When we arrived back at the petrol station/hotel/coffee shop after visiting Gjirokaster yesterday, one of the guys working on the pumps came over gesticulating wildly at our bikes “Goma, goma!” He proclaimed. Goma indeed, Sam’s tyre was flat again and so this morning, we had yet another repair to carry out. Once that was done, we packed up and retreated downstairs for one last delicious espresso before we headed off.
As we began our first sharp ascent of the day, we decided it would be a good idea to try and get a decent bite to eat in Teppelene, we didn’t know how long it would be before we could find a pekara again and so we went in search of burek. Unfortunately, none could be found but what we did find was a small fast food place that could do us a Sanduic. A sanduic is pronounced the same was as sandwich, but is an entirely different beast. I was asked if I wanted salami or chicken and ordered one of each. This is what goes into a sanduic: chosen meat, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion, chips, mayo, ketchup, mustard and cheese, it’s toasted like a panini and there you have it! While I was off getting these little culinary delights, Sam was approached by a man who asked him where we were going and where we had been. He then disappeared into a shop close by and came out bearing a map of the Communist People’s Republic of Albania which he kindly gave to Sam. It’s pretty amazing that we now have a road map that was printed back in the day when Hoxha was expecting the world to invade and no one was allowed to have a television!
With breakfast secured, we decided to cycle on somewhere quiet to eat, and so when we turned off the main road and crossed a rickety iron bridge, we stopped. As we munched on our sanduices, a few cars passed back and forth. We often draw a few strange looks, but one guy was so busy staring at us in his rear view mirror, he didn’t notice that he was veering towards some people walking along the road. They dived into the ditch and he narrowly avoided catastrophe! We’re just glad we didn’t cause an accident.
The scenery here is very beautiful, there is a light dusting of snow on the tops of the moutains either side of us as we cycle along following a river valley. As is standard for Albania, the road surface is completely useless. There are potholes, cracks and in someplaces the road is simply reduced to dirt. It’s slow going and the going got even slower once Sam’s tyre went down again.
As the day wore on, we got to the town of Permet. As we hadn’t made the mileage we had planned for the day, we decided to stock up on bits and pieces for dinner and have a bite to eat there, leaving us free to find a spot to camp whenever the chance arose. We ended up eating two more sanduices, these were far inferior to the two we had this morning, but at least they filled us up! As we headed to the supermarket, we noticed that none of them had lights on. They were open, but obviously on some sort of economy drive. We got all we needed, including some tins of tuna in some of the most amazing packaging I have ever seen. They feature a fisherman, with a pipe and woolly cap proudly brandishing his tins.
We returned to the main road and resumed our journey, both us beginning to get weary despite the lack of progress made. As we left the small village of Petran, we spotted a nice flat area behind the remains of a large communist monument on what appeared to be common land. It looked perfect, we will be out of sight of the road, there’s a great view of the hills around us and a river flowing far below. We set up our tent and with the evenings getting colder, decided it might be a good night to have our first campfire and so we set about collecting bits and pieces of dead wood from the low scrub around us. The only disturbance to our industry was the arrival of a shepherd heralded by the bells around the necks of his livestock. He spoke no english and so we communicated with him via hand signals. He was clearly concerned we would be cold and so we showed him our tent and he examined it closely, seemingly not convinced it would keep us dry if it rained. He seemed somewhat less worried when we showed him our torches and our stock of food for the night. After checking we had enough water and a thorough examination of our tent, both inside and out, he set off down the road again with his sheep clanging away behind him.
With our tuna and pasta long finished, we are whiling away the night stoking our fire and relaxing. Apart from keeping us warm, it means that we are not sitting in the tent at half six wondering what on earth to do with ourselves, there’s only so many times I can beat Sam at Yahtzee without feeling bad about it! Hopefully tomorrow the roads will be kinder and we’ll make a bit more progress.
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