So the trip to Budva from Podgorica is pretty simple, if your in a car. The problem for a cyclist is that there is a huge tunnel that you’re not allowed to use. For us cyclists it’s a big steep climb up a hill from sea level to 600 metres. I guess the good news is that there’s hardly any traffic as they all get to take the nice short cut through the tunnel.

After much sweat and aching muscles I make to Budva. This is indeed a very beautiful town on the coast. Today I’ve found out the ferry from Montenegro is a few days later so I’ve got two rest days at the great hostel to enjoy Budva.

In the hostel there is a nice guy, LeeWei from Taiwan also staying. He’s been some cycling round europe too, so we swap our interesting stories. He’s a really nice guy and even cooks some diner for both of us as we talk more about our travels and if Taiwan is really an independent country or not. He even shows me how to solve a rubics cube, I find it hard to follow even simple directions when travelling so I only remember the technique for 5 minutes.

I do some sightseeing in the town which has such amazing old buildings and views out to the sea. The old town is full of small alleyways that you are happy to be lost in and this time of year is very peaceful as it’s not crowded full of tourists. It even has a mini-monaco feel at the small port as there are such extravagant yachts docked there.

I say goodbye to Lee Wei as I will head south and he carries on his adventure before he flys back to Taiwan in a few weeks.

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So the town of Kolasin is still very much in the mountain ranges of Montenegro. Well most of Montenegro is mountainous until you head towards the plains at the coast which is where I’m heading. So downhill I go.

Now I really feel like a tourist as after the first hour I don’t have to cycle as gravity pulls me down some gorgeous weaving roads towards the coast. The scenery is simply fantastic, it’s probably the best views I’ve had on my trip so far. I’m so happy I have the time to stop and enjoy it all because I stayed at Kolasin.

It seems those hard days crossing the mountains on the stone road have paid off with the views. Also all that hard work means that today I’m flying downhill for nearly the whole day. I appreciate this as I know it will be the only day like this.

Even with stopping and enjoying ice cold sodas in the sunshine I’ve still made it to the hostel just outside Podgorica in great time.

I settle in for a few days to enjoy the city, do laundry and generally relax.

Podgorica is a very new city, it doesn’t have much history but it does have all the shopping and facilities that you expect from a capital city, but at a much cheaper price than most of europe. So I enjoy going to a shopping centre catching a hollywood film at the cinema, buying lunch and then a book all for less than €6.

With the internet connection at the hostel I still haven’t found out when the ferries are to Italy (have a phone number though). I have found out more about a beautiful coastal town called Budva which will be my next stop.

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As I get ready in the morning I’m thinking I must be near the top of these mountains that surround me on all sides. Well it’s more accurate to say I’m hoping that I’m near the top because it’s just over 80km to Podgorica (capital of Montenegro) so if I get to the top soon then I can make it there today as will be cruising downhill for most of the distance. Problem is that I’m really struggling on the steep road, well the stones that are trying to impersonate a road.

I don’t want to know how slow I’m going as it will just make the task seem never ending, but of course I know it’s slow. All I can do to get through this is to put some loud rock music on my i-pod to let the rhythm drive my legs. I also get plenty of chances to admire the scenic views when I have to stop every 15 minutes for a rest. It’s a great feeling to be out here on my own and enjoying views that hardly anyone else has seen (mainly because no cyclist would ever take this road!)

I eventually make it to the top after a few false summits, the top is just 1729 metres high! I remember back to scotland and celebrating being just a few hundred metres high when I was cycling in the highlands, amazing how things change. Going down is scary at speed on a stone road so my hands are gripped tight on the brakes. Soon the stone road turns into tarmac, because they need the good roads to reach the ski resorts that are now dotted about the mountains.

I’ve lost a lot of time and energy from the climbing so decide to stop at Kolasin just after lunch time as would really have to push it to have a chance of getting to Podgorica before sunset.

I find a nice room with shower and wifi for €15 and then have a walk around the quaint town to relax away the aches and pains of the day.

So I’m in Montenegro now and I’m heading to the coast. I look at a map I’d bought because I’m not sure how good my garmin map is for the former Yugoslav countries.

I’m limited to two choices, a longer way on a busy main road or a smaller road that will be a shorter. Of course I choose the later option because cycling with trucks passing me every minute isn’t as fun.

I think I’ve chosen well as the road is good for me. It’s a little narrow and twisty which means it should be quiet for traffic, it’s always nice to have the road to yourself. After awhile the fun begins though as slowly this road climbs upwards into the mountains and more into the wild. Haven’t seen a car for a long time.

