Friday, 21 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Albania - Boge/Theth

Sunday 16th July

Driving day Rreshen to Boge – We had to buy a new van battery battery today, (160 euros fitted), we also picked up more euros getting ready for Montenegro which uses euros apparently, Lucy got bike insurance paper printed and on the beautiful drive upto Boge, we discovered a lovely campsite run by a local Albanian who was also a restaurateur in the UK in the winter. The Alpine Hotel costs 5 euro per person per night. it had great shade for dog/van and good beer.

We met up with a bunch of German biker lads, who were on a two week trip, lovely guys all on Tenere 750's and one BMW F800.

Monday 17th July

Boge – Theth – Mesi – Dedaj – Boge

We set off on a long loop today, (100 ish miles), so having shade for the dog was really important as we knew we would be back later than usual plus there was no water in the local rivers in this valley, so no let up in the heat factor.

We had a windy night in the van as the temperatures dropped by about 15 degrees, cloud smothered the stunning limestone peaks that were all around us and it seemed like a catabatic wind blew down the valley as the evening came on, then as the morning came, turned 180 degrees and blew back up the valley as an anabatic wind! Lucy even got her sleeping bag out for the night, that must the second night on the trip so far.

We were up just before 7am, coffee and breakfast wolfed down before the bikes came out, then once dressed for a cooler weather day, we set off, leaving a very grumpy looking labrador in the van all alone!

The first section was all tarmac to the col at 1700m, this is a part of a standard tourist route showcasing the beautiful views around this valley, which is also a National Park. Lots of the peaks are well above the 2000m mark, with the highest at around 2700m just over the col. (Mt Vallt).
Once at the col, we took a load of photo’s then headed down the steepish winding dirt road towards Theth. This proved to be a bit hair raising as several 4x4’s seems to be in a race and nearly took us out on several of the hairpin bends. Once at Theth, the TET follows the western river bank, heading to some villages rather than following the signs to Shkoder, (which apparently dead ends anyway)!

The trail was lovely all the way, (one of the better days on these trails). The terrain was rough, the landscape was huge and impressive, the trail was varied with plenty of rough sections to keep you concentrating yet never so difficult that you started to worry. The local ‘buses’ use this trail all the time, they must have some heavy repair bills for their suspension is all I can say!

We crossed high col’s, rode through thick forest, then down the side of really blue river water bouncing over really white rocks. At about Prekali, the road becomes tarmac again, but this is a beautiful section of road, winding down past a river cut gorge, with small hamlets perched on the hillsides, nice and easy after the wrist jarring zigzags preceding this. We turned off at Boks to take a mixture of tarmac village lanes and dirt tracks to cut the corner and avoid going onto the main SH1 route.

This led us through loads of unusual places, past islamic minarets, christian churches, rubbish piles, irrigation channels and the high security prison at the entrance to the Madhe Valley. We finished the day by winding up the tarmac road back to Boge. A great day on the bikes and a fitting end to the Albania part of the TET.

Albania has delivered some amazing scenery, lovely people, great trails and a few challenges. Jussi Heinman of the Rolling Hobo blog rightly described this place as an adventure riders paradise and it is. However if you come, be prepared, it’s hot, tough and rough, it’s not a picnic place for those looking for the easy life on the road, it’s a place where you have little access to modern resources, there is little in the way of internet unless you check into a hotel in a city. Campsites are few and far between in the south and east, the north sees a bit more tourism, so is better set up.

It’s a place of contrasts, stark old world for the most part with ancient farming techniques, mules for transport, ramshackle stone houses perched on hillsides and a very old road system. Tirane on the other hand is a vibrant capital city with fast cars, motorways, cafe culture and a couple of other places are trying to match this. The driving standards here are as crazy as a bag of cats on crystal meth so beware what’s coming at you round the next blind bend!

Lek is the currency in the south and east, euro’s in the north, fuel is around £1 per litre and is generally easy to find in any town or on the main roads. It’s a cash economy for the most part too. Water is from springs on the side of the road, but these are more difficult to find in the north for some reason. Little shops are everywhere for supplies and stalls on the side of he roads sell vegetables, fruit, honey etc etc.

This is a country both Lucy & I will return to at some point in the future, it’s a fabulous place!
checked out.