Tuesday 29 May. Day 11.
Ancona to Durres. (Ferry crossing to Albania)
(approximately 20 miles just around Ancona centre today)
I was up early once again, but before breakfast my priority was to go to the ferry port and check out the sailing times to Albania. I didn't want to miss a ferry it there was one in the morning. So I head out from hotel on foot. Whilst coming down from my room I have a check to see if my bike is still in the arcade ! It is :) PHEW !! Good news.
I'm heading over the road to what looks like the port building, but its not ! Its a bus station, I hurry along the road to another building, is this the ferry building ? Nope its a court hearing building ! Blimey, how far is this ferry building - well after about 25 minutes I find it, so of I trot into the building to find some desks open and some closed - yep you guessed it, the one I need is not opened yet.… Come back at 10 am someone informs me at the building. So with the current time at 8am I head back to the hotel for some breakfast.
When I arrive back I find that breakfast is just a piece of cake, and a brew! Not ideal energy fodder for the day. I go back upstairs for a while to charge up kit etc.. At about 9.30 am I head back off again towards the ferry building. I arrive there as the desks are opening (good timing I know). I ask the lady how much and what time to Albania - she informs me that the ferry to Durres sets off at 7 pm tonight and at a cost of 100 euros with a cabin. Well thats Ok I have the day at leisure then, and a cabin ! well thats a sleep over sorted too. She lets me know that the ferry arrives in Albania at 2 pm the following day.
Well now thats sorted, I can head back to hotel to check out and just explore Ancona for the day, and take photos of Ancona. I leave the hotel and pack up the bike. I head off in the direction of the hill in the town. On the way I cycle through the centre which is very busy - there is a clear path through a garden part that runs through the centre of the town, and comes out at another coast view, its from there I head up hill again through a built up residential area, I stop on a steep hill and call in a supermarket for some water and food to keep me going. I head up further to the summit of the town only to end up looking back down the other side of town to building work in the distance. I turn back around and head back towards the port area again.
Whilst heading towards the port I divert into the center again of the town, and stop for lunch at a cafe - I look at the menu and its all in Italian - I can't make out what it all says, so I take pot luck and choose something off the menu, and also order a drink too (Soft drink, its only afternoon ! :-)) When it arrives, I'm thinking I don't like the look of this.. lots of rice with lots of mussels mixed in the dish, I nod to the waiter and smile Thank you I say - only to really be thinking Crap !! Oh well I will eat it, and I did, it was Ok but would have like pasta instead :-(
I head back to port after that meal and stay mostly around until late afternoon - I mainly end up just sunbathing/relaxing not far from the ferry entrance. At about 6.30 pm I cycle my way into the ferry docks, I get towards the departure point and hit a queue of vehicles and cars waiting to board onto the ferry. I notice a large military presence awaiting to board also looks like NATO they have guns on them too! At least it should be a safe crossing with these guys on board.
Once everyone were boarding their vehicles and trucks/wagons etc the queue moves slowly onto the ferry, I'm near the ramp and a big guy stops me - you are last because bike, big vehicles first! So I wait patiently for my turn to board, there are some right sights driving onto the ferry, I remember a car stacked onto what looked like a Dinky truck haha. It was my turn eventually and the guy waved me on board, he asked me where I was going to I told him Istanbul - he replied Are you not scared ?? Well,... thats the first time that someone had asked me that, so naturally after that was thinking Am I ?Never thought of it really, but if I'm honest the thought of traveling through Albania would probably be the most challenging.
I push the bike on board, tie it to some bars on the bottom deck, remove my belongings and make my way to the check in to get my cabin. All is great, I get my cabin card to get into the cabin, and when I get there I see that there are 3 bunks ! Ummm I think, do I have any one of these to sleep on or could I be sharing with others (surely not!) But I did notice a little wash bag on the opposite top bunk. My thought was that it could have been left by the people that was on the previous crossing to Italy from Albania.
Well just to be safe I had a shower, and tied my panniers up and left them in the corner of the cabin. If some others were sharing they were out of the way and locked up. I left the cabin and went up to the top deck before departure to see the view of leaving Italy and heading towards Albania with the sun setting.
I made a quick phone call back home as usual at this time of day, and informed Mrs F that I had three bunks to myself or maybe not ! I said that I would update here on the bunk situation when I arrived in Albania the following afternoon when we got a phone signal again, we said goodbyes and ended the call.
So after a few photos of the deck and shots of the sunset, I headed back to the cabin to see if I had any people sharing the cabin I was in. I opened the door, looked in and Nothing!! Everything was as I left it, so by this time I needed to go get an evening meal from the on board cafe. I got pasta and a few beers this time then headed back to cabin at around 10 pm. As I got back and opened cabin door Nothing and nobody was inside therefore I was definitely on my own in this 3 berth cabin, and so I started to open the panniers and remove phones and gps and place them on charge through the night in the few charging points in the cabin.
I was tucked up nicely in bed and sleeping like a log all was well. But in the early hours of the morning I was awoken with the door flying wide open and greeted by 2 Albanian guys and a big dog at their side stood in the doorway, it was dark I could only make out their silhouettes I could hear them taking and could make out the dog sniffing at my panniers near the door. My first thought I as tried to open my eyes was - Is it customs, is it the police, is it a drug bust of some kind ?? I replied to them saying , I'm English ! One of them spoke english he said sorry my friend this is our cabin also, we have driven from London and got onto ferry to Albania, we were tired of all the driving and went straight to the bar upon boarding the ferry... I see I replied its Ok then, they were getting themselves into their bunks after putting the dog into the toilet part of the cabin. My first thought was wheres my wallet, phone and my gps (they were on the table at the side of the beds so I reached out with one hand in the darkness and placed it into my bunk under the covers, same with my phones.. it was my gps now that was still in bathroom charging, I threw the blanket of me and one of the guys says I will get the dog if you need to use the bathroom, Its Ok I reply I just need to unplug my gamin, I push my arm through gap in toilet room and retrieve the gps, I then return back to my bunk in darkness with all my valuable items at hand. We all say our nights and go off to sleep until morning.
I did not really sleep that well tonight, because I didn't really know who these strangers were :-O