Igominista to some small town near Konispol

Trip Start Apr 01, 2008
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33
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Trip End Sep 23, 2008


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Flag of Albania  ,
Sunday, June 8, 2008

A dramatic setting for the border crossing that day: a dark cloud loomed in the northern mountains just ahead of me. It seemed as though Albania was now masked off by a wall of thunder and lightening. This problematic weather situation forced me to find shelter in one of the small village taverns on the road. I found a nice, shaded Taverna, ordered some coffee and watched as the dark mesh of clouds and flashing lighting drew near.
It took about two-three hours for the storm to pass, during which I had the opportunity to meet some local farmers and a passing Orthodox priest, all stopping by for their mid-day drink and some shelter from the rain. One of the farmers, immediately ordered a beer for me and we all sat under the shaded veranda watching the rain, hail and lighting hit the hills and fields across of us.
 
After things quieted down a little I began pedaling again, squeezing in between passing thunder storms, I was able to reach the border relatively dry.
The way to the border was suspiciously quite and there was barely any traffic. I had to stop a passing motorcycle for direction (he later turned out to be a steel-frame worker at the border). The Greece-Albanian border turned out to be a few shacks strewn across a muddy river which was now overflowing.
Crossing over towards the Albanian side of the border, I had my first genuine Albanian laugh. It was so funny I couldn't help it: People struggling to cross the muddy gushes of water, a tractor going back and forth moving piles of rubble around, and some border police hopping across the stream. Reaching the other end of the river, I handed my passport to the policemen holding the hand-maneuvered gate. He took a quick look at me and my bike smiled and without even looking at my passport or visa pulled the gate up and let me through. That's when I had my second laugh.
As I began riding away from the border I started sizing up the situation. I was in Albania now and there were no Asphalt roads to be seen, just muddy gravel routs going up and down through the hilly terrain. As I pedaled through these roads the crossing drivers, mostly taxis, probably accustomed to these conditions, were smiling, waiving and honking their horn at me. As it began to rain again, riding trough the muddy, puddle filled road, I had another laugh. This was definitely more then what I had expected.
I passed through a few villages before getting my first puncture. I stopped in one of the villages and found an English speaking young student who gave me directions to the nearest hotel. I was also able to find a dry spot to replace the punctured tube, watched over by the student and a few of his friends. After I finished fixing the puncture the young high school student told me: "I think you go now, because start raining" he also asked me to return to his village in three or four years so that I could meet with him again when we were both a bit older. I agreed.  
 
In my haste I forgot to check for the source of the puncture, leading to my second puncture, just five Km later. I pushed my bike this time, trying to reach the village before the rain got much stronger and the road would become too muddy to ride. I was able to push it up the hill and find another dry spot, beside a local grocery store, to fix the second puncture. At the grocery store, when I asked for direction, I was told there was no hotel in the area and received a few, presumably friendly laughs from a couple of old ladies dressed in black. This was another one of those humorous Albanian moments; never seen anything like it, the old lady popped her head up and down, moved her eyebrows in the same direction and let out a "heee..heee..heee.." kind of laugh I've only seen in the movies. They all watched me as I left the store, smiling and laughing. I fixed my second puncture (a sharp stone penetrated the tire) while surrounded by kids who helped me balance my bike and watched over the whole situation with great interest. After asking for directions again (meaning, waiving and saying: "hotel, hotel") I was able to find small hotel, just beside an even smaller restaurant and mini market.
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