The first big albanian city coming from the west is Shkodra and compared to the other european countries this city is a complete traffic mess. Horse/donkey coaches, cigar puffing grandpas in wheel chairs as wrong-way drivers taking your right of way and in a roundabout you better always take the inner lane to easy-going cross all the other lanes while exiting. To prevent of being a traffic block, it’s best to travel at least twice as fast as the speed limit signs proclaim – maybe even better with triple speed. There a massive pot holes in the streets, too. You shouldn’t hit one of those, otherwise you might need a new motorcycle.
The motorway all the way to the coast like a slalom course and we couldn’t ride faster than 40km/h (25mi/h). However as soon as we reached the coast, everything was well-regulated all of a sudden – almost no garbage, everybody driving civilised (except of the wheel chair riders!). Simply the high-rise buildings close to the beaches blighted the region quite a bit.
We followed the coastal road towards Durres till a small road led us inland again. It started getting colder and thick clouds came up. Tobi started swearing into his intercom and designated himself as a rain god. Why the heck was it raining again? Since we started the trip, he was just looking for some beautiful sunshine! A few kilometers further we noticed a hole in the clouds and suddenly faced a massive snow-covered mountain. That was quite a surprise, since we still were right next to the mediterranean sea. We reached Liogara National Park and it didn’t really look like a mediterranean region anymore – rather like in the middle of the european alps. The road guided us through coniferous forest right to the highest point of the pass in the cloud cover. The other side of the pass was cloudless and we had a great view of the sea while riding into the valley. A beautiful winding road, no traffic, sunshine and a fantastic panorama – what else do you need?
We had checked the internet for a proper campsite at the beach close to Himare and found Nashos Camping. The owner is a friendly greek guy. He was still renovating his property and we were the only guests. Therefore he kindly offered us to use one of his bungalows for the price of the campsite instead. He prepared us a nice dinner and we had a funny conversation. Since he couldn’t speek any English he started drawing pictures to communicate. We didn’t understand everything, but we think he described us the history of this area and tried to explain us, why it actually should be a part of Greece.
After we had left the next morning, Miriam missed her backpack a little bit later. Since her beloved cuddly toy (Crash) was also in there, we finally had to ride all the way back to the campsite. I wasn’t very happy about that and couldn’t believe that she already started loosing her stuff, although we had started our trip just a few days ago.
Of course, she couldn’t find her backpack at the campsite and was quite sad that Crash seemed to be lost forever. Luckily a nice person must have found her backpack on the road and placed it a few hundred meters further on a little rock next to the road. So finally we could continue to ride to Sarande and visited a cold water spring nearby. It is called Blue Eye (Syri i Kalter) and got its name because of the shiny blue extreme cold water.
We found a hotel (Hotel Eden) for the night in Gjirokaster, owned by a lovely woman and her husband. Gjirokaster is a nice small town with a pretty castle in the old town. You can see some guns, a tank and a rusty plane, but the nice thing about it is the fact, that they kept it very naturally. After we had returned to our hotel the owner recommended a local restaurant to us. Unfortunately their menu card was in albanian only, so they quickly brought us to the kitchen to have a look in their pots. They had several filled pots, pans and also some meals in the oven. The cool guy explained us the different dishes by acting it out in pantomime. We had quite some fun. We think one of them was brain – so we didn’t choose that one.
After breakfast the next day we started riding to Greece.