Technical problems and a new country
Balkans Cycling Trip, Day 9
We follow rivers all day and enter Montenegro. Some serious technical problems make us a little worried and then it seems impossible to find a suitable place for camping in the narrow valley. But in the end we can enjoy the hospitality (and strawberries) of a Montenegrin family.
14 July 2017: Bistrica – Bijelo Polje
Distance: 85 km
Total distance: 590 km
We started the day early and this time Anita didn’t ask me to let her sleep longer. The night before we’d agreed with our “neighbour” to have a morning coffee together at 6.30. Aron stayed in the tent and the two of us walked down to the house across the garden.
It was a little strange to start the day with a shot of rakiya but the sweet coffee helped a bit. The man left for work before 7 but we lingered a little longer to see the wife milk the cow and feed the pigs. These people deserve a lot of respect for the hard life they lead. And let’s not forget about the winter months when they often have a meter of snow and freezing temperatures for weeks on end…
We said goodbye to the women and packed our things. It was 9.30 when we were ready to leave this mesmerising place.
Cross and crescent
We continued the downhill ride for another 8 km and we reached the river Lim, whose course we were to follow for the next two days. We were going upstream but it was not too strenuous and the environment more than repaid us for our efforts. Soon we reached the last sizeable Serbian town, Prijepolje. It was interesting to see the mosque and the church facing each other on two sides of the river.
Then we left the last Serbian villages behind us and arrived at the border of Montenegro.
We were a bit afraid because we’d read that you may be asked for the registration papers from the police (you are supposed to register yourself within 24 hours at the local police stations). But the border guard just had a quick look at our passports and said goodbye.
After a few kilometres of no man’s land we entered Montenegro (or Crna Gora in the local language – no, not Serbian, Montenegrin). Picturesque, breathtaking sections alternated with less interesting areas of wide alluvial plains as we approached Bijelo Polje, the capital of the region.
What’s this noise? Technical problems begin
We were all pretty tired by then and hoped to find a nice quiet spot by the river for a swim and a rest. We bought some food and then left the highway only to find slums near the city. What’s worse, I realised that the middle plate of Aron’s bicycle is practically unusable it is so badly worn… And I paid a mechanic to check the bikes before we left. Well, the solution for the moment is that he’ll use the other two plates and we’ll see how he copes. (And it would only be solved a week later in Albania…)
After a quick lunch we rode through Bijelo Polje and stopped at a supermarket to buy food for dinner. Once again we were shocked by all the plastic bags they give away just to increase the heaps of garbage often burning by the roads. We were really exhausted but had to carry on as the grassy areas by the river were either too close to not too friendly neighbourhoods or there were people fishing and loitering around.
In the end Anita said we should ask someone if we could put up our tent in their land and the first family we asked let us stay without a question. They have quite a large area of land in a bend of the Lim, which they use to produce raspberry, fruits and keep animals like cows and pigs. We were greeted by three boys.
They didn’t really speak English but later a girl, their cousin, joined us and her English was really good. Jelena came over from Podgorica to spend the summer holiday with her uncle’s family. She was very kind and open and she was really sorry we could only stay for one night.
Still we had the problem of washing because we could obviously not perform our usual stunt with the water tank under their windows. So in the end we had a swim in the river and we actually felt clean afterwards!
As we were preparing our dinner, Jelena and her aunt joined us again and we were even given some cheese and raspberries. Another heartwarming experience in a new country.