Now developing into experts at this non-Euro border stuff we approach the next one ‘in our path’ bring on Albania.
Same drill, “Passports, V5” and…er…nowt. No request for a green card. He scanned our passports, and V5, handed them back and glanced Charlie front to back, then back to me, his eyes said “why on earth are you coming to Albania?”…he said nothing. I didn’t need asking twice, we were off!
Reality check; Our mobile’s don’t work here, our EHIC card doesn’t work here, our internet access doesn’t work, we have no currency, breakdown cover or insurance but we’re into Albania baby!! Cross all your fingers.
One of three things must have just happened here:
Possibility 1; We have just been transported back to 1950.
Possibility 2; We have just been transported into western Morocco.
Possibility 3; I’m watching a film shot behind the iron curtain.
Truth is, it looks like a mixture of all 3. Less than a mille in and the first differences begin to appear. Gone is the parcel taped-up helmet, the ‘new look’ now is no helmet at all, normally.
The bloke in front of us had obviously read of the dangers of head injury even at 30mph, so he has donned a blue builders hat, no chin strap, but he has got a roll-up clenched between his teeth. Note also his wife (we guess) on the back of his ‘Townie 50’ riding side-saddle, in her best dress! Or this could of course be some form of escort service, we shall never know, we saw several examples of this style of pillion.
Doing our best to avoid the increasing number of pot-holes, Angie’s on look-out for rolled up tarmac, missing man-hole covers, all the time keeping an eye on the donkeys, wild dogs, herds of goats, sheep and cows…yes, cows, without an owner in sight, adorning bells! Well, how else will you be able to find ‘em all later?
With late afternoon approaching, I pulled a Camper stop from our Europe book, which has a few stops listed for Albania. Camping Albania at Barbullush (€10pn all in, reasonable WiFi – n41.92386 e19.54186) turned out to be a pleasant surprise, much nicer than we were expecting and, to be honest, once that big steel sliding gate shut, we felt safe & secure, as the surrounding area did look a little rough. The number of wild dogs along the road was astonishing, skinny, sorry-looking things that rummage through piles of waste for food, it’s so sad.
Using every ounce of free WiFi from the campsite, I conclude Albania doesn’t have many tourist attractions, or tourists. The attractions (UNESCO) they do have tend to be inland or down the southern bit. Ther’s a few clumps of old houses near Berat, a few Roman ruins dotted about, but Greece is just around the corner. We spent an hour trying to find the ‘old ruined village Tragjas’ . It’s true, Tragjas village was old, and looking very tired in places, but people defiantly lived there, so we failed that simple task…onward south!
We have seen hundreds of partially completed 3 story buildings, having no brain extension (tinter-web and Google) we couldn’t initially figure it out. But we guess, the first and second floors are for offspring, to be compleated later.
Most of the minor roads have simultaneously disappeared from all my tools of navigation, so it’s getting difficult to plan anything off the main drag which is now the SH8, a single lane carriageway down the coast of the country. But the SH8 goes through and turns into ‘The Llogra pass’ from Orikum to Dhermi, a challenging drive yet again… and yet again, the views were worth the extra diesel and a few extra full-locks.
Our original intention was always to go directly through Albania rather than venture off, as tourists into it. For us, there just doesn’t seem to be enough natural attraction to most of it. Some of the landscapes are undeniably beautiful, I feel we saw enough of them on the way through. Albania is obviously a very underprivileged, underdeveloped country in many areas and needs all the tourists it can get, preferably spending a few bob, in need of it as much as Morocco. As with Morocco, there are people and pockets of wealth within the country too, it’s not all deprived. We saw many vehicles which cost well in excess of £50k thrapping down the A2, properties and estates that wouldn’t look out-of-place in Buckinghamshire, they can’t all be Government officials or Russians…can they?
But where there is poverty and there most certainly is, it strikes at the heart with more force than similar scenes in Morocco. I don’t know why, but this poverty is less understandable, less tolerable, is that because its closer to home?…this is mainland Europe not Africa, even if it isn’t in the EU yet.
We wish you the very best of luck Albania. The bit we saw was mostly beautiful. The people we met, warm and welcoming, if you can keep hold of that, you will retain a jewel some other countries envy. I can’t understand why other MoHo owners avoid you. I’d love to come back in another 500 years to see how you got on. But for now, we must push on to Greece.
Possibly the worse bit of road weve EVER been on.
Camping Albania, n41.924 e19.5157 Nice clean site, good WiFi, €10
Camperstop Radhine, n40.37697 e19.47840 Clean Hotel/Site, great showers.€10
Car park Butrint Museum n39.743960 e20.018600 Free
… soon be the weekend, Cheers, Wayne X