Entering Albania

I entered Montenegro through a tiny and deserted road that from Bileca went up to the border. After the border there was some more climbing, snow started to fall and the road became even more deserted. After having crossed a beautiful valley covered in snow and surrounded by mountains, the road started to go down, the snow slowly disappeared and the gulf of Kotor, my destination of the day, appeared on the horizon.

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I quickly rode the descent that brought me straight to the sea and I pitched my tent on the beach just on time to see the sun disappear behind the mountains. The pleasure given by the sun didn’t last long, already in the night strong wind hit and in the morning heavy rain started to fall again. This scheme repeated itself over and over during my short stay in Montenegro, the road along the coast is all ups and downs and sunny days suddenly turned into rainy days, only for the sky to clear again few hours later.

Typical landscape along the coast in Montenegro
Typical landscape along the coast in Montenegro

Arriving in Ulcinj one could already sense that Albania was close: Albanian cars, Italian speaking people, even a  mosque. And the road that brought to the border was again a tiny and quite road that went through small villages and farms. It was in one of these farms, owned by an Albanian family,  that a request for a place where to put the tent for the night turned into an invitation for dinner and into a warm bed for the night. The evening was spent speaking with Arijeta, the English speaking daughter who normally lives in Pristine and works as a journalist. The next morning I said goodbye and thanked the family and started riding under the rain. As I arrived in Shkoder the rain and the wind convinced me to take a room, I spent the rest of the day wandering through different cafes, where there seemed to be only men extremely busy watching football, taking notes and making bets about the scores of different matches (I’ve been in a cafe where the only-men customers were all seated into a room with four different televisions, each of which showing a match from a different league and in a corner sat a guy that was registering all the bets).

Next day I left my room soon and started riding towards Lezhe. At lunch time, looking for the nerdy device I use to update my current location, I couldn’t find it and, after having emptied my bags twice I resigned myself to the idea that I forgot it in the room in Shkoder, 40+ kilometers back. Riding back was not an option as darkness was approaching, so I tried to hitchhike, helped by a man who started speaking to me, attracted by the big bike and, as he saw a van approaching, he literally threw himself on the street to stop it. The van was directed to Shkoder, but it was already full of people, clearly not a problem for an Albanian driver; the bike was put on the van roof and I was put on the van trunk. The hotel in Shkoder was already close, but some people sitting at a cafe on the other side of the street called the owner of the hotel, in five minutes he was there, with a big smile he gave me back my nerdy device and I checked in again at the room I left only a few hours earlier.

Tirana's square: a mixture of  fascist and communist architecture, with a big statue of Skanderbeg, Albania's hero, in the middle, big Albania flags and a mosque. On the last days even a huge Christmas tree has been installed close to Skanderbeg's statue
Tirana’s square: a mixture of fascist and communist architecture, with a big statue of Skanderbeg, Albania’s hero, in the middle, big Albania flags and a mosque. On the last days even a huge Christmas tree has been installed close to Skanderbeg’s statue.

You already know what happened the next day; I arrived in Tirana, but not as I originally planned, and I am still here. After a full tiring day spent in a bike shop, the bike has been fixed and tomorrow I should start riding again, making my way to Macedonia through some snowy mountains.

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