Sunday, 9 May 2010

One of These Days - Pink Floyd

Saturday 8th May 2010

A day like this comes along occasionally, and in my little world I grab it by the lower band! Wanting to get to Montenegro, with some haste to utilise time, it was fortuatous that the first bus was at 09-00. At Euros 15 for a clean comfortable room you don't get much in the way of breakfast, so it was the 'old reliable' 2 packets of crisps, a bar of chocolate and a bottle of water and we were off.

Through some of the most spectacular scenery, the whole journey from Sarajavo, Bosnia to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro was by and large through the Balkans. There were 40 people for the 25 seater bus, so I lent on my experiences in India, Ceylon and elsewhere to trample the women and kids underfoot to get a window seat. That achieved, all I had to do was to sit back and enjoy 8 hours of pure beauty. Snow covered peaks fell to meet woodland in full leaf and meadows covered in spring blooms, Cowslips, Celandine, Harebell and Daisies just to name a few. Throughout, we followed the courses of a number of rivers which were dwarfed by giant rock escarpments, ideal I thought for Wallcreeper, but unfortunately none were seen.

10 Km from the border we stopped for a coffee break where at least c3 Nightingales were singing away, while at 'passport control', we waited in the sunshine as Wren and Garden Warbler were added to the 'trip list'. With a hitch, passports were stamped and we were once again on our way passing more crumbling farmsteads and small villages as well as a Booted Eagle.

Don't you know we're riding on the Bosnia Express?

The village of Stanica Foca

Kanjon National Park

Well into the Balkans

At the Montenegro Border

More views through the Balkans on the Montenegro side.

Entering Podgorica, Montenegro

There was some good news and some bad news for me at the Podgorica Bus Station, the good was an overnight bus to further my journey, but the bad news was the wrong destination. No public transport whatsoever ply's the route from Montenegro to Albania, so it looked like an Albanian stamp was going to evade my passport, but there's more than one way to skin a cat. The set price in a taxi to the border is 25 Euros (none negotiable) so e35 'return' seemed like a bargaining chip. With a little help from an English speaking Montenegrin lady I secured this deal with the driver, and we were off to the Albanian border.

Mico Perovic made Jenson Button look positively sluggish as we raced towards the border, but managing to secure Corn Bunting and Black-eared Wheatear on the way. The plan was to literally 'twitch' Albania, get the 'stamp' and return to base, which is exactly what we did. On the way I was a little concerned that the Albanians, not the most confiding nation in the world, would not accommodate me but I need not have worried. At the border post I almost strolled through the Montenegrin exit, while at the Albanian side the official seemed a little too inquisitive? Not satisfied simply with the detail in my passport he wanted to know precisely 'where' I lived in England (unusual). Once I mentioned Dorset, his eyes lit up and went on to tell me that his brother is the manager of a pub in Bournemouth. I could probably have had all the stamps I wanted after a 5 minute encounter. I decided to walk about a mile into Albania, more or less to validate having been there, before returning to the same police officer who led me to his colleague on the other side to complete exit formalities. On the way back to Podgorica, Mico was determined to take me to his local bar, and with time to spare, why not? Half a dozen 'brilliant' locals met us at the door, and already I felt like a 'local' myself, with mine host producing the coffee in double quick time. Some conversation in broken English plus a couple of local songs and my own vocal contribution it was time to get back. Once there, Mico talked the Bus Station Tavern owner to let me use his power connector, and here I am sat in the sun writing up today's Blog with the bus leaving for Skopje, Macedonia in just one hour - I'll be back tomorrow.

with the local darts team, or was it billiards?

Sunday 9th May 2010

After a much more comfortable than expected night on the bus, we arrived at Skopje, Macedonia, via Kosovo, at 07-00. All border crossings went without a hitch and within minutes I found this little coffee bar with free Internet access, enjoying an early morning drink with a Spanish guy I met on the bus. The plan is to have a look around the city before heading off again, probably to Sofia, Bulgaria. If Billy (Rhubarb & Custard) Crumble is reading this I bet a few memories of our visit some years ago will come flooding back. We had just moved on from Burgas, on the Black Sea, to Thessaloniki, Greece when the World Trade Center was destroyed. It was interesting to note the young women in the pub were dancing on the tables while watching the news footage??

Ille's latest contribution to the art world, I hope to be viewing this in real life very soon.