Initial plans were to ferry from Greece into Croatia as insurance we had did not cover Albania and Montenegro, however this option was a pricey one, and with more research we just bit the bullet and decided to drive through. As mentioned before getting 3rd party insurance was the only option of being covered in Albania and this is bought from a little dinky shop after customs and border crossing. €49 and we obtain the legal document to drive through, that’s not saying it will help you if involved in an accident. Merc’s after Merc’s Mercede-Benzes every where, it was said a while back during a sorrid period early 90’s, a free market free for all was encouraged by the then government that caused a huge smuggling problem that a massive influx of stolen Mercedes were smuggled into the country…. Well since then they clearly still love them ! I read a little about Albania in the Lonely Planet and I got to say I feel really sorry for the time Albania has gone through. Uprisings in the late 19th century resulted in Independence in 1912 however this was hampered when Kosovo roughly one third was ceded to Serbia in 1913. WW1 Albania was occupied by armies of Greece, Serbia, France, Italy and Austria-Hungary.
With alot of uncertainties and corruption up top when WW11 came about Mussolini Italy invaded the country for it to be won back in 1941 to a successful resistance and after 1943 the Germans. For a long period they went through Communism with being close to Stalin’s USSR and after China. 47 years of communist rule came to an end and democratic elections took place. In 1992 the switch from Communism to Democracy proved too much with the then Government opting for an open free market which as said before saw an influx of stolen goods into the country. Here’s one that will make you choke, in 1996 70% of Albanians lost their savings when a private pyramid-investment scheme went belly up, riots insued and more elections took place. They withstood the European crisis in 2008 and since been growing they beckon an arrival to be included in the Euro. These people have been through alot and there is still alot more that I haven’t noted for you. Driving coastal and the roads are in pretty good nick, this country is really mountainous which just drops to the sea front dramatically, nothing subtle here it’s quite breath taking, it is also very dry rocky terrain with not alot of vegetation except olive trees everywhere. We stop at a seaside village called Dhërmi. Blue turquoise sea water, stoney pebble beach, local town that looks to have hotels, bars and restaurants all ready for the mad summer rush, we stay down on the beach front looking out onto the water. So far driving through Albania has been painless and the stereotype that Albania has can be completely dismissed because they are extremely helpful and accommodating.
What is daunting is looking up at what we have to drive to get out the other side onto flatter land. So the mountainous scene I gave you in words would pretty much describe the hike The Green Machine needs to make to get up, 2nd gear and it was steep! Get to the top and it was rest time. Going through that coast just seemed like the coast of Greece just continued, stunning views we do wish to pay this place a visit again, they deserve it.
Moving onto our next point to stay the night we camp in Barbullush which has a Dutch run Eco camp, we buy some local food and enjoy the camp pool. Set of the next day to head to Montenegro, LPG topped up and we are on the road barely 5 mins and the campervan turns herself off…. No lights nothing. What the hell just happened I start her up and of again, no noise no smoke nothing. Swith to petrol and she runs for a minute then shuts down. A driver pulls over and offers help to tow to nearest garage pulling out some electrical wire… Kindly refuse and he suggest I come to that service station to figure out what to do, hesitant at first but I had a gut feeling he was just being helpful, 5 minutes down the road I do sit there thinking if he is taking me to a garage. We approach locals with little shops which basically don’t have the means to help or do anything for that matter, and the bloke 3 shops down who lived in Australia comes out wondering where I’m from to much amusement for himself. Well amongst all that chit chatter the driver is trying to convince me not to use our insurance to tow the camper, well I’m trying to convince him that money is not an option and that is what insurance is for…. Finally agreeing to take me back stern words of much I could translate is he has 3 small kids and that this is “taxi” all this bloke wanted was money for the help he was giving €9 (1200 Leke) surprisingly shoed him off. So waiting for the tow truck an hour later a man arrives in a family wagon with a trailor, surely that won’t take the camper?
Oh it sure will! Adament and jumping it up the ramp because of course it doesn’t have a tow or pulley. With him waving down passerbys 3 strangers including me and him help to push the campervan up, good ol AA stay classy you dodgey bastards!
So 20km an hour 30 mins later and we arrive to a reputable looking mechanic, always in the back of your mind since Plzen Czech Republic. So they drive in and try and lower the campervan off the trailor, well! The trailor lifts up with 4 or 5 of the mechanics quickly sprung into action at the tow bar to hold it down while the boss man grabs a jack to stop the trailor dropping at the back anymore…. so campervan off safely and the mechanics look into the problem, 30 minutes later and it is running as it should. With a young Albanian girl who speaks ok English did some translating for us. They say the camper just got hot… We only drove 10 minutes, they also thought that the LPG that we put in was crap gas, like not fit for purpose.. Ok. And finally they think a switch under the dashboard needed to be switched on and the problem is gone, this being the immobalizer. Also forgot to mention the number plate and our campervan looked so similar that they think it was here 3 years ago! Coming away from that €20 later and sitting there thinking this does not sound right. Why is the Green Machine doing this?
We set off to the border for Montenegro and hope the Campervan holds out. We have to get to Cavtat by Wednesday a day away to meet Karens parents, we drove this far at the time we have done pretty bloody well. We know once we arrive to Croatia that time will be much slower for us chilling next to typical Croatian beaches.
That is a short time through Albania was an experience to embrace, There are alot of campervans driving through here, Dutch people top the list and is really a popular attraction. We never ventured through inland and hear the national parks are really nice. One day we will hopefully look to come back and I hope Albania continues to do well and rise up to the sorry past they had.
Approaching the border into Montenegro it was same old and we were out in quick fashion, the terrain looking very familiar to Albania we set for Kotor which would have us on our first car ferry across the harbour to our campsite. Again stunning scenery and so much on offer here we will have to come back and visit again with more time.
Set off again the next morning and we approach the Croatian border. That’s our trip through the two countries on what has been mammoth driving to get to Croatia.