Albania – our first impressions
Albania – our first impressionsJune
We have arrived in country number 9, Albania
As we cross into Albania and as we roll into country number 9 we leave familiarity behind us. I call this part of the trip phase 2.
In Albania things are a little different, health and safety definitely takes a backseat. Youths are riding scooters without helmets, Mother’s take their daughters on the bike and the daughter sits on the pannier rack with nothing but a pillow for support. Men are standing up on the back of pick up trucks as they speed along the road – and roundabouts – well I’m not sure who’s right of way it is.
Later in the day we stopped a while to help a cyclist fix the front wheel on his bike, he’s riding a bike that in England would be fit for the scrap yard only. He doesn’t seem that enthused that we helped, but an older gentleman watching took an interest. Communication with this man was difficult – we couldn’t understand each other at all. He offered us a cigarette, in hindsight I wish I’d taken it.
Our first job in Albania is to replenish supplies: money, food and fuel for cooking. We’re expecting to camp more now. This takes us hours so we ended up cycling 50 miles instead of our planned 65. We rationalise that we can camp and wake early the next day.
Finding a wildcamp spot
As the sun dropped behind the mountains we pitched our tent. We sleep until 05:40 then we will bike the remaining 15 miles to the ferry in Lake Komani. We thought we had it in the bag.
The next day we wake, pack away the tent and get onto our bikes. 15 miles, 2 hours, easy cycling, right?
World’s worst road?
First of all we’re in the mountains and the roads climb up and down, up and down. 4 miles in “we’re not going to make it, maybe we thumb a lift” the alternative is to wait for the next ferry – the next day!
Finally a descent which wipes out a few miles! “This is doable” Stew reports, “5 miles to go.”
My shoulders hurt from holding the handlebars so tightly, my throat is dry but I can’t find a nice patch of road to take a drink confidently and I can’t afford to stop. Even the downhills are slow as I pull the breaks attempting to soften the blows from the pot-holed road. Some of the bumps are throwing me off my saddle. I’m moaning and groaning as the bike smacks into the nasty contours of the road.
After 14 miles of what must be a strong contender for worlds worst road we arrive at a patch of pristine tarmac for the final mile. The road was so bad in places that we were catching up cars who were to nervous to carry any speed across the appallingly smashed up road surface.
I can see the water, but where the hell is the ferry!? The road descends and there’s only a few miles, I think I’ve made it to the end, but of course it climbs again!
Finally, a tunnel. I know I’m close now 400m of a dark, blissfully cold and damp tunnel. A kind, English speaking gentleman takes our money “we’ve made it” said Stew, but I refuse to acknowledge it until I’m sat on the boat. It’s 08:47, departure is 09:00.
I roll into the ferry port and some motorbikes who passed us are happy to see us: “well done, well done!” They don’t speak English so I signal that it’s hot and I was worried about time as i pedalled. They laugh.
We board the ferry, I think there’s one rule – if you bought a ticket we get you on. Our bikes are pulled up a large step by a man who underestimated the weight, the rear is all over the place as he rips and pulls the bike into place. They get a job done here, I’ll I’ve them that!
Once the boat is loaded they realise there’s not enough space so they unload the vehicles and put everything into a better place.
It’s chaotic, but I think I love it.