Day 20: Lepetane to Podgorica, Montenegro

, August 17, 2011

Well, I made it! Yesterday 2321 kilometres since Grenoble, I sauntered into Podgorica in the searing heat. Job done. Finito.

I slept poorly last night in my faithful tent as excitement buzzed around inside me. I was eager to get back on the bike and finish off my mission so once I woke, I breakfasted and packed up in record time. The stench of urine wafting from the filthy camp toilets providing more than enough encouragement.

On the road I began to head inland and away from the Adriatic coast I have been following for the last week. Hugging the white line at the edge of the road, I winced as the lorries hooted and then thundered past just inches from me. I rode tempo to limit my time on the busy road, briefly rejoining the coast at Budva and then, much to my relief, turned off and headed into the mountains.

I knew from my map that it was going to be a tough climb and the steep mountains that sat before me looked daunting. Still, it was this hill that separated me from my final destination, more than enough motivation to plod on. Using the altimeter on my awesome Suunto T6d, I ticked off the meters, finding a roadside cafe at 510 metres that served as a resting point.

Charged on coke I continued the climb, topping out at 838m before I cruised downhill to Cetinje. The scenery was awesome; layers of of forested mountains stretched in the haze for miles and miles. This was the Montenegro I had heard so much about.

The old capital of Montenegro, Cetinje is an interesting town with eerie old buildings. I had a massive lunch at the excellent Restaurant Kole, super cheap and awesome food. The final 30km or so of my journey undulated a few times before I lost all my altitude as I headed down to the plane and Podgorica at just 40 metres above sea level.

As my excitement built, I tried not to push but instead rode easily to enjoy the ride. Like being in a comfortable lead in a race, I knew I was going to succeed. Then I saw the sign ‘Welcome to Podgorica’. I sat up on my saddle and made a victory celebration, pretending for one moment I was Mark Cavendish on the Champs Élysées. Sad I know, but I didn’t care.

For the last few kilometres I had been riding into a wall of hot dry air that felt like opening a oven on full blast. Now I had dropped down from the mountains the heat was immense, close to 40 degrees Celsius but super dry, all the humidity had been left behind at the coast.

I tracked down my hotel in the centre of Montenegro’s capital and once shown my room I had a shower, cranked on the AC and had a wee nap. Amazing!

So there we are, the tale is complete. Today I have been hunter-gathering some cardboard and duck tape to pack up my bike for the plane. Tomorrow morning I fly home, much to the disappointment of some of my friends who seem to think I should be riding back!

It’s been an awesome trip. I have travelled through France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro. I have climbed several of Europe’s most prestigious climbs and ridden through spectacular scenery. I have met loads of kind and interesting people. I have survived the chaos on the roads, despite some very determined efforts by motorists. In three weeks of lone travelling I don’t think I have gone nuts, although I am perhaps not the best judge if that. I have gained some horrendous tan lines and got reasonably fit. I have had an experience I am sure will stay with me for ever. All in all it’s been a big success.

I hope this blog has been of some interest and perhaps inspired some of you to get out there and go on a bit of an adventure. I’m already planning my next trip, an Alaskan wilderness mountain bike epic with my brother is being talked of.

Some final business: the photos of my beard had attracted several comments and requests for a final picture: see below. Robin, I think I have drunk 2 litres of expresso. I’ll keep a better log of vital stats such as pasta consumption on my next trip! Sorry for the lack of important details in this blog.

All that’s left is for me to thank those who have helped publish this blog. Will Ross and Ross McEwen have done an awesome job smartening up my slap dash typing. Without them, this blog would not have happened so cheers lads!

Until my next trip, goodbye. Thanks for following me and for all the messages of encouragement along the way.

Over and out.