The thrilling night of no electricity will have to wait for its moment in the light for a bit longer because I'm on a jaunt. I've promised myself a bit of travelling all summer but held off until now because it's cheaper, less crowded and I've been busily testing Šipan's beaches. It's been an amazingly relaxed few months but it's time to bestir myself in preparation for a London visit in October. So what better way than a whistle-stop tour of south-east Europe?
I was having a moment of fear and indecision on Saturday. I had all the relevant computer windows open and all it needed was the first step: that initial bus from Dubrovnik to Kotor. And once I had the place in Ohrid booked then I was fully committed to getting there so late the next evening, it was basically morning. According to the online timetable*. Precisely why I was avoiding Tirana which doesn't even have a bus station. I've never done a late night scary transport terminus alone. The elegant Kings Cross/St Pancras one late night for 2 hours doesn't count because there was a Starbucks and a lady with whom to natter. And in Roma Centrale and St Petersburg I was with people. So I wasn't doing a random street in a city I don't know.
So anyway my fears boiled down to - what if I missed the connections? What if even coastal touristy Albania was too scary? What if the ferry ports were too confusing? And worst of all, what if I was overcome by nauseating baroque-itis in Lecce? Basically I was nervous about leaving my safe island bubble, which has become a kind of 'life detox' place, and I was thinking of every excuse possible not to go. And I'd made chocolate brownies...
After a stern talking to by a travel addict friend I took the laptop by the horns and formulated a plan. Because some of the logistics were complicated - some overnight travel - I downloaded a nifty little app called TripHobo and started booking rooms and ferries. The plan is to go from Dubrovnik to Kotor, and that same day overnight Kotor to Lake Ohrid. Then after a couple of days chilling, on to Durrës on Albania to see a different seaside town and also so I could get the ferry to Bari. I've never been to the heel of Italy so a quick jaunt to Lecce, Florence of the south sounds fab. I thought this would be better than just getting a bus back from Ohrid to Dubrovnik via Skopje. Ferries are fun and I would be straight back to Dubrovnik from Bari. Anyway in summary it is a reasonably ambitious schedule for a 12 day trip. And it was a plan which is scary in itself.
This morning I fell pretty much at the first hurdle. To be honest it might even have been last night. I've been helping the landlord with some cleaning and to say thank you he took me out for pizza. He'd offered me fish but pizza meant a screechingly exciting scooter ride across the island, so no brainer! He turned up at 8pm and was horrified at my inability to pack. Or wash up. Or be in anyway ready. He continued being horrified as I made free with the Tabasco, and then ordered rum and coke. Good job he didn't see the pre road trip champagne shenigans...
As we got home I remembered my bus ticket and ferry confirmation needed printing. Problem. His printer had no ink. Fine, there must be an Internet point in Dubrovnik bus station you can**. I continued packing, put things ready, set the alarm for 6am, and collapsed into bed in a pizza/beer/rum stupor. No I still hadn't washed up but I had put the brownie and emergency paprika crisps in my backpack. Priorities. To my horror the alarm woke me up as requested and I completed the general clearing up, legging it down to the car ferry with 10 mins to spare. For the first time ever I lay down on one of the seats and fell asleep! I was so bewildered when we docked I got lost at the ferry port and found myself wandering up to a massive cruise ship. That wasn't right...
Turns out you can't print your tickets at the bus station. So I turned around and went back to my favourite cafe which has an information point next door; this is what happens when you deviate from the norm. And go out without caffeine. After finally drinking coffee and waiting til 9am when they opened, I spoke to a nice chap who managed to get evernote to talk to his printer. I had a ticket! I returned to the bus station and rearranged my bags. At 10am sharp we were off, and I was looking forward to a pleasant afternoon in Kotor. The next leg of the journey would hopefully commence at 7pm.
As promised and expected the landscape of this region always leaves me gasping. The road hugging the coast is incredible and worth the price of the ticket alone. The last time I was here the weather was indifferent so it was lovely to see the sun twinkling off the bay. We arrived and I retrieved my overly large backpack, then popped over to the ticket office.
Dobar dan. Molim Vas jednu kartu u Ohridu. Jedan smjer.
Hahahaha! Oh how the travel gods laughed and mocked my optimism and pronounciation. She showed me the screen and it was blank. No buses today as the winter timetable had kicked in. So here I was in one of the most expensive cities in the region, my beautiful accomodation 10 hours away, with only a few euros to spare.
*Fiction. Lies. Perfidious bastarding timetable.
**Dubrovnik. Seriously sort this out!!