Bus-ing Round the Balkans travel blog

 

 

 


Leaving Kotor for Dubrovnik, the road takes us on a loop around the edge of the Bay. Partway around - shortly after passing the church with an angel statue atop its steeple, and the bridge over a small inlet into the bay - I realise I've got a dopey grin pasted across my face. It's just so bewitching.

I'm glad I first arrived in the Bay through the Tivat tunnel and left via the far shore. It seems the perfect order in which to experience its majestic beauty and power. Arriving from the interior, and suddenly having the Bay open up before you as you pop out of the side of the mountain, gives it the full power of the dramatic punch it pulls so well.

Here and there the mountains are dotted with churches, sometimes small settlements, halfway up their sharply angled slopes.

I watch as the gulls ride the thermals, soaring higher into the sky above the Bay. We begin to climb too.

The mountains opposite me are different now: I can see the course of the road running along their midpoint, like a scar slashed across their side, marked by landslips falling away from the road's edge. It's a far cry from the unspoilt stretch of mountain opposite Kotor itself, unsullied by the hands of man save for homes lining the water's edge and the occasional church. The trees and shrubs grow uninterrupted up to the highest reaches there, broken up only by the grey rock of the mountain itself. No road disrupts the natural balance, no tunnels gouge holes through its side. It strikes me as a little sad.

These mountains remind me a little of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. I like it when I spot random congruencies between otherwise disparate places - the man in his fishing boat that reminds me of Easter Island, the grey mountains dotted with patches of green that remind me of Torres del Paine, the stretches of Kosovan farmland that remind me of home.

Then there's the almost cast iron guarantee that whichever trail you choose to hike, you will always encounter someone attempting it in flip flops. However inappropriate or dangerous the rest of the people scrabbling up that rocky mountainside, across the slippery rocks, through the undergrowth or muddy bog recognise it to be, still someone does it. What is it about flip flops?

You don't need to go into space to marvel at the oneness of the earth and humankind, the futility of borders and politicised conflict. Just spend some time on the road.

Maybe that's a little too deep for a Friday.

Once in Dubrovnik I decide to go for a walk along the coast. The smell of pine trees accompanied by the sound of the waves breaking against the rocks below briefly took me back to Vancouver Island's wild coast trail. But there the similarities ended; there was nothing wild about this trail, walking as I was along poured concrete.

There's nothing quite like poured concrete to steal the wonder from a scene. Piped music comes a close second though. That's here too.

I'm a little downhearted by the time I reach the end of the path. It all feels so fake, plastic, sanitised. Wandering through the sprawling five star resorts that have been built at the end of the peninsula I've been walking along, I pass two Americans. One describes the views as spectacular.

I pause, gazing out to sea in the same spot. I can't see it. Quite pretty, yes, but not spectacular. A little damaged, spoilt.

If Budva was swarming with tourists, then there is a veritable plague of them here. Underwhelmed by the sterilised version of nature here, and very overwhelmed by all the people, I head up to the road to loop back to my starting point, rather than returning the way I came. The pavement here is more neglected, the roadside isn't manicured and manipulated. It feels more real and I relax again.

A coach passes me on the way back, a slogan in the window: "you travel, we plan". This perplexes me. Where is the fun in that?

Planning this trip has extended the experience beyond my three and a bit weeks of actually "doing"; I've had months of plotting, scheming, wondering, dreaming.

Then again, I'm probably not their target customer base.

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