Through the Balkans (Rovies to Mjlet)

Day 94 – June 2nd – Rovies to Kastoria
We left the wet stuff from yesterday out to dry overnight, with the idea of packing it away in the morning. However rain overnight ixnays our plan.  An early start to load the canoe, bikes and bags and we manage to get away just after 9am, in time to catch the ferry at 10am: goodbye Evia!
Some hours in the car later we arrive in Kastoria, a lakeside city in northern Greece.  We admire the pelicans on the lake while we munch some strawberries for merenda, walk around a little bit, play some chasing games then decide to go for early dinner and early bed.

Day 95 – June 3rd – Kastoria to Tirana (Albania)
Spend the first part of the morning looking for 1) some locks and chains for the bikes/kayak and 2) a road map of Albania. The first we find without too much trouble, the second is less forthcoming. We are about 30km from the border with Albania, there are no other significant towns between here and the border, yet everyone looks completely bemused by our request for a map….
Finally we set off mapless, and get to Pogradec where we make a lunchstop.  Fruit, veg and bakery are very cheap!  It looks like a resort town, but is quite charming anyway.  After lunch G+S bounce happily on the bouncy castles next to the beach then we set off again. We get up to the top of a mountain pass somewhere between Elbasan + Tirana, at which point the gearbox decides it no longer likes first or second gear, leading to a somewhat stressful drive to Tirana (fortunately mostly downhill)!  We make it, and stop at the first car-maintenance type place we see (a Mercedes spare parts seller), to ask directions to a FIAT garage. Happily for us he speaks Greek, apparently his son is training to be a mechanic and can come to have a look at the car, which he shortly did. However he couldn’t fix it on the spot, so we find a hotel.

Day 96 – June 4th – Tirana – Kotor (Montenegro)
Manu spends the morning at the garage where the son works, but they don’t have the right computer program (the gearbox is automatic) to see what is wrong. After some hours they eventually admit this and help us to find the FIAT garage; cue another very interesting drive through heavy city traffic without the use of 1st or 2nd gear.  We get lots of attention at the FIAT garage, but apparently everyone who could actually fix the car is on their lunchbreak. We follow their example and get some lunch. When we get back it looks more promising, car goes in, engineer looks at it with the right computer program, finds out in approximately 5 seconds that a button is stuck, levers it unstuck with a screwdriver in approximately 20 seconds and we’re ready to go again, 300 Leke lighter! The super fix worked wonders and the car is much happier – despite the diabolical Albanian roads – and we make it to Kotor without any further incident.

Day 97 – June 5th – Kotor
Rainy on and off, a huge cruise ship is already dominating the bay when we wake up.  We join the crowds and head towards the old town and walls of Kotor.  You can walk up and around some of the old fortifications, but we decide it is too much for the kids today, so we have a wander around the old town, doing our best not to get mistaken for the cruisers!  Bakery lunch, a long sleep. In the afternoon some rainy playing at a playpark and along the waterside.

Day 98 – June 6th – Kotor – Mjlet (Croatia)
All day drive, arrive Mjlet late afternoon, first place (Ropa) we want to stay is literally a 6-house village, there are some rooms but no minimarket or restaurant, so we continue to Polace, which is a small port within the National Park boundary, a bit more touristy but at least we can get some dinner!