June 17 – 18, 2013
Distance: 46.5 miles Climbing: 4215.9 ft
After our marathon climbing/cryfest yesterday, we took the day off to rest, resupply and check up on the blog. Greece is pretty much shut down on Sunday so we couldn’t capitalize on the supermarket the day before. Besides a shopping spree at the Lidl, we didn’t leave the room which was just fine with us. There was a cave pretty much right next to the door that was supposed to be pretty cool, but it had a 7 Euro entrance fee and photographs were prohibited, so we boycotted that tourist trap.
The next morning, we woke early and eager to get to Albania, the 10th country on our trip. We managed to stay off the main highway on good asphalt, so we were having a wonderful morning. We passed by old ladies herding sheep, quaint villages and wonderfully shady forests. We also helped a record 4 turtles and saw an additional 2 hanging out in vegetation on the side of the road.
When we reached a larger village about 25 miles into the day, we stopped for cheese pies and to do some grocery shopping. Outside of the market, we meet our first bike tourist in Greece. He was a German who had been studying in Istanbul and was on his way to Vienna to return the bike he had borrowed. Cycle touring is apparently really popular in Europe and we were expecting to meet people on short tours, but he was the first cycle tourist we’ve come across since some Danish people in Turkey. He was pretty cynical about our GPS, and though it has sent us on some wild goose chases, it has been the most indispensable items we’ve taken along besides the bikes themselves . Paper maps can be great especially if they have topographic info, but they vary a lot in quality: in China we couldn’t find anything even remotely accurate, plus maps are expensive: $10-$15 per country adds up, and they don’t tell you where you are right now which is useful if you want to do some creative routing to escape an evil highway etc.
The riding seemed to reset after our time in town and the going got tougher. We climbed another big hill with no shade in blazing heat. When planning our trip, our mantra was “to skip winter” after a few rough winters and cold rainy summers in Anchorage. Greece made me realize the wisdom of the “be careful what you wish for” idiom. I longed for it to snow or rain or to just be cloudy, anything to give me a break from the unrelenting sun.
Crossing the border was uneventful and easy. After rousing the Greek border police we were stamped out. We stopped in no-man’s land at the duty-free for an ice cream before entering Albania. It is always amazing to us how obvious it is that we were in a new country. The drivers gave us a little more room, honking and waving to us. The first person we came upon was a goat herder who stared at us intently. As we passed we gave him a little wave and his hand shot up instantly as if we activated some mechanical trigger in his arm.
We traveled along a beautiful and inviting river. When I noticed a little road leading down to the water, we immediately veered down to the beach. The water ended up running a little too swiftly for swimming, but it felt amazing to soak our feet in it. There were several large trees perfect for hammocks along the bank. While Chandler read, I ended snoozing for over an hour. When I woke up, I convinced Chandler that we should just camp there and be done with the day. It didn’t take much to talk him into it.
We set up our tent away from the river, next to a concrete wall on top of sand. We had a few sheep dogs come down and bark at us, but otherwise the night was calm and quiet. We were excited for our first full day in Albania.