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Ω2

Exiting Albania

   After having had Baobabis repaired, it was finally time to leave again and continue with my trip. Perhaps it was leaving for the second time that did not make me feel like I was going on a long journey. This time I was feeling more like I was going on an excursion. Anyway, having realized that I should do without my beloved feta cheese, which is one of my favorite things, I made a small detour to the village of Driovouno, in order to get some supplies 😉  If some of you cheese devotees want to taste pure dairy products, just get in touch with Christos in Thessaloniki (+30 6944 922 143).

One final pilgrimage over Driovouno, in the temple of dairy products, was a must!

   As I didn’t have time to waste, I wanted to reach Berat in Albania on the first day. That’s why I picked the road indicated on the map as the main road from Korça to Elbasan. It was a pleasant surprise, though, to find that this main road was actually a dirt road of quite a few kilometres, crossing a gorge between rocky mountains. That’s why I love Albania! Nature has remained unspoiled and there is no difficulty in finding dirt roads. Even though it was downpouring for about two hours, occasionally with some hail falling, I enjoyed the ride. This was also a very good test for REV’IT!’s rain suit to pass! And it did, as I was finally wearing a suit that kept me dry from the rain without sweating on the inside.

The muslim quarter in Berat, with the houses of Ottoman architecture, for which the town has been awarded by Unesco.

   In Berat I was a guest of an old friend of my friend, Kostis. As soon as I informed him that I was in town, he didn’t want to hear a thing. “You will come over my place”, he insisted. Berat has been awarded by Unesco for its well preserved specimens of Ottoman architecture. Going a little bit northern, I visited the castle in Kruja, inside of which the houses are still inhabited. I went up on the mountain overlooking the town, to visit an interesting mosque, the Bektashi Teqe, which is built inside a cave. Haji Bektash was born in Iran in the 13th century, and he wrote the Makalat, the holy bible of the sect he created.

   Finally, the time I was waiting for so long had arrived! I was heading towards the Albanian Alps. I went over Koman, to enjoy the beautiful ride on the lake by a small boat. There, we met up with John Dalmaras, with whom we started the trip in Albania, in order to continue our trip together. The boats that make now the ride on the lake are small, but are big enough for a few motorcycles. Just don’t get screwed up as we did. The touristic boat charges 25 euros per person and motorcycle. Unforunately, in Koman you won’t see any other boats, so it’s easy to fall into the trap. In the morning, however, at 9:00, when all boats are departuring, another boat arrives in Koman, with a bus chassis on deck (with the seats, the steering wheel, the shift lever and everything!). The locals use this boat instead, and of course, they pay a lot less. Two persons on a motorcycle we met there, had paid just 20 euros in total.

Putting the motorcycles inside the small boat, in order to have a ride across the beautiful Koman Lake.

   We were passing through lush slopes or steep, rocky mountains and after about two hours we reached the serene Fierzё. We headed towards the so called Accursed Mountains (Bjeshkёt e Namuna). We had a very joyful dirt ride, passing through the village of Çerem. Then, following the same dirt road, which turned out to be quite rough but in the most delightful way, we reached the border with Montenegro. Out of the blue, on an altitude of 1,900 metres, we saw some small plateaus where shepherds with their animals and families had gathered, living inside huts and tents. Coming across people in such a remote place was a big surprise to us! These people spend the entire summer season there, feeding their sheeps and collecting berries, which are abundant in those areas.

With a family of shepherds on the mountains by the border with Montenegro, up on 1,900 metres.

   However, I can never have enough of the Albanian Alps. How could I miss a two-day hiking from the beautiful Valbonё Valley to the village of Theth? We found a picture-perfect place by the crystal-clear river and we wild-camped there. John stayed there while I climbed up on the mountain carrying my backpack. It was there where I met Alben, a sepherd who spoke to me in perfect Greek! Listening to his story you will immediately realize what a remarkable man he is. If you pass through Simoni Kafe, the small stopover he created for hikers, give him my best and my true love.

Enjoying a beautiful ride on the dried river bed to Rrogam in Valbonё Valley!

   That night I would camp on the top of the mountain. From there, the view was spectacular as you could see the Valbonё Valley on one hand and Theth Valley on the other. It was raining for about two hours and it was almost dark. I met two Albanians riding horses, heading to the opposite direction. They asked me where I was going so late and they kept saying to follow them so that I wouldn’t be alone. One of them knew a few words in Greek and he kept shouting: “hey you, come over here”. These were some of the few words he knew. Probably, that was what his former boss in Greece often shouted at him and that’s what he remembered… I tried to explain him that I had a tent and I would camp on the mountain. Naturally, they were riding faster than me but they stopped and waited for me, making me wonder why, as I would not be able to follow them. Finally, I saw one of them taking out of a bag some bread, onion and cheese, which he offered me. I insisted that I would not take it as I had enough food but probably he didn’t understand me and he kept saying: “all right, all right”. I hope that was the behaviour he came across when this poor guy was starving, walking his way to Greece…

    On the top of the mountain, naturally, it was very windy all night long but with the gear I got, I didn’t face any problem. God bless Fifth Element, the company from Ioannina, Greece which provided us with such an efficient gear!

I already miss the view of the proud peaks overlooking the Valbonё Valley…

   After having descended the mountains, we visited a small town in the area, called Bajram Curri. There we met another Albanian guy who spoke to us in perfect Greek. I found his story quite sad, as he confirmed to me that the behaviour these people came across while in Greece was the exact opposite of the one we came across here. After having arrived to Greece walking through the mountains, he was arrested by the Greek army. They stole his money and beat him up so hard that his arm was broken! Nevertheless, the man was telling this story with a smile on his face, having no hard feelings whatsoever. I really cannot understand the mentality of such a beast, feeling no regrets when breaking the arm of another human being.

    The small road to Pukё was so winding, that we were dancing with our motorbikes, sliding from one side to the other all day long. Just a short distance from Fushё-Arrёz, John started to hear some weird noises coming from his motorcycle. When we arrived at the city, he spinned the rear wheel and saw that he had a broken ball-bearing! There was a car workshop there, so we stopped and asked whether we could find a new ball-bearing. They took it off, went over a store and, miraculously, found a new one! In less than two hours we were on the road again!

Another broken ball-bearing on the rear wheel… Am I a black cat or what? At least, this time it only took us two hours to repair the damage!

   I could not believe how easy a mechanical fault like this can be repaired if it occurs in a city, especially in Europe. When I had the same fault on the mountains of Tajikistan, it took me four days to get to the closest town, having no ball-bearing on the rear wheel, a broken rim and no rear break. Even when I finally arrived in the city, it took me days to have everything repaired.

   Now, we have arrived in Shkodra, by the border with Montenegro. I already feel nostalgic leaving Albania, but I hope that the next, more Westernized countries I will be visiting, will not let me down.

 

Here you can enjoy the first video I made during this trip, from our adventure in Albania (with English subtitles)!


 

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