The hotel didn’t do breakfasts. Amazing – unemployment up the wazoo, and a major hotel can’t be arsed doing breakfasts. Two cafe’s nearby, one actually inside the hotel lobby – and neither could arrange something like a franchise, The two cafe’s were not open either – it was 7:00 am when I left. No wonder the Ottoman Empire collapsed.
It was 7:00 am because there were only net curtains on my room’s windows, so I was awake predawn as the day broke. I’d also had a great night’s sleep, and was ready for the chase.
A quick ride along the pedestrian precinct showed I could get coffee, but nothing more substantial; one street vendor was selling stuff from his stall, but it looked a bit cut-me-own-throat Dibbler Dibbler to me. So; to the spar. One breadroll, two thick slices of cheese, and an OJ. Ate/drank then at the roadside, then headed out of town. Busy traffic.
I was taking the SH3, the old Tirana road – there is a brand shiny new motorway, but not for cyclists. So I had to backtrack 5km, into the industrial area – and the pollution was vile. Coal dust, smoke, heavy industry crap, all in the air – and we had to breathe it. Yuk
The SH3 looks a bit intimidating on maps, and rightly so. It’s a brute; climbs hard and steep, 270 degree bends, and it’s relentless. 21km of climb, all steep – some outrageously so. A great grind; just get into granny, and think deep thoughts I stopped on a couple of levelish bits to take photos, but otherwise just pedalled away.
At the crest – 3 hours later – i had a well earned beer.
The road followed the ridge for a couple of ks, then all that height disappeared in a swooping downhill rush into Mushqeta. The motorway also ended here; one side had been completed, so that became the SH3, which I followed into Tirana, Dunno what happens when the motorway is completed; there seemed to be no other road towards the capital.
Tirana has over 800,000 people, many, many vehicles, and the infrastructure in the centre of a medieval town. Absolute chaos. I stopped at the hotel Illiriya on the edge of the centre, but they wanted 60 Euros, or 70 with breakfast. First world prices. I moved on and found the Hotel Relax, opposite the parliament, next to the old city wall ( long gone, marked with three rows of cobblestones). 40 euro with breakfast. I booked in, had a quick shower, and had a wander around the town centre.
Parks and greenery; the last remnants of the old city walls are now part of a tree lined walkway;
at one end is a shopping mall – 5 storeys of boutiques etc, with a supermarket in the basement; it made Civic look very 3rd rate. at the other end is the main square; fenced off for renovations. Ah well.
I found another green oasis behind my hotel; the river Lana runs through the middle of town, channeled like Sullivans Sullivans Creek; there was a tiny park with a bar/restaurant., next to a long disused medieval bridge
I had a seafood pizza and a couple of beers, then back to my room.
I ache, pretty much everywhere. I thought that by now I’d be over that, but it’s a very slow process. The climbs are not kind to my body – legs and lungs are fine, but the rest of my infrastructure is hurting; I was walking like Lurch again this arvo; I need a few days of flat cruising, which hopefully I’ll get in the next few days. A tempting alternative is coming up – at Bari, in Monte Negro ( about 3 -4 days hence) I can take a ferry to Alcona Italy. I’ll have a think about it over the next day or so.
See you down the road.