June 08, 2009 GMT
Into Serbia

I ended up staying in Romania longer than intended because of - you've guessed it! - rain. After leaving Deva I headed to Sibiu, which is a very pleasant town, more Austrian than Romanian in style. Their art museum also houses some real masterpieces, so I felt very cultured as I wandered round. Just outside the town is an open-air museum with examples of all the traditional styles of Romanian house. Most are wooden, and some of the mills are very elaborate, but as all the explanations are in Romanian I couldn't help feel that I'd gained more from actually riding round the countryside and seeing the real thing!

It was only 5.30 when I left the museum, so I ignored the nearby campsite and headed for one further south, which turned out not to exist. So an hour later I was back at the first one. There I met my companions for the next few days, as we all sat through the bad weather. Felix and Nina are a young German couple on a similar trip to mine, though, like everyone it would seem, in the opposite direction. They were however able to provide some very useful information about Albania. One road was so bad it took them a day and a half to cover 60km! Needless to say I will be avoiding that one!Also at the campsite were Esther and Markus, a Swiss couple riding to Australia on a pair of XTs. They had already ridden the length of the Americas, and we spent many hours swapping travel stories about various parts of the world.

After the weather improved I visited some fortified Saxon churches, then headed south towards Serbia.

Leaving Romania was as slow as entering it, as all the customs officials seemed to have disappeared. When one finally showed up she just waved me through, and over the Danube I went. The Serbian side were more interested in my trip than my papers or the contents of my panniers, and soon I was riding along the shores of the Danube again - this time blue blue indeed! The road rises along the hillside and through gorges, tunnels (all unlit - not nice in bright sunshine) and at one point, a ruined castle.

Serbian roads are on the whole infinitely superior to Romanian ones, , and the drivers actually give you space when they overtake! I made much faster progress than expected, and by mid-afternoon was riding through the Deliblato Sands. The sands are an area of dunes covered win woodland, very picturesque and completely unlike anything I have seen elsewhere. Unfortunately there is nowhere to stay withing walking distance and no paths through the area. There is one small road though, so I took that - only to find that as it doesn't really go anywhere it's in a state of advanced disrepair! There were some really rather deep puddles, and the bike is now once again covered in mud. I did see (and nearly run over) a very large bright green lizard, but no other wildlife. Coming out of the dunes area I was overwhelmed to see absolutely nothing - the land is flat and unbroken in every direction, making you feel very small indeed.

The next day I headed for the wonderfully named Despotovac, where I had my first encounter with the arbitrary nature of Serbian signposting. Expecting to drive straight through and out the other side, I was somewhat perturbed to arrive at a T-junction with all town names in Cyrillic only! Freytag & Bernt have so far proved invaluable, but their Serbian map is not quite up to scratch - the Ukrainian one was dual-language but this is not and really should be. After several failed attempts to find the right road I asked for directions, and was told to keep going straight, but this did not lead to the monastery I was looking for and I still have no idea where I actually went! Eventually I ended up at a large town from where I was able to get my bearing and head out on the right road.

For a few days I had been on the lookout for a garage that might know something about bikes, as my chain had got very slack, and without a centre stand it's a pain in the backside to sort. I struck gold just outside Paracin. There are a lot of bikes in Serbia, and here was a guy who builds his own trikes! He and his assistant/relative/friend stopped all work to help me, his daughters plied me with bitter lemon and fruit salad, and everyone asked their share of questions, all via the poor friend who spoke some English.Before leaving I posed for multiple photos, and was presented with a T-shirt from their local bike club. There was no question of payment, and I noticed an instant difference in the bike!

The guys at the garage had also warned me of major roadworks on the road I wanted, so I was not too dismayed to be sent on a 40+km detour right before my destination. I found a campsite not too far north of where I wanted to be, which was unfortunately only a minor improvement on the previous night's one. The owners both times were friendly, but the sites are full of dingy, permanently anchored caravans, and the facilities leave a LOT to be desired. The first one had no hot water or showers, and only one tap, in the middle of the site. I won't mention the state of the toilets, or the wildlife I found in the showers at the second one...

I seem to have finally found summer in Serbia, and by the timeI reached the Roman ruins at Gamzigrad it was already getting hot.The ruins cover and extensive area, and make an interesting change from castles and monasteries.I was welcomed as a guest of honour by Sasa and his boss Bora, the guides, both of whom spoke excellent English. Sasa gave me and a pair of Latvian handball referees a very detailed explanation of the site's history, after which I wandered round and found an enormous grass snake. The site's mosaics are housed in a museum in nearby Zajecar. It's normally closed on Sundays, but Bora drove into town and opened it up for me. The mosaics are truly spectacular, rivalling any I've seen elsewhere.