When I stop by a few houses there are three locals standing by a garage. They don’t speak english, but offer me a colourless drink. It seems they are drinking some local schnapps. They offer me a small shot, but before I’ve even finished this one they’ve put another one in my hand. They show me inside the garage and it’s just full of massive containers for brewing this alcohol. It seems they are making enough to last over the winter that is slowly drawing in. As you can imagine they drink this stuff like it’s water so they are making enough to fill a small lake.

I best carry on quick before they decide I must drink more to keep warm. Just before I go I point to the road ahead and gesture with my hand if it is steep or flat. The reply in simple hand gestures is that it’s a little hill ahead. I’m already at about 1,000m high so it can’t be much higher then.

After an hour I think he’s mistaken as I’m still climbing quite steep. And even worse the road has now turned to stones. Now I really understand why there’s no traffic and the big main road takes a longer route. Yet again my short cut fails to live up to it’s name.

Well granted here it’s very beautiful and peaceful, but I’m going painfully slow. I find a nice place to camp which is easy in such a remote location. My only worry for the next day is that I don’t know how much higher this pass goes and how much longer the road will be just stones. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

So the weather has been good and the scenery beautiful as I seem to be heading more into the wilderness of the south of europe. This wilderness comes at a cost to me as it slowly transforms into more hills and mountains to climb.

And now there are tunnels cutting their paths through the mountains. This might seem good as it means I don’t have to cycle over the steep parts, but in Serbia they don’t put any lights in the tunnels. It’s amazing how quickly it gets dark as you move further into the longer ones. I am lucky though as they are only a few hundred metres and quite straight so I can see the end of the tunnel very easily. Of course I am careful and have every light turned on and wearing a reflector so as to be safe.

Then I get to a longer tunnel, which from the entrance I can’t see the other side as it curves away into the darkness. I double check every light on my bike as I head into the abyss. Soon I am swallowed up by the darkness. I have to admit as I edge further into the tunnel the fear slowly rises with each second that passes. When all you have to guide you is one headlight and you can’t see anything outside of this narrow beam such as where the actual wall is then it’s not surprising. I check behind me, but it’s pointless all I see is black. We take our vision for granted, being able to see nearly everything around us is comforting. Losing this comfort is an intense feeling.

So my view is just a narrow bit of road a few metres in front of me. There’s no reflectors in the road or at the side anywhere. I could easily crash into the side if I’m not careful. I go slowly forwards and am actually cycling in the middle of the road so I can follow the faint strips of white paint that passes as road markings in Serbia. This might seem foolish as any car could easily hit me, but the noise and lights would mean I would know they were coming long before they got near.

Slowly I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am soon basking in daylight again. Overall it was only 2 or 3 minutes alone in the dark, but it’s certainly not something I want to do again.

The next day I’ve crossed into Montenegro. Still more mountains to climb, but the beauty is all around me. I’m now much higher than I was in the highlands of Scotland, some how my feelings of joy at being so high up back in Scotland seem abit foolish now. Being 300 metres back in Scotland is now considered as being any easy days cycle.

As I cycle higher and higher I pass by ski resorts, I’m happy to be here now as I can enjoy the area with sunshine instead of snowfall. Now I’m on my 12th country of my tour which seems quite incredable when I think about everywhere I’ve seen on my trip so far.

It takes me a frustrating amount of time to get out of Belgrade, as there’s construction and too many motorways that finding a quiet road that will take me south out of the city is a challenge. Once I get out of the city my grey mood from the last three days slowly disappears.

It’s not just because I’m out of the city, it’s also because I’m back on my bike. Somethiing about being on the bike and feeling the blood pumping round my body focuses my mind and body. I’m beginning to think that there must be a connection between physical health and mental health. I guess that a person as whole is made up of mind, body and soul (or spirit if you prefer) so I’m thnking that there must be a interconnected relationship to these parts of us. Trying to analyse these connections beyond this insight could be complex so I’ll leave it to monks and psychiatrists for enlightenment.

As you can probably tell I get a lot of time to think while cycling, but you know there’s not really much else to do. I do also like to enjoy the scenery of course and as I head south I can start to appreciate the beauty of Serbia.

On the first night I find a quiet area of grass near a village that’s hidden by trees so that I can avoid any unwanted/curious visitors as I pitch my tent. Sure enough no one bothers me until at about 4am when I’m woken up by a growling dog near my tent. It’s not a pet guarding a house as I’m not near anyones garden. So there’s a wild dog taken an interest in me and my tent. After a few minutes it’s still outside, but not got any closer. I put some clothes and grab my torch. Lucky enough when I shine the torch it soon just goes away without me having to throw any tins of my food at it.

