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Fat-Bike Van Life – Balkan Holiday by – Stephan Spruyt (Part 3 of 3)

Road Trip The Balkans

(Part 3 of 3)

Greece (part 2)

(from Part 2) The shower session was quite hilarious as what first looked like an alright spot on the side of the road turned out to be a peepshow with ourselves playing the main characters haha 😆.. A bit later we set off, the scenery was really lovely and the sunset just made it all perfect!

Macedonia

The next morning I was up before the crack of dawn, another long road ahead of us and I wanted to make sure we’d be in Kosovo by lunch time.. We decided to skip the South part of Albania as we’d be running behind schedule due to various breakdowns we had. The drive through the south of Macedonia was breathtaking and we made a couple of stops to take in the views.. We entered Kosovo in the morning and at the border had to get ourselves insurance which cost 15€. A bit later we stopped for fuel which made me smile as the going rate was 1.05€/L. With an open mind and little info we drove through Kosovo via the south. We had been advised not to visit the north as there’s still some political disturbance in some areas. We didn’t see anything unusual other than a strange setup in terms of road side businesses. You’d see either a bunch of old cars or machinery or a business that would sell everything plastic.. We continued our way to a city named Prizren where we stopped for lunch and a tour around the ‘old bazar’. In the afternoon we continued towards Albania. Once arrived at the border we were advised to buy insurance (again).. They would only accept cash – 50€ – we didn’t have enough with us so after a while they just let us go and said that if we would be stopped by the Police to tell them the border office was shut.. It makes you think if it’s actually mandatory ..

Albania Border

The views driving into Albania were absolutely stunning, the mountains were enormous and we were just in awe the first half an hour.. Everything seemed unreal, we even drove past an enormous roadkill that looked just like a lion, as it was on the motorway just around a bend we were unable to stop and make a picture but it left us wondering what we saw for the rest of the day..

Kosovo

Whilst driving in Albania, one thing was very obvious.. The way some people were driving was absolutely terrible and very scary at the same time.. People would overtake cars that were already overtaking on a normal single lane road.. I had to stop and move out of the way several times to avoid head on collisions – terrifying!! And you think that’s cos there’s no police on the road, well .. your wrong .. the good thing was that people were flashing lights from time to time and that wasn’t to say hi or anything but to notify you that Police was round the corner doing speed checks. Having figured that out pretty quickly we did get stopped once though.. not for speeding but just cos the Police were gobsmacked by the vehicle that they saw coming.. 😆

Albania

We panicked at first as we did not have the insurance for Albania but were lucky they only asked for the vehicle’s papers. The officer was actually pretty funny as he just couldn’t get why we were driving around in Albania with two ginormous bikes on top of it.. It made for a nervous but hilarious moment. Altogether Albania left us with a strange feeling, merely because of how some people were driving and I guess we got some strange looks too, meanwhile the bus started developing gearing issues again and we hadn’t found a place to stay yet. Eventually we decided to look for a safer place to spend the night and after a quick google search I spotted a resort at Lake Shkoder. We drove there thinking we’d just park in the carpark and kip for the night…

Campsite Lake Shkoder – Albania

We followed the road onto an off the beaten track that led us to a gate.. no places to park and quite literally being in the middle of nowhere the gate opens and to our surprise, this place turns out to be a  really cool campsite. Having just enough cash to stay for the night we parked up, had a couple of beers and called it a day.

The next morning I was up early (yet again 🙄 ) and to my surprise noticed that pretty much all vehicles here were quite unusual.. I found a couple more t2 & t3’s, 4×4’s, Landrovers, special equipped off-road vehicles and more.. What a fantastic place this was and completely secluded. Shame we could only stay here for one night.

Border into Montenegro

We continued our trip and set course to Montenegro where we arrived after a long wait at the border. We’d been through many border checks but this was the first time we were actually checked. An undercover agent started asking me loads of questions, I eventually got irritated as he had not made clear who he was and then finally showed his badge. He was keen to know why we had bikes with ‘huge’ tyres and was determined to get on the roof of my bus. At this point, I got annoyed as he was trying to make his way on to my roof which I refused him access too. I had nothing to hide but after a bad experience with a French officer once who thought my bus was a climbing rack and left several marks I wasn’t going to let this happen again. The conversation got quite heated but I remained polite yet very firm. Eventually, I gave him access via a ladder I was carrying on my roof so that he could check the tyres of the bikes. One bike had a flat tyre and he was suspicious that it was loaded with cannabis as Albania exports a lot of this into Europe. After approx 40 mins, we were finally given the green light and set off towards the bay of Kotor.

