Days: 505 (12 November 2015)
Total distance travelled: 130,661.6 kilometres (81,156.28 miles)
We were up early for our last day in Serbia, and for the first time in a long long time we’d be spending the majority of it apart.
With a 10am consular appointment in Belgrade (to finally collect my new passport), I’d be making the several hour journey north, whilst Sarah, with both of our large packs in her possession, would be heading immediately south, with us to finally reunite in Pristina later that day.
As the walk from our Kraljevo AirBnB pad to the bus station was only five to ten minutes, Sarah had figured that despite the load, she’d be able to manage the reasonably short walk.
With our goodbyes said, we parted ways and I soon found myself aboard a coach headed towards the capital.
Sarah had loaned me her phone on the odd chance I’d need to call the consulate should something prevent me from making my appointment on time, and after the first half an hour on the road I was wondering if I’d even reach Belgrade before the early afternoon!
Eventually we hit the motorway, and it was looking likely that we’d be at the main bus terminal with about half an hour to spare (ample time to hustle across the river and to my meeting).
Or so I thought.
After a whole range of random stops where we’d let people off in the middle of the road… or where we’d sit for five minutes at a stop so that somebody could indulge in a cigarette, I finally found myself in the city with less than ten minutes to spare!
Bolting off my bus, my first thought was to grab a taxi for the short ride across river, but when the first guy threw me a bullshit, over inflated price I thought fuck it!
I’ll just run there!
Five minutes later, with my lungs burning from the cold autumn air, my run was now little more than a wheezy, hasty walk, so I pulled out the aforementioned phone and gave the consulate a call.
Turns out I needn’t have worried, as the woman on the end of the line was nonplussed and said sure, we’ll see you when you get here.
Once there, it was simply a case of handing in my old passport so it could be voided, and collecting a nice new, I’ll go as far as calling it crisp, passport.
An hour or so later, having grabbed a quick burek for lunch, I’d grabbed myself a fare for the ride all the way through to Pristina.
There wasn’t too much of note, although at times the scenery was certainly stunning, but with the sun dipping, I still found myself on the Serbian side of the border.
Eventually, by now dark, we were processed out of Serbia, and shortly found ourselves inside Kosovo, albeit without a fresh stamp in my brand new passport (a little sad I was about that).
The bus didn’t proceed immediately, although as we sat there a small motorbike pulled up, and from the back was removed a large bag full of take away food.
Turns out this was dinner for the border guards, and had me a little thankful we’d made it through before the staff numbers thinned as they all chowed down on a burger, kebab or burek (who knows what was in those bags).
In time, the highway signs began to indicate that we were getting closer and closer to Pristina, however as we got close to what I took to be the main bus station, instead of pulling in, our bus simply rode up to the kerb.
Fortunately, an English speaker on board realised my confusion, and upon asking if this was the main bus station he confirmed that it was indeed, so I quickly hurried myself off the bus.
Sarah and I had no way of contacting one another (I was in possession of the only phone we had), so were she not here waiting, I was a little unsure of my next move…
With me (Chris) long gone, it was left to Sarah to literally shoulder the burden and haul our packs to the nearby bus terminal and grab herself a bus to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.
It may have been a little later in the morning, however the plan was the same.
Get herself to the bus station, then grab one of the direct buses from Kraljevo to Pristina.
So there she was, laden with roughly thirty five kilograms worth of baggage and walking slowly from our abode to the bus when… BANG!
All of a sudden there she was, lying on the ground (picture a turtle flipped upside down).
There she lay, with a grazed leg and having great difficulty trying to get back on her feet.
A middle aged local man offered her some assistance, however rather than get her on her feet, he too almost found himself sprawled on the street.
Eventually she was helped back on her feet, the culprit proving to be an area of road reconstruction.
A little banged up, but alive, she completed the journey to the bus station without further incident.
We’d noted when we’d first arrived in town, a couple of bus services listed to Pristina per day, and there was plenty of time left in the day to catch either of them.
Up to the ticket counter she sauntered, and requested her ticket.
“No. No bus.” was the succinct response.
Apparently the timetable was a little out of date (possibly from before the time Yugoslavia even broke apart)!
In the end, the best option she could find was a service to, a town within Kosovo, but not all the way to Pristina.
Now normally that wouldn’t sound too bad, after allis more than half way to the desired goal.
however, is not your normal Kosovar town.
The river Ibar runs through its heart, and is essentially the boundary that splits the place in half.
North, that side of the riverbank belongs to the ethnic Serbs, the opposite side of the river, it belongs to the Kosovans.
What this meant, is when the bus deposited Sarah on the north side of the river, there was no bus service running any further (that’s how unfriendly the two parties are).
At this point feeling a little like she was up shit creek without a paddle (that’s an Australian term for totally stuffed/ruined), fortunately a local restaurateur took pity and called her a taxi.
Eventually a taxi did arrive, offering to take her to a bus that would get her to Pristina, although several minutes later and after taking her down some back roads he pulled to a halt.
What the on earth was going on now!?
Another vehicle then pulled up alongside… the two drivers heads poke out their respective windows and a discussion begins in earnest.
Turns out, he too was a taxi driver and in short time, both bags were removed from one boot (trunk) into this new vehicle, as was Sarah.
The search for this bus began anew.
Soon the taxi was entering a slipway as they approached a motorway, when all of a sudden the taxi screeched to a halt, and started reversing in a hurry.
Now turning right rather than the original left onto this major thoroughfare, the taxi driver was riding the horn as much as he was driving the car, as they now careened down this highway in pursuit of what must have been the much sought after bus.
After what seemed a lengthy period of tooting and arm signalling on the part of the taxi driver, the bus eventually pulled to the side of the road.
Picture now the rotund cab driver, hauling one of our large packs along the side of this busy highway, Sarah lugging the other as they raced towards the bemused conductor aboard the bus.
Having settled the fare for her taxi and now finally aboard a bus bound for Pristina, she could finally relax… there was however the small matter of her fare for the ride ahead!
Having crossed the border (fortunately the Serbian leaning taxi drivers had been happy to accept Dinar), here in Kosovo the currency was the Euro (despite them not being in the EU) and there’d certainly been no time to hit up a bank!
After scrounging through her day pack, a €2 coin was found from one of our earlier adventures.
The fare fromto Pristina… it was €1.50.
Finally, a stroke of fortune on an otherwise luckless day!
By late afternoon, she was sat in the Pristina bus terminal, with no idea whether I’d even actually find a direct bus from Belgrade, whether I’d then try to catch the non-existent direct bus from Kraljevo, and even should I be successful, what time would I even get here?
So with nothing else to do, she sat down to wait, wondering how long she should linger before giving up and attempting to find herself a hostel…
So it was a couple of hours after this point, that our two days reconnected, the relief as I spied a battered and rather forlorn Sarah upon entering the terminal huge.
Finally reunited, we shouldered our packs and wandered in towards a hostel we hoped had a couple of spare beds.
* To reach Pristina, we went separate ways (I had a passport to collect in Belgrade), so for me it cost 900.00 Dinar for a bus from Kraljevo to Belgrade, followed by 2,040.00 Dinar from Belgrade to Pristina.
* Sarah’s route cost 750.00 Dinar from Kraljevo to Mitrovica (although this should have been 700.00 Dinar), whilst her local bus from Mitrovica to Pristina set her back €1.50