After that, later than planned but after a much more interesting visit than expected, I set off. The sun was well and truly baking, and for most of the journey, along main roads and through towns on flat open plains, I slowly melted. The last stretch of road made up for it though. It runs along a river valley, with forested hills and rocky outcrops either side. Sasa and Bora ahd warned me it's an accident blackspot, and although I could see why (it's hard to overtake, so people get impatient) at 4.30 on a Sunday it was nearly empty. The tarmac is new and smooth, and a couple of sportsbikes passed me at speeds far greater than my leisurely pootling!

Halfway down the road, on a hairpin-filled side-road, is Studenica Monastery, where I stayed the night. I arrived too late to visit the monastery that night, so instead enjoyed the luxury of a real bathroom (en-suite is double the price of non, but at 11 euros I thought I'd splash out!) and an excellent meal on the terrace. A group of four paragliders swooped over us as I was eating, then again later - no wonder, as even just riding I could feel the air currents over the mountains.

This morning I visited the monastery. There was obviously some sort of religious occasion yesterday, as I passed quite a few people walking along holding handfuls of grass, and the church floor was strewn with it when I went in today. The guesthouse where I stayed is officially for people wanting to "enhance their spiritual life" in the sanctity of the monastery. The setting is beautiful, as is the monastery itself, but I observed people crawling under a table in the church as some sort of ritual, so decided that I will stick to spirituality and enjoying the beauty of these places rather than go for any particular religious observance!

The big decision was whether or not to go to Kosovo from here, but as far as I can tell I have no insurance there, so reluctantly will pass - annoying from a practical point of view too, as the best border crossing for me is in Kosovo, and I really wanted to see Pec. So tomorrow I will head east for some more scenery, then south into Macedonia, where the plan is to base myself at Lake Ohrid for a few days and enjoy the area.

I've left the relevant cables in my topbox, so no photos this time I'm afraid!

Posted by Laura Bennitt at 12:44 PM GMT
June 14, 2009 GMT
Serbia and Macedonia

After writing my last entry I headed for yet another monastery. This one also had accommodation in the form of a run-down hotel with great views and, most importantly, a balcony where I could hang my washing! In the morning as I left I was given a thumbs-up and "bravo!" from a tiny old cleaning lady - the best reactions I've had throughout the trip have been from women, who display none of the incredulity the men show.

Having decided to avoid Kosovo I neede to head east for my border crossing into Macedonia, so I cut through a national park. I was a little worried about the state of the road, but as it turned out I found brand new tarmac that allowed me to fully appreciate the views instead of concentrating on the potholes! The area is a ski resort in winter, and in summer the mountains are covered in pine forests, occasionally opening out into alpine meadows.

The road down on the other side is very steep, an endless succession of hairpins that on the inside turn come very close to vertical. So I was rather alarmed to suddenly find a complete lack of response from my back brake! I wasn't exactly going fast, so I shifted down to first gear from second, put on my hazard lights and crawled down until I could find somewhere to stop. With my limited mechanical knowledge I could see nothing wrong, and resigned myself to a long slow ride to Blace - a good 40km away - or possibly even Nis, in order to find someone to fix things.

I must be the luckiest traveller in the world. In the next village, barely a kilometre further on, was a sales and servicing place for ski-doos and ATVs! Not exactly bikes, but close enough. To make things even better, the mechanic's sister-in-law Ines speaks nearly fluent English. After a thorough check, they came to the conclusion that my bad riding had simply overheated the brake - oops. The mechanic's father, who speaks some French, desperately wanted to clean the bike for me, but a power cut meant he couldn't use the pressure washer, so they reluctantly sent me on my way with an open invitation to come back in winter and learn to ski.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, and I even managed to successfully negociate Nis without getting lost. The day ended in my worst campsite yet: no running water, rubbish everywhere, vicious mosquitos and toilets I decided against using in favour of the trees. I would have turned back to the accommodation I'd seen at the other end of the lake, but by then it was a good half-hour's ride away so I made do. At least the lack of organisation included no-one being charge, so I left without paying in the morning.

