East Collides

Approaching the coast of Albania on the ferry I wonder why I haven’t even looked at the map, I have no idea where I am going! As we get closer I realise that it looks like any other port and maybe Albania will be just another European country. I pay the guards, 1 euro to get my passport, then see another four control points and I’m in, I’m in Albania!

Lavazh are everywhere, “car washes”, and petrol stations….they seem to charge the same price as in euros and I wonder if maybe they take euros… I see an ATM standing lonely at the side of the road and go to see what the deal is…I can withdraw 1000 upto 40,000 LEK, I take 3,000 not knowing what I have taken out.

Riding a long a fairly good road, with only occasional pot holes and craters and floods of water, I decide to try to head for the coast for a breakfast stop, as soon as I leave the main road I am riding dirt and stone tracks, the bike takes a pounding and I wonder how much it can take, and if my luggage can cling on….I stop at a roundabout of sorts, people sitting and talking, others riding past on horse and cart, mules carrying massive quantities of grass and behind me a deluxe cafe like any in italy. I stop and start eating near the road, the owner of the cafe comes out with a bottle of water and puts it on the wall besdide me, I offer to pay, but no charge, so I offer to buy a coffee. I sit and drink it, then go to pay; only 50 LEK, jesus, how much did I take out?!! Im only here for a day or so. I grab one of the three 1000LEK notes I took out earlier and the owner sees it and says, “ah…OK” …a free coffee too, I am starting to like Albania.

I ride on down this dirt track for a while, then on and on it goes, and on, I’ve missed turning somewhere, but I don’t do going backwards, plus it can’t be that far, I’ve been on here for hours. I stop and ask a guy for directions, jesus, I’m miles away from the main road and running low on petrol. I ride on, and around the corner a massive BP petrol station, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, I stop and owner comes out and asks me many questions, among which “what are you doing HERE!”.

Riding on I stop to take photos, children come up tp me and are almost touching me, they get so close, I say “hello” and they gawp open mouthed and just utter a “whuh?”. I laugh and say goodbye.

I see an olive picker later on and ask if I can camp in his field, no problems, just no fires! He gives me some olives and some fuit too!

The next day I ride mainly highways, a little bored and aimless. In the afternoon I stop for water and wonder where will I camp tonight, packing the water away I hear the unmistakable sound of a BMW twin, I watch the rider fly past its a motorcycle tourer he stops and turns around hes turning round He asks how I am doing he is talking english to me. Dirk Shaefer a German rider is just completing an eight month circumnavigation of the med coast solo. He and I chat for a long while beside the road. We ride back up the spectacular mountain pass and take inumerable photos, then we head to a hotel back down the road for a coffee, a coffee becomes a meal and a night in the hotel spinning tales, though I wonder how mine are lame compared to his Algerian adventures. Dirk is a great person to talk to and I consider heading back with him to Marseilles, but in the end worry about the cost of going this way and that and also how my 10horsepower is no match for Dirk’s 110hp!!

Riding south through Albania is spectacular riding and I am happy I chose to carry on, but wonder throughout the day how Dirk is fairing and keep checking my mirrors hoping to see him having changed his mind, but it doesn’t happen and I am sad that night to be alone again….maybe he will join me in the future?!

Into Greece now….carnet issue should be ok, next hurdle is Syrian visa….

A VERY special thanks to Dirk for everything he provided, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity!!! Hope to see you again so I can repay you!