A Travellerspoint blog

Eastern Blast

SANTORINI TO TIMISAORA

sunny 30 °C

Thanks to the ferry schedule getting us back to Athens late in the evening, and back to our van even later, we needed a sleep in before setting off north, so didn’t get out of Athens till after 2pm. We picked a campsite up in the north of Greece, not too far from the border of Bulgaria. Due to the late start, we chose to take toll roads to save us a fair bit of time (4-5hr drive as opposed to 7 without tolls). Without anywhere around to be able to withdrawal cash for the tolls, we figured we would just use our credit card like we had at all the other toll roads in Greece and across the EU. So of course when we got to the first tollbooth and went to hand them my card and they rejected it, saying cash only. We had to tell them we didn’t have any cash and that we were surprised as the other tolls we’d used had taken them. One non-payment notice later we were through and on our way again… only to be greeted by another toll booth, but no signs before it letting us know so we could turn off and take a non-toll route. A second ‘non-payment notice later’ (first one was quite stressful, second one we could only sit there and laugh, guessing how long it would be before the cars in line behind us started beeping at us) we had to change our course to one that would avoid anymore tolls since we had no idea which ones would take card anymore (and there was still no ATM’s in sight) Grrr!

Nine hours later after one of the hottest, bumpiest, winding, most unpleasant drives on the trip so far we arrived in Litichorro – on the east coast of Greece, but also at the base of Mount Olympus National Park, which we had driven through (that was actually quite a nice part of the drive… except for the crazy steep, hairpin infested, crumbling cliff lined decent where we thought on more than one occasion that it was all over, and we were going over the edge never to be heard from again!) – we arrived at the first campsite after dark, and though they said there was plenty of space for our van, it turned out that it was packed and everyone in the campsite had decided to string up their clothes lines across the driveway. Fine if you are in a car 1.5m off the ground, but no so fine if you are in a 2.6m high camper. Rather than try and take down the 30-or-so clothes lines, we decided to head to another campground that also turned out to be quite full, but thankfully had space for us and we settled in for a well needed sleep, but also with a terrible feeling that heading into Bulgaria the next day we were going to be met with the nightmare road conditions that we left in Albania….

Mt Olympus
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Early the next afternoon we left for the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, with no issues crossing the border (and another couple of stamps in our passports). The road wasn’t too bad from this point up until the campsite, which we weren’t sure if we were ever going to find – we only had 60% of Bulgaria maps on Tom. We did eventually find a site, which was only EUR7 for the night – quite basic with fairly gross toilets, but a welcome change from the prices we’d been paying in Greece. It was also cooler. We were just starting to relax a bit, and thought for a short time that getting through Bulgaria wasn’t going to be too bad after all.

Rila Mountains
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However, as we left the next morning, the roads got bad again… cracked, rough, with potholes, that looked more like entrances the gates of hell, everywhere. Stress again! We could both feel the van start to go downhill, the “clunk, clunk, clunk” grinding sound from the suspension on my side was getting worse which was making steering a mission for Paul. We eventually got to a town called Montana in the north of the country and came across some young guys at a mechanic, thinking we’d be going through the same deal as Albania – these guys had a look, and virtually told us they weren’t touching it with a 10 foot pole and the best thing to do was to drive slow and careful as the roads in Romania were probably not going to get any better. Fair enough! Paul decided we’d just get through it and maybe when we got to Budapest we’d find somewhere to get the van serviced and the suspension looked at. So, through gritted teeth, we kept heading north until it was too hot and we were too tired and hungry to stop – we were still in Bulgaria though! We found a beautiful little campsite in a rural area called Camping Madona, and parked there for the night. We were both feeling very spent after the last couple of days, so rather than make the effort to cook, we ended up in the restaurant on site, that served traditional Bulgarian and local cuisine. I didn’t have the brainpower to try anything new, so I stuck to grilled chicken and fries. Paul as usual was more adventurous with the ‘meat’ hotpot (see pics – we did check once it was served and the ‘meat’ part turned out to be pork, and it was fantastic!), and we both shared some nice cheesy starters along with ice cream and fried apple with honey for desert. The service was fantastic as well, the guys made us feel so comfortable and welcome.

