Day 120 & 121 - Rain and Mountains
10 - 11 April 2022
10 April 2022
Wake up and look out the window. Grey clouds and some blue sky to the west. Shoot down to check on the bikes. Shell gets nervous with them chained up outside. They are fine. I get a look at the mountains to the east. Black clouds.
Head upstairs. Discuss with Shell the rain situation. The forecast is for rain until mid afternoon. Getting wet is one thing. Steep climbs in the wet is another.
I hate saying no to Shell. If she has an idea I don’t like to point out all the negatives. Sometimes I should. I am keen to see the mountains but I don’t want to head out in a storm. We talk it over, and she is still keen. I convince her to stay and feel bad. We book another night and push our stay in Kujë back.
“Say No! Accept the burdens of revenge.” ― Dejan Stojanovic
Head to breakfast. All the places that are open only do coffee. We head back to the hotel and grab some eggs, rice, and beef. It does the job. The coffee is good.
It has occurred to both of us that we might be the only people that stay a full night here. I have strong suspicions this place charges by the hour. When we arrived yesterday a man came in, paid, went back out, and escorted a woman inside. He was gone before 7.00 am. There is a revolving door of cars that don’t stay for more than a few hours. The restaurant is empty. There are big mirrors in every room. The lights are neon and change colour. The cleaners are very busy.
“Of the numerous regrettable elements that go to make up the unlawful carnal-knowledge industry, I should single out for distinction the look of undisguised contempt that is often worn on the faces of its female staff. Some of the working 'hostesses' may have to simulate delight or even interest—itself a pretty cock-shriveling thought—but when these same ladies do the negotiating, they can shrug off the fake charm as a snake discards an unwanted skin.” ― Christopher Hitchens
We finish breakfast to the sound of thunder. It rains heavily for the next few hours and I am glad we are riding out the day in the hotel. We book another room. They just move us across the hall so they can clean our sheets. Just before lunch, there is a knock on the door. I look into the hallway and a woman is walking away. She turns but says nothing. I wait a moment, she shrugs and keeps walking. I go back inside.
Lunch where we had it yesterday. Beef today. We order red wine. It is from Italy. A shame, I am really looking forward to trying the wines of Albania. We get the bill and I realise I have overestimated how many leks I have on me. I count out the cash I have. The bill came to 2600 lek. Down to my last notes and coins, I had 2600 on the dot. Close call.
There is a break in the rain and make a quick dash into town to the ATM. It is fun riding without our panniers.
Tomorrow we ride to the mountains.
11 April 2022
Blue skies. We grab some breakfast and hit the road.
We only have 16 km today. The first 9 km are flat easy riding. The next 7 km are steep. Cyclists consider a 13˚ incline as tough riding. With a full load, it is extremely hard going. Most of the riding we will do today is between 11 and 23˚. Short ride. Grueling hills.
We get through town and start hitting some back roads. It is really nice riding. Spring is here and there are lambs about. Vineyards and fruit trees are in budburst. It is warm and there is little wind. We turn onto a trail which is good fun. Then the hills.
“Did I live the spring I’d sought?
It’s true in joy, I walked along,
took part in dance,
and sang the song.
and never tried to bind an hour
to my borrowed garden bower;
nor did I once entreat
a day to slumber at my feet.
Yet days aren’t lulled by lyric song,
like morning birds they pass along,
o’er crests of trees, to none belong;
o’er crests of trees of drying dew,
their larking flight, my hands, eschew
Thus I’ll say it once and true…
From all that I saw,
and everywhere I wandered,
I learned that time cannot be spent,
It only can be squandered.”
― Roman Payne
We pushed as much as we rode. We were offroad for a short time but mostly on the tarmac. The drivers are courteous. A few pulled over to check how we were going. We were going up. Slowly.
There is something enormously satisfying about conquering a hill like we did today. We climbed 600 m in 7 km. That is hard going. We hit Kujë, but still had 2 km to go. Our accommodation is next to the Castle of Kruja. Like all castles, it is on the highest point of the village. Unless there is a church. That will always take the highest point.
Those last few kilometers were hard going. Very steep and the occasional dead end where residents have decided to dump rubbish. We push on and get to the top. As satisfying as the climb is the view. We can see to the coast and we are pinned in by the mountain range.
“Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
The long gorge choked with scree and boulders,
The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.
The moss is slippery, though there's been no rain,
The pine sings, but there's no wind.
Who can leap the world's ties
And sit with me among the white clouds?”
- Gary Snyder
We get a welcome drink. A clear spirit made by our hosts. There is nothing I like more after a taxing slog up a hill than a shot of firewater on an empty stomach. A generous host deserves a gracious guest. Down it goes. It burns. My stomach rumbles. It is excellent I tell him. Lunch is at 2.00 pm.
I am famished when we sit down. The view is incredible. It is freezing cold. Our hosts do almost everything from their own farm. The mother cooks. The wine is made by the father grown from his own vineyard. Lunch is a feast. I series of small dishes followed by an enormous mixed grill. I eat until I can’t eat anymore. Then we order dessert.
Kabuni. Lamb's neck slow cooked in sugar. Added to rice and other sweet spices. Nuts and raisins. You can taste the lamb, but the dish is certainly a desert. Sweet and spicy and lamby. It is delicious.
We head back to our little bungalow. You can see the mountains from our window. We sit out on a cliff face. I loved the mountains in Abruzzo. These mountains are stunning and I feel even more drawn to them.
It is cold. I am typing this in bed under blankets. I am full and happy and tired.
Tomorrow back to the coast. Or maybe we should keep climbing mountains?
Today's ride -