I’ve never seen so much rubbish through a landscape as I saw today. And worse, it’s through a really beautiful gorge with dramatically dropping sides and the road giving glimpses to the green, unfortunately plastic filled ravine below. I’ve said this previously, but here towards the Montenegro-Serbia border,no one has bothered to let them know how bins work. Worse again is the fact that some gypsies appear to have opened a dump at the peak of the gorge. Just as you should be gazing around you in jaw-dropping wonder, your eyes are watering instead from the jaw dropping stench. Le’s throw some wild dogs into the mix. Wild dogs + many cars driving to smelly dump = bloated half eaten roadkill. You get the picture! Today has seen us leaving Montenegro, a little country with a lot going on, and heading towards Serbia where we will briefly stay before hopping into Kosovo, unless you’re from Russia or Serbia or China, in which case, as far you’re concerned we’ll still be in Serbia…..
This day of spoiled scenery began with a cycle to the small but bustling town of Berane. Poverty apparently arrived here as all the industry shut down, and the first sign of this was a massive factory as we approached the town. Windows smashed in and all signs of activity all but a ghost of a memory, it was clear that this place no longer produced, manufacued or bustled with the daily arrival of men to their tasks. As we passed through the suburbs, there was not much sign of life, and then we arrived to the busy little centre. Industry may be gone but it bustled with people heading for a coffee, bargaining over trailer loads of peppers and generally just having a good old chin wag in the street. As we ordered breakfast, we were once again confonted by the fantastic friendliness of Montenegro. The guy serving us wanted to know all about us! He didn’t speak english, we don’t speak Montenegrin, so once again lots of hand signals and waving.
With our appetites sated, we washed it down with a coffee before getting a few essentials at the supermarket. We headed for the border with a 13km uphill as soon as we left the town. As we stopped to check our directions at the outskirts, we were immediately approached by an older gentleman eager to help. More hand signals and pointing got us on the right road. Thirteen long kilometres of uphill began. With our music in we made good progress but with a hot sun overhead we sweated buckets and stopped frequently. On one of these stops, we pulled into a gravelly lay by to have some water and give our legs a brief rest. When I suddenly noticed an Irish car. Mother of God, what is that doing here? Being Irish, I obviously immediately approached the driver. He was a Montenegrin man who had lived in Ireland for 6 years. His two children were born in Killaloe and consider themselves Irish and he litterally could not have more good things to say about his previous home. There’s something really brilliant about hearing a Montenegrin say “Ah sure it’s grand” and “Fair play to ya” and it made me feel a little bit homesick. After standing around chatting for far too long, he and his family hopped back in their car to visit family in Serbia and we continued on the last bit of uphill for the day. It was then that we encountered dumpsville, population: Us, 1 gypy family, 5 rotting swollen dog corpses. I don’t have words to describe the horrific smell, but if I did, you wouldn’t want to read them!
And so, leaving the awful smell behind us, we got to the border. There, we were greeted by a cheery border guard. After checking with his buddy where the feck this Ireland place actually is, he happily pretended to stamp our passports (he must have been out of ink) and sent us on our way with a merry “Ciao!”. The no-man’s land between Montenegro and Serbia appears to be particularly long with a number of huts and houses in between. It made me wonder…. where do they actually live, what’s their address? Do they have to show their passports every time they go to the shop? What if the dog runs away…… do you have to bring your passport in case he’s run into one of the countries bordering your nowhere home? My head is always awash with daft quesions and ponderings a I cycle! In any case. We eventually arrived at the Serbian side. Here the greeting was not so pronounced. The guy at passport control was like someone in a coma, but with less enthusiasm. He still managed to muster the energy to lift and drop the official stamp and so we were able to continue on. We had already put in a long day, but on passing a motel, I urged us to go on a little more. As we wound our way around a long lake, the sun was beginning to go down and it was important we stop before dusk fell. As usual, it was Sam that found the spot where we spent the night. Try as I might, I just don’t seem to be any good and keep suggesting we sleep in a tree or under a rock. We (Sam) found ourselves a spot by the lake. With marginally less litter than everywhere else. Minus the rubbish and you would have yourself a beautiful spot. We’ve entered country number 13 today and are camped about 6km from the Kosovo border. It’s time for popcorn now and then some dinner, not sure where I should put my rubbish though………….