Friday, 22 July 2016

Fri 22 Jul 2016. Shkoder (Albania) to Rijeka Crnojevica (Montenegro) via Alps

Fri 22 Jul 2016. Shkoder (Albania) to Rijeka Crnojevica (Montenegro) via Alps
Gave host Linda the card from Sunrise Camping in Macedonia with suggestion they work together to encourage tourists to make one another the next camping stop (eg by offering discount/ get a commission). Drove 5kms out to Mes Bridge, longest Ottoman bridge still standing in Albania. Happily found bride and groom standing in centre having photo shoot. Took shortcut to highway north, past lady cow-herder who looked a no-nonsense character. 

Mes Bridge, longest Ottoman bridge still standing in Albania

With this stick in her hand, wouldn't want to get in this lady's way...

As "compensation" for telling us not to try and drive Ozzie up the too narrow/windy road to Theth, Linda's husband had marked a route to the Hoti region, the passage to the Albanian Alps (formed from the collision of the African and the Eurasian plates). Our foray into the Accursed Alps (so named because the rugged, steep limestone slopes were perceived to be insurmountable and wild) turned out to be even more awe-inspiring than his description. Stopped at glass panorama terrace overlooking Road Cascades (switchbacks), Hoti Valley (named after a sheep-herder tribe), and the Kelmedi Mountain Range.

Switchbacks (the Road Cascades) to the valley below

Glass panorama terrace overlooking Hoti Valley and Kelmedi Mountain Range

Looked at the information board and found the Alps were connected to the mountain range around Lake Komani, yesterday's outing. After a prayer for safe passage, we "rode" the switchbacks down to the valley and the clear, fast Cedi River. We were already past a fellow overlander before realising; would have loved to pull over and say hi!

G'day fellow overlander!

Seatbelts please, and easy on those curves....

5 minutes past Tamare Bridge we were climbing steeply again; not really surprised to find out that much of the jagged zig-zag "Pathless Alps" remain unexplored! Turned back and stopped in the valley village for lunch. Went into shop at Tamare to buy rolls/sandwiches, or postcards. Between their limited English and GirlRob’s charades, there was a funny response: You bread? You book? No, bread! No, book! OK, book to eat? Yes, have! Our giant round of bread made a very satisfactory lunch, overlooking the Cedi River.

Retraced our steps and exited the Hoti region, heading for border with Montenegro. Came across guys waiting asleep half-way up the mountain near border with their car boots open - couldn't help but be reminded of bag swap we'd seen on the other side of the country (if you put something in my boot while I’m asleep – “I see nothing”!!)  Saw a heap of gun emplacements side by side on top of crest - GirlRob had read an article that said there were more than half a million built throughout Albania, supposedly in case of external threats, but really "to distract population from problems within their own country". Now, THAT'S an infrastructure program... 

Came to border crossing, Montenegro officers, passport and customs all friendly and quick. Final sign on their booths: Have a nice visit. 

Turned off highway at Meterizi to take narrow, mostly un-fenced road through mountains with astonishing views of river and its green weed edges winding through the valley below. 

Wow, truly WOW!!

Found Municipal Camping beside the Rijeka Crnojevica Bridge (Danilo's Bridge), a 43metre double arched limestone bridge built in 1853 by the Montenegrin Prince Danilo in honour of his father. We were first camper for night but quickly spotted by lad in restaurant on other side of river who hopped on his bike to collect our 10. Not much in the way of hot water (or privacy!) but the pedestal toilet behind the short hessian bag was clean and had paper. There was even a "free" dog for any camper who wanted to adopt him.

Walked river, watched ducks preening and cormorants drying wings. Tiny green and brown frogs all through grass, funny to watch next two campers with cameras chasing them around for a photo (GirlRob already had her photo by then!) 

Our neighbour the Restauranteur started shooting a gun at something in the water which caused all birds and ducks to fly off in alarm, and all the campers to stop quite still suddenly (and maybe rethink whether to stay). A minute later calm resettled. Having our reheated pasta sauce for dinner our friendly neighbour camper from Salzburg gifted us a Vienna chocolate. Basketball players turned up for a game before last of sunlight disappeared.

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