Day 5 - Crossing Into Montenegro
2.50 miles / Total Ascent 100m / Total Descent 100m
Today was primarily a transfer day, crossing the road border between Vermosh (Albania) and Gusinje (Montenegro). This involved two checkpoints, 50-odd metres of no-man's-land, passports (which were stamped) and a certain quantity of time.
The day got off to a slightly inauspicious start. Firstly, it was raining, and whilst not particularly heavy, it had the look of being set in for the day. Secondly, we were running slightly behind time because a) Endrit hadn't been able to make contact with our pre-arranged transport (who was apparently away in Kosovo, anyway!), b) the revised option organised the previous night simply didn't materialise, and c) further transport possibilities for six people and all their luggage at short notice in a remote northern Albanian valley were, for some unknown reason, scarce.
|Gloomy weather in the Grbaje valley
However, as is the way of things, Endrit got it all sorted, and by 10.00am were heading east towards the border on a road of variable quality. Crossing safely negotiated, we passed through Gusinje and headed into the Grbaja valley, where we went for a short walk: nothing too exciting as we had time to make up, but with intermittent views through the trees and sightings of a large Owl and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker to boost our mood, it helped combat the lethargy of a slow morning.
Heading back into Gusinje, we then took the road out to the Ali Pasha Springs, where we had a large lunch (Goulash) and a short walk round.
|Ali Pasha Springs (after John Constable)
Next, we passed through Gusinje again, stopping briefly so that Endrit and Tony could pick up a cab. Motoring regulations are more strict in Montenegro than Albania: apparently seven people and copious luggage crammed into one vehicle is an offence. Can't think why?
Anyway, we then made the 30 minute transfer to Plav and our lakeside hotel at the Komnenovo Ethno Village. We arrived mid-afternoon, giving plenty of time for R&R. Reviews of this hotel had been mixed, but we found it to be nice in a timber-hunting-lodge kind of way, with huge, comfortable rooms (one all to ourselves!) and all mod cons - quite luxurious, by recent standards.
|Hotel Komnenovo (Ethno Villege, Plav)
This evening, we had planned to meet up with Dimitrije (our friend and guide from last year's Montenegro & Kosovo trip). As communication in remote northern Albania is sporadic, we hadn't been able to get a message through, and were not sure if he could make it. However, come the appointed time, a familiar red car arrived at the hotel, with not only Dimitrije inside, but wife Tijana and baby daughter as well! We found a quiet restaurant in the centre of Plav, and had a really good catch up.
All to soon, it was time to go our separate ways: Dimitrije and family back to Bijelo Polje, and us to dinner - chicken, a Serbian salad (green salad with green chillis in) and the traditional Montenegrin dish of kacarmac. Delicious!
After an easy, lazy day today, it's back to trekking with a vengeance tomorrow, so an early night was had by all.