Up Into The Hills: Tirana To Elbasan And Onward To Greek Border - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

January 16, 2014

Up Into The Hills: Tirana To Elbasan And Onward To Greek Border

Not the most exciting police work. It must be really boring to be assigned to direct traffic. You can imagine its where they send young police officers when they've messed up elsewhere. Also in Tirana it's not for the faint hearted standing in front of cars, raising a hand and blowing a whistle, trusting that every time the car will stop. Though stop they do for a policeman. And so as I round a roundabout, a policeman keeps order; holding up traffic while waving me and other traffic going the same way on without the chaos and blare of horns that otherwise would ensue.

I continue upon a wide avenue with the flow of cars and commercial vehicles from traffic-lights to traffic-lights; sharing the inside with scooters whizzing by and making my way pass slow cyclists plodding along. The morning sunny with a shattering of clouds just as forecasted.

The avenue supposedly the main route south to the next city, Elbasan; soon comes to a tee-junction with a little narrow street. For want of not knowing the way, I follow the other traffic which all turns left, then right at the next corner along another narrow street. I have thoughts of being lost, but follow the flow, cross a cobblestone square with expensive houses on the perimeter. It seems I'm in the more effluent side of town as I continue towards wooded hills.

Climbing up then descending down a leafy suburban road, I see a big roundabout at the bottom and a divided highway entering from the right: the sign that way when I get as far is for Tirana, but the exit left with a sign for Elbasan is along an old rough single carriageway. At that moment I see a Carrefour hypermarket on a spur road entering the roundabout further around.

First stop of the day. I bough enough food for two days.
Heart 0 Comment 0

It is a stroke of luck as I had not done any shopping. I put in the basket enough bread and cheese for two days. Biscuits and coke. There are bins with muesli, nuts and dried fruit. Each time I begin to fill a bag of either, the beautiful woman superviser comes over and holds a plastic bag open for me as I scoop ingredients in, then twists the bag shut and takes it to the scales to weigh and label.

The view when I came out of the hypermarket.
Heart 0 Comment 0

It is hard to believe the road from the roundabout is the main route to the next city as it rolls up and down, twist and turns along the contours of a mountain valley as I leave the last suburb behind. Though a new highway is being built, which is parallel for a while before the way crosses over. It is a sand coloured stripe of excavation all along the valley upon which work yellow bulldozers, rollers and tipper-trucks.

As I when up.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

There isn't much traffic. Though when there is it all comes at once; such as when the road begins a long one in eight climb. A kilometre into this climb, I approach a fork in the road: the cars that overtake me all take the left fork going downhill. When I get as far, I see a section of highway now away down below in the valley floor is completed and enters the gaping mouths of two tunnels in the hillside.

I keep on right. The road now traffic free. Supposedly the old road to Elbasan. It continues to climb and soon ominous dark rain clouds descend and at one point I'm almost enclosed in fog. And a while later, feeling a chill just as the road begins descending below the cloud there's a few spots of rain. I am praying it won't. It past and I could see a ray of sun glint on a large cluster of high-rise blocks off to the side and far below through a gap between two hills.

Elbasan over there.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Zoomed in.
Heart 0 Comment 0

The road descends through a scattered village of farmhouses with old women in traditional head scarf shepherding sheep. And other ghostly figures; eerily human, but looking closely are scarecrows in small plots of corn. By now it's too steep to look at anything besides the road winding ever steeply down and turning a corner, I see, then come to a halt to look at a wide valley spread out ahead of me full of urban sprawl. And just below is the grim sight of filthy huge industrial buildings and countless smokestacks and heaps of black slag covering a wide belt along the river.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Once down in the valley the ugly side of town is no longer quite so visible and it's a couple of kilometres to Elbasan centre, congested with traffic because of one of the principal streets being dug up.

I keep going, riding until sunset, then camp on a section of old road.

Heart 0 Comment 0

The next morning I set off wanting to cover and do in the course of the day the remaining stretch of a hundred and twenty-five kilometres to the Greek border. A day made arduous because of two mountain passes. But I find getting in the spin of powering the pedals round going up, pays off later after descending; on the long straight flat road through the valley where, I'm able to hold a steady pace the rest of the day. By sunset I'm about a few kilometres from the border; at which point, I push the bike up from the road upon a level plateau out of sight and camp.

Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 199 km (124 miles)
Total: 9,373 km (5,821 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0