The crossing into Macedonia was quick, as none of the guards showed the least interest in me. For once I remember to ask useful questions, and changed money at the border instead of finding an ATM in Skopje as originally planned, so that I was armed with enough small change for the endless succession of tolls on Macedonian main roads. Skopje itself is full of trucks which loom all around you, digging the tarmac into ruts so deep you can't get out of them, and hiding the signs which, in true Balkans fashion, are excellent as long as you're staying straight on the main road, then don't bother to tell you when you need to turn!

But I made it eventually, with only one mistake, and headed for my first stop, the mainly Muslim town of Tetovo. There I met a French-speaking local who now lives in Switzerland, and another one who delightedly informed me that he was from Kosovo. I saw a painted mosque and a dervish monastery, though the latter didn't have much to offer.

After that I continued my way south and west into Mavrovo National Park. Macedonia has without a doubt provided the best scenery so far. The road through Mavrovo runs along a river in a deep gorge. Every turn reveals new cliffs, new peaks, new vistas, and with decent tarmac and little traffic it's possible to admire it all as you ride.

I spent the night, yet again, at a monastery, Sveti Bigorsky. It's built halfway up a mountain, and looks out across the valley to villages seemingly suspended in the forest, inaccessible to anyone without wings. As well as the monks, there were about 20 young people staying there. I spoke to one of them, Vangil, who explained that many of them see it as their spiritual home, and come when they can to stay, work, and generally participate in the life of the monastery, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities.

Next morning I left feeling refreshed and relaxed. The southern half of the road is not as scenic or as good, but it still follows the river, which periodically widens into deep green lakes where it has been dammed. Nina and Felix, who I'd met in Romania, had told me of a nice campsite on the shores of Lake Ohrid, where I planned to base myself for a few days. Unfortunately I had marked it wrong on my map, so rode all the way to the Albanian border before turning back and trying again!

I found it eventually though, and have spent the last few days relaxing and swimming in the lake. When I arrived there were also two French couples in campervans and a Dutch couple in a car, and we all appreciated finding somewhere pleasant to stay - the place is basically a patch of grass behind a cafe, with toilet and shower and all sorts of things you can't take for granted in this part of the world! The campsite owners, Rino and his wife Gami, are incredibly welcoming, and the atmosphere is more like that of a small youth hostel or family guesthouse than a campsite, with conversations taking place in a multitude of languages.

I have been welcomed here with open arms, taken to visit the sights, introduced to local people, and last night I even went out to see a famous Albanian singer perform - although someone should tell him mullets and synthesisers are a little outdated these days! Tomorrow I head into Albania, and in a few days I will hit the southernmost point of my journey, effectively starting to head home albeit in a roundabout sort of way. I have better information on Albania and its roads, and unfortunately won't be able to see everything I wanted to, but never mind!

No photos again I'm afraid as the computer is steadfastly refusing to upload them!

Posted by Laura Bennitt at 05:31 PM GMT
June 18, 2009 GMT

I deliberatly told Rino & Gime that I would be leaving earlier than I actually planned to, in order to allow for the predictably lenghty goodbyes. The hospitality I'd enjoyed there was wonderful, but after four days in the same place it did feel good to be on the road again, heading to pastures new.

The crossing into Albania was slow but painless. I was very pleased with myself for remembering to change money at the border, but almost immediately concluded that my previous haphazard attitude was better, as I was charged 6 euros commission on a 20 euro exchange, and literally right round the corner was a restaurant proudly advertising its 24 hour cash machine!

My original plan was to head through Elbasan then on to Berat, and stay the night there. I couldn't find the castle in Elbasan, so got lost in its one-way system instead - which to be honest is every bit as viable a way of getting a feel for somewhere! I'd been making better progress than expected, so decided to push on to Gjirokaster, and visit Berat on the way back north.

I had heard very mixed reports about Albanian roads, and although it's a major route the road to Gjirokaster is far from decent. Subsiding tarmac, potholes, roadworks, gravel, it's all there until Tepelene, where you're treated to a brand new, fast, wide road, empty apart from the occasional cow.

I hadn't realised Albania has oil. I don't know how much of it, and petrol definitely isn't cheap, but I'm guessing there isn't enough to interest investors as the only means of exploitation I saw were isolated, solitary derricks nodding their heads as they pumped. Many weren't operational at all, and the pipes running from them were old and rusting.

I had a note scribbled down from a guidebook that read simply Gjirokaster, stay Kotonii, Lagja Palorto. With no idea what it was or why I'd decide to tell myself to go there, I found a policeman who spoke no English and asked him. I'm not sure it actually meant anything to him, but he pointed vaguely further on, so I headed in that direction.

