Day 31 (Montenegro/Albania): Podgorica - Koplik
today’s distance: 45km
total distance: 2575km
riding time: 2-3h
Rewind the time to yesterday … I forgot to mention something, which I had promised to do. While not an outright fan of the company with the apple in the logo, I have one of their products to provide some background noise. The jack was toast I thought, having checked with some other headphones. The Apple Premium Reseller store in Podgorica pops into view and the people in there were great. We checked the unit and it seemed fine, tested the headphones again and as it turns out it was only the headphones that had given up. Thankfully. I owe a big thank you to the two of them.
Thank yous are also due to the man of the day. He goes by the name of Admir. I was leaving the hotel when I realized that something was wrong with the bike. Something was seriously wrong. The threading for the screw holding the rear rack had completely given up. I had tightened it a couple of times on the way, thinking it would be alright, but as it turns out, it had completely ruined the threading. This wasn’t fun … could be really bad. So, off I went to find Tempo Bicycle in Podgorica. While not working there properly speaking, Admir and I hashed out what the options were. We looked for the right screws all over the store, but couldn’t really find one. Bad stuff … I saw myself heading back to Germany, cursing the manufacturer (I will do that at some point anyway). We finally opted for a not so obvious method and I am hoping that it will do the trick ultimately. The threading was done for the most part, so we reversed the screw position, using a bolt to hold things in place. Because everything was on the drivetrain side of things, there wasn’t much room and certainly none to leave the screw standing out. I could have lived without my highest gear, but I’m sure I would have inadvertently put that one in as well and then the chain and the screwhead would have been nudging each other a bit too much.
We rasped part of the head off. The only way to go apart from trying to put in a new threading. The result isn’t pretty, but should hold up well. The other side didn’t look too great either, but there is ample space for a bolt. Now, I am not carrying a lot of weight and haven’t gone over rough terrain yet. There is much worse waiting in store. I can only believe that the threading was faulty and/or the material not up to speed. Given how Velotraum treats its customers, there is a fat chance they would recognize this as a warranty issue. At any rate as I am tying this, I am in Albania and don’t feel like going back to have a discussion about this.
Back to the city for a couple of interviews … might get a pdf of them, we shall see. Then, the post office episode of the day. I wanted to send two books and a couple of DVDs. Hard to do apparently. They wouldn’t take it. I hadn’t sealed it, but said that as soon as I would put tape on it, they wouldn’t take it. Maybe the main branch would, they weren’t going to. This drove me nuts. I asked whether if I left it open it wouldn’t fall out. They just shrugged their shoulders. Oh well … I left and eventually, after bidding my farewells to the NTO staff (thanks Matea, Biljana and Emile) I made my way to the post’s main branch, which was on the way to Albania pretty much anyway. So … there I encountered a lady who didn’t want to understand me and just threw words after words at me although the look on my face must have told here that I didn’t have a clue as to what she was saying. We figured it out with the help of a colleague, who called a friend who told her what to say in English (instead of just giving me the phone). The books are on their way now though …
That one done, I took off to head to Albania. The panorama was nice, the cycling great. Over some hills and past an increasing number of mosques I got to Albania. The border crossing was easy enough, the Albanian border guards impressed enough so that I only had to pay half the entry tax. Thanks guys!
My first impression was … bad road. Really bad road. My second impression was more bad road. Run down everything, roads, wiring, houses, but beautiful countryside with a lakeside view on one side and high mountains with some remaining snowcover on the other. Chruches and mosques all over the place as well. Unfortunately also a lot of trash lying around. Not so pretty. But here is goodness …
My first town, changed some money. Big smiles already on the way and more curiosity than any other place before about the guy with the bike. Money here is different, they tell you they want 800 Lek for two bananas (which would be 4 Euros, a bit steep). What they really want is 40 cents. I did my shopping and in a couple of places, people wouldn’t take my money. It was small stuff for sure, but a bunch of oranges and some bread was simply stuffed in my packs.
I eventually looked for a campsite as it was getting dark. I was way too late and turned into a side road, hoping to score a good spot there. Nothing to be had. A farmer on my right. He spoke very, very little Italian - so do I. I asked for a place to pitch my tent. Idriz simply invited me into his house. Said, you sleep here, tomorrow you go again. That was that. I was ushered into the house, the whole family surrounding me. The youngest daughter speaks (Fatjona) some French and so we tried out whatever she could muster. It wasn’t much and her father let her know as much. Eventually the brother (Ujk) and his wife come around and turns out that I am sleeping at their place. So, I took my bike along, left other things there to not offend them too much and off we went into the dark. The kids all over the bike, but the hospitality was just amazing. We talked as much as we could with the limited common language, but it worked out alright. Shower and food, some pilav derivative, homemade bread and cheese and freshly milked cow milk. It was great … Idriz never quite getting around why I was traveling by myself and that I am not married yet and don’t have kids. We still communicated a good amount despite the language barrier, talking about religion (they’re Muslims), their life as farmers and their kids … some off to Italia and needless to say Berlusconi didn’t have a good name here.
The family isn’t well off, but they gave me so much and wouldn’t take anything in return. Thanks a million!!!