I lurched up the stairs, the floor rushing to meet me with reckless abandon.
It occurred to me that I may be a tad intoxicated.
I span on one foot, dancing to a tune only I could hear, a madman pivoting and wheeling in the empty corridors of the hostel.
A broadsword stood huge and proud upon the wall, I imagined whirling it around my head, doing battle with demons and devils above some boiling pit of lava.
The hostel had once been the living place of a powerful crusader family, booty and spoils from Middle Eastern misadventures littered the twisting stone corridors and covered the walls.
Golden crucifixes and ancient carvings, carried home in a sack slung across some burly warrior’s shoulder, or so I imagined.
Clair, my temporary travel buddy, was nowhere to be seen, presumably still downing endless shots of rajka with the Montenegrin lads downstairs.
I fumbled with the key, considered the bed and instead lay down on the cool stone floor.
I fell asleep instantly.
The next day, my head pounding, I headed out to explore the stunning views of Kotor from a ruined fortress jutting forth from the mountain, a sleeping dragon waiting to protect the city below from invaders and pirates.
The coastline snaked away into the distance, the route I must take, for it was time to take back my beloved car to Croatia, to drop off Clair at the airport and head on over to Serbia by thumb.
I soaked in the views, crystal clear waters stretch into the horizon, the bright light of the sun toying with my head, psychedelic patterns slinking through the trees.
The red-roofed town glistened below, the dome of an impressive church scraping the sky; it all looked very Game of Thrones…
Returning to the hostel, I began to load up the car. I would be sad to leave Kotor, Hostelworld had put us up in a truly epic hostel and, despite it being low-season, we had met a fantastic crowd of nomads, adrenaline junkies, and wanderers.
I was sad, truly sad, to be taking the car back to Croatia. Having my own vehicle had been a truly incredible experience and had truly gotten my head spinning with ideas for ‘The Party Tuk Tuk’ which I intend on buying in India and driving across South East Asia later on in the trip.
To give you a preview; I intend on being able to cram six folks into this multi-coloured, brightly painted, vehicle. There shall be epic tunes, there shall be a pull-up bar upon the back and, god-damn it, I’m determined to get a couch on top.
Exploring Eastern Europe by car had been a magical experience; we had met people and seen things which would have been impossible without our own transport.
We slipped out of Kotor, quietly taking to the winding, somewhat perilous but always invigorating, coastal roads which run the entire length of the Adriatic.
I popped on some driving music, Infected Mushroom, to keep me sharp and took the corners at speed, the wind whipping through my hair, the sun bouncing off the water.
The Adriatic coastline is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have been. Travelling by car, well, it’s one hell of a way to do it…
We picked up three hitchhikers, the sun beginning to sink below the waves, the light fading, and drove them for thirty miles or so before dropping them off and instantly picking up a couple more.
Whilst driving through Bosnia, Albania, Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro we had come across plenty of hitchers and had probably, in total, given lifts to around thirty people. The Balkans is a truly amazing place to travel…
Being able to give back to the hitchhiking community, a group which I have gotten so much out of in past adventures, was a real pleasure.
We stopped an hour or so from the Croatian border to clean the car, it was a rental after all, and we wanted to return it in good nick – pay attention now, because shit is about to get a little crazy.
We jumped back in our shiny new car and drove to Croatia, this is where the story should have ended.
“Oh god, no, seriously, shit”
Clair looked concerned.
She looked at me, flabbergasted; a word I had never understood until this exact moment. Shock, horror, a vague hint of amusement, terror and despair all merged into one.
“What did you forget?” I asked, cautiously.
“My purse, it’s back at the car-wash”
Clair’s flight was in just eight hours time.
It was 10pm. Late.
There was but one thing to do.
“We are going to go back to the car-wash, your purse shall still be there”
“It won’t be, I left it in plain sight, I am so fucked Will”
“Get your coat, grab me a red bull, we’re going”
Clair was seriously upset, I had actually never seen her this concerned or unhappy before.
I had no idea if her purse would still be there and, in all honesty, at the time, it didn’t matter – what mattered was that we instantly did something proactive.
We were off on a god-damn quest.
We ploughed through the inky darkness, sporadic streetlights vaguely attempting to guide our way.
We crossed the Croatian-Montenegrin border for the second time that day, electro-swing blasting from my phone to keep me awake and to attempt to keep Clair upbeat.
She was having a bit of a meltdown, understandable given that every single one of her cards was in her purse (always spread your cards around your pack people!).
The car-wash appeared upon the horizon, glistening brightly, floodlights lighting it up like the promised Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road…
I turned to Clair.
“Remain calm, throw some good vibes out into the universe, it is going to be there”
I then crossed every god-damn finger that I had and we glided into the car wash.
There, in plain-site, atop a wash-basin, Clair’s purse was waiting for her.
She whooped, jumping out of the car, not even caring that the money was gone, the cards were there, she could get home for Christmas, all would be well in the world.
“Sometimes, all you need is a bit of positivity. Remain positive, and anything can happen. Never surrender to despair”.
My Yoda-speech complete, we headed back to Croatia.
If I put my foot down, we might even get four hours sleep…
A huge thank you to Auto Europe Car Hire for providing me with the incredible little car, nicknamed Simon, which made this adventure possible.