Day 9 - Vermosh to Gusinje (27th June)
Day 9 began with a leisurely breakfast at Leonard Lumaj Guesthouse shared with Daniel, the 71-year old American who'd been travelling for 8 years.
We then walked 5km down the road as far as the border control back into Montenegro (Црна Гора), at which point I passed through and Daniel turned back.
Soon after, I realised a Montenegrin farmer was following me down the road towards Gusinje. We walked together for a couple of kilometres in near silence, which was slightly awkward. Interspersed with him chuckling to himself saying "енглески" and "туриста".
I did gather that the immaculate potato fields we were walking past were all his, so I did my best at showing my admiration. But to be fair, they were very tidy and impressive potato fields.
After a couple of km we came to his farmhouse, and he insisted I stay for a coffee. His wife set up a table in the back garden, surrounded by fruit trees, and his boys rummaging through my possessions.
I showed on my map that I'd walked from Bosnia, and showed them photos of my children. One of the boys inspecting my ice axe was a similar age to Benjamin (3 and a half).
After half an hour or so, I thanked them and continued the short distance to Gusinje, just as the 1pm call to prayer was playing from the mosque in the town centre.
There was a very down-trodden look and feel to Gusinje. I'd been recommended to stay at Hotel Rosi by the farmer at Radoncici, but decided to keep going, and see what else there was.
Just over the bridge I came to Hotel Kula which looked a bit strange, but I thought would do, and at 10 euros a night, it didn't seem worth worrying about.
It was still quite early, but continuing wasn't an option, since I'd checked into the hotel. So I went for a walk into the Grebaje valley, which would have given fantastic alpine views of the Prokletije Mountains if it wasn't cloudy and overcast.
I wandered back to Gusinje and bumped into a 67-year old English/Canadian guy called John Robertson who I'd already met at the Hikers Den Hostel in Zabljak. John told me he had been travelling continuously now for 7 years, and was aiming to get up to 100 countries before long. We sat outside a street cafe and drank coffee for quite a while, chatting about different adventures and sharing stories.
I then headed over to Hotel Rosi for some dinner on the balcony facing the Prokletije, and wondered if there was any possibility of climbing Maja Jezerces tomorrow, given how cloudy and unpromising it was looking at the moment.
I then went back to Hotel Kula and chatted with the hotel owner in the bar, who explained that there were close ties between Gusinje and America, which explained the US car registration plates, since all the men emigrated to New York after World War II, and once a year all the families return in August.
The downside of chatting in the bar is that everyone smokes in Montenegro (and Albania), so my clothes were stinking when I went to bed. And I knew I wouldn't be able to wash them out.
I soon realised that having stinking clothes was the least of my worries, as the unfortunate selection of hotel became all too apparent. Immediately across the road was a nightclub. It was Saturday night. The Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff... of the music was at 120 decibels and shaking the building. Luckily I had my earplugs which brought down the noise exposure to about 110 decibels, but did nothing to dampen the shockwave induced vibrations of the building.
Clearly only a profoundly deaf or profoundly drunk person would be able to sleep through this assault to the senses.
I lay there for 2 and half hours, from 10:30pm to 1pm, with not the slightest interlude in the mind-numbing Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff, Dfff...
Now skip to Day 10