Hitchhiking through Europe has been great so far. We’ve had rides from so many people of many different nationalities. That’s why I love hitchhiking; the wide variety of people you meet. Each individual with their own unique personality, stories and destination. They’re all connected to our project; being part of our journey by driving us around the world.
Every single ride has been good and smooth. Not the crazy or extremely dangerous situations that make people scared and prevents them from hitchhiking. All except for one. One that kept us very alert and on the edge for seven long hours. One that when we eventually got out of the car, we took a deep breath of relieve. It were seven long hours from the border of Croatia to Albania!
It was four o’clock in the afternoon when we crossed the border from Croatia with Montenegro. The officer looked surprised when he saw us. “We don’t get many people walking over the border like you two” he said with a grin while checking our passports. “We normally hitchhike but we didn’t find a ride yet” Niko replied. The officer gave us a look and told us he would never pick us up. I replied with a smile “That’s too bad, you would definitely enjoy our company”. The officer laughed and returned our passports. “Welcome in Montenegro”.
We walked two hundred meters and started hitchhiking. Two minutes later a big Mercedes stopped
beside us. We couldn’t see the driver through the tinted windows. We looked at each other with a bit of a doubt. When the driver opened the door for us and we got in, we realized he didn’t speak a word of English. Luckily Niko could talk to him in Italian. The man seemed agitated and in a hurry. Although Niko’s Italian was pretty good, the man wasn’t very clear about where he was going or where he would take us. After twenty minutes we finally figured out he was driving to Albania and we decided to accompany him during the long drive.
Darkness started to fall. Niko and I noticed our driver looked confused and a bit angry. He told us he was already driving for more than 20 hours. The exhaustion started to show on his face. The further we drove, the more our driver seemed lost. He first had troubles finding the way to the ferry which would take us over the lake in Kotor (in Montenegro). After the crossing he seemed even more confused trying to find the road which would bring us to the border with Albania. Every five minutes he stopped the car, sometimes in the middle of a busy road, and frantically shouted ‘dogana dogana’ (which means border in Albanian) at the pedestrians. Although the hand signals of the pedestrians were all the same, straight ahead, our driver kept turning left and right. He clearly didn’t have a clue where to go or he simply didn’t trust the Montenegrins (yeah, that’s how they call the habitants of Montenegro…).
Our friend (by now we clearly knew he had good intentions, he even gave me chocolate) finally got his GPS out. The Italian voice kept telling him to turn right. He kept going straight ahead. For more than an hour we had to listen to the annoying voice giving directions that our driver didn’t seem to follow. At a certain moment we drove on a steep hill into the mountains. The car was going fast on an old dirt road and we were driving very (like very very) close to the edge of a cliff. We had no idea where we were. Even the GPS got lost and kept repeating ‘recalculo, recalculo’ (recalculating). All we knew was this was definitely not the way to Albania!
After hours of driving in complete darkness, in the wrong direction, while passing abandoned houses and weird back roads with plenty of road kill and balancing multiple times on the edge of cliffs, we finally arrived at the border. Our driver looked very relieved (and we were too!). We felt wrecked of clenching our fists and feeling scared of ending up at the bottom of a mountain.
The two-hour ride in Albania was a lot more relaxing (ignoring the loud dance music blazing out the stereo system) When we got out the car in Durres, Niko and I took a deep breath at the same time. It had been a long and intense ride. What a quest! Welcome to Albania!