24-26 October – Albania!

I’m in Berat Albania, and I’ve cycled 118km from Kotor, Montenegro to Shkoder, Albania with Sam the American Eagle and David the kiwi. Followed by 111km from Shkoder to the capital Tirana and then 117km to Berat with Sam.

7950km so far

Montenegro was a very pleasant surprise. The bay at Kotor was beautiful and the hills were tough but fun to climb. I also enjoyed staying at the Old Town Hostel which was very cheap and sociable. It was full of interesting Travellers and some who are now helping me spread the word about my fundraising efforts.

When we left Kotor, each town we went through or passed had an old town or a lovely beach or seafront.
We cycled to Budva with an old walled town centre, past Sveti Stefan which has an island with a bridge connecting it to the mainland, to the beach at Petrovac, to Bar, another large city by the sea with a walled Old town. And this was where we said goodbye to David. He also lent me his stove so I have to return that in the next 2 years!!
And then Sam and I headed on into Albania past Krute to Shkoder.

Immediately after the border we noticed a difference. Albania has the world’s greatest potholes, and there was a total lack of street lighting, rubbish strewn by the side of the road, boys on carts being pulled by donkeys, people cycling or walking on the wrong side of the road, no lights on the bikes and you can forget about helmets on bicycles or motorbikes. but It was a friendly type of chaos. Everyone wanted to say hello, and it was the first time we had consistently had people waving and beeping their horns at us in a friendly way.

As we approached Skhoder, we went around some very dodgy road maintenance with rocks in the road to protect open drains. And on the other hand, we saw expensive German cars especially old Mercedes. They love them.

In Skhoder we struggled to find the hostel but were approached by an Albanian who had an English accent. He normally lived in Birmingham, in the UK. We decided to trust him and he walked with us to his hotel. It was basic but for 10 euros we had a roof And a warm shower.
In the morning, men were drilling at our hotel, “hotel Floga” at 7.30am with a skinned pig in a tub of water next to them!!! We had a coffee but decided not to order breakfast.

As we made our way out of town I felt the exhilaration of being somewhere alien and strange, and although most people on Tripadvisor would describe Albania as crap or a ‘hole’, I realized I liked it a lot.

The main road to Tirana was a highway and there were trucks passing very close but Albania doesn’t have many alternatives. We came off the main road at Lezhë and our pace dropped by half.
Then it just got silly as the road was so bad that we couldn’t pick up any speed at all and just held on and survived the constant shaking. The road seemed much safer as the cars had to slow down to navigate the potholes. At one point a stream crossed the road and we had to get off and walk. It was hard not to giggle at how ridiculous this road was.

In Tirana, we found the hostel and went for dinner in a surprisingly modern an bustling city, full of beautiful people, and dressed up in a way that was showing that clearly there was money in Albania. We also went to an international film festival for free. Awesome.

We took the road to Durres on the coast and then south via Lushnjë. There were parts where it said it was a motorway and bikes weren’t allowed but like most things in Albania it wasn’t finished and bicycles and tractors were trundling along so we said what the hell and did it anyway.
The road was quite new and we raced along at around 35kph until we came off the motorway and back to gravel and potholes all the way to Berat.

So far I have found Albanians to be very friendly. It’s a shame their country is still a bit of a mess but it seems to be getting much better. And the bits they haven’t covered in rubbish are beautiful.