A short day – plenty of miles left in the legs, but plenty+ before the next hotel – Last night’s host said that Permet was the first and last place for hotels on this minor road; I’m less than halfway along it, so wouldn’t get to the end much before dark. The prudent option was to stop.
As it is I’m lucky to score a room; the Albanian PM and his entourage are in town for a gabfest; there’s an election happening. I’m in a tiny hotel on the edge of town – very rundown (though this may be a typical hotel – Albania looks up to people who have a pot to piss in – it’s ratshit poverty everywhere I look) It doesn’t have wi fi either, so this’ll get posted sometime tomorrow.
Last night’s pub was/is a huntin’ n fishin’ resort full of stuffed mounted fish, deer, boar and whatever else they can shoot mounted on the walls, and the dinner menu reflected that – wild boar sausages, meat in heavy sauces, etc. They did me a creamy mushroom fettuccine which was OK, washed down with a glass or two of red.
Breakfast was a revelation; a massive range of vegetarian foodstuffs, all from within a 5km radius, mine host told me proudly. Here’s a photo – local honey and jams,
crunchy locally made muesli, with yoghurt and milk, bread and cheese – the only non-local item was the coffee.
On the bike, well rugged up – 1C again – and pedalled to the border.
Through customs at the border posts – Greece and Albania, about 200 metres apart – exactly the same processes at each – meanwhile birds and insects cross easily
and freely, and the river flows through regardless – still, I’m very nervous around men in para-military uniforms with machine guns, and also very, very polite.
I have to remember too, that this is very much a secondary entry to Albania, as I got lost yesterday, and am up in the mountains on roads that a goat would find familiar
and must try not to read too much into what I see. Which is poverty in the extreme. We’re talking donkeys as beasts of burden;
shepherds guiding flocks of sheep and goats alongside the road, with the occasional more precious cow given it’s own escort. The shepherds were usually accompanied by several dogs, who all decided to chase me, slavering and barking like buggery. A bit scary. The road is in a dreadful state of repair, mostly – just the odd stretch of smooth tarmac, and one or two major bridges, otherwise rough and gravelly, and generally not more than a single lane, with dirt extensions on either side. And slow going. The road follows a major river valley, but frequently decided to head for the hills, then swoop down to the river’s edge again. I spent a lot of time in granny, and a fair bit of time pushing.
The scenery more than made up for it. Stunning slate-grey water, green valleys, peppered with flashes of red flowering hawthorn, and the massive ragged ranges behind,still snow capped above their dark treeless buttresses, and the air full of birdsong, and the scent of wild flowers and sage. No mechanical sounds at all, except
for the infrequent noise of a car. One thing about being dirt poor – it takes you back to nature.
The equally infrequent villages looked basic too, though always with one exceptional (by local standards) house, standing on the village fringe; a two story concrete
thing, flat roofed, and painted in a bright colour – pinks and mauves seemed a favourite shade. Lots of old men and women tilling the fields by hand which looked
like damn hard work to me. I might as well have been a visitor from another planet, so different is my lifestyle to the ones I was observing – mind you, several of
the old ducks working in the fields were chatting on mobile phones, so there is some degree of tech in their lives. I didn’t see a single commercial sign or shop, or cafe
until within 5 km of Permet either – nothing much happens between towns, I’m guessing.
Permet. Three petrol stations, a town square; one main street full of cafes and small shops, two high rise hotels, and a backdrop of high rise units where the locals
live. I scored lunch at a cafe outside town – greek salad and calamari fritti –
then cycled into town looking for a hotel. The town square was busy – tables and chairs
being spread out, a dais being set up, and as I said at the start, no rooms available. I found this hotel/ristorante about 3 km out of Permet (just short of Kastrati, the next village – I’m old, but entire – no intention of stopping there) and decided to stop. Weather closing in, the prospect of another 4-5 hours before the next pub – too risky for me. I’ve got some movies on my laptop, so I’ll watch stuff, and hit the road fresh and relaxed tomorrow.
See you down the road