Playing the "What if..." Game

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Montenegro  ,
Friday, September 2, 2011

As if I weren't already disenchanted enough with Skhodra, I had to spend an awful night in that horrid hotel room convinced that I was in combat with bed bugs. Both of us thought we felt little things crawling on our legs, and we didn't really have much we could put on to protect us, so spent a sleepless night vainly swatting at our shins and hoping we wouldn't be covered in bites. I was able to finally get an internet connection, and tried to follow the steps I found online for identifying bed bugs. I didn't see any in the crease of the mattress, so hoped that we were okay, but still made a beeline for the shower the next morning to try and wash away any unwanted hitchhikers.

Once I'd taken care of that, the next order of business was to try and find the actual furgon we'd need to take over to Montenegro. Everyone we'd asked the night before had been vague about the time, manner, and location of transport to Ulcinj, so we weren't sure where, when, or how we'd be leaving -- we just knew we needed to. After asking at a number of cafes in the city center, I found the furgon driver and told him to hold two seats for us. He said he'd be leaving at 9am, which gave us time to take advantage of the hotel's breakfast (something it turned out we would have been better to skip since it was so meat-heavy). 

Unsatisfied and ready to leave Skhodra, we grabbed our packs and began the short walk to meet the driver at the cafe a mere 100 yards from our hotel. We were about 10 yards away from him when I had my accident. I was hurrying along with my big pack on my back and my small day pack on my chest, which impaired my vision a bit -- enough so that I couldn't see the random piece of metal sticking up out of the sidewalk in front of me. Of all the places and ways for me to put my foot, I chose the exact worse option, slicing the big toe of my left foot garishly in the process. I went down immediately, shouting "no, no, no!", and leaving Konrad behind me at a complete loss for what had happened. For an instant, it looked like maybe nothing would come of it, and then the blood started to flow fast and freely. 

More than anything, what hurt was the fact that I'd completely ruined our trip by making such a stupid, yet small misstep. I wanted out of Skhodra, and now we were stuck on the sidewalk, a few feet from our getaway vehicle with a pool of blood forming around us. Even if we got out of Skhodra at some point, I was confident I'd need stitches, which would mean no swimming (and the rest of the trip was all along the coast) and no hiking (which we had grand plans of in Montenegro and beyond). I was crushed, but didn't have time to dwell on it too long. In a string of curse-filled sentences, I asked Konrad to get out the First Aid Kit, and set about trying to find some kleenex to use to stem the flow a bit. One kind soul from a nearby pet shop ran out and gave us a packet of band-aids before retreating into the crowd of other onlookers gaping at the weirdo foreigners on the street. 

Konrad was fast and efficient, and I was all bandaged up within a few minutes. I had no dreams of sticking around Skhodra, even to go to a clinic, and decided I would prefer to go in the furgon, get across the border, and see a doctor there. I hobbled down the street to the minivan and made a little nest for myself in the backseat, propping my leg up to keep it elevated enough that I wasn't getting blood all over the floor mats, and then we were on the road north, running for the border.

Getting to Ulcinj took longer than we expected (as it always seems to), and my foot seemed to be doing a bit better, so we asked the driver to drop us at the bus station. As soon as I got out of the backseat, blood started pooling in my sandal, and I knew that I had to hit the clinic instead of the bus station. I'd seen a clinic a few minutes earlier, and asked the driver if he could please drop me there. He said no and left me on the side of the road. Konrad sprang to action and rounded up a taxi that drove us the short distance for a fair price. The people at the hospital were really very nice to me and delivered the sort of news I needed to hear: no stitches required. We needed to bandage it up quite tightly and keep it dry and in the gauze for a few days, but after that he thought I'd be able to go swimming, but I'd have to play it by ear and see how things went. 

While the doctor was filling me in on what I needed to do, Konrad was running around from pharmacy to pharmacy, trying to find the right bandages for me. It turned out the hospital wasn't very well stocked, and we had to go out and buy our own medical supplies. A tetanus shot, an ER consultation, and the gauze came to a grand total of 12 euros -- life in Europe is good, my friends. By the time we left the hospital, I was in considerably better spirits, buoyed by the idea that we might be able to salvage most of our holiday yet, and cheered by the good-natured doctors in Ulcinj. Montenegro was shaping up to be a lovely country.

I decided I could cope with walking the few blocks to the bus station, so hobbled my way there in the midday sun, taking in the non-Skhodraness of the town. The next bus north to the city of Budva was in thirty minutes, so we bought ourselves some tickets and relaxed for a little bit before continuing the journey onward. The highway hugged the coastline, treating us to a gorgeous view of both the clear, sparkling water of the Ionian Sea and the stunning, sheer-faced mountains that seemed to plunge right into it. It was a beautiful drive, and we pulled into the bus station in Budva a little after 2pm, ready to take on Montenegro and the next leg of our Balkan journey.

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