Wednesday 30 May. Day 12.
Durres to Elbasan arrive at port Durres at 2pm. 60 miles.
Not the ideal sleep I was planing on last night, but I'm awake, and my cabin buddies are up and about too. One of the guys has taken the dog out somewhere, and the other guy is chatting to me in broken english but he is apologetic about coming into the cabin in the early hours, I say forget it, its Ok, bit funny now and its something to chat about when I give Mrs F a call later on in the afternoon.
The guy has got ready and says to me if you would like to join us for breakfast we will be on the upper deck if you like, I agree and say I will catch you both later. He leaves and I get up and get showered and ready for something to eat. Before the other guy left this morning with the dog I managed to snap a photo of the dog waiting outside the bathroom/toilet door. Looks a nice dog now in the light, but could have been any kind of dog in the dark of night :-)
Once up and out I made my way up to the top deck to have a wander around to check out what is happening, nothing much really, and not seeing any coastline as yet. The planned arrival time for Albania was due to be around 2pm to 3pm local time. I met up with the 2 guys and dog on one of the decks they were sat in the sun with some of the other Albanian passengers, when I sat down to join them, the two guys were saying to the other people what I was doing, and where I was going.... (I could not understand what they were saying, but I saw one of the guys drawing a map with towns written on it, he said stay away from these towns (not good people in these places!) Whoops ! I was thinking will have to be on my guard in this country then. They said head for Elbasan you will be safe if you get there before darkness.
To be fair Elbasan was the place I had in my head from the start, they told me it was about 60-70 miles away from Durres, and they asked could I make that distance before sunset. I was confident I could make it, but I was not sure about the terrain... not having really looked into it properly. After a few coffees and some snacks on board, the ferry is coming into port, its a bit earlier than planned - should dock about 2pm. I pack all my gear up ready for arrival, until then most people on board are on the top deck in the hot sun checking out the view as Durres comes closer into view.
I take a few photos of the docking area, it looks different to say the least, with little boats sunk at the harbor.
After a while all passengers move down to the base deck to get ready to disembark off the ferry. I was one of the first off being the last one on in Italy. I set off cycling but not sure which direction is the exit, I eventually get the correct direction as I pass a cabin/checkpoint but the guy waves me on out of the dock gates. After this I have a guy that I'm cycling towards coming over towards my direction waving lots of local currency in my face, I just cycle past and ignore him (not sure what he was doing that for !) a little further on another guy approaches me and asks if I like Taxi ?? What !! I carry on cycling past thinking what do I need a friggin taxi for ! haha.
I'm trying to find the right road out of Durres but its difficult as when I stop to check the gps someone comes over and starts asking me things in their language but its no good, I don't understand what they are saying ! It takes some time, but eventually I am on the right road out in the direction of Elbasan, although all the signs I see are for Tirana.. Thats one of the places the guys told me not to go after dark. One thing that is slowing me down is the state of the roads - they are in poor repair nothing like western european roads, local people take their cattle onto the roads too. This really does slow me down but I have to crack on to try and get to Elbasan before sunset.
Many cars that pass me have 4 male occupants and as they pass by they shout things out - Not knowing what they are saying I just ignore (they could be saying anything! haha) so after a few hours the roads head up high into the hills bending and climbing higher and higher, I stop off at a little petrol station on one of the climbs up the mountains for water, the guy in there is very friendly and starts to chat to me very basic, he waves me off and I wave back - at least I have water and a few chocolate bars just in case I don't make it to my destination tonight.
I carry on climbing up these steep mountain roads - they seem to be going on forever, at last I see a sign for Elbasan YES! I'm only 25km away and its still light although it won't be long before sunset so I peddle like a loon!. I seem to be on a plateau now and start to get some speed up, should make time up on the descent down into town. As I'm cycling along taking in the nice warm evening with fantastic view of the surrounding mountains, I hear a gushot ! Bang, it echoed all around, not sure what or why, my only thought was is it someone firing at me ? - well I don't hang about.... there is nobody around here now apart from me and a possible gunman ! I go into Madhead mode and speed off into the distance, after about 10 mins I start to make the descent down hill I have to be extra careful as the roads are still in a poor state. After descending for several minutes I keep whizzing past local people at the side of the mountain roads - looks like selling local produce. I don't have time to stop as the light is fading quickly now.
I can see Elbasan in the distance now on my descent I should fingers crossed be able to reach there before darkness but it will be close ! I get the flat ground and its about 2 miles further to go along the main road into town, there are plenty of people out and about in the centre in fact is very busy, I have cycled past a hotel on the way into town, but check out the centre to see if there are more hotels, can't see any so head back in the direction i came in, I stop at the hotel, its only a small one so fingers crossed they have a room.. a guy comes out of the hotel down some steps in front of the building I ask do you have a room for tonight ? He replies yes. I'm in. He even carries my pannier bags up to my room, and takes my bike somewhere for the night, the only let down is no food is being served. Once in my room, I just tuck into the chocolate I bought with the water on the climb up the pass before heading to here. It will do me for tonight, and I start to wash and charge all equipment up ready for the next day. Just glad I got in here tonight after a mad rush from the port. The time is now about 9.30pm I just need rest.