We woke early, in Montenegro (we’d spent our first night free camping near Kotor with Rover parked right opposite the beautiful Adriatic Sea with jagged mountain ranges as the backdrop) and jumped straight into the ocean to make us feel alive before we guzzled our morning cuppa joe. Both the water temperature and outside temperature were cold but the crystal clear water and surrounds were too beautiful to let the opportunity pass by. We ate breakfast out on the concrete jetty watching as the world woke up and started on a new day – cruise ships and fisherman passed each other by with purpose. We too decided to get cracking on our day and hit the road early as we were unsure of how long it would take us to cross the border into Albania as we had heard the roads were some of the worst there are.
What we hadn’t heard was how intensely crazy it is driving on the roads in Albania! We crossed the border, and got through customs, collecting another stamp in our passports rather easily and efficiently. Having mentally prepared ourselves for horrendous roads we were actually rather impressed with their visibly new upgraded roads. What we didn’t prepare for was the chaos we were about to be hurled into, driving amongst the locals. Albania seemed to me like Europe’s India! Road rules didn’t seem to exist and instead it was a free for all – there were middle aged ladies on bicycles riding against traffic on an unmarked four lane roundabout, people putting their hazard lights on and parking their car in the middle of a busy functioning road, herds of sheep crossed freely with apparent right of way, people honking horns frequently and unnecessarily, pedestrians stepping out to cross the roads infant of hurtling cars and then there was us and Rover amongst it all, trying to make our way to the campgrounds without any functioning internet on our phone.
We exited a busy roundabout and appeared to be leaving some of the mayhem behind when we got overtaken on our left as a car sped up and ushered to the right by local policeman who were stopped on the side of the road and pulling over cars as they desired. We came to a halt and wound down the window without the faintest idea of what this was all about as the local policeman approached. In our four months on the road in Europe we had never once been pulled over by the police. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There had been many occasions (in several countries) where police had been pulling over cars and they’d simply ushered us through. We figured that they’d seen our Dutch number plates (hard to miss due to their bright yellow colour) and simply thought it would be too difficult to attempt to communicate in another language or too costly to post the fine (if necessitated) back to The Netherlands where the van is registered. Turns out that’s not the case in Albania. This policeman had picked us out as easy targets to make some fast cash!
The policeman came to the drivers window to speak to Blake, the offender. There was plenty of dialogue between us all but very little comprehension as we didn’t know a word of Albanian and he knew next to no English. The next ten minutes was another game of real life charades with finger pointing and animations. We handed over passports, licenses and the van registration and insurance. The policeman sternly pointed his finger at Blake, exclaimed “naughty” and then laughed! Finally we were issued with a speeding fine.
From what we could decipher the policeman stated that the speed limit was 50 km/hr and we were excessively speeding doing 80km/hr. How he arrived at 80km/hr no one knows as there was no speed camera in sight! But we certainly weren’t going to attempt to argue. We handed over 30 euros (presumably which went straight into his back pocket to be later spent for his personal use), knowing we’d been completely scammed but figuring it was a small price to pay and far better than ending up in Albanian jail! I smiled politely, repeatedly saying “thank you” and “sorry” as we started Rover ready to get back on the road. The policeman smugly grinned and then to everyone’s amazement lent into the car to slap hands with me sitting in the passengers seat (alikened to a homie handshake) before he hugged Blake and sent us on our way!
It was a wild introduction to Albania and one I’m sure I’ll never forget! We reached the campgrounds situated about 3 km down the road and were happy to have checked in & parked up safely for the next couple of nights. We told the young Albanian receptionist at the campsite what had just happened and she merely smiled, speaking perfectly good English and told us “Ahh, this happens in a foreign country. It’s best to put it behind you.” And that we did. It was time for a long hot shower and then a tall cold beer! Now that we deserved.