Ever felt ripped off? The Hotel Relax ripped me of superbly. 10 Euros for breakfast – I got a short black, a glass of milk, and a chocolate croissant. Worth 2 Euros at any local cafe. I’d already paid 40 Euro for room and breakfast – but they had no change for my 50 Euro note. At breakfast – different staff – We don’t understand – shrug shoulders. I had to threaten them with the police before, begrudgingly, they gave me my cash – in Lec, at a heavily weighted exchange rate. Having said that, it’s a great hotel – just don’t pay for breakfast.
I’d walked the route out of Tirana the night before. Just as well I did – at a couple of significant junctions, the road names were just missing. There’s a paler spot on the wall where the street name was, but it’s gone, Jim. Walking my bike through the early morning crush. I headed towards the city square, then took the main drag Northwards. Which had a bike path, though it was a bit of a joke; cars used it to stop to get coffee, local buses used it to pick up/drop off passengers, and various street sellers had just set up shop on it. I still reckon that I made better time over the first 5 km than any powered vehicle. As a plus, I was separate from the totally manic traffic.
No hills. Thank heavens. SH1 was relatively flat, out through the suburbs – the road side full of street vendors selling tat to one another; I saw stuff for sale that was in worse condition than the rag I use to clean my bike chain. Going with the flow, fighting traffic that just stopped to chat with people by the roadside, or decided to turn left from the right lane, or just decided to stop and go shopping; hazard lights seem to mean, and are accepted as such, that “I’m just parking here” – it’s like a car stopping half way through the turn off Northbourne onto Barrry drive – it happens, and other drivers adjust.
Lots of police around too – they just turn a blind eye.
Once out of the suburbs, an easy cruise along a flat, reasonably maintained road; the one metre white line giving great protection. Drivers are very courteous; a hesitant toot of the horn at narrow places, such as bridges, and generally keeping well clear. There is the odd maniacal toot, followed with waving. These frighten me to death; please don’t use your horn near cyclists – it scares us shitless.
I followed the road (SH1) to Fushe Kruge, where the rcommended EV8 route said go right; I did, and followed it for abouy 5 km, where I got confused by a series
of unsigned “Y” junctions; I returned to SH1. Which after 5 km became a motorway, with no alternate route for cyclists and other banned vehicles…. I rode the motorway edge for 2 km, and then pulled of into a roadhouse; a coffee and free wifi gave me a way back to SH38, a route to Shkoder, Still fairly level, but through small villages.
I’d pooted along for 20 minutes or so before I was joined by a German guy, doing a three week loop around the Ionian sea. He had great English, and we chatted and rode for a while, then stopped for a coffee at Lac Fshat. We arranged to meet in Shkoder – the road was too narrow to ride side by side, plus he was about 30, and 5 kmph faster than me anyway 😦
But – I took a wrong turn. Again – no signage; the minor road blended into a major road, which I assumed was SH1 – no signs… After 15 km I got suspicious, and stopped at a cafe. Yup. I was on E851, heading due West. So I had to backtrack. It was pretty country, so I didn’t mind – but no way could I then ride to Shkoder. A 30 km side trip left me with 60 km to go – Sorry German guy, who works for the Bundesbank in Munich …. We never did swap names.
I got back on track, and pulled into this pub, the Hotel Indri on the roadside. No wifi, but I’d done my 5-6 hours. Time to stop. Just under 90km. I had a whinge about aches and soreness yesterday. I’ve had an allergic reaction to nightshade plants for a few years now – potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum. Guess what I’ve been eating lots of? It takes a while for whatever toxins these leach into me to reach critical level – aches and pains like rheumatoid arthritis in joints – so I’ve stopped eating them – tonight’s dinner was spaghetti, cheese, and a salad of cucumber and lettuce. so – I’m fit and well; I was a bit worried about why I felt like shit while having such a good time. A couple of glasses of red, and I’ll sleep well – tomorrow’s plan is to cross the Albanian/Monte Negran border. I’ll see how I go.
See you down the road.