Day 119 - Albania
9 April 2022
It is a 10 hour trip on the ferry from Bari to Durrës. I slept pretty well considering the noises a large boat makes. Shell not so much. She was up at 3.00 am and beat me up this morning.
We arrive in port around 9.00 am. Vodafone has roaming now in Albania so we can find a destination and ride straight from immigration. Our phones don’t work. We get some directions and find a Vodafone. New sims and we are good to go.
We plan a flat 35 km ride out of Durrës into the countryside. Bright blue skies. A warm day, 23˚C. I am surprised at the poverty in Durrës. There are entire families going through garbage for food and clothes. The cars are courteous, but the roads are in bad shape. We get out of the city and look at a stretch of road. Garbage litter the street. The roads are dusty. Shell mentions it looks like Asia. I have to agree. This road looks just like the roads we took in Laos.
“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” ― Charles Darwin
Albania is poor. The fourth poorest country in Europe. It gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912. While it was never part of Yugoslavia, it was ruled by a Communist government. It has never really recovered.
Once out of the city it is heavy agriculture. Every house has a garden and a milking cow. Chickens free range. There are goats. Everyone works. There seem to be no middle aged people. It is either children or the elderly. Working in fields or pushing barrows. Walking the milking cow to somewhere with more grass.
“The conveniences of modern culture cater exclusively to youth, and that the times grow increasingly inconsiderate of old people” ― Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
This place is for me. I certainly do not relish poverty, but there is a wildness here. Italy is polished for tourists. Everything is ready for the genteel visitor. There is a roughness here. It is a little raw and has a sense of yet being discovered. I like being the only traveler in the village.
It only takes us a few hours to knock over the 35 km. Our place is on a busy road. It is inexpensive but comfortable. A little mold on the bathroom ceiling never killed anyone.
We shower and walk a few hundred meters down the road for some lunch. You can see the mountains in the distance. I have watched them get closer all day. I want to ride them but I am not sure if I have the capacity after such a long break.
Lunch is in a garden. We have a choice of chicken or beef. We take the chicken and order a half litre of white wine. Breads come with vegetables, dry and fresh. Olives and two types of cheese. One is between ricotta and a fetta. The second is like a thick, salty yogurt with chopped capsicum through it. Both are delicious. Some of the bread is made from polenta. Dense and still warm. The chicken comes on a bed of rice cooked in the stock from the chicken. It reminds me of the chicken rice we had in Malaysia.
“I don't do lunch. Corrupt artifact of late capitalism. Breakfast maybe?” ― Thomas Pynchon
We head home very full. We plan the next ride. If we continue to head directly north we will be in Montenegro in under two weeks. I feel like I need more of Albania. Two weeks is not enough. Tomorrow is forecast to rain all day. This hotel is fine for a night but I am not keen on two nights here. There is not much else around.
Shell grabs a nap and I read about Albania. She wakes up and starts looking at the map and finds a village in the mountains, Krujë. It is only 15 km away but it is a very steep climb. The accommodation looks amazing. I think we should do it. But not in the rain. We chat. I point out the difficulty of the climb. Shell thinks I am being negative. We will see what the day brings tomorrow.
“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.” ― A.A. Milne
I go downstairs and ask what time breakfast is. 6.00 am. What time does it finish? Midnight. My kind of breakfast. No tea making facilities in the room. Shell pulls out the camp stove. If you do not hear from me tomorrow, she burnt the place down.
Today's ride -