Bulgarian Grub
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We slowly and carefully took off for Romania the next morning, the border wasn’t too far away from the campsite we’d stayed at – the crossing consists of a basic ferry that you share with as many other cars and trucks as they can fit on. They are building a bridge as well, but we could clearly see as we went over the Danube that it was still under construction. We had about 3hrs before we were due to reach Timisoara in the northwest of the country – originally I think we were going to do a bit of sightseeing, but time constraints turned it into a stopover instead. We drove along a “coastal” road with the Danube present on our left hand side for quite some time, and Serbia over the other side. The drivers were still a bit crazy, but tame compared to Greece.

(Im)Patiently waiting for the Ferry
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Taxi!
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Looking from Romania to Serbia across the Danube
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Moo.
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As we arrived in Timisoara, we also headed into a windstorm (yay), which soon opened up the heavens and turned into a full on storm (well, rain at least). For the first time since the north of Spain towards the start of our trip, I wished I had a jacket and jeans on. One night in Romania was enough for us for now, as Hungary and Budapest were calling our names.

Posted by Mr n Mrs Awsme 03:25 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

Island Life

ATHENS TO SANTORINI

sunny 32 °C

After our big sightseeing day in Athens, we spent the night booking ourselves ferries and cheap accommodation in Santorini for the Sunday, 3 days later. The day before we were due to leave, we decided to do a trial run of getting to Piraeus (Athens’s port) and to also pick up our tickets so we didn’t have to worry about it the next morning. It was a good move as on the day we departed, the lines to get tickets, as well as getting on the ferries were enormous and it was only 6:30am! We ended up with business class on the way there, which was nice for the 8hr trip. But the only real perks were that there were more lounges to choose from, and it was a lot less crowded than the rest of the ferry. It was also entertaining watching people try to get in, or make their way in only to be asked to show their tickets then getting kicked out, hehe. We wiled away the time by having the cheapest breakfast we could see on the menu (a pastry each), reading and playing Uno. I also braved the lineup at the fast food restaurant on board, Goodys, and EUR10 later finished my burger and chips, vowing to make sure we brought cheaper drinks and munchies from a supermarket for the trip back.

Pimped up Business Class
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I'm on a boat!
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Santorini greeted us late that afternoon, looking like a rock cake with icing sugar sprinkled over parts of the top – we could already make out the towns of Fira closer to the centre of the island, and Oia on the northern tip, both are famous for their sunset views. We found our free transfer quickly and soon we were at our hotel, Holiday Beach Resort in Perissa (which is famous for it’s black sand beach). Even though we’d just spent a night out of the van and in an air-conditioned room in Albania, it was nice to start feeling like we were on holidays again. For me, it didn’t last long…

First Look
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Our hotel.... Pretty flash for 30EUR a night
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We had decided our first night would be a night out down in Perissa for cocktails and dancing, with the next day as a lazy beach day, and the day after we’d hire a scooter and check out all the nooks and crannies of the island before having a sunset dinner. It was a great plan. Of course, the universe had other ideas.

We’d set ourselves up at the pool to watch some of the NRL replays in the early evening and I got chatting to a couple of 18 year old girls from Bondi who were also staying there while Paul was watching the footy. After a while he joined us and we had just a couple of drinks (nothing too much at all) and at about 10pm I started feeling really queasy and dizzy. I ended up having to excuse myself from the table and spent the next while on the bathroom floor of our room praying to the porcelain god. Paul was good enough to not go out for cocktails on the beach without me, and stayed look after me, which made me feel even worse that we wouldn’t be able to go out. The next morning I wasn’t feeling any better – thinking I didn’t have that much to drink, there’s no way that could have made me sick. Then Paul counted the hours and we decided that the burger I had from Goody’s on the boat was dodgy, the timeframe was just about right for something like food poisoning. That meant our beach day was off as well, I was feeling pretty terrible about it. I had a sleep and woke up later in the afternoon feeling much better, Paul had been down the road and gotten me a ‘gyros’, which I am glad to say, did not use my stomach as a roundabout. We had a quick swim at Perissa beach that evening, enjoying the unbelievably clear warm water immensely, we followed that up with a Greek salad for dinner down the road that night and feeling somewhat revived, we looked forward to hiring a scooter and doing some sightseeing the next day.

