Theth loop in Albania – Entry 6
Jeku has no intention of riding towards Theth on the main roads from the campsite and sought us some backroads leading towards the mountain village, so he takes the lead and we place Louis between us. The trails are lovely but rocky and apparently Hyperion does not appreciate bigger rocks underneath his front wheel, this is obviously because of the worn out suspension in combination with the telelever but I’ll stick with the personification of my bike and just tell myself he likes getting muddy more instead of bouncing up and down rocks. Jeku and I have an intercom yet we’re not connected steadily because the range is pretty shitty, most of the time I merely hear parts of sentences and gargoyle sounding words. The little roads are quite interesting and offer us a view on the mountain range we’re soon going to enter. Jeku suddenly shouts something about something he dodged on the road and he’s yelling in the intercom “Oh no, Louis, take the other side trail! F*ck!”. I’m startled and start to slow down because I think something horrifying is waiting around the corner but instead I see Louis calmly on his bike and Jeku is searching like a mad man on his knees between the rocks. The first explanation that pops up in my mind is that he lost something very valuable but then he holds up a tortoise and starts petting it whilst muttering “Poor little tortoise , I almost killed you. And then Louis missed you by an inch.” I find it mostly hilarious and proud that my tough man has a big heart for animals too. We give the animal a place in the shade and the tortoise lived happily ever after, well at least in my mind it does.
The road up to Theth was asphalted some years ago by the looks of the quality of the tarmac and the presence of yet again viewpoints. We’re all excited when the surface suddenly becomes gravel and the trail leads us into the woods. Only some miles into the loop Louis stops in front of me with the announcement that his seat came loose. He tries mounting it again a couple of times and then comes to the realization that the subframe of the R1150GS is broken in three places. Ouch. Since we aren’t following down the trail, Jeku comes back to check out what’s wrong. We patch up the subframe with straps, maybe it will hold for a while. Unfortunately, and foreseeable, the straps are no match for the rocky paths of Albania. Louis has to stop after ten minutes because his subframe is seesawing like an excited toddler without parental supervision beneath him. Some solutions are being discussed, Louis is even prepared to call road assistance but that is not our way of riding. Jeku and I suggest that if we take his luggage with us, Louis would be able to ride to Shkoder and get it welded there thus being able to continue the trip in total. That meant for Louis that he wasn’t going to be able to sit down until we reached Shkoder and for us that we’re going to ride the loop with double the luggage. So be it. Friends stick together.
Riding temperatures are going through the roof, around two in the afternoon there is a peak of 42°C. Can’t be moderate for once in Europe, right? The descent from the mountain leads us to an old power plant, later on we learned this has been a gift from China to bond with the communist regime in Albania. The Albanian worker is so proud to show us all his ingenious ways of keeping these machines running that I almost can’t stop smiling about his creativity. The turbines themselves are accidents waiting to happen in my honest opinion, it seems that during the passing of time the few safety accessories got discarded leaving all working parts uncovered. I’m amazed that the surrounding villages get their power supplies from this shaggy looking plant. As a thank you for the tour, we buy a beverage from his son in the booth at the other side of the street. The shock on the face of that little boy when we buy a Fanta for him too, I don’t think many people offer him a drink too.
Following the trail next to the river, we couldn’t resist stopping. The water is singing to us like sirens must have done to lonely sailors. Louis is brave enough to even take a swim in the icy water before riding off to the final part of the Theth loop. It’s getting later on the day and I have to admit that I’m getting a little tired so I ask Jeku to stick closer to me so I can hear him over the intercom. He’s really helpful giving me details about the condition of the oncoming path, this way I can map out my route in advance and guide Hyperion safe and sound trough the trail.
The last I could have heard from my husband would have been, “Oh, shit, I lost traction on the front.” And then two seconds later, “F*ck it’s not the front, it’s my handlebar.” Then I heard and saw him crash towards the edge of the cliff. His front wheel dangling over the edge, Jeku bounces back up immediately to grab and secure the rear wheel preventing the bike from tipping over. We put the bike back up on its feet, pretty strange to do that without a handlebar to grab onto. We find out that two bolts of M12 have cracked inside the handlebar risers leaving Jeku with the steer in his hands. If it wasn’t for his quick thinking the motorcycle would have ridden off the cliff, most likely with Jeku still on it. Instead he says used all his strength and body weight to throw the bike into the ground, with help from the backbrake and grabbing the cockpit. Later in the evening he said that he hesitated for a moment to jump off because he has put so much time and effort into the bike, he didn’t want to lose it. It required quite an effort to move the bike further onto the path, it’s very strange to maneuver a motorcycle without handlebars. The three of us decide it is Drambuie for the day. Whilst Jeku is doing his magic thing with spare parts to fix his steer temporarily, Louis and I make food. Tomorrow in Shkoder the guys have some work to do, find a workshop, fix a broken subframe and make a new mount for the risers. For now, we’re happy to see the night sky in this magnificent valley. Long after the guys fell asleep I’m still gazing at the stars and spot my first falling star ever.
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