Lovcen Mountain Montenegro

We decided to take the scenic route of the Lovcen mountain, not a straightforward choice given the height of the vehicle but it turned out to be the perfect option. They were reshaping the road.

Lovcen Mountain Montenegro

Which meant that some parts I had to reduce speed to that of a tortoise but for the main part it was actually very good.

 

Lovcen Mountain Montenegro

Halfway the mountain we came to a complete stop at the back end of a queue due to the road being temporarily shut and before I realized a whole crowd had gathered around the bus and the next half hour turned into a photoshoot (which I quickly escaped) 😁.

 

Kotor Bay – Montenegro

The rapid changing mountain landscape made for some amazing views and as soon as we were at the other side of the mountain we were greeted with stunning views over the Kotor bay. We finished the day in Kotor at a really nice lakeside restaurant where we got served a massive fresh grilled fish platter!

Dubrovnik

The next morning after another border crossing we arrived in the ever so beautiful city Dubrovnik, it really is as nice as people say.

Dubrovnik

As many others, we’re both ‘game of thrones’ fan’s, so it was great to see some of the city’s magnificent ancient features. In the early afternoon, we decided to visit a nearby beach to chill out for a bit before we set course to Croatia.

Razanac – Croatia

Later that evening we arrive in Razanac near Zadar, a very quiet little town right at the beach and have a couple of beers before we hit bed. In the morning we’re surprised with an amazing view over the water, we go for a little swim before we drive a little bit further and stop in Novalja. We came here to meet up with friends to go partying at the popular Sonus festival. They had managed to secure an extra parking pass so we set camp in the hotel’s carpark, something that’s not unusual for me 🙂

Razanac – Croatia

I must admit, it was quite a change in scenery and vibe entering the festival, my friends were in a real party mood so it didn’t take long before rivers of alcohol were flowing towards our direction.

Novalja – Croatia

We ended back at the hotel or better on the beach in the morning and tried to recover from a heavy night for the remainder of the day and the evening too haha. The next morning I drove around in town looking for a garage. The gearbox was rather noisy and with the loss of oil, I needed to get it topped up. I didn’t have the massive allen key with me so I tried a local garage. The woman at the reception was not very impressed with me, gave me a strange look and then said I should try another garage in the next town.

Novalja – Croatia

Off we go then.. thanks for the help!! About 15 mins later I find another, very small garage. I explained to the mechanic what I needed. He looked at my bus and sorted me straight out with the right kit – happy days! Once sorted we head back to the place at the sea named ‘babe beach’. I was here last year too and had a great time, I can park the bus pretty much near the water and it has a bar for cocktails.. what more do you want!.

We finished the day with a beach ride on the fatties before starting our way back towards Slovenia.

It was now Saturday morning and we were on the way to Slovenia, I really wanted to stop in Ljubljana but also wanted to show Sian the beautiful Bohinj National park and because of time, we decided on the latter. I remembered too well what an amazing bike ride I had next to the lake last year and wanted to do it all over again . Later that evening we also visited Lake Bled.

Sunday was spent with .. yep.. a whole day driving. We’d slept in Austria so the majority of our day was spent getting through Germany which proved a real nightmare.. The endless roadworks are a real pain and caused massive delays. We eventually arrived at my friends’ 30th party in Antwerp around midnight for a couple of drinks before we went to sleep…Sunday we had a bit of a layin.

Antwerp

Before leaving Antwerp driving homebound, I noticed a huge leak under the bus. Luckily I had access to a ramp and a little later we sorted out the problem and off we went. We were quite tight on time to make our ferry and to make it worse we lost all gears on the motorway (again). Luckily I had the right parts on board and as we’d been going through the same routine of getting all tools underneath the seat, jacking the bus up, fixing the issue and packing it all away again we only lost 10 mins and literally just made the Ferry.. pffiieeeeewww 👊 – We eventually got home at midnight… The next morning at work was painful…

Cheers! ~ Sian & Stephan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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