Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 34 (Albania): Tirana - just before Hotolisht

today’s distance: 84km
total distance: 2770km
riding time: 5h

The night was short … we hit the sack at about 4 am and Mark was already at the hotel again at 9:30 am to pick us up for breakfast. Needless to say neither Sven nor I were ready. We headed downstairs eventually and after talking to Sven’s friends for another few hours, I eventually headed out just after noon.

The ride out was like the way in … Tirana showed itself in its full and non-existing glory. It is a way interesting city though and definitely worth a visit. After battling traffic for a while I eventually came to what I had thought was a mere ridge … but as it turned out it was a whopping 800m climb, bringing the daily total to well over 1000m in the end. The views were spectacular though. Sven had warned me that there would be some climbing, but I hadn’t calculated with anything of the sort that I had to contend with. But it was well worth it for the views. Many stray dogs and a pair of falcons in a cage were also noticable as well as steep climbs. But when you get to the top, you turn the corner and you see this:

More of this as I was heading downhill again (unfortunately the same altitude as Tirana again) when I encountered two Swiss cyclcists coming the other way. We chatted for a bit, they were on a month-long tour heading pretty much the way I had come.For once I was glad to not have a tailwind as I was seeing the smoke coming up from the local factories.

I passed Elbasan giving my first directions to Tirana to Albanians and headed up the valley.

It was a constant up and down affair with occasional rare stretches. When I reached Liberazdh I bought what I needed for the night and looked for a place to pitch the tent. More ups and downs, the valley was narrow. The first good opening I jumped at. The people looked at me puzzled. Then came a bunch of kids and all was well. It became dark … I said I should pitch my tent. Turns out the plan had been different all along … I was the only one not in on it. Only one person spoke a tiny bit of English, the rest was a hand and feet communication affair. I was to follow Astrid, a guy who had been sitting next to me when they had inquired where I was going and where I was from. I was led to his house and all of a sudden found myself in the kitchen/living room of his family. His father and mother, brother and sister were there, plus one brother’s wife and their two kids. There were nine children altogether and as before in Albania I was made to sit on the couch, the women working, the men biding their time. The TV was running (Belushi film) and when asked whether I was hungry I said I would just take from the bags and eat that. Nope was the answer. 40 minutes later then men and I were eating bean soup and pasta and a salad to top things off. Great stuff. Milk from the cow outside. We chatted about this and that … religion and life in general. Astrid was the only one speaking some English, but his father and I still figured out a great deal. The family was rather male-dominated though, any attempt of me helping with anything was brusquely put off by the women, pushing me on the couch and taking things out of my hands quickly. Thanks so much to Astrid and his family for hosting a total stranger.

1 comment

1 Dorian { 06.19.08 at 9:11 pm }

Hi. I must leave this comment that day when you were at Lezha Town in north Albania, when you come at internet point but i was too busy these weeks.
I read all your comment about Albania, and you have commpletely right about most of thing.
Albania had a amazing hospitality and great people. Number 1 country in the word.

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