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Vstrom Down – Albania 1, TS Nil

Posted by TravellingStrom on May 16, 2012

Mayan Prophecy Countdown

I was a bit dubious about getting on the road, the forecast was crap still all the way up the coast, but who is to say what I will get, the weather here seemed OK, so I bit the bullet and headed north into Albania, why not, the weather at this moment in time was excellent, even if a tad cool.

Now, I had been considering giving Albania a miss due the exorbitant cost of the Green card that is needed of around 100 Euros! I had already paid 50 Euros for Macedonia, for three days, so these extra charges are a budget nightmare, especially as I had bought a European Green card for 200 Euros while in Germany for two months. That covers ALL Europe, not just one country, but it does not cover the Balkans nor Russia etc. Anyway, I had been sent some info from Mark Harfenist, whom I met at Machu Pichu in Peru a few years ago(that long!!!), this is what he had to say:

Hey Richard, I never paid insurance in Albania (although I promised as sincerely as possible I’d do so at first opportunity). Ignore all that fluff about Albanian mafia and highway banditry: the local mafia were very hospitable–just smalltown crooks, not at all like some of the Eastern Block countries.

I should add: Albania’s great, but no one knew how to drive until 20 years ago–there were only a couple of hundred cars in the whole country. That means that 99% of the people you see driving don’t have a clue how it’s all supposed to work. Add in steep roads with lots of potholes, slick marble cobblestones, etc……

So, with that in mind I decided to forgo buying the insurance, if I could get away with it, note that in Macedonia I had no choice, they would not let me in without buying it at the border, but this is a small border crossing πŸ˜‰ I was only 27km from the border and as I pulled up I spotted 7 other bikers, but they were on enduro style bikes, it turns out they were from Germany, it was great to meet some other travellers, even if it meant a longer wait in line as each bike was processed.

Anyway, we all got processed and no question was asked about ANY type of green card, all they wanted was the passport and bike rego papers! So, on that note I started to follow these lads into the next stage, which for me, was a town called Sarande, from there I would follow a route I had saved in my GPS. Mind you, according to my GPS I was actually nowhere at this moment, it knew nothing about Albanian roads in this region, even though it seemed like a good but oldish paved road, it could not navigate me to the start point! Lucky for me I have eyes and followed the bloody road eh! πŸ™‚

But, I got bored, they were on dirt bikes and travelling very slow, so I picked a good point and passed them and got back up to around the 100kmh mark. It was beginning to rain of course, but nothing big, just enough to make it annoying and the roads slick. Well, it had to happen sometime, the only country I have no insurance for I get involved in a bingle, check out the helmet cam footage, the only reason I wear it and change the batteries and memory card on a regular basis, just for those moments when!!!!

Well, there was no real damage done to my bike, a few more scratches to the crash bars, bar ends and guards and that was it, I had just stepped off so I was just pissed off with an adrenaline high πŸ™‚ I took no static photos for a change, too much action going on around me and I knew the helmet cam was on, so anyway, after a few minutes checking the bike, I headed off again, this time a tad slower and paying attention to the other road users! I must say I took Mark’s advice with a pinch of salt, I mean, I have ridden Central and Southern America, I know roads!!! Well, I do but these people don’t and that was the point I did not really assimilate, so in future I will not just gloss over any advice given, easy lesson learned. Anyway, on a technical note, I must say the ABS did not kick in at any stage, so this means I must have had more brakes than I used and I thought I used everything I had, but in the end it was a low speed off with more damage to his door than to me or my bike. He offered to do repairs, but I did not want to get involved with any cops, no insurance eh and only 7kms into Albania, welcome to my nightmare!! πŸ˜‰

So, after passing a lot of shanty style huts on the side of the road, I ended up somewhere in the middle of a town, it turned out to be Sarande but I had been looking for the sign for Vlores which would have bypassed the city, and for some strange reason, there are no signs leading into town, nor in town itself heading out!!! I use old fashioned mouth work and asked my way out of town to where I needed to be, at a Y intersection on the outskirts. I had actually entered the town here and had seen no signs, but guess what, from this direction there are signs and I spotted the other bikers across the road, they had wisely stopped to consult a map first πŸ™‚ They were doing dirt tracks, so they went one way I went the other, and this time I had some nice roads to play on for a while until I stopped for a feed, recheck the bike and make sure the above recording was on tape so to speak, πŸ™‚