I found myself in what was clearly the old part of town, with a steep road winding up to a wide square. It's election time in Albania, and loud music blared from cars brandishing enormous pink flags. I stopped again and asked in a cafe. Up the hill, and left. So up the hill I went - and promptly found myself riding on Gjirokaster's steep, slippery, three-hundred-year-old cobbles. Stopping didn't seem like a very good idea, so I powered my way up until I found somewhere vaguely flat! More directions, and I finally found my little B&B, whose owners were leaning out of the window and waving as if they'd expected me all along. I parked on a small flat patch and settled in.

I showered, then wandered up to Gjirokaster castle, which includes a fairly impressive collection of old cannon, all lined up in the castle archways. There are no explanations, but you can poke around anywhere you like, and the views over the wide flat valley are superb.

Back in town and looking for food, I met Hajri, a cafe owner who loves bikes and was overjoyed to hear about my trip. I also chatted to Blerina, a young girl just about the head off to university, whose father is a local archeaologist. Everyone in Albania has been friendly, welcoming, willing to help - people will actually stop on the street or come out of their houses to make sure you don't need anything!

The next morning I wandered around Gjirokaster a little more, then headed to Saranda. The road runs across a set of mountains, rising very quickly and steeply above the plain. The earth there is red, and in places has eroded into sharp ridges and escarpments that stand out vividly against the surrounding green trees.

Saranda itself is the ugliest town I have ever seen. Most of it, including the main roads in and out, is only half-built. Everything is tall and square, hastily erected and unappealing. So I carried straight through, heading for Butrint and the Roman ruins there, and hoping to find somewhere more attractive to stay on the way.

The road runs alongside a blue lagoon, seperated from the sea by a thin strip of land. Along with my first sea-views, I found my first olive groves, and the powerful smell of wild thyme. The ruins are extensive, but the mosaics, really the star attraction, are covered with sand to protect them, and not visible. Frequently in the Balkans I have found tourism to be a work in progress, often put on hold, as the need to preserve things is recognised but the means to do so and still display them are not there. Churches too are often locked while they undergo restoration work.

At Butrint I met an Albanian family living in Canada. They were staying at a hotel owned by a friend of theirs, and in the absence of any other suggestions I joined them, swimming in the Ionian sea for the first time!

I left Saranda fairly early and set off along the coast road, the start of which is cunningly hidden behind a fuel station. Even by mid-morning the heat-haze blurred the views, making Korfu and the other small Greek islands seem to float above the water. Most of the road is shiny and new, but the bits that aren't are under construction, and I had a few hairy moments going through deep gravel!

I had planned to stop at Orikum and go walking on the Karaburum peninsula, but a man with a machine-gun politely informed me (via a pair of local children summoned from the sea) that it is now entirely military and inaccessible. So I picnicked by the sea, and carried on. A few miles down the road, I spotted two French campervans parked outside a restaurant. I had passed Bernadette, Christian, Antoine and Michelle, who I'd met in Ohrid, the day before, but had assumed they were heading for a ferry. But here they were, so I joined them and we caught up on the last few days' travel. They had taken a road I wasn't sure about, south of Korce, and said it was good and stunning - sometimes the caution brought on by travelling alone means I do miss things.

Their plan for the evening was to camp by a lake, so I decided to follow on and join them. About two hours later we stopped to ask directions, only to be told we were in completely the wrong place, the road we wanted didn't exist, and the lake was dry anyway! So at that point I left them to it, and rode to Berat, another old city with stone-roofed houses, slippery cobbles and a castle - though this one has houses and inhabitants within its walls!

The bike had been making some rather unpleasant clunking noises since Ohrid, and although I was fairly sure it was just because I'd had to top her up with the wrong viscosity oil, I wanted to make sure. Anastas, the hotel receptionist who also led this morning's tour to the castle for me and a group of German tourists, said he knew someone who could check it out. For the first time since Romania we had heavy rain, and eventually it transpired the guy wouldn't be there till 5, so I have ended up spending an extra night in Berat. But at least the mechanic concurred with me, so all I need to do now is find some decent oil (he reckons nowhere outside Tirana will have it in Albania) and change it when I can - at least it shouldn't cause any real problems (I hope!).

I've used the day to gather information, and it seems the ride to Komani for the ferry through a gorge that I really wanted to take is likely to be too hard for me to feel happy about on my own, so unless I find information to the contrary I will be heading to Montenegro the day after tomorrow, and spending more time there.

