I particularly remember talking to a friend of mine back in Newcastle about an upcoming trip he was going to do. He was going to join a hitch gathering and hitch his way down to Spain with a group of people. My response was somewhere along the lines of: wow that sounds great! Aren’t you scared? I would be too scared to go hitch hiking!
Yet here I am a few weeks later…
I have been talking to people who hitch hike, and have talked particularly much to a lad from Sweden who has been hitching for 6 months straight. I became more and more intrigued and even started thinking about hitching my way from Vienna to Newcastle in the summer to get back to Uni.
The only experiences I had of this were on this trip so far…both of which were accidental. 1) a friendly person I had asked directions from in Corfu at the beginning of my trip took me to where I went to meet my Couchsurfing host, and 2) a lovely man in Bitola, Albania took me from the National Park back to the city.
Maybe it was those two accidental, yet positive experiences that stopped me from freaking out when all the things that happened today happened…
I took a bus from Tirana, Albania to Shkodre, Albania in the hopes of catching the 3pm bus to Ulcinj, Montenegro from where I will take one of the many regular buses to my destination of Kotor, Montenegro. Sounds easy enough, but don’t forget, I’m in the Balkans.
I didn’t think much of it being sunday, or easter for that matter, because Albania is a mainly muslim country that doesn’t celebrate easter and everything works as normal on sundays…
So I get to Shkodre and ask where the 3pm bus would leave from…
First shock: There is no 3pm bus, but there might be one at 4pm…but nobody’s sure. I should go check if the bus is parked in the station by the stadium. If it’s there it will go, if it’s not there, it won’t be going today. I walk to the bus station by the stadium and ask around for the Ulcinj bus. Nope, not happening today, but I can take a Taxi (for twice the price) I leave the place, thinking about it..but not really wanting to take a Taxi…maybe I’ll spend the night here?
I head back to the place my Bus dropped me off where a man asks me if I want to go to Tirana…no thank you. Another man asks me about Ulcinj. YES! Thank you. The bus leaves at 2pm from across the road.
GREAT. I go to walk around the old part of town and the pedestrian area.
Second shock: At around 1:30pm I go to where the bus is supposed to be to be told that there is no bus at 2pm, but that there was one at 1pm and another one at 4pm.
I walk around a little when the man that told me about the 1pm bus comes to get me. He knows a guy who’s driving to the border. He can take me for E7. After a little hesitation I agree.
Once we get to the car the man was very eager to show me his passport with all the stamps for Croatia and Bosnia and Montenegro as if he was making sure that I knew that he does this often and that he’s not going to kidnap me.
Thanks man, I appreciated that.
Third shock: He leaves me at the border, telling me a bus will be at the other side. Of course, there isn’t. So I am standing on the Montenegrin side of the border with my backpacks. Not knowing the language or anybody. Only that I want to get to Ulcinj and then Kotor. After some waiting and contemplating hitch hiking I see a bus crossing the border. I ask where they’re going and if they’ll take me. Ulcinj, and yes.
Fourth shock: After finally having reached Ulcinj comes my next shock. Although the buses are supposedly frequently travelling between the Montenegrin coastal cities, the next one will leave at 19:35. It was somewhere around 14:00…
I was told to walk to the traffic lights to maybe get a lift from there.
So off I go, still not really realizing that I am actually going to hitch hike…by myself.
After standing and walking along the road awkwardly a car actually stops. The elderly man asks me if I wanted a lift for a couple of kilometres. He seemed friendly, so I got in the car. After being offered sex, I politely ask to get out of the car…which was absolutely no problem. Somehow the man still seemed friendly, I don’t know how to explain it, but it seemed like he was just asking to see if it was possible, without really meaning to be rude or creepy. He was a little creepy after that though. So I got out at a restaurant that was along the way.
I ask there whether there will be a bus to Budva or Bar any time soon, but nobody seems to know. They tell me to stand by the road and to wave if I see a bus, it’ll stop and take me.
After waving at some cars and getting some waves in return from drivers and passengers in cars a car does actually pull over after 10 mins. or so..maybe not even that long. A young man gets out and asks me where I want to go. Remembering the tips my new swedish friend had given me in Kosovo a couple of days before I answered with the same question. He and his friend were going to Budva. PERFECT. I asked if they’ll take me. A couple of seconds later I was in the car shaking hands with Dorian and Florin. Two friends on their way to Budva to have a coffee.
This is actually the longest leg of my journey, so I am very happy to have found them. This was seriously a great hitch hiking experience. After the initial minutes of feeling awkward, the rest of the journey was very natural. I even wasn’t really scared when Florin thought that he had to drive off the road because this bay looked too beautiful. He wanted to take pictures. We spent a couple of minutes looking for a path among the cliffs, but went back into the car when it started to rain.
Once we reached Budva they wanted to have coffee with me, but I said I wanted to know when the buses left first, so we went off to find the bus station…none of us knew where it was. We stop to ask a woman walking on the street who promptly gets in the back seat with me, because she was also heading there. So the four of us are driving towards the Budva bus station; the two girls in the back terribly squished, because I had my big backpack by my side (another one of those tips my new friend, and all the forums, seem to be quite persistent about).
Dorian is even nice enough to escort me to the ticket counter to ask when the next bus will leave, because I don’t speak Serbian.
I was a little sad to hear that the bus will leave in 5 minutes, since that meant I wouldn’t be having coffee with my new friends. After saying thank you and shaking hands to say bye I was on the bus heading to Kotor.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the two guys for taking me with them and for making my first proper hitch hiking experience a great one, and to say I am sorry to my mum for having done the one thing you told me never to do…