This particular road I was on, was one of the routes that I had downloaded and I must say it was great, it was overcast and cool but the views, the road and the fun were a blast πŸ™‚

But, all good things have to come to an end and it started to rain in earnest, this was no fun, these roads need nice hot sticky tyres at the best of times, now with the cold rain I was losing confidence and of course slowed right down which makes it difficult to ride a heavy bike through hairpin bends, both up and down hill, so the enjoyment went right out the window, now it was just hard work, but I took the opportunity to stop at a small restaurant where I had some meat and salad, here I noticed a fresh bullet hole next to where I was sitting, hmm not looking good sunshine!

After this interlude the rain seemed to ease off a bit, but the roads were still wet and so was I, my spray jacket is designed for vertical rain, not horizontal, so it was starting to seep through into my clothes, including wicking down into my scrundies again, just like yesterday, this was now not fun! But, there was nowhere to go except forward and there were some great moments and some nice views just off the cliffs where the wind cleared the air, but watch out for frickin goats πŸ™‚

Here is an interlude, everywhere you look there are these little concrete mushrooms, they are small pillboxes and most are falling apart but some are in quite good condition, I reckon they must have built one for everyone in the country!

So, between the rain and the fog(probably low cloud or more probably high cloud actually, my ears did pop a few times) I did manage to continue and eventually arrived in Vlores, a bedraggled mess, but it was middle afternoon and I had plenty of time to find a hotel to stay!!!

Actually it did not take long, a taxi driver walked over and said follow him, it was not the most ideal location, up hill and crap roads, but it was his home, and his wife and daughter looked after me very well. Although we tried real hard to get the internet upstairs into my room, there was one final thing that I did not take into account, I needed to login to a network. Anyway, I left my room filled with drying gear and had a couple of beers down near the beach front(I had to drink an Austrian beer, they did not have Albanian beer???), but, I grabbed some local currency to pay for things from an ATM and managed to do a couple of things with the wifi on offer before heading back, having a brill hot shower and crashing out about 9pm, a very early night but I was knackered!!!

Cheers from Albania

19 Responses to “Vstrom Down – Albania 1, TS Nil”

  1. biwoz said

    Thank God you’re OK, TS. It’s amazing how those incidents seem to happen in slow motion; mine was the same when a woman in a car tried to cut through a roundabout that I was already on. Hope there are no long-term effects on the Strom, either. Enjoying every word of this trip. (Bugger … better do some work now, I guess! :-D)

  2. Dave said

    Glad your ok, TS; interesting comments about not fully assimilating the advice, we’ve all been there…amazing the indicators survived! Good old stroms, eh!

    • Hi, it is easy to gloss over parts of other peoples advice, sometimes at your peril, but at least it was an easy learning curve before having a big off. As for the indicators, advice previously learnt they are not Suzuki, they are Buell and very flexible, if they were OEM they would be toast

      Cheers TravellingStrom Sent from my iPhone

  3. GrahamD said

    Glad you are ok M8.

    Funny, you don’t sound like you write. My mental image of your voice was not your voice. Funny that.

    Hope the weather clears up for you.

    As always, thanks for posting.


  4. Bob said

    So what was that you said? When explaining to the gentleman your displeasure in his driving skills. I’m surprised by your restraint. I would have added a few extras superlative adjectives, colourfull metaphors, and few more hand gestures, followed by fistsandboots a fly’n.

    Glad yer OK.

    Γ§a roule

  5. Don said

    ..Stay safe TS…. I sure enjoy your blogs

  6. Preload said

    Loving the blog mate. You did well in that off and I am betting the vision in your lid was nowhere near as good as what the cam shows. Still no excuse for it and we will be sure to roust you over it in Germany ;). Take care, enjoy and I will sport you a brew soon TS.

  7. 2wheels said

    Really impressive the way the prick in the ute rushed to offer assistance!
    Apart from that, the riding looks delicious; add Albania to the list Ron.

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