Departing Montenegro I climbed back into the interior and pedaled the coast of Shkoder lake. Leaving the sea, the interior was warm and humid. Spring is in full swing over here; frogs, snakes, and fireflies mate in the luke-warm, reed infested waters and tourist flock to the waterside hotels. Near the lake train tracks began to parallel the road and the scent of creosote brought back youthful memories of playing basket ball with my brother. This is Montenegro’s fertile region, I pass farm after farm and the warm moist air warns me that the mosquitos at dusk will be more than friendly. After spending my last few euros on some bread and burek I ride a dirt path to explore my camping options. Girls out here a so shy that they can’t even talk to me, when asked directions or information, they usually giggle for a few minutes followed by blushing before I give up and pedal off, almost like being in China already.
Albania is fascinating. This is the only border I have crossed in Europe where there is a distinct difference between countries. Farmers guide horse-drawn carts, donkeys plow barren fields, and farmers along with fishermen sell live fish and produce on the sidewalks. There is a huge Mercedes-Benz presence here. Word has it that Albanians are exempt from certain fees, and early census is that 7 out of ten cars here are Mercedes. The small towns have a very West Bank feel, where most of all good are sold in open stalls or on the streets. The sidewalks are packed with locals going about their business, and I am constantly whistled at.
I have been getting by on my limited Croatian vocabulary. No one speaks English or any Arabic, and when I speak Croatian, they respond in Italian! I guess neither of us have a good grasp on a diplomatic language, but it works. Food has also changed quite a bit, pilaf is the local favorite, which is rice cooked in lamb fat, spices and onions, topped with lamb sausage, super tasty!! The other popular dish is beans served on top of spaghetti noodles. I remember cooking this dish for my girlfriend in Santa Monica and she told me that no where in the world was this acceptable…Go to Albania.
My mission to the Alps begins today. There is over 2 meters of snow on the road, so my proposed plan of hiking between the villages of Thethi and Valbona is out of the question. Thethi is the most remote village in all of Europe, and although I will be making a roundtrip it is worth the effort to see the cultures of remote regions. There is also a ferry that travels on Komani lake, north to Valbona. The trip takes about 6 hours and passes through Albania fjords! This is my rough itinerary for the next few days, I am carrying 3 times my normal amount of local currency because I may need to sleep indoors if it gets too cold. All in all I am excited to pedal into the remote, today will be over 1,500 meters of climbing in the snow.
Will write again soon, I hope without the pictures you could draw a nice picture of the country. If not part 2 will be loaded, To be continued with good vibes! Insha’Allah -Julian Wong