Perissa Beach
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The next day, we realised that although Paul has a full license (including motorbike license, which isn’t actually needed over here to hire scooters) it had been held onto by the campsite in Athens as security. We thought this may have been a problem, but figured he’d try anyway. He tried 3 different places but didn’t have any luck, which meant we had to rely on the islands network of buses.

Most of the buses terminate in Fira, then if you’re going on to somewhere else you need to hop on another bus and buy another ticket. All up, taking buses around the island to sightsee ended up costing more than it would have cost to hire the scooter for 24 hours. We looked around Fira first which is an interesting maze of souvenir shops, restaurants offering caldera and sunset views and hotels. We found a restaurant with a great view for a coffee and a Coke and checked their meal prices - they didn’t actually look too bad at all when compared to some of the astronomical prices other places had (astronomical for budget/broke travelers like us anyway :P). After awhile we headed up to Oia and had a bit of a walk around. We had intended to find what we’d heard was meant to be a beach around there and chill the hours away until sunset, but we couldn’t find it with the map we had and when I enlisted the assistance of the information guides at the tourist centre they said it wasn’t a beach, it was just a bay. With that gone bust, we were determined to get in at least a bit of beach time and headed back to Fira to get a bus down to Red Beach and White Beach on the southern most part of the island.

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If you’re walking from the bus stop, you come across Red Beach first, and if you’re still keen enough to go trekking to find it, White Beach is around the headland from there. You can also fork out EUR5 for a boat, as there are guys who will take you to the beaches quicker. We walked, it was good exercise – Red Beach does pretty much live up to it’s name, the crumbling cliffs end up as the beach’s sand and are both a burnt dirty blood colour which is actually kind of cool, and the water is clear too. If you don’t want to pay for beach chairs and umbrellas, take a nice big towel and get there early for a good spot – the sand was so hot it was literally burning my feet to the point my eyes stung with tears and there was no free shade on the beach to lay out a towel or sarong. We had a quick swim and headed back towards the bus stop, stopping in at a little café just near the pathway to the beach for a couple of beers while waiting for the bus back to Fira.

Red Beach
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As we sat and enjoyed our beers, soaking up the island life, we contemplated all that is Santorini, and came to the conclusion that while Santorini is truly a beautiful island with a unique and interesting landscape, along with great bars and restaurants etc. ….it could possibly be a wee bit overrated. Now I must stress that we are not stuck up little brats who can’t appreciate a good thing, and our experience was not a bad one, Santorini is a wonderful island that we enjoyed and have fond memories of, but we feel the hype that surrounds the Greek Islands, notably Santorini, may just be fantastic marketing.

It could be we’ve been spoilt by magic of the Indonesian islands and/or maybe our expectations were too high thanks to endless tales detailing the beauty of Santorini, so we will be the first to admit our impression may be skewed and no-one should take it as gospel, but it did not have that extra shine we hoped for.

With that said, it must be noted that there is little that could take the shine off Santorini’s highlight, and if anything THE one thing anyone should do on Santorini and the best reason to go there, is to have dinner in either Fira or Oia at sunset.

We traced our steps in Fira back to the restaurant we’d had coffee at earlier in the day and had an amazing dinner. We ended up with a big plate of starters included tzaziki, vine leaves, octopus (which didn’t look like octopus, therefore easier for me to eat – incredibly tasty!) and much, much more in the way other Greek bits and pieces… a shared Greek salad, I had a main of Moussaka (mince, eggplant, cheesy sauce – resembles a lasagna) and Paul had the ‘vinegrowers lamb’ which is roasted lamb wrapped in vine leaves, then stuffed with olives, sun dried tomato and feta. On top of all that we both had a couple of beers each, all with a beautiful sunset view for a total of EUR30. It was the perfect way to round off our time in Santorini.

