Today we’re leaving Mostar, in Bosnia and heading to Kotor, in Montenegro. I was a bit sad to be leaving Mostar as the family we stayed with at their home-stay we really nice. The father was an old biker who didn’t speak much English but we still had a great chat about bikes. He’d travelled all through Croatia and Bosnia on his old Kawasaki LTD with his wife on the back. After a few days sitting idle the Princess wasn’t really happy about starting and it took me a few minutes to get her to run (it might be time to replace the plugs).
After a warm goodbye we headed out of Mostar with the plan of heading to Blagaj, have breakfast before heading to Gradac in Croatia to catch up with our mate Andy and his wife for lunch. As soon as we hit the edge of the city we couldn’t find any signs for Blagaj, so a quick decision was made where to go for breakfast. Of course, head back to Restoran Harmonija in Mostar. We’d been there for three meals already, the food was excellent, the service was great, the staff were friendly and the meals were reasonably priced. As it was Sunday we got to meet some of the other staff and we were equally impressed by their service. A couple of cups of coffee and an omelette later we were heading for the border. The road out of the city took us past the airport which was surrounded by massive vineyards with high fences. Michele wondered whether it was to keep people out of the vines or airport.
The highway followed the Neretva River and it was wonderful cruising along looking out across vineyards and the mighty Neretva’s jade coloured water. It would be so nice just to kayak down this river with all it’s power.
Just past Buna we crossed the river onto the R425 which snaked its way up the side of some magnificent tabletop mountains. The tops of the mountains looked like a lunar landscape covered with boondies the size of your fist. Further on towards Čitluk the landscape looked much better with vineyards, cultivation and lots of buildings. It turned out to be a lot bigger town than we expected.
Getting a little off track we took the turn off to Medugorje and suddenly arrived in a town which seemed to be booming. Lots of hotels, shops, apartments, and heaps of souvenir shops in the middle of nowhere. It had us scratching our heads, why would anyone want to come here? We started noticing the souvenir shops were selling all sorts of Christian items and some of the hotels had crosses on the signs. It was quite puzzling. Later our mate Andy confirmed that Medugorje is a site of pilgrimage for many people. Six local children had supposedly had seen an apparition back in 1981 known as the Lady of Medugorje. Some of whom still see it daily. Supposedly the Vatican is a bit sceptical but if the locals are making money to survive whether its true or a hoax that’s ok by us.
After a quick check of the satnav we found a shortcut through the suburbs of Medugorje before picking up the A1 Tollway on the edge of town. The tollway was absolutely deserted as we’ve been told locals don’t use it. All the better for us as we could get to where we were going faster and safer with no traffic. Along the way we even spotted a waterfall which was easily visible from the road. Soon we were passing through the Bosnian border and into Croatia with the toll only costing 1.20 Bosnian Marks on one side and 4 Kuna on the other.
The end of the Motorway brought us out at Plocé and gave us a magnificent view over the Neretva river running through the delta. After that it was a quick run up to Gradac through some stunning countryside around the Baćina Lakes and along the coast. Andy and his wife greeted us with a lovely warm welcome. They’d been embarrassed that we’d visited last time and left without being fed so this time there was no backing out we couldn’t leave until we’d eaten. Throughout the Balkans hospitality is a huge deal, and it reminds me of growing up in the country. Whenever you visited someone you couldn’t just pop in for a cuppa tea. You’d be fed and your kids would have a bath so that when you got home you could just pop them into bed. You’d also be sent on your way with some food, a couple of jars of homemade pickles, preserves, jam or vegetables from the garden.
Andys wife had prepared a local dish of meat, rice and spices wrapped in cabbage leaves. Our lunch was followed with a lovely roulette filled with chocolate almond and frosted with chocolate. Obviously we looked like we needed fattening up for we both were served slices that could’ve been mistaken for truck tyres. It was a wonderful meal and it was great to catch up with Andy and Lilijana again.
It was hard to get away but as it was getting fairly late we said our goodbyes and headed for the border. The sun was cloaked in wispy cirrus clouds so looking out across the Croatian coast the water took on a fabulous teal colour with the islands in the background a blue grey.
At our second border crossing for the day, once again the border guard at Neum just waved us through and we were back into Bosnia. After a quick stop to put some fuel in the tank and get rid of some Bosnian marks, we were off again. Within a few minutes we were passing through border number three and into Croatia again. The road south to Dubrovnik was much better than last time we headed this way, bright afternoon sunshine and no rain. There was lots of bikes out as well.
It was getting later and later as we passed Dubrovnik with fear of missing the border insurance office in the back of our minds. Knowing that this part of the country is usually absent of policija I gave the throttle a little extra twist and at one minute to five crossed border number four for the day. The Montenegrin border guard asked us for our paperwork however as we’d already been through here we knew what to expect. After parking the bike we wandered across to the insurance office to find it closed. It took a few seconds to realise that on the second floor were more offices however, the entry was around the rear of the building, phew. On the top floor there were a few offices open and I was pointed to one where after handing over €10 I was given a slip for Border insurance for 15 days.
The last rays of sun we hitting the snow capped mountains as we crossed the border into Montenegro painting them a magnificent pink. We just had to stop for a photo as the full moon on top of the mountains looked magical. It wasn’t until I’d stopped that I realised that I’d stopped next to a police radar post. I’m not sure what the policeman was thinking but he was giving us the strangest look so I acted like I was oblivious to him and pointed like I was talking to Michele.
It was dark by the time we arrived at Kemenari for the ferry across to Lepetane on the Kotor side of Kotor Bay. We received a fair bit of interest as we were the only motorcyclists on the ferry. (This ferry cuts almost 100 km’s off our trip and only costs €2)
Well it was like the gold rush trying to get off the ferry with no sort of order just everybody trying to get off at the same time. The foot passengers wisely departed as soon as the ferry touched the shore before the barrier was removed.
The run around Kotor Bay was a little treacherous in the dark with the little one lane track unlit in most places and cars travelling like they were being chased by the police. Eventually we found the apartment and after settling in headed off in search of food on foot. First we headed north without success before retracing our steps and heading south towards Kotor. At every corner we expected to see a restaurant but it was not to be and very soon we realised we were close to the hospital we’d visited last time we were here.
As we were so close to the city we just walked the rest of the way and into the old city. There were a few restaurants charging stupid prices for food but we soon found a little hole in the wall type places which double as a betting shop. It was pretty packed but the owner pointed to a table where a young girl was sitting. Eventually we started talking to her and we discovered that Varvara was a Russian on holidays. She told us about herself and we reminisced about travelling through Russia, telling her a few of the things we did. It was a really nice night chatting about all sorts of things. Eventually it was time to head for home and after saying our goodbyes we headed for the taxi rank. Varvara had told us how when she arrived at the airport the taxi had tried to charge her €20 to take her to Kotor but after haggling she’d got away with paying only €8. We asked our taxi driver about it and he said it should cost about 7 so she had been really smart to haggle. Our cabbie was above board as it was a company taxi and the trip out only cost €2.40 on the meter. After we drove back at the apartment we thanked him and headed inside to settle down for the night.
Whoa what a day four border crossings, three countries, good food, good company with old friends and new friends. Tomorrow we are going to walk up along the fortress which surrounds Kotor. It should be perfect weather for it.