Albania had some incredible mountain roads, but unfortunately we had such terrible, cold and wet weather that we couldn’t enjoy the climbs or descents. I resorted to wearing my waterproof trousers and still got soaked, while James ‘I wear shorts all year round’ Simpson zipped the bottoms of his geography teacher trousers on for the first time for the evenings.
We followed the SH5, which has long, winding climbs at a perfect gradient, as well as beautiful views into valleys, but were too cold to appreciate it, although we did manage to enjoy the delicious bread we could buy in every village bakery.
We arrived, cold and damp, in Shloder, and bumped into Olivier, a French cycle tourer, who very kindly invited us to stay at a local farm where he was a warm showers guest. We were happy to take him up on this offer, and really enjoyed an evening talking tour and cooking together as we dryed our clothes and stoked the log burner. It was great to be inside in the warm and dry, especially as a thunderstorm raged outside.
When the rain stopped briefly the next morning, we set off to Montenegro. That evening we spent ages trying to find a money exchange and get registered, failing at both, in the capital Podgorica. But the sun came out as we crossed the border and we were happy to be in country no. 24.
We took the E80 out of the city, and followed an incredible gorge before having a long, steep climb over a pass. The views were beautiful, and we got back into the mountains. The next day we bumped into Olivier again and spent the day cycling together along Tara Gorge, the longest and deepest gorge in Europe. The very alpine, rolling hills soon turned into a windy narrow road through the bottom of the gorge, and the rain started again. We passed some mega zip lines, and met two Swiss cycle tourers before climbing up to Zabljac. We managed to find a guesthouse to stay in just as the rain turned to snow.
It was freezing overnight so we were very happy to be inside. In the morning everything was foggy, and some of the hillsides were sprinkled with snow. We tried the scenic backroad we planned to take but soon got to a huge snow drift across the road. With 400m more to climb we decided it was impassable, so took a freezing cold, long descent to Savnik instead.
As we climbed back into the hills, on a bigger, unblocked road, we bumped into Olivier again! Lunch at the top of the climb was cut short by a little hailstorm, and we had a long, hilly ride through the mountains to Pluzine.
Our last day in Montenegro was a day of drizzle as we cycled along Piva Gorge, through endless tunnels, before meeting Tara Gorge again. We entered Bosnia, and after some more small hills got to Foca for a lazy afternoon and a lovely Airbnb stay.
The cold and wet has been getting us down a bit, but hopefully the weather gets better soon. We enjoyed Montenegro more than Albania, and have already had the most amazing chocolate croissant from a Bosnian bakery, so our expectations are now high!
Jim’s words – Miserable, Farm, Montenegro, Spectacular, Snow, Blocked and Bosnia.