Moussaka
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Vinegrowers Lamb
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Kitty Looking Gorgeous as Always
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Sunset Afterglow
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The next afternoon we gathered with the masses at the port to hop on the ferry for the 8-hour trip back to Piraeus. One whole paperback novel later (Paul actually started and finished one on the ferry back, without putting in down) we got back to the van and had ourselves a sound sleep, bracing ourselves for the next leg of our journey – north into Bulgaria and Romania.

Posted by Mr n Mrs Awsme 01:39 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Είναι πραγματικά όλα τα ελληνικά σε μας!

FIER TO ATHENS

sunny 35 °C

It’s been a couple of weeks (? Losing track of time a little bit!), therefore time for a long overdue update!

Our last entry had us with the van fixed by our new friends in Albania (it feels like a lifetime ago now!) and we continued south into Greece. If we thought the worst of Albania’s roads were behind us, we were sorely mistaken. Most of the remainder of our trip through the country was spent on dirt or badly damaged winding roads at 50km an hour in order to avoid further incidents. It was such a tense drive, but Paul did an amazing job of keeping his cool through the 5 or so hours it took us to get to the boarder and onto the slightly better roads of Greece.

Our first night in Greece was at a campsite right on Kamari Beach, just outside the port town of Igoumenitsa on the North West coast, and had a swim at the campsite’s private beach to cool down and relax.

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The owners were very friendly and gave us a camping Greece booklet to get discounts and stamped each time we stayed at a participating campsite (you got a bottle of wine at the 5th stamp, we only ended up getting 3 before we left the country again).

The next day was our 4th anniversary (yay us!) and planned to keep heading south, either onto the Peleponnese or closer to Athens to make up a bit of time. We were both excited about having a nice traditional meal outside of the van – there was no way either of us were cooking for ourselves. We’d chosen a campsite with a traditional taverna and headed off, but about an hour into the drive we came across a section of coastline below us that appeared to have… wait for it… SURF!

We thought no way, not in Greece! But it was true… small and a bit messy, and not quite enough to ride in the true sense of the word, but still they were waves all right. The look of excitement on Paul’s face was priceless, I just had to let him take the detour and have a paddle out in the water to flail about for a little while I watched and took some photos of the beach.

You're doing it wrong! Paul - shredding FAIL
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When Paul came back in a local who had been checking the surf came up and started chatting about the conditions and named some other parts of the area where he might have better luck, and gave us some tips about other areas to visit in the country. He highly recommended Lefkada Island, which was just less than an hour from where we were, and along with a thousand other helpful Greek traveling tips and recommendations, he also recommended if we could only go to one of the Cyclade Islands it had to be Santorini. We thanked him immensely for his advice and decided it was getting a bit late to keep heading much further on, so we found a campsite with a restaurant on Lefkada Island and made ourselves at home.

The campsite was family run, with the mother recommending what to try from the menu, and asked when we wanted to eat so they knew when to start the fire. A couple of young kids served our beers to us at a table next to the pool whilst their grandfather was helping their mother cook our meal up in the kitchen (it smelt awesome, we were drooling). We shared a Greek salad to start (my favourite salad of all time, anything with feta and olives wins for me hands down… also, I think back home the feta is all cut up into chunks or cubes, but here it’s served as a big slice on top) and then the mains were brought down... Paul had a succulent pork steak and I had keftadas (meatballs, or a rissole if you will - both done fresh on the BBQ) with fresh cut home made chips. It was pure awesome. Then the grandfather asked if we’d like some of his own wine, grown in his vineyard on another part of the island – it was a very unique red, very fruity and sweet, like nothing we had ever had before and it was fantastic! Won’t be forgetting that anniversary dinner for quite some time!