I don’t wake up again until morning so presume the dog knew who was top dog. I’m on my way again soon enough in case it wanted to prove otherwise.

So it’s another nice day cycling and another night of wildcamping. I ask at a shop if I can camp on the grass by the side of the shop. No one there speaks english much so the conversation turns more into amusement for us than actually helpful for me.

They do suggest camping by the school in the next village though. This sounds strange at first and I have the idea that maybe in the morning there will be kids turning up to school and I’m still sound asleep in my tent and possibly police involved after that.

I travel ahead to the next village and see the grass area by the school which looks ideal. I also realise that tomorrow is saturday so there shouldn’t be anyone to be upset with me in the morning so I camp there hidden away from view.

After a better nights sleep than the night before I’m up and on my bike soon enough. Slowly as i head further south I’m getting into a more mountainous region. Before lunch time I’ve already done 70km so treat myself to lunch at a cafe. It’s nice and cheap and the waiter speaks excellent English. He seems to know just about everyone in the town and I found out that in the summer he was working in Montenegro on the coast. He even helps me by phoning a friend in Montenegro to found out about the ferries to Italy as it is hard to find out any information on the internet. It seems there is still two ferries a week to Italy from Montenegro which means I will still be heading there. Which is just as well as I’m only a day away from Montenegro.

I wildcamp again near to a river. I’m trying to find a hostel that is marked on a website, but it’s like the place doesn’t exist. There’s a few houses nearby and I try to ask about the hostel, but they know nothing. They do offer for me to stay in a shed/garage of there’s, butg it’s such a nice day that I decide on my tent. With this being the third night wildcamping in a row I’ve hardly spent any money, but will need electricity soon to charge my netbook and satnav for the bike or I could soon enough be lost (which isn’t hard for me)

These few days aren’t about any funny or happy adventures it’s more about how I’m feeling at the time. This journey hasn’t all be fun and cycling through beautiful countryside without a care in the world, so I just want to try show the other side to this challenge I’m doing which might encourage you to donate <– click here.

So I’ve been on the trip now for over 80 days. Mainly I’ve just been going along with the flow trying not to think too far ahead. If you start to think too far ahead, start to think about the finish line you soon realise how far it is to go, how much you still have to accomplish to get there. I’ve got the added problem that really I’ve got two big goals, one is to cycle this huge trek on my own round europe the second is to raise over €10,000 for charities that do such much good for so many people.

I’ve been away a long time now, mostly on my own and thinking about any of this is tiring. I’m a long way from home and away from friends and family. It’s alienating and lonesome being here in this city, the drab grey city of Belgrade seems to perfectly echo my state of mind now. Perhaps having just said goodbye to Andreas and Caroline in Novi Sad has made the feelings worse because we had fun travelling together. Maybe I should have changed my route and gone to Istanbul with them.

As you can tell I’m mentally low right now. I’m not manic depressive or on a downward spiral, but I have put a big weight on my shoulders and slowly it’s taking it’s toll on me. I’m feeling numb, I want to switch my mind off before it drags me down with too many negative thoughts. I can’t carry on like this, so I give my mind a vacation. I download some TV shows like Dr Who, Fringe and Castle etc and let my mind be taken away by the ideas and imagination of someone else which is a much better place to be than where my mind was. So for a short while I am a zombie, but I can’t do this for too long.

The thing is this trip isn’t about me, it’s about helping out other people. I’m not about to give up helping them because I’m not in the mood, I draw some strength thinking about the people I’m helping and the charities themselves. I’ve met the people that run the charities in Tanzania, they’re not machines. They’re like me, the’re hardworking, caring and compassionate people. When you care so much and want to help sometimes it is so easy to think that you’re not doing enough, so easy to think whatever you do won’t be enough. It’s at these points that you’ve got to take a step back and see the good that you have done.

So now I start to think about my goals, I plan my next moves through Serbia. I’ve been told that the south of serbia is beautiful which should brighten my mood as I travel. I have to deliberate about Kosovo though, it’s not somewhere I want to go to. To go to Macedonia I have to cycle round there and head south east, but I’ve heard that Montenegro is beautiful which is to the south west. I’ve made up my mind, Montenegro it is which also involves less detours and I can get a ferry across to Italy a little sooner than if I headed to Macedonia and then Greece. So tomorrow I leave having hopefully screwed my head back on again.