Cliff driving

Schkodrä/Dubrovnik - 28/08/2010

Today we have some moving to do. Our exit from Albania wasn't as rapid as I had originally envisioned though I am glad of it. We have found it to be a country quite unlike that imagined. Far from the gloomy, rubbled remains of a country where there was the iron fist of socialism sans velvet glove, it comes across a poor but honest place that will hopefully see an increase in tourism and prosperity in years to come (without losing its character). A cold shower whilst balancing over a toilet (the hazards of hosteling) was a bracing start to the day and once I had got over the minor trauma of waking with a tongue as black as coal it was time to bid farewell. We zigzagged up the coast between mountain to our right and sea our left. The first bus took us over the border to Ulcinj in Montenegro, our 4th country. Swift, unremarkable connections to Budva and then Herceg Novi followed and then the final leap into Croatia.
The queue at the border was a great glinting snake of metal. Over two miles of vehicle cooked in the afternoon sun. Our driver saw no reason why we should have to wait like anyone else and created his own bus lane through the oncoming traffic. Other drivers seemed unaware of this new designation so our progress was much aided by the acquisition of a police escort, someone had clearly heard we had a wedding to get to. We cut a savage line across the stacked traffic at the checkpoint and were into country number 5. The 'Welcome to Croatia' board was followed by a warning sign of landmines and then another indicating that this was wine making country, dangerous business being a vintner in this part of the world. The bus circumnavigated the stunning Kotor Bay where far below giant cruise ships and tiny yachts dotted the azure plain. The end of the line at Dubrovnik precipitated the most exhaustive and exhausting search for lodgings yet. Travelers seeking a campsite here should be advised that there is only one, Camp Solitudo (ironic name given its gargantuan size). Declining to pay their monopolistic prices we pounded the peninsular's streets like pack mules in search of a hostel. At this point surrounded by tourists who were outnumbered only by the plentiful hotels and their ubiquitous 'sobe', I longed for Tirana. The sweat poured through our pores but could not quench the fires raging on the soles of our feet.
Over a couple of beers a helpful Croat set us on the right track which was good news, behind me Manchester Utd. scored another goal, which was not. Saving ourselves a worthwhile minus 5 Euros over the campsite, the hostel took our money and bunked us with 3 girls and a boy. We ate dinner and drank our Albanian wine under the stars as the Adriatic crashed against the rocks we sat atop. Every stretch of coastline in Dubrovnik seems to be privately owned, to my great sadness. Without a public beach to hand we had to resort to one in a resort. This necessitated lying prone and motionless on sighting hotel staff, our ninja stealth ensured we escaped detection. The last treat of the evening was the earth-shaking snoring from the bunk across the room, a smothering would have been too kind a punishment.

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