We left the country of Croatia and entered Montenegro in two cars following each other. We were about twelve people, but the five of us in these two cars have been the last ones to get a ride out of Kupari going south. We had met the other hitchhiking couple close to the border and managed to stop two cars at a time. What currency do they have there, which language? (We are so ignorant travelers, sometimes.)
– Our driver told us has lived in my home town in Germany where he had served as an soldier for us-american military. Then we continued the conversation about Alexander the Great and the Ottoman Empire. Maybe 20 minutes later they told us we had to stop to cross a river, as we had no map with us we were surprised, but it was a nice thing changing the car for a boat and fresh wind on this hot afternoon. The other hitchhikers caught the same ferry so we jumped off the car and ran to talk to our friends, three times we had met already since leaving Kupari. The ferry crossed the river and we had to get back in the cars. The others got a rider going further with their drivers, but ours left us there, and went another way.
We had to wait 20 minutes for the next ferry to arrive and bring a bunch of cars going our direction. When we thought we had to wait another 20 minutes a car stopped and an old man invited us in. Are you going towards Budva? We asked him in our lousy italian. Italian seems like the official Balkan second language, which is really useful. We jumped in and talked and the old man who was driving south told us he was on his way back to Italy. We asked him if he was going south to take a ferry from somewhere there. No, he just came from the ferry (the same we took), now he would go north, to Milan. No, but in this very moment we are driving direction south. 100% sure. He didn’t believe us and kept thinking he would be driving north, going to Italy, even if we really tried to convince him. He asked the passers by, and all of them explained kindly north this way, south that way. He was not willing to believe until he had asked three independent persons. He told us he was so sorry, dropped us there – half a kilometer from where he had picked us up, and turned around.
The sun was already turning a little more orange the shadows grew longer, we hoped to arrive before sunset. Until now the day had been awesomely funny, but compared to western hitchhiking standards, we were still going really slow.
Which literally means “black mountain”, whereas Albania probably means something with white? It was another country I had absolute no clue about, the name did not evoke any associations at all. Until that day I only roughly knew where it was located on the map. So, now I know, that they have the Euro. And lots of tourism from Russia. The landscape is a lot greener than on the Croatian coastline and quite different. And the most important: hitchhiking works great.
Five minutes later, our confused friend returned, “jump in, I was wrong, it’s that way”. And again, much discussion and some kilometers further asking all the people on the street we convinced him, that this was direction south and certainly not the road to Milan. So backpacks and people out of the car again. Next, two guys of more or less our age gave us a ride, talking about soccer. Where they dropped us, at a huge gas station we met all the rest of us, about 8 more hitchhikers telling stories about how they met each other randomly again, every couple of kilometers, exactly like it had happened to us. If it was to be a race it was going to be exciting, everyone passing each other all the time. We left again, and were the last of all hitch-couples in getting a ride. But we passed one car with friends of us on the road.
Then the sun was going down quickly, mosquitoes woke up. It was a crazy sunset view down from the mountains where the road passes on small islands, populated with old churches, hills, colors, water, sailing boats. I had an urge to tell everyone I thought Montenegro was the most beautiful country I had ever visited, I had thought landscaped like this only existed in the north of Norway or in south east Asia, but behind each curve it was even more beautiful.
Half an hour later we randomly met three fellow hitchhikers standing by the side of the road, two of them fit in our car. Montenegrin driver telling in how he started to rent rooms to tourists and about how much he liked the national park where we were going, explaining its unique flora and fauna and natural history.
He dropped us at a crossroad, he went left, we had to turn right, it was now completely dark, but there was a traffic sign announcing a toll station where we hoped to find light and more cars, so we went on walking uphill in the dark at the grass next to the highway, but no toll station appeared. The way was going up a mountain, behind each curve we hoped to see the toll station, because there in the dark it was dangerous, no car stopped, they couldnt really see us even. The backpacks and 5 liters of wine were getting heavier each meter. Around the next turn a tunnel appeared, wow, that was not unlike the situation in Croatia. Shit. And now?
In the exact moment we were considering putting up the tents on the rocks right there, an angel driving a huge car saw us and picked us up. He had space for the five of us and all the backpacks, and stopped in the middle of the fast road in a curve, before a tunnel by night. He had rescued us. Our friend, with whom we didnt have any language in common, drove us all the last 20 or so kilometers to our destination, the huge lakes in the National Park Skadarsko jezero. We wondered if the rest of us had arrived. Now we had to find the camping spot Tvrđava Lesendro. It was pitched dark and we had no idea where to start looking.