We began the day in Budva with the first order of business to re-attach Marcin’s water connection with his engine and to top up his KTM with water. How it managed to reach Budva without water in the system I dont know – but it did.
The coastal road to the south east was shrouded in fog so we cut inland up a spectacular mountain road until we reached the town of Virpazar. Then we turned down a 35km, one lane mountain road that led to villages and monasteries along the southern side of Lake Shkoder. This was a super route. Anyone heading down this way would be well advised to take the spectacular but challenging route between Virpazar and Ostros. Temperatures reached 26 degrees on that leg and we passed a couple of German riders on orange dirt bikes exploring abandoned military roads.
My bike seems to have picked up a bit of a problem. It keeps blowing fuses for the instrument cluster. it doesnt really affect the riding of the bike, but stops me indicating or seeing my instruments. 3 fuses in 3 days. I should take a look at it.
We continued on and reached the Montenegro – Albania border at Sukobin – Muriqan. There is no joint border, it is still two border posts connected by 100 yards of no-mans-land. Fortunately we were sent through relatively quickly and were not asked for a green card. And so we were in Albania – country number 15.
There are a lot of preconceptions about Albania but we were determined to keep an open mind and enjoy it. It was soon apparent though that the vast bulk of the country’s roadside areas is just a tipping centre for rubbish, cars, furniture and whatever else can be dumped by the side of the road. The first time I stopped, to wait for everyone to catch up, we were mobbed by run down scabby kids asking for money and trying to grope the bikes. They reached up and just took Marcin’s pepsi bottle from its holding place in the front of his bike. It turns out it was a big gypsy camp I happened to stop in, and I was pleased to motor on out of there as soon as Jon arrived.
My telephone hadnt worked in Montenegro. I assume that my phone company had no agreement with any of the 3 networks in Montenegro. I had been hoping for something in Albania, but alas, nothing here either. Jon’s phone, which worked in Montenegro, doesnt work in Albania either. It turns out only Marcin’s Polish sim card was registering on the network in Albania and I borrowed his phone to SMS our American contact in Albania, Steve, who had found a place for us to stay in the centre of Tirane, and also had some parts for me to collect.
The Albania roadside is a colourful place,and in some ways reminded me of the Chinese roadsides I saw 15 years ago. Old ladies sit by the highway selling eggs, or chickens. Butchers hang meat outside their stalls, alongside the main highway in the country, and drivers have their own interpretation of safe driving practices. Adjusting to the driving had to happen fast. Marcin and I have ridden through the 3rd world before, but while Albania isnt really a 3rd world country, the driving practises were on a par with what you find in the 3rd world, Jon hadnt ridden in conditions like this before. Despite numerous dangerous incidents, we made to Tirane in one piece, and following Steve’s directions, found ourselves 50 yards away from the Tirane Backpackers hostel. Steve had arranged for us to store the bikes in the grounds of the hostel so we rode up an improvised ramp and into the hostel before heading out for a few beers and dinner with Steve