Hitchhiking to Kukes, Albania

The next day I walk out of Bar, Montenegro towards east and then start hitchhiking. There is no shadow in sight, but I get a ride fairly quickly with a nice local now living in Australia. The man is after his pension flying back several times per year thanks to his earlier job at an airline, and he still have a house here. He tells me that he can drive me to Ulcinj, which is about half of the way to the border and the only town between where I am now and Albania. Half way he stops and lets me off in a hotel restaurant along the road while he drives to meet his family for 15-30 minutes.

Montenegro hotel
Hotel view

Montenegro island

In the meanwhile I sit to drink an overly priced coffee waiting for the man to come back. The only other man in the restaurant offers me a ride but I decide to wait for the first driver. When he comes back, he drives me to Ulcinj and quickly shows me the main street of the city from the car before driving me to the exit street which goes to Albania. There, two other hitchhikers have just arrived. They are not so talkative and I am polite enough to walk away and stand AFTER them. They get a ride quickly, probably paying a bit for the ride.

Montenegro street sign
Hitchhiking spot between Montenegro and Albania

A police car comes and I start thinking about if it is legal or not to hitchhike in Montenegro, but they are friendly and picks up two hitchhiking Roma people. I ask them if they go to Albania but sadly they are not. Several cars stop for me and offers me a ride for money, but I wait for about an hour before getting a free ride. This time the drivers are a Kosovo couple which are going back for a 2 week vacation from their current home in Switzerland. Although they are driving the whole way to Kosovo, which is on my path, I want to spend at least one night in Albania so I ask them to let me off in Kukes which I know they will pass. Both the couple and the man in Montenegro told me not to hitchhike in the area of Kukes or even stop there, because of armed robberies and high criminality, but I decide to learn for myself and I have seen on Google Images that this region have beautiful mountains which works like a magnet for me. The couple driving me usually never even stops in Albania, being a bit scared of the people there although they come from a country which consist of 92% Albanians.

Albania nature
Beautiful view from the road in Albania

Anyway, we have a lot of interesting talks on the 1+ hour drive and then the guy drives an extra 2 km to drop me off in the outskirts of Kukes instead of on the highway. I start walking into center, not the way a sign points out where the center is but where two men tells me it is, in another direction. It seems correct and the first impression of the town is that I am an alien here, but that the people are very curious in a positive way and that several of them even speaks English. I ask around for a place to eat but there are only bars without food and hotel restaurants, so I choose the later and try some local meat and beer in company with another man and a television. The movie is also in English, not dubbed, and is about trafficking, with a Swedish actor playing a Russian guy. I try to explain that he is a Swedish actor to the man and the waiter, but they do not understand and say “Da, Russian”. Finally the owners wife come to sit down and switch TV channel in the middle of the movie, which makes a perfect time to leave for me.

Kukes Albania food

Going towards an Internet sign I arrive to a bicycle store (the Internet cafe is long gone). I manage to explain to a man there that I am looking for a low cost hotel, and he walks me around the city trying to find one for me. Almost all people we are passing starts speaking to me, usually “Do you speak English/Italian?”. I get the explanation from one of them that a lot of people here have learned Italian on TV. A group of children joins us and soon we are 5-6 people walking. The Kosovo couple have told me that in Albania kids, especially Roma kids, will surround me asking for money. But these kids never even mentioned money, they were just curious and wanted to practice their language skills. Finally we find a 7 Euro hotel (special price?) with TV, air condition and a huge balcony towards the main street, the best balcony of the whole building. Outside the balcony I still see some kids pointing and discussing where I disappeared.

Kukes Albania hotel
Hotel room. It is always difficult to find a single room, but usually it is possible to pay for only one bed after some persuasion.

Kukes Albania hotel view
View of Kukes main street from the hotel room

Kukes Albania dust storm
Sudden dust storm passing by in the evening

In the night I take a walk to see the small city and naturally starts walking out of the city towards the mountains. In the end of the city, about 5-10 minutes away from the center, is a petrol station and I start talking to the men working there. They do not speak English at all but we start to talk about the mountain and I tell them I am thinking to walk to the top the next day. They are skeptical, buy say it might take 5 hours, later changed to 3 hours, to the peak. Finally another man is coming and translating a bit. I get very little information about the mountain, and I realize that nobody of the men have actually walked on it themselves.

Kukes Albania lake
View of a nearby lake from the gas station

Kukes Albania mountain
The mountain Gjallica seems near but it is actually at least one hours walk away from Kukes

Kukes Albania new friends
Lovely gas station people, sadly not talking English but that also makes the conversation more fun using hand gestures, a travelers best friend

Kukes Albania cloud

Kukes Albania sunset

After some hour of hanging out with my new friends I depart back to the city, still thinking about the mountain. On the way I find an internet cafe and start to search for information about the mountain and an eventual walking trail there, but finds no information. Finally I decide to stay one more night to mount the mountain!

Kukes Albania dinner

After a quick dinner I go to a nearby shop just before they close, in preparation for the next days trek. Sadly they have no fruits or even bread, so some unhealthy fast food will do. Finally I go back to the hotel room to throw everything out from my travel backpack and pack it for the mountain trek instead.  Time to sleep, with the alarm clock put on 5:40 AM.

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  1. Pingback: Walking to the 2468 meter peak of Gjallica, Kukes

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