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We hightailed it to Athens the next day, keen to check out some ancient monuments but a bit weary, thinking it was going to end up a lot like Rome did with the heat and the crowds. We arrived at Camping Athens and were given details for the buses and trains into town and got an early night (it was a long drive). The metro system is pretty easy to suss out, and their single tickets are valid for unlimited travel for 90min. We hit up the Acropolis first – which I thought was going to be absolutely packed, but it wasn’t too bad at all (in fact the whole city wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be) and got an amazing view of the whole area. The Pantheon was getting work done to it so it looked a lot less complete than the photos we’d seen of it, but still nonetheless an amazing sight!

This is actually an ancient theatre that is still used today... very cool.
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We then went into the Ancient Agora before they kicked us out 10min later, at 3pm… we were surprised as the attractions were meant to be open until 8pm in summer, but didn’t ask. Instead we went over to the Monastiraki area of town for what became most of our meals in Greece – gyros, or kebabs as we’re used to calling them (so chicken, lamb or pork wrapped in pita with salad, AND they put chips in them too). They’re so cheap and so tasty wherever you get them from it was hard to deny ourselves.

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After we had 1 each and shared a 3rd, we indulged in some ice cream to cool down and went to check out the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which we could see from the Acropolis. Except it was closed. Another attraction that was meant to be open until 8pm in summer… we put it down to austerity measures, eg not having to pay staff to work the hours, and walked through the park towards the parliament building and watched the Athens version of changing of the guard.

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After all that in 35-ish degree heat we were wrecked, so we headed back to the van for beer and sleep.

Posted by Mr n Mrs Awsme 13:03 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

It Was Bound to Happen at Some Point

KOTOR TO FIER

sunny 38 °C

I’ve decided to type up this entry straight away as things are happening.

Yesterday we crossed the boarder into Albania, with the pure intention of overnighting once before we got to Greece. I’d found a camp online (Camping Albania), which was set up by a Dutch couple who moved here with their children a few years back to assist with regeneration projects, and ended up helping travelers by providing space, power, a pool, a restaurant and beers ☺

Again, it was more of a “follow the signs” job as we got in the country and showed boarder patrol our passports and ownership documents… Albania has the highest ownership of Mercedes anywhere in the world; we’d heard every 2nd car you would see was a Mercedes. And most of them had started out as stolen and brought into the country, so they really crack down and check cars coming in.

Really, every 2nd car you see is a Mercedes. Not even close to exaggerating.

We’d also heard the roads here weren’t the best. They are indeed fairly shocking – the road into the country was a dirt track for a few kilometers before it turned into bitchumen… then dirt road… the bitchumen again… and so on for awhile. It’s almost as though they’d been given enough gear to tar 10km of road for a 20km stretch and did it a kilometer at a time to give you a bit of good road every now and then.

The drivers are pretty crazy, not as hostile as Italy though… helmets on motorbikes are optional, so are seatbelts, we’ve seen people overtake people who are overtaking on a single lane road which are fairly narrow and yes, you still do have to share them with donkeys and horses carrying big bales of hay. We’ve seen a couple of really close calls so far, but it’s clear accidents are all too common judging by the amount of roadside shrines and flowers we’ve been past.

One of the best roads, with standard donkey and cart hazard
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Sadly, one of the more common roads
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We made it to the campsite without any major issue (apart from a random, unmarked monster of a speed hump which we hit much too hard – but more on that in a second) and got ourselves set up – the field at the house is surrounded by corn fields which was kind of cool. Even better were the free range chooks and the rooster pottering about :) So far, we thought Albania was nice.

We left around 9 this morning intending to get as far as south as the Greek border, which was going to take us about 5-7 hours depending on whether Google maps was right, or whether Tom was. At around 2pm we had to take a turn to start moving away from the coast, and we were just heading past a large petrol station when we hit a small patch of terrible road without any warning. Paul couldn’t slow down enough and we hit a crater-sized pothole at about 50km/h, after which we heard a loud bang, followed by a resonating crack… crack… crack… crack… emanating from the front passenger side wheel. We knew we could have a problem thanks to the condition of the roads but had hoped we would at least make it to Greece before we had to do anything.

