Friday, 21 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Albania -Rreshen - Lura National Park

Saturday 15 July.

We had stayed the previous evening in Rreshen and after fond farewell to our hosts at kampingu – which involved Steve drinking Raki for breakfast we drove along the TET route to see how far we could get in tarmac. At Perlat Qender the road turns to dirt so Steve chucked me out the van and set me off on my bike. The plan was to ride a section of the TET between here and just before Selishte where you can join the SH36. As with many of the roads in Albania you just never know when the tarmac ends and they turn to dirt or vice versa. So we agreed I would ride back along this route to where the tarmac started and it would be a good place to meet up. The poor van has done a fair bit of dirt road driving and we decided it was starting to take a battering and we would try and extend its life by keeping it to the tarmac! (Not always that easy though!)

My ride started on an easy wide gravel road that took me up into the hills past many small farming communities. It was really dry, barren and again baking hot. This route eventually dropped me over a col into the mining area of Kurbnesh Fshat and another region of huge limestone crags and cliffs. I stopped to take lots of photos but with the hazy heat the photos just don’t seem to do the landscape justice.
I stopped to let a shepherd and his goats pass me. I noticed the shepherd was carrying a shotgun – I hope this was for the potential predators of his herd and not TET riders! He did however smile and wave, so Im guessing I was not a threat!

I had a small nav error before I got to Lure but young dapper blonde haired Albanian pointed me in the right direction. I eventually reached the turn off into the Lura National Park and this is where it started to get exciting. The road is classed as a minor dirt road and it is by no means hard but it is good trail riding over ancient old red cobbles. Its tough on the wrists but this is where my bike really does itself proud. I ride a KTM 350 EXC F 6 days and it just floats over this kind of terrain. I was trying not to think about getting a puncture here as I headed higher and higher up the mountain and away from civilization.  But just as this was going through my mind I arrived at a lake with a couple of families enjoying the view, I have no idea how they got up there!

The ride through the Lura National Park seems to go on forever and the views are stunning. The riding is really varied with some ruts, cobbles and winding forest tracks. I thought I was on the descent but then realised the route twisted and turned and continued down and around the park for a lot further. There are more pretty lakes with lily pads and wildflowers and the ever towering mountains above. I passed a group of med working – I’m not sure what on but they stared at me wide eyed as I rode past in my bike gear! On one of the descents I managed to get off track as the route crosses an old river bed. I turned around and then had a bouncing session across  the boulders. I had brought along the map as I back but soon realised you really can’t navigate this route without a GPS. It is a brilliant route and fairly easy to follow but you do need to the GPS. Back on track just when I thought the riding was getting easier I wound my way through some forest where the trail has been repaired. This is great but it has been repaired with limestone boulders – so more work for the old wrists!

Eventually the trail widened out past another mining area and the riding got a bit easier again. The views however were still stunning with small areas of cleared farm pasture set against a backdrop of big limestone outcrops – more photos!

I wound my way down to join the SH36 – which is a brown road on the map and so can be tarmaced but can also be a main gravel road.  I left the TET here and wound my way down to the village of Lis and beyond to meet up with Steve and a well deserved beer. Today was a great ride for many reasons. The views as always were stunning, the riding was varied with a good mix of easy dirt roads and more bouldery trails, the navigation was straight forward but you did have to concentrate and I did just feel like I was up in the mountains, which is where I love to ride. The riding in Albania has really allowed me to feel up in the mountains again. You are not riding over them as such like in Romania but you are up there riding below magnificent faces and cliffs – what a stunning place.

We headed back to Rreshen to spend another night with our new Albanian friends on their gorgeous little campsite – lovely place not so great a location – but at only 3 euros pppn a reall bargain. On the way we stopped at a roadside restaurant and we were both in need of a good feed having been living on noodles and donner kebabs. We weren’t sure what we had order but we both ended up with beef steak with chips, greek salad, rice and toast basted in olive oil. Washed n with some beer for only 6 euros each. It was a real treat for us but worth it.