42km to a field at the top of a mountain near Buz,
120km to a field in Greece near Ioannina,
and 86km today to Metsovo.
8198km so far
I had been in the same cycling clothes for 3 days…here’s the story…
Albania has been interesting and different. It is a mess and unfinished but is the kind of place that fits with my journey because it’s an experience and a challenge. It is full of great people and I have never had so many people beep encouragement or wave hello (this was almost everyone who passed us). But I’m glad to be in Greece, and back to decent roads.
Monday was a mistake and we paid the price. We took the most direct road from Berat to Gjirokaster rather than the main road and soon found ourselves trying to cycle on gravel and stones. There were even holes in the road so deep that there were trees growing in them. The track or RSO (road shaped obstacle) eventually became unrideable and Silver started slipping and sliding on all the stones. I had to get off and push. Sam kept trying to ride but eventually got off and walked too. In 8 hours we climbed 900m altitude and covered just 40km and we were shoving our bikes uphill in the dark. Scary sheepdogs surrounded us as we passed a house and it really shook us up. The owner came out and called them in, and I took the opportunity to ask him for water. Now with hearts beating faster and nervy, we kept going but were blocked by ferocious dogs again and this time nobody came to pull them away. A big white dog stood in the middle of the road and moved closer and closer. We walked slowly back to a field and camped, resolved to get up early and try again in the light.
After the disastrous day we started out early and found asphalt at Buz, just down the road. And then it was downhill. It felt so good to be able to ride again. At the main road/motorway, there were roadworks and 10km of dusty gravelly track but we could at least ride, albeit slowly. We went through Gjirokaster and didn’t stop so that we could get to the Greek border.
The roads were great, but we had a few hills to climb and it went pitch black. I would have carried on but the trucks passing us were not giving us much room and thundering past so closely that we needed to get off the road. Just 30km from Ioannina we set up camp in a field. I cooked pasta and we ate well before sleeping. The animal noises in the night bothered me at first but I seem to have adjusted to this. I slept well and we got back on the road, in the morning.
We stopped in Ioannina to look at routes and use wifi and set ourselves an achievable goal of reaching Metsovo. It was 56km but climbed to 1250m. The road wound its way up and was empty. The Greeks had built Road 2, a fast motorway, going the same way so all the cars were on that road. Lots of climbing was also accompanied by sweeping downhills and we started to enjoy cycling again. It was a perfect road for cyclists except for the aggressive sheepdogs, which came out into the road barking and snarling. (You can see the dogs in the road in one of the photos below).
Fortunately Sam had read a blog by “travelling two” that told him to get off and walk past slowly. We did that and had no problems except that it was still scary and wasted time. However we made it to Metsovo, which is a ski resort and enjoyed a restaurant and hotel with a log fire.
I was also relieved to get a shower and wash some clothes.
But sad to be saying goodbye to Sam as he is going to Athens and I have decided to go to Istanbul next. He has been fearless and has kept me going when I felt like giving up so he will be missed.
I am also just £40 short of my first £1000 for Streetchild. Please help me reach that target!