Photos are now uploaded, and you can find some more of Serbia and Macedonia and some of Posted by Laura Bennitt at 06:55 PM GMT

June 27, 2009 GMT
Leaving Albania, and Montenegro

I left Berat in a bad mood after the hotel tried to charge me an extra 5 euros or so for paying in the local currency - especially annoying as I'd specifically got extra cash out to do just that!

My plan was to ride to Shkodra and find out about the possibility of taking a ferry from Koman to Fierze. The boat runs along a gorge and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful sights in Albania. I'd heard that the road to Koman was so bad it took 4-6 hours to cover the 25km, so I wasn't intending to ride there. But when I passed the turning I decided to at least go and have a look - a couple of girls on the Horizons forum had been asking for info, and at least then I'd be able to tell them exactly. It turns out that the road is tarmac! Not great tarmac, and it wanders off from time to time leaving only gravel behind, but essentially it's tarmac! I even got to the stage of thinking I might make the 4 o'clock ferry that supposedly runs in summer.

It was a long, hot ride, and something I'd eaten or drunk in Berat had given me violent stomach cramps so I was surviving on 2 pieces of toast and a handful of raisins. But the water below was a beautiful turquoise, and mountains rose all around, so I kept on going.

Eventually I made it to Koman, only to be told that there is only one ferry a day, at 9am. Furthermore it starts in Fierze at 7 am, so effectively if I wanted to go there and back it would take 2 days. I sat and pondered over a cold lemonade, but reluctantly decided I didn't really have that much time to spare.

By the time I arrived in Shkodra my head had started pounding from heat and lack of food. The town didn't look hugely inviting, but my efforts to find anywhere nicer were thwarted by poor signposting. Eventually I crossed a rickety one-way wooden bridge, which turned out to be one of the main roads into Albania from Montenegro, and found a hotel near the lake. The lake is clearly the real attraction n Shkodra, and I wound down after the day by watching a grand sunset from the hotel grounds.

The next morning I had to wait for my stomach to settle before heading for the border, and even after that felt very glad when they called me forward out of the glaring sun. There is a very shiny new border post, but it isn't operational yet, so you leave Albania, fittingly, via a stretch of rutted, subsiding dirt road.

My first thought on entering Montenegro was, I'm in rural England. A tiny, quiet road winds through hedgerows and past fields, not a soul in sight. Gradually the impression fades, and soon there is no doubt you're in Montenegro - though exactly where is a matter for some debate, as signposting is often optional.

I stopped in Ulcinj for ice-cream (the only thing I felt capable of digesting) then carried on to Stari Bar, and old ruined fortified town. As with so many places in this part of the world, information is relatively scarce, but you're free to wander at will and poke your nose pretty much anywhere.

My route really lay along the coast, but I made a slight detour to see Shkodra lake from this side. The road back took me up into the mountains, then hairpinned back down the other side. From the top of the world to the bottom, with views of blue sea and perfect coastline all the way.

By the time I made it to Kotor I was once again feeling drained and headachy - not surprising considering I still hadn't eaten. So it was something of a blow to realise that the hotel I had noted down as the cheapest was inside the pedestrianised old town, and even more of one to find that their only free room cost 60 euros. Luckily, the guy at reception has a friend who runs a hostel, so I followed him to my dorm bed in little flat across the street.

What had been just a place to stay became a step into a different world. Since Vienna, my last hostel, I had been mainly staying along, meeting mostly locals and occasionally other overland travellers. That had become my way of travelling, and it wasn't until Kotor that I realsied just how different it is from the communal, sociable, city-based backpacking lifestyle. It's fair to say I experienced a bit of a culture shock, especially as Kotor is a very westernised town, with smart cafes, boutiques, and very swanky yachts in the harbour. But I had been craving contact with native English-speakers for a few days, so I settled in and made the most of the contrast.

That first night in Kotor there was a huge storm. Before it broke I sat down by the harbour watching the lightning streak across the sky, rising up from behind the mountains and racing along their entire length. The next day I explored Kotor. It's a very pretty place, though very touristy compared to where I'd been for the last few weeks. During my wanderings I spotted a sign for kayak hire, and as the morning rain had stopped I went for it. The kayak was of course a sit-on-top one, so as soon as the slightest breeze picked up (which it did) it handled like a bathtub, but it felt good to be on the water again, and I even had some sunshine!

