Friday, December 5, 2008

Rocky Road to Kosovo!

Wednesday, Chris and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo together. Usually, Chris goes alone, and I stay home with the kids. Now that we have Hani helping out occasionally, we are able to go together and do our shopping.

Because Kosovo is considered a "no-dependants" post, the children are not allowed to cross the border and accompany us to the base. That is unfortunate because they would really enjoy Burger King and Taco Bell....;). There is only one road into Kosovo that we are permitted to take, and we are not allowed to make any stops between the border and the base. We must also have written permission from the RSO office to allow us to go. Chris always gets a kick out of the signage on the way. There are speed limit signs for cars, and speed limit signs for tanks. It is pretty neat and someday we will remember to photograph it.

We set out first thing in the morning, lamenting the heavy rain that was falling and hoping it wouldn't slow us down too much. The trip isn't very long, probably only 40 minutes of driving, but the trip can be seriously delayed by slow moving trucks on the mountainous two-lane road. Also, tie-ups at the border crossing can be aggravatingly long. En route, we noticed quite a few rocks had slid down the mountain, so I drove slowly and carefully. The rain was a constant, steady flow and we were thankful that the temperature was above 50 degrees or would have been one heck of a blizzard! We arrived at the base in decent time and did some shopping, stocking up on must have items like Oscar Meyer bacon, hot dogs, and cheddar cheese. We enjoyed a quiet fast-food lunch, picked up some extra tacos and cinnamon twists for the kids, and headed back toward Macedonia.

The road home was much of the same, rain wise, but the roads became much more dangerous. There were a number of spots where the rock slides were active, with very large(bigger than basketballs) boulders lumbering down the mountain. I should add here that there is no shoulder on either side of the road and avoiding such a slide is nearly impossible!! The mountain walls are on one side and the other is a deep cliff protected only by rather flimsy guard rails. We noticed several snow plows on the road and laughed about how odd it was to see them in such warm weather, but apparently they were clearing the rock slides. It was quite scary in some areas where traffic was stopped to allow for the clearing. We were stuck in very vulnerable spots waiting and watching as rocks tumbled down, just praying we could get going again before some hit us! Fortunately, most of the drivers were considerate and careful that day, which is actually not the norm, and we arrived home safely (after spending nearly an hour crossing the border back into Macedonia!). I have vowed never to make the trip to Kosovo during rainy weather again!!! While it is refreshing to learn that the Kosovar authorities do actually maintain the road and patrol it well, I'm not sure that cheddar cheese is worth risking my life for again!

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