saved me a wild bike ride on a road almost impassable through high mountains.
In Fierze I picked a route that seems to go to Kosovo. After having climbed 2,000 meters and making a stop at some Albanian workers it appears not to be so. Without maps, navigation or whatever I try to cycle into anywhere on luck. But this time I hadn’t any luck. I wanted to follow the lake but that was according to the Albanians a route that would take me days to come into Macedonia.
I needed to turn back and go to Fierze again and ask people for the right direction. And finally late in the afternoon I arrived at the border to Kosovo. I asked everyone on the road with just shouting Kosovo and pouting me arm in some direction. It worked but I was exhausted. I did not have any penny left in my pocket as I was cycling into the Republic of Kosovo. I knew, everything will be ok.
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