So What's The Story: Ostres To Near Tirana - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

January 10, 2014

So What's The Story: Ostres To Near Tirana

Albania has had a devastating recent history. What with orienting towards The Peoples' Republic Of China in the sixties, in which it's then leaders, in parity to what was happening in China at the time, put the country through it's own Cultural Revolution. So the path to normality has been rough. Though with the later phase of the war in The Former Yugoslavia in 1999, taking place just over the border in Kosovo and, the resulting influx of hundreds of thousands of Kosovan refugees, deemed to put further strain on a crumbling economy; instead, led to a turnaround, with large amounts of international aid coming to the rescue, with the desired effect of a growing economy.

The day begins in Montenegro, descending towards the coast and border to the left. This may just qualify for "What was your best downhill ever?" forum in CGOAB. But, just look at the cut of me: do I really look as if I'm going fast!?
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The border crossing is straightforward. Then the road ahead takes me into all what seems to be a Third World Country. It reminds me of eastern Bolivia. There are lots of people selling stuff by the roadside and there are no road-signs, so I don't know exactly where I'm going. But I assume that the road goes to the city of Shkoder to the east, just south of lake Skadar.

The road surface a bit rough but not too bad. And there isn't much traffic until I approach an extensive built-up area and enter a roundabout, with at last, a road-sign: Shkoder arrowed left and Tirana right. Although I'm going to Tirana, I turn left for the nearer city in order to get currency as I've no idea how far Tirana is.

Scooters and people on old bicycles and an occasional noisy tricycle-truck struggle along the side of the long thoroughfare into the city with a steady flow of old Volkswagen Gulfs and Passets but also lots of new Mercedes and expensive SUVs.

Eventually I get to what looks to be the city-centre and see a bank. I just have my card out to put in the ATM, when a bedraggled Gipsy woman with a child in-toe begins harassing me for money. I suppose to her I may as well have a sign on my head stating rich tourist, which I'm far from. There are also calls of "Hello", some of which may be genuine while some are in a clearly sneering manner.

I've withdrawn three-thousand Lek, the currency here. I don't know how much that is, but passing a camera shop, I see a one-hundred and forty Euros slim point and shot compact with a price-tag of Lek 19.000, so deduct that there's seven Euros in a thousand, so my three-thousand is around twenty-one Euros.

I stop for a coffee. It cost seventy. And as it is around noon, I buy a sandwich for a hundred and fifty before setting out on the road to Tirana.

I still don't have a clue how far Tirana is as there aren't any signs with kilometres. I only have my big whole of Europe map to guide me. The scale is twenty-five kay to the centimetre, so I estimate by rough measurement its in the region of a hundred and thirty kilometres.

The highway has no shoulder and cars and trucks sound their horn: a warning of their coming, sounding as if they are concerned about my wellbeing as all give me lots of space when passing.

I pass through one town; exiting which, there is a sign: Tirana 39 KM. So it's less than I thought, though as it's growing late it'll be tomorrow before I get there.

These goats where minding there own business, when along came a cow and chased them away; complaining that they were eating too much grass intended for her.
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Naugthy cow. There's enough grass for both you, your offspring and the goats.
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Wild camping isn't feasible to the side as the land is all divided into well fenced smallholdings; enclosures of sheep, a milking-cow, goats and chickens and vegetable-plots. There's no woodland in which to hid a tent. Then the road become a nice modern divided highway with two lanes either way and a third lane as a shoulder which the increasingly fast traffic stay off, so I've the inside all to myself. On this stretch there are hotels every few kilometres. I stop and ask the price per night at one and am quoted twenty-five Euros.

The next hotel looks more optimistic with it's tidy grounds. Perhaps they won't try ripping me off.

The man spoke little English so draws a clock and draws a circle round the clock and writes 15 Euros to demonstrate the price for twenty-four hours. I point to nine, meaning nine in the morning after a night's sleep is all I will require. He understands and scratches out the former figure, then writes 7,50 Euros. I'm beginning to think it's a love hotel charging for periods of time rather than per night, though twenty-four hours seems excessive passion.

When the owner has shown me the room and has gone, I carry the bike upstairs and into the room. From the bags I've already up, I take out the tent and sleeping-bag and hang both up to dry.

There is no wifi, but that's fine as, I can use the time to write up my notes better than could be done this past couple of evenings in the tent.

About eight there's the smell of stew cooking in the kitchen underneath. I'm famish, having only had an orange and a few biscuits for breakfast and a sandwich around noon in Shkoder, so when I finish off writing, I go down to the restaurant to eat. By this time the owner and his family have eaten and cleared away and as there are no diners, he leads me into the kitchen and opens the fridge and takes out a box of pork chops. I'm so hungry I'll eat anything, so nod yes. I return out and take a seat at a table and wait while it's cooking.

As it's pork chops it's nothing special and when it come it taste as if it has been in the fridge for quite a while. And when it come to paying, the owner asks "Yugoslav?" and when I nod no, gets me to write the country I'm from. Then he writes down the price of the meal: 14 Euros; which, is clearly tourist pricing. But, I should've asked the price beforehand.

Today's ride: 93 km (58 miles)
Total: 9,143 km (5,678 miles)

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