Riding Albania – Entry 8
It doesn’t always have to be all excitement during travels. Today we had a chill day, taking the ferry from Komani Lake to Fierze. Long ago there was a car ferry traveling this route but it got out of business when a larger highway was built towards Kukës. When our friend Trui arrived here some years ago, there was only a small boat for pedestrians with room for some motorcycles going back and forth on the river. Now there are two medium sized car ferries taking overlanders and tourists towards Fierze. During the boat trip we socialized with Dutch people riding Defenders towards Greece, more or less on the same route as we’re doing. It’s interesting to see how overlanders connect, sharing roads and knowledge as we meet. Just before arrival in Fierze we even get to see the wreck of the old car ferry, just discarded, slowly transforming into a heap of rust. We get us some fresh beverages at the ‘dock’ in Fierze before riding on.
We take the SH22, which is an insanely winding mountain road offering a view over the valley. At this moment it’s 46°C and it’s as if my feet are on fire. I’ve never walked on fire but I think I know now what it feels like. Even the wind is scorching underneath my helmet, so when Jeku announces through the intercom that he has seen a small stream where we can cool down a little bit I don’t have to hide my excitement to get my jersey into the cold water asap. We have to climb down a little bit to reach the water and I’m already half way down when Jeku says that he has forgotten the camera. The original plan is just to get out of our boots, soak our feet a little bit and then get back moving with a wet jersey. As soon as I saw that stream, I said to myself “F-ck that, I’m going in, fully geared up.” The guys are laughing their asses off when they see me and Jeku follows my example.
After our opposite interpretation of skinny dipping we ride towards Kukës for groceries and supplies since we’re going off the beaten path the next days. We meet the Dutch people again and mark a spot on the roadmap where we are going to meet for the night next to a river. They like the same stuff as we, an evening swim, campfire and beer. Many stories later into the pitch of night I find myself again safely tucked in my bivy gazing at the stars, how can life get any better than this?
Valleys do strange things with sunlight, I’m still napping in the shade whilst the guys are packing up for the day and the very next moment I see this line of sunlight approaching fast transforming my bivy into a sauna. I know it’s because of the sunrise and the top of the hills but it’s still a cool thing to see, kinda like the tide coming in.
Today is just all about riding in the amazing backroads of Albania in the blistering heat and we develop a new habit, diving into all the streams that we can find. On a dusty trail we encounter two men and a small donkey going in the same direction as we and the eldest of them makes us stop. With hand signals and lots of pointing he asks if his son can’t ride with us as a pillion to the village, then he can ride the donkey. Jeku doesn’t mind taking the guy with him so off we ride. I’m just laughing out loud because this always reminds me of the ‘adventure’ issue, we’re all geared up with a helmet, neck brace, knee caps and everything one should be wearing when going offroad and this guy is just sitting in the back, relaxed without a helmet in his shirt and sneakers. A bit further after we got the Albanian man in his village we encountered our first police officer. He’s delighted that we take an interest in his motorcycle and proudly announces it as a Harley-Davidson. I don’t know who told him that but it’s obviously a China bike. Still I think it’s sweet that he seems to like his motorcycle in the same way that we do. Maybe somewhere deep inside he’s dreaming of owning a HD somewhere in his future life.
The temperature drives us towards the river for a quick swim before setting off into the hills. We’ve seen forest fires all day and now we’re riding straight towards them. Upon asking Jeku if there is a way around it, the simple answer of ‘No’ is replied. Not if we don’t want to turn back a whole day. So towards the fires it is. The Albanian trails that we’re following now are single track and hard to travel with the luggage. I feel Hyp bouncing up and down beneath me on the rocky paths whilst his back tire is constantly searching for a little bit of traction in the hairpins with deep gravel. Sweat is dripping down from my eyebrows but I can’t take off the glasses because of the branches that whip my body and face continuously. Funny part, Jeku yelled in the intercom, “It’s all good babe, just keep gassing and you’ll get there. The only thing is that we can’t have a break down here, not with the fires on our tails.”
That’s something you should never, ever say. Karma or something. Guess who’s bike broke down. The fuel of Hidalgo has gotten so hot in combination with a clogged fuel filter that the fuel pump stopped working. Now we have the Guglatech fuel filters, and these work perfectly I can assure you, we had to find out why the filter had clogged. Upon examination we see that it are little pieces of epoxy that have come loose from inside the tank. Nothing to worry about for now, we let the bike cool down, unblock the filter and pump so Hidalgo can breathe again. The repair costs us about an hour, it’s 18.00u and getting darker. The trail is still 30 km long, too much to risk getting caught in the dark on these tracks, so we decide to ride until we find somewhere safer from the fires. Luck is on our side, some km away there are golden fields begging for us to place a camp and behold the beauty of the Albanian country. As the sun sets slowly, the stars come out to greet us with the promise of a new day tomorrow.
Read the rest of the story :