The next morning was still damp, but I was determined to climb the fortress regardless. It's built right up the side of the mountain, and I can't help wondering why anyone would bother fortifying something with vertical sides. But the views from the top are worth the effort of hauling yourself up there. Partway up I bumped into Dwayne, an Aussie from the hostel, and we carried on together. Each fresh downpour of rain prompted us to seek shelter, and in each shelter we found a different set of travellers doing the same thing, who we talked to for the duration of the shower then parted from. Best of all from my point of view were a middle-aged French couple travelling by motorbike, who had been proud of their 5,000km trip until they met me with my 10,000 miles! They even took a photo of me to prove I existed!

After that I packed my stuff up and rode to Perast, where I climbed the immense clock tower for views out over the two nearby islands. Neither one is much more than a rock, and each houses a monastery. There seemed little point in taking the scenic mountain route in low cloud, so after that I wandered down the coast to Budva and the Hippo Hostel. There I found Damien, another Aussie I'd met in Kotor, and met Jackie and Baden, an Aussie couple, and Robin, a Dutch guy on a 25-year-old Suzuki that made my TA look very elegant indeed!

By the time I'd settled in it was raining again, but the others had decided to have a BBQ come what may, so BBQ we did! The Aussies, being unused to rain, were useless (though Jackie did marinade the meat very nicely), so the Dutch and British contingent got the coals going, with judicious use of a stray porn mag and a Russian dictionary.

The next morning brought more rain, a few rumblings of thunder, and a mad rush to book an extra night at the hostel rather than travel in the rain. We did hit lucky in the afternoon though, when it cleared up enough for us to make it to the beach for a few hours. The BBQ had been such a success we decided to have another one, and by the time it got going the whole hostel population was gathered outside to eat, drink and be merry.

All that relaxing did me the world of good, and by late morning the next day I was ready to go. The road over the mountains is truly spectacular, with views of the entire fjord - the deepest in Southern Europe. The clouds held back long enough for pictures, only breaking when I crested the mountain and entered the flat bowl of land behind it. As you head up and out again, all you can see is cresting mountains, wave after wave in every direction.

I'd planned to camp in Biogradska Gora National Park, but the ground there is made of rock (which doesn't stop them calling it a campsite!) so I took a bungalow. Very glad I was too, as it pissed it down again overnight. My walk the next day had to be cut short as the path deteriorated into a mud-bath, so I rode off, after having been assisted with my boxes by two awe-struck elderly local men.

The Tara canyon is, I have learned, second only to the Grand Canyon in the world. Though I'm not sure if that's length, depth, or just overall wow factor! Riding along it certainly makes you feel very small, expecially in the rain, as grey rock reaches up to grey sky and plunges down to a river you rarely see. When you do glimpse it, its bright turqiose catches your eye and holds it, the only dash of colour in the forbidding landscape.

The weather still hadn't improved by the time I reached Durmitor National Park, so again I took a wee hut, for two nights this time to allow for a full day's walking. Walking in Durmitor was infinitely more successful than in Biogradska Gora, and I was out for over 7 hours - though a fair amount of that was taken up with putting on and removing waterproofs. The area is mainly pine forest, dotted with clear, dark glacial lakes surrounded by bare peaks of rock. There are bears and wolves in the area, but my wildlife sightings were limited to some black squirrels and a very large red frog.

This morning I took the scenic route across the park to the main road. With that one road, Montenegro displaced Macedonia as the county with the most beautiful landscapes. The road runs high up, between mountain passes, across grasslands broken by cold, sharp rocks. Above it all rise the real heights, glowering down through the clouds, lonely and aloof.

The rain caught up with me at the Piva canyon, where I rode alternately in pissing rain and unlit tunnels. It stopped briefly for the border crossing, though I was mightily confused by the fact that it says "Welcome to Republika Srbska" as you enter Bosnia & Herzegovina - I actually had to pull over a mile or so later and check the stamp in my passport to make sure I hadn't somehow entered the wrong country! But no, all was well, and I have now made it to Sarajevo, were it is STILL RAINING! My speedo died in Foca, about 70km away, but I have found a local bike club, so hopefully they will be able to point me in the direction of a mechanic of some sort. Until then I will stay and visit the town.

Posted by Laura Bennitt at 08:06 PM GMT
June 28, 2009 GMT
Photo links - Albania & Monetnegro

More photos of Albania here.

Photos of Montenegro here.

Posted by Laura Bennitt at 09:08 AM GMT

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Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

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Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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