We pulled into the station and the manager came over to help us have a look at what turned out to be a shattered shock mount, no doubt initially busted when we hit the speed hump the day before, then completely failing 3 million potholes later… The manager of the service station thankfully speaks a bit of English, enough to help us find a mechanic just down the road, and to write a letter to them in Albanian to explain the problem as it was unlikely they’d speak any English (our Lonely Planet phrasebook doesn’t contain Albanian). We found the mechanics, 3 young guys who understood the letter and took the van in to have a look (on a Sunday when they should have been at the beach, bless them). There was a bit of chatter going on and they seemed to be trying to tell us something to do with the part or what they had to do but the communication barrier was too great. One of the boys had called someone who I’m guessing was a friend or female relative and handed the phone to me (I offered it to Paul, but the boy didn’t want him to take it), she spoke a little bit of English but not enough for me to understand, plus the line kept breaking up. I ran back up the road to the service station to grab our manager friend and drag him down the road to help with translating. It turns out the guys were trying to tell us they don’t have the part on hand to fix it and will need to go into town to buy it, but the parts shop won’t be open till tomorrow and they’re not too sure how much it will cost yet, which is fair enough.

Knowing we couldn’t stay in the van, we started to worry ourselves a little and contemplated how we were going to try and find somewhere to stay when the station manager said they had some motel rooms for EUR30 a night back at the station, so we left the van with the boys and went back to check the rooms. Fully expecting them to be dingy, tiny little things, they actually have 2 really large rooms, and one big studio, all looking really clean and relatively new. We picked the smallest one (which is still massive) then had a couple of beers downstairs to try and relax. We chatted to Endri (the manager) as best we could, and he told us how he’d been learning English for 4 years on his own without any schooling and he’d only been at this job for 4 days. He taught us a bit of history about the country, and told us it was quite hard to get work in Albania but because their earnings were so poor they couldn’t really go anywhere else. I think he and his colleagues were a bit surprised I was having a beer – Paul had noticed earlier in the day that we don’t see a lot of women out and about, then I recalled something from the Lonely Planet guide saying that whilst it is a safe country for women, it is men who tend to go out and drink at bars etc. Even Endri said that here men are still the boss while the women tend to hang back, and we all had a laugh when Paul explained that Australia was the same about 50 years ago, but now men are more or less, bossed about by their wives. It then made sense why one of the guys at the mechanic didn’t want his female friend to talk to Paul as well.

So we’ll go to bed after some ordered in pizza and hope that tomorrow the van will be not only still here, but also fixed so that we can continue ☺

It is morning! Paul has been and gone to check on the van, it’s all sorted… It’s ended up costing about EUR75 for the part and labour, which is no doubt more than they would have charged an Albanian, but a lot less than it would have cost in the UK or back home so we didn’t mind letting them keep the change. We’ve also just paid for the room for the night and gave Endri a tip and a big thank you for helping us out so much – we aren’t loaded and we don’t have a lot ourselves, but we’ve seen how hard it can be over here and to be able to help them in some small way when they’ve gone out of their way to help us is the least we can do.

Off to Greece now!

Posted by Mr n Mrs Awsme 03:46 Archived in Albania Comments (1)

Black Mountains and Ice Water

BAR TO KOTOR

sunny 35 °C

We ended up getting a half decent sleep on the ferry from Bari to Bar, Paul kept to the chair mostly and I ended up on the floor using the backpack as a pillow. One couple on the other side of the room had cracked out their inflatable mattress – note to all, really smart idea!
The rugged mountains and the picturesque bay in Bar greeted us at 7am, at which point it was already sunny and humid – we guessed around the mid 30’s…. I repeat, at 7am it was already mid 30’s and humid as hell… Not exactly what you would want after a night on the floor and while waiting in the van to go through customs.

