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Balkans Trip - Day 15 - Albania


Blogging at 21:15 on Tuesday 6th August from N 42.39112°, E 19.71178° / http://maps.google.com/maps?q=loc:42.39112%2C19.71178

We weren't terribly sad to leave the unwelcoming and countryside-bespoiling people of Montenegro this morning. The country gave up some spectacular landscapes and really special wildlife sightings but I doubt we'll remember the place with fondness. Still, it's all part of the travelling experience and helps broaden the mind and perspective.

We'd expected a bit of formality getting into Albania but it was a breeze. Production of passports, vehicle log book and green card was all it took and we were on our way.

It felt immediately different. Within 20 minutes of arriving we'd had loads of smiley faces, waves and hearty 'hellos'. A quick stop at a bakers saw Emma-the-international-bread-procurer armed with fresh produce, she even managed to perpetuate the black economy by paying in Euros.

We headed straight for the Theth National Park. It has a reputation for stunning mountain scenery and - like much of Albania's high ground - a place where 4x4 vehicles from many countries come to do their thing. Well, on both counts the reputation is justified.

The scenery is indeed utterly spectacular (pic) and the park's roads are dominated by Land Rovers, Land Cruisers, Hi-luxes and similar. The French are the most represented but there are 4x4s and bikes from all over Europe and Scandinavia here.

Vehicles of Land Rover size are the tool for the job. In places the unmade and severely carved up roads are precariously narrow, have tight hairpins and vertiginous, unprotected drops.

I've had to have several three-point swings to get round some of the hairpins and the simple truth is the truck is just too big here.

Preferring to live a little longer, we parked the truck at a secluded spot with spectacular vistas (coordinates) and had a proper look around on our bikes. It's just flippin' awesome. The landscapes are vast, rugged and painfully beautiful. It also helps that Albanians and visitors have (mostly) mastered the art of putting litter in bins.

From our overnighting spot I've bagged a new bird in the form of a lanner falcon. Not only did I see it perched and flitting, but also, at one point, in a full-speed, folded-winged dive. Spectacular!

As an aside, for the first time in a fortnight, and undoubtedly helped by being at 5000 feet right now, it's a blessed relief that body parts are not stuck to other body parts, clothing, or bits of the truck. 

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