Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 25 Montenegro

We were awake very early this morning. Maybe it was the trains, or the frogs – we will never know, but we decided to hit the road early as it was a big driving day. We wound our way along the coast for a bit, checking out Budva – an expensive resort area. It was stunning, and the early morning light was glinting on the buildings, making them seem almost surreal. The biggest problem, even though there was practically no traffic, was that there was no parking along the beach, and we seemed to have this problem in all the little towns we drove into today. As New Zealanders we take it for granted that you can just bowl up to any old beach and park wherever we want to. Even the parking lots waved us away, only interested in filling up with cars, so often, instead of stopping, we had to drive on through.

After the shorefront villages we wound our way up an enormous hill, and even ended up going through a 4.5 km tunnel – the longest we have been in. . This was the day we wanted to visit “Wolf Mountain” as the kids have christened it, in Lovcen National Park, and boy did we do some climbing (in the camper) to get there! We got to the town of Cetinje – the old capital of Montenegro – a beautiful orange roofed town up in the hills, with lovely tree lined streets. Even though we were quite high up already, and we seemed to be nearly level with the snow line, we did a lot more climbing once we got into the national park, and started our ascent up Lovcen (the real name of the mountain, and the second highest peak in the park at 1657m). We reached the snow, and the kids just had to have a snow fight, and stockpiled snowballs to through at Richard, only he came round the other side of the camper and ended up using all the snowballs on them! There are meant to be wolves up in these mountains, but we didn’t see any sign of them at all. It was quite open forest with little undergrowth, just lots of rocks. I imagine a wolf or a bear could move quite quickly through this type of terrain. We continued to climb – an excellent tarsealed road, and the snow started to be stockpiled on the sides of the road, so we knew the snowplough had been up recently. We got to within 1.5 km of the end of the road, only to find the snow plough had finished his work and gone away, so there was snow across the road and we could go no further. The next wee problem was that there was no turnaround space, we had a bank on one side and a drop on the other, with a road barely wide enough for two cars, let alone a big fat camper. Anyway we decided that if you looked at where the back wheels were under the camper, we had quite a lot of overhang if we could back the wheels right up to the edge. This is one of those times when husbands and wives must trust each other, so Richard drove and I directed, and we managed to actually turn the camper round without going over the edge, or getting stuck! It is lucky we decided to turn round then, because a little later there were more cars up there and there would not have been room for us to turn. Backing down would have been difficult if not impossible. It was a glorious day up there – not a breath of wind, or a cloud in the sky. I decided not to walk to the summit as I wanted to do some planning for Croatia, and a short time after the other three set off, the kids returned, because the silly billies were in jandals????!!! And their feet got cold. Richard kept on going with a Slovenian family, and they walked to the end of the road, then had to climb up a deep snow bank to get to the summit. Richard, not much better than the kids, was in crocs, so had to stop and put his feet on some rocks to warm them a bit as they had gone numb! Finally they made it to the summit, only to find there was a big row of steps (and no snow) going right back down to where the cars were parked! Richard took some cool photos of Njegos mausoleum at the top, which looked well worth visiting. It turned out that it was the first day it had been opened since the winter, so that was pretty lucky.

The kids kept themselves amused making snow angels, and a message to Richard (which kept getting run over by other cars), and having snow sports – target practice with snowballs mostly. Then they wandered round barefoot in the snow until their feet nearly fell off! Once Richard returned, we had intended driving down another road on the mountain, but we couldn’t actually find it, so had to drive down the way we had come. Only one tour bus to contend with, and had to take the camper off road, and nearly managed to get it stuck on a rock! With lots of wheel spinning, actually managed to get it back on hard ground, and keep going on our way. We had to go back through Cetinje, then through some particularly beautiful countryside, with lovely old ruins, until we got to the Bay of Kotor, which we drove round, until we found our campsite at Zeleinka – a steep little hillside camp very overgrown with trees, and a bit tricky to get the camper into. The facilities were fairly minimal, but Richard and Sarah got all keen and hand washed some clothes, so then we had the Chinese laundry set up in the camper again. I went for a walk into town and got some groceries – this time the language got the better of me, and I had great difficulty even chosing things I recognised for tea. I did manage to get some more soap – called Rose soap, so was quite surprised when it turned out to be blue!