Montenegro over 2 days Shkroder- Petrovac – Cavtat; 165km
I am sitting out the front of our ridiculous apartment in the sun, overlooking my first glimpses of the Croatian coastline. Dubrovnik is just 18ks away so we will cruise in there and explore for the day. Leaving Albania from the border town Shkroder, we met a blonde party girl coming down from the night before. With her heavy eyeliner and killer heels she thought it would be fun to get naked and put one of our peace shirts on to pose for awareness. It was a good laugh to start the day, and we set off through narrow roads and farmland, waving at workmen on roofs and people on creaking bikes. Speaking of creaking bikes, Pos started to jump alarmingly, and when I saw a tiny bike shop in a shack on the side of the road, we skidded to a stop. We tried to overcome the communication barrier to show him what was wrong and all got around and squinted at the bike. I noticed a tight bit of material in the back cog and pulled on it, and then kept pulling this long piece of stretchy thick material, now grease covered but once belonging to the waist of my Lorna Jane tights. It was so hilarious I couldn’t stop laughing, and had no idea in the world how it got there. With the bike miraculously fixed, we crossed over border control into Montenegro and could see the difference in the wealth of the country almost immediately. The roads were perfect and the fields of flowers and corn even more so. From what we have seen, the euro- using people here are tall, delicate and delightful looking. They speak Serbian, which they call Montenegrin. Their writing contains our English alphabet plus the occasional upside down letter or kind of reversed one. But the way they use letter combinations is incomprehensible. Towns with names like ‘Grbaljska’ (true story) almost make me fall off my bike in pronuncial confusion. In a sweat induced haze we found a backroad leading to the famous seaside port of bar. We followed this in a headwind which forced us to slow down and appreciate every rock splattered mountain and farmhouse along the inland road. It was so narrow two cars couldn’t pass each other, and it felt a world away from the highways in albania. We got to Bar and sat in a tapas bar with good vibes. Marie had a little sleep while I wrote, and I would like to mention my admiration for this powerhouse woman. We knew each other through Kerrie Otto, and hung out for some great chats and food last year. When marie saw me Coogee a week before the trip, she couldn’t contain her excitement about the cycling plans. I saw the fire in her eyes and the next minute she booked a ticket to join me, and I am so grateful that we are able to share this jam packed, mind and thigh expanding experience together. She is strong as ever- yesterday she rode 95 ks through two countries and a storm on zilch sleep (will explain why in a moment). Marie is proving to me that age is just a number- young or old, it is not a limitation. We continued on after bar and pedalled the coast with lots of swimmer clad pedestrians on their way to the stretches of beach along the way. Mountains framed our vision and it was fun to be back on the uphill rides after spending so many days on the flat in Northern Albania. I get a real high from climbing and then descending. We passed through a few pitch black tunnels and prayed for some car headlights so we didn’t slam into the walls. The scenery was truly spectacular, and we pulled into a place called Petrovac to have a swim and find some accommodation. I went one way and Marie went the other, both on a mission to find and compare accommodation options. We foun each other again on the steep roads of this very popular coastal hangout and gave the rundown. We decided on a hippy hotel/hostel where the tattoo covered, diving knife wearing, supposedly ex French foreign legion owner had told us to come and stay on the deck for the night because there were no rooms left. We thought it sounded like fun, but as soon as I met him I recoiled from this ex army man who wanted everything tightly under his control. Especially his apprentice, an English guy working there for the summer. The poor guy can’t leave because the ex FFL dude won’t give back his passport. So this English boy is being ordered around all hours of the day following protocol- he kept us there for 45 minutes taking passport details and doing a checklist of orders while we had sweat setting into salt crystals on our ocean thirsty skin. The owner told us we could pay whatever price we liked and I said 15 euro for the two of us. He didn’t agree and told us 20. Okay control freak. The hippy vibe melted and we disappeared to have an incredible swim in the dark, clear water. I was so tired and just wanted to crash at the hostel, and our mattresses turned out to be blow up pool toys. I didn’t really care, so buried myself in my silk liner to block out the noise and the light. Marie went to put her iPad on charge inside and the owner was starting to lose his temper for some reason. He brought it back outside and told us they were about to lock the doors so he wasn’t liable for the iPad and didn’t want it inside. Okay. So when the doors lock can we got to the toilet asked Marie. He lost it and told us to stop whinging, we had paid almost nothing and he had just taken pity on an old cyclist, we could take our things and leave. I piped up and told them both I wasn’t going anywhere and he went out the back to have a very loud bitch about us. I overheard it going to the toilet and confronted this man in my very tired, mind overflowing with peace from the experience so far state. I told him he was hurting my feelings and we didn’t want to create animosity. He said more ridiculous words and I went and had a nice sleep on the blow up toy until it started to rain at 4am. We huddled under the 1 metre roof overhang and waited for the sun to rise so we could head off. We sat in the rain eating almonds and laughing at our situation, and then we got on our bikes at 5 am and rode 60ks of landscape that makes you forget all of the worlds problems. Mid morning we found a place too hard to leave, and lucky we did stay to sunbake and sleep because a two hour storm came over us while we were eating succulent Greek salads and antipasto in an Oceanside restaurant. It was fun to watch but we were happy not to be out there. We set off again at 2pm around the lake, and I flicked so much mud onto Marie’s shirt with my back wheel that she had a polka dot pattern. We went inland again after some simply wonderful coast riding. The Croatian border appeared and we were beeped and encouraged by the cars waiting for their passports to get stamped. We even held our bikes high above our heads under the farewell from Montenegro sign and lots of people took pictures. Some guys even grabbed our bikes and asked us to get out of the picture so they could pose with Pos. Over the border, we met some French cyclists who were just oozing with their nationality. They shared bread and cheese and olive oil with us, and he rode in sandals and her in a summer dress! We pored over our new Mediterranean map with them and they showed us their plans to go to Istanbul. Marie didn’t sleep a wink on the mat last night, so we searched for a good place to sleep. An almost toothless Croatian named Jerricho told us to head to Cavtat. We followed his advice and found this stunning coastal pocket of ancient buildings and billionaires boats. Drinking red wine and eating mussels on the waterfront, we are loving Croatia already!