Friday, 21 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Albania - Gramsh - Day 2

Friday 14th July 2017

Lucy had told me some lovely things about her ride yesterday and recommended I do it today, so at 6.30 am whilst the air was still cool from the night time, I set off with a plan to ride to Raban and link this section to where we had turned around the previous day.

The ride was beautiful, varied and in some places really easy riding and in others, pretty technical with heavily damaged ancient cobblestone lanes, really loose rock and the boulders of the riverbed. I’ll not recap on the first bit as Lucy did this yesterday, so I’ll start from Raban back to the Corovono, (or Chorovono as it’s pronounced locally).

From Raban the route is loose, with plenty of ruts and water damage down to the new tarmac road which runs above the gorge at Corovono. The colours are changing all the time, with the grey slate looking slopes to the slate type shale and then the limestone, all of which looks like it was laid down as a seabed millennia ago and then folded and weathered so much until someone decided to put a dirt road through here!

There is a great viewpoint at the National Park sign, this starts to show the delineation between the slate type areas and the limestone and the fact that the farming changes the landscape into more fields and pastures rather than the more austere untilled land.

Just after this is a little family run small cafe perched on the hillside, it’s very overpriced for the country as it was the same price as last nights dinner for two, but friendly and all of the products are either made by the family or brought in locally. The husband is a builder and has worked in Norway so has a reasonable smattering of english to which helps.

Once down in the valley, there was some more road works, which meant a great little detour around a river bed and then through the long ford the lorries have created, great fun. The tarmac road winds along the gorge and slowly the riverbed drops away as the gorge deepens. Anywhere in the west and this would be a tourist hotspot and no doubt will be here in the next few years, judging by the development of the road systems going on everywhere around. I was tempted to try to ride the gorge itself as the water levels were really low, but it’s about 2 km long and I was alone, so opted for prudence, a very boring state sometimes!

The tarmac continues into the town of Corovono on that side of the river, but on the other side is an ancient lane, that winds around one of the tributaries of the gorge, then climbs over a steepish hill passing by the lavender fields on the old and really battered cobblestone base. At one point I found a viewpoint looking into the gorge and so had to do the obligatory bike pics in a precarious place!

After this I came to more roadworks, where I managed to talk my way through instead of around and so rode around the closed signs and busy workmen and down into Corovono.

Corovono is a colourful place, loads of cafes, fuel and even a bike garage if you need anything. There are quarries all around the area and as I passed back towards the Gramsh Valley, huge limestone crags were everywhere around me, leaving me wishing I could climb some these days. It might be worth an exploration as to what has been developed here as there is easily as much climbing in Albania and there is in Spain or France.

I passed along very easy trails now, broad with loose stone on top, past a lovely well, two limestone and what looked like marble quarries, then back down to the riverbed. I decided to traverse the riverbed rather than follow the TET route, this was ace, fast, swoopy with loads of water crossings. Since the quarries my bike was misfiring a little and on here it got worse with me having to feather the clutch a lot to keep the revs high, so a bit of an inspection needed of the fuel system I feel, as well as it’s time to change the back tyre. I was all over the place, (even worse than normal!), everytime I got onto rough ground.

Once I got back to Lucy, we packed up and headed out to pick up the TET after Gramsh. This turned out to be all tarmac up until the gorge . Where it turned back to dirt, we turned around with the plan to ride the section back from Elbasan However en route the van started having some loud knocking noises on the passenger side suspension, so we opted to drop into a garage in Elbasan to get it checked out.

A lovely guy helped us out, telling us the torsion bar was knackered, it wasn’t serious and would get us home, but once back, change both the bar and the shock absorber as that will be knackered too. As we were looking under the bonnet, we noticed the battery was leaking acid, which had damaged the shelf it sat on, so that’s another job. There seems to be a number of repair jobs looming!

We decided to drive onto Rreshen, where we could pick up another section of the TET and take some time out to repair things, so we’re now on a very random campsite, it cost us 6 euros for the night, everyone was still up at midnight talking, the kids on the swings and the cat that sounds like an owl when it meows, all of this to a backdrop of vehicles going past and frogs in the river...

Travelling it is ace!!