Leaving the terminal we quickly realised that turning up in a foreign country with no GPS navigation (we have an atlas, but they are only really useful in countries with good road signs) or ideas where to go can be a little unsettling at first. We managed to find the tourist information office in town and tried our hardest to find a bookshop, or anywhere that may have had a UBD-like street directory of the country. The best we got was a fold out tourist map so we reminded ourselves we were not going to stress out, there is only 1 main road along the coast and we knew of 2 campsites really close to each other and right on one of the beaches in Ulcinj, which was only 26km south of Bar. Sure enough, all we needed to do was follow the signs, using the force when there were no signs and we made it there pain free – the “main road” was mostly a 2 lane street and the drivers whilst still a tad lax on the road rules were a lot more laid back and a lot less hostile than what we’d come across during our time in Italy, it was already such a nice change.

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Camping Oliva and Utjeha were both really clearly signposted from the road and, no joke, 10m across the road from Rocky Beach (as the name suggest, it’s covered in smooth rocks, no sand in site).

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We headed into Oliva and were met by a sweet old lady with next to no English (I tried, I really tried to get a bit of Croatian under my belt on the ferry but it just didn’t stick) except she said that it was a very good campsite, and she needed my passport. All totally fine by me – we were really keen to get set up and go for a swim!! We looked past how crowded the beach was and jumped in the water, which was already so warm and so clear we could see schools of fish swimming around us. The rugged hills almost melt away into the water around the coastline and provide a sense of privacy. It was so relaxed and friendly for how busy it was. It looked like most of the people staying at the campsite either got along really well, or were related, or stayed there summer after summer and knew everyone. Our first impression of Montenegro could not have been more pleasant!

We spent 2 nights in Ulcinj, doing nothing more than swimming, dozing, drinking Niksicko and finally opening our deck of Uno cards (which we’ve not put down since). It was so nice to feel like we were on holidays again after spending so much time knuckling down and sightseeing around cities.

We’d been hesitating about heading north towards the Croatian boarder only because we didn’t know the distance… then I found the fold out map had distances between cities on it, and we found that the Bay of Kotor would only be about an hour and a half away, with Budva and Sveti Stefan even closer. We decide to head north without any information on camping or parking, and figured if we didn’t find anything we’d head back down to Ulcinj.

The drive along the cliffs gave us some great views over Sveti Stefan (a peninsular/island playground of the rich and famous with big houses and calm beaches) and the main tourist drag of Budva, which was heaving with people making their way to the beaches.

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As we neared Kotor the road started to go inland, and gradually curved itself around the bay, and whilst we were appreciating the sheer beauty of it all we were really keen to find somewhere to stay.

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Accommodation is abundant in Montenegro, especially on the coast, but it’s more private rooms and “Apartmento” which can be booked through the local tourist offices, or with the owners directly if you see a sign and stop to check one out. But after driving around a significant part of the bay (and with the windy roads, it is a pretty big drive) we hadn’t seen any signs for camping. Just as we were about to decide to turn around and head back to Ulcinj, we came across Autocamp Naluka (yay!) with resident gentleman who spoke excellent English, and his “little cat, who wants to play” (gorgeous little black and white kitten). The icing on the cake was that it was 50m from one of the small beaches that can be found all around the bay, with a bar on the sand, music playing and a summer holiday vibe, yet still quiet and relaxing.

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One of the fresh water streams
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The bay itself is fed by the Adriatic Sea and the mountain rivers in proportions big enough that a nice relaxing swim can be a very interesting experience. The salty seawater doesn’t mix with the icy fresh water from the mountains so you find yourself swimming from pockets of balmy 24-degree seawater, into 10-degree fresh water! This all under a bright blue sky, surrounded by the dark mountains that gave the country its name was pure “wow” factor for us. We thought anything after Italy would’ve been pretty good, but Montenegro was just something else – alive, welcoming, unexpected, awesome!

We were sad to leave the autocamp, but it was time to get ourselves to Albania enroute to Greece.

Posted by Mr n Mrs Awsme 03:42 Archived in Montenegro Comments (0)

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