We had an early start today – it wasn’t deliberately intentional, but the road noise had started to intensify outside, and so we were up at 05:15am, and packed-loaded and on our way by 06:15am. Christoff and Christian had recommended the Logara Pass on the coast south of Vlore, enroute to the beaches of Himare, so we headed west to Durres so we could pick up the scenic SH8 and follow the coast south.
Karen was keen to get an early start to try and avoid some of the head-on drivers that we’d encountered yesterday, and by-and-large we had the roads to ourselves, even though we did get squeezed out by a big truck who didn’t just merge into our lane – he just took it over. With that said I’d had a 50/50 feeling that he’d drive over the top of us so I was anticipating the move, and so we just eased back and gave him the road he wanted. Might is right over here, and trucks rule the road.
The local police were out in force early with their magic sticks (so called by Doug K (of HU fame) because the police wave their sticks at you and money magically appears), but they ignored us and we ignored them.
The road we were on changed numerous times from a pot-hole roller coaster to a smooth highway, with rural sections and rough sections and city-centre sections and little village sections all melded in together.
We stopped just short of Fiar for fuel and a coffee, but it was only 07;15am and the cafe attached to the servo was closed, so after refilling we pushed on. Albania has about one servo for every man, woman and child in the country, and if you run out of fuel its only a short walk to the nearest servo. We rarely could not see a servo either up ahead or in our mirrors.
Passing through Fiar Karen spotted a cafe so we pulled over and had a nice croissant each, and a coffee (grape juice for Karen). Fiar is a large city, and the road system and uses were quite chaotic, with cars and pedestrians shooting out from all directions. We made our way slowly out of the city and down to Vlore, which again was a chaotic jumble of streets and traffic and people.
Just south of Vlore the buildings fell away, replaced by trees and mountains as we entered the Jogora Pass. The climb up was steep and bumpy, with potholes in the road making the hairpin bends a challenge. Once we’d crested the pass however the southern side was smooth and scenic, as it overlooked the sea. We descended the pass and followed the coastal road, passing locals selling honey and oils at their roadside stalls, and slipping through sleepy villages perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea.
We kept on the main road as it skirted the back of Himare, slowed down by a funeral procession ahead of us, and once we’d passed that we continued south for a few km til we came to a small bay, with a few hotels and restaurants looking out over the water. It was almost midday so we parked up and grabbed some spaghetti for lunch, with a Tirana beer (for me) to wash it down, and some cold and unpalatable red wine for Karen. The restaurant has a hotel above it that overlooks the beach, and for 30 euros we’ve checked in, unpacked, and we’re ready to go for a swim and relax for a while – a well deserved treat after our big off-road adventure yesterday and our early start today.
Tomorrow’s plan is to ride the 50km south to Sarande, before heading inland towards the border crossing into Greece, so maybe 120km in total before we get to the border, and then we’ll ride on until we’re ready to stop. As Karen said this morning – “We’ve got a tent so we can camp wherever we need to!”