Most Inspirational Moment
I was overwhelmed (to the point of tears) by the frescoes within the churches of the Patriarchate of Peć. The bazaar in Peja was a distinct disappointment, but the Patriarchate was a must-see for me. That it is the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church - but situated in Kosovo and protected by the local police force - speaks volumes for regional history. Other than scenery and culture, I was keen to see wildflowers: and was not disappointed. The alpine meadows in Durmitor were awash with Muscari, orchids and gentians (amongst others) while the high passes were ablaze with crocuses wherever the snow had receded. Breath-taking. As was the constant waft of jasmine at low altitudes - particularly in and around Kotor.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Dhimo set a good pace - and made life extremely easy for the group, tallying food and drink expenses in his little green book for periodic payment (in whichever currency group members happened to have in greatest quantity). His penchant for classic British comedy (Fawlty Towers) also made for a gently humorous atmosphere throughout
Advice for Potential Travellers
The history of the Western Balkans is extremely complicated. Whilst many of the overnight stops aren't featured in the relevant lonely planet guide, it does include a reasonable overview of this history. You will need to be a confident cyclist. The route is on public roads and close passes were constant in all four countries (although there was no obvious malice on the part of drivers, they just weren't used to giving cyclists any room). Other than in the run-in to Kotor, traffic levels were moderate - but expect this to change over the next few years as visitor numbers increase. Travelling as a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) was fine - cheese features at every meal, and roasted veg are readily available (as are pasta and pizza options). Travelling as a vegan would be a challenge. The museums in Tirana are excellent, with unflinching presentations of the challenges presented by Albania's recent communist and post-communist history. Learning about the growth of the police state and widespread betrayals / persecution was eye-opening (and humbling). Take out a few Lek from an ATM in the city and see some of the sights on your first afternoon - mulliri coffee shops do a decent latte and pistachio bun if you need refreshment (a wide range of savoury options is available in the Tirana Castle area). The Adrion bookstore in Skanderbeg Square is well worth a look.
We tended to arrive at our hotels during early afternoons, leaving plenty of downtime. Since the cycle routes sometimes passed sights of cultural interest (such as the Sveti Jovan Bigorski monastery in North Macedonia) I would have preferred to spend time visiting these at the cost of an hour or two of pre-dinner idleness. Exodus could consider 'culture plus' tours with this feature, without much effort. In a similar vein, it would be great if the local operator could circulate basic maps and/or 'things to do' at overnight stops with no obvious points of interest (eg Berane) - or some basic ground rules (can we wander where we like in Durmitor National Park, or only on marked paths? Are there any trails near the accommodation that we might want to have a go at? etc). The hybrid bikes provided were great for the road conditions. We avoided long, unlit road tunnels and the provided bike lights were OK for alerting other traffic to our presence but pretty useless for illuminating the road ahead if pedalling at any speed. Local beer and wine were (almost) universally excellent. We had an extra night in Tirana at the end of the trip thanks to a BA IT failure. Credit to Dhimo for arranging accommodation and getting us into the city - but thereafter we had no support from either the local operator or Exodus. We were all experienced grown-ups and sorted ourselves out, but I expected better customer care and follow-up from Exodus.