Albania
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Camp and day’s information: Thursday, 9th  June 2005

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SE of Tirane
Mountain Track Bushcamp

 N41°12.627'
 E19°57.317'

 122003

 182

 105428

Cool, but sunny

Sandwiches. Calzone

It was a cold night last night and we could hear the wind causing the lake to beat rhythmically on the shore.  We spent a glorious day driving through the Galcica National Park which is home to the most spectacular scenery.  It is bordered on two sides by lakes Prespa and Ohrid.  The forests are untouched and there are bears, lynxes and wolves to be found (not that we saw any trace of them).  The road was relatively well tarred, narrow and not well travelled.  When we drove through the mountain pass we never saw another vehicle.  The forest formed a canopy over the road in some stretches and at the top it opened out to reveal meadows of daisies and other flowers.

The views the park afforded of both lakes were phenomenal.  Ohrid Lake was more breathtaking as the waters were variegated with different blues, as if home to large reefs of coral or rock beneath the surface.  The shores are also punctuated with lovely villages of whitewashed houses with red tiled roofs.  We drove past a demonstration at a local campsite on the shores of the lake.  Apparently the Russians appropriated the land from the local people and now they are fighting to get it back.

Shortly afterwards as we were driving along we saw a little puppy dart out of the road and into the bushes.  Of course, we pulled over to feed it the remains of the kitten's food.  It was the most beautiful puppy with the softest, silkiest fur.  He was quite fat and seemed timid, but pleased to see us.  We decided he had to belong to someone as he was in such good condition and quite happy to be picked up so we drove him back to where we saw the demonstration, but no-one was particularly interested and one lady said it must have been dumped (which is apparently a very common practice here).  We were tempted to take him, but instead (at the previous lady's suggestion) we left him in the grounds of one of the Metropol Hotel which attracts loads of tourists, who are bound to feed him.  We left him under a shelter, with quite a bit to eat and got out of there before we were caught, or got to attached to "Silk" as we named him.

  

We spent a very pleasant afternoon in the town of Ohrid wandering through the narrow streets and looking at the old buildings and churches.  It was a pretty town, with a lot of character and atmosphere and its setting on the lake certainly helps!  The buildings range from beautifully quaint to down right dilapidated.  We sat and had a drink at a cafe on the square and watched life go by while the "strains" of a local bagpipe player filled the background.  I bagged a pair of fabulous leather knee-high boots, which made my day!  By the time we left the lake was choppy and windswept.

The border was a bit frustrating.  Departure from Macedonia was easy, but a bit slow with each car waiting for the one in front to get through, however, it was a pleasure compared to Albania.  The officials there were just plain grumpy.  They were shouting at local people and weren't much friendlier to us.  We each paid a €10 entry fee (which was duly recorded in a giant book and for which we received a receipt), but fortunately there was no fee to pay for the vehicle.

We saw loads of concrete bunkers as soon as we entered Albania.  They were hidden (though not too well) across the countryside and continued for quite a while (two can be seen in the bottom right of the photo below).  The roads were very narrow and quite badly potholed in some sections, fine in others.  The one thing in great supply is roadside car washes.  As we drove down into the valley we saw dozens of local boys and men making good use of the ample, high pressured water supply.  However, as we had been stopped for quite a while at the border, we were reluctant to stop again to get Nyathi washed.

  

In Macedonia it was a common site to see little old cars all over the place.  Albania is Mercedes heaven!  There are many more modern cars and the number of Mercedes (both old and new) is remarkable.  We gained some altitude again and wound our way through olive groves up onto the plateau, where we stopped and checked the diff (which seems to leaking badly).  We topped up the oil (it didn't take too much) and went on our merry way.   The scenery was spectacular and the slowly setting sun was causing a warm glow across the valley.  It even made the vast metalworks smelter look attractive!

   

We found a campsite up a steep dirt road about 30km south of Tirane.  It wasn't fantastic, but the copious number of roadside restaurants took all the available flat spots.  We did a bit of tight manoeuvring and used some rocks to help Nyathi level out a little.  We were still visible from the road, but nobody came to visit!