Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Albania

Wednesday 12th July

We crossed the border into Albania early this morning at Konispol, it was a slightly odd place, with really bad signage, duty free on both the Greek and the Albanian side and of course the little bit of no man's land between the two.

The Greeks were perfunctory, looked in the van, looked at the papers and waved us on, the Albanians were OK until we got to the ‘insurance’ guy. Apparently UK standard van insurance isn’t OK, but bike ones are. So lighter of 49 euros for a slip of paper that apparently says we have 3rd party insurance for Albania for 14 days served up by a rude, grumpy man, really did not sit well with me, but knowing this is the way of things at these kinds of borders I had to let it go, even when I watched him open his wallet and pop the cash in! 

The TET turns off the tarmac road at Shkalle and heads along the coast to Sarande, (which is a large town perched across a couple of hills). We took the van on the tarmac roads, mainly to sort currency out, get fuel and get our bearings really. We chatted with a lovely guy in a cafe briefly and even when we were stopped by the police en route, they were polite and just waved us on once the knew we were English. I suspect this may happen to most tourists with vehicles as it does in other developing countries. 

With a bit of planning done, we headed to Tepelene on some good roads, looking at some stunning scenery, deep valleys, high mountains, big green rivers. At Tepelene, (a town with lots of beautiful buildings, statues and a nice market square), we found the end of the TET and planned to camp up, then return back along this section to Borsh on the SH8. 

What we found on the ground was a road having a tarmac surface laid, it had almost reached the village of Lekdush with a lot of machinery on the road as far as we could see, so we decided to head to Piskove where the next proper dirt section started. 

Again superb scenery en route, what a dramatic country. At Piskove, we took the van upto the village of Raban, at roughly 1000m altitude, this was a rough trail and after the village got worse so we decided to turn back to tarmac and get the bikes out. The temperatures were at over 30 degrees by midday, so Lucy was feeling it, the dog was wilting too, so we tried to find somewhere to park up with water, but all the rivers were completely dry except for the main road one, so a trip along there found us filling up with fuel, a quick swimming spot for the dog, some cold drinks for us and another replan for the day. 

This time, take the van to Gramsh at the far end of the ‘dirt’ section, then one of us ride there and back, the other do the next day solo on the next part of the route. This way, Lucy and Roxy can find shade/water as they need and we all get to ride as suits us. The road to Gramsh turned out to be similar to one of our Lakeland fell roads, but for about 100 miles! Plus the road surface was narrow, delapidated and very twisty as it passes over several cols en route to. We got to near Erseke by 8pm and decided to camp for the night. On the down side, this has been another long day of driving to get into a position to enjoy the riding, but on the upside, we’ve seen a lot of Albania we wouldn’t have seen if we’d have stayed just on the TET.

Lets see what tomorrow brings!