Not for the first time in my life I have found myself in a tent in Albania. When I was here seven years ago as a backpacker, I was similarly travelling with camping gear and spent weeks in my tent while in Berat, and additional nights in it while out hiking with a girl I met here (an American Peace Corps member who’d been in Albania for a couple of years). This time my tent is set up on the ground level of a three-storey home. Like many buildings in Albania, the ground level is still in a state of build. Although there are some clean shoes sitting at the bottom of the tiled stairwell that leads to the upper levels, I don’t think anyone is living in the place at the moment. At first I asked a neighbour, an elderly lady, if I could camp here, but I got the impression she was telling me she can’t give permission as the place isn’t hers. I was going to ride on but decided to camp out in the open nearby. There is an attractive looking (lush green grass and lots of flat parts with scattered olive trees) field and I felt as if no one would be bothered if I tucked myself away in a corner of it. As I was setting up my tent, an elderly couple came wandering out of the trees with a wheelbarrow containing wood they’d just collected. They stopped and were clearly checking me out, so I approached them to say hello and check that it was okay if I camped there. They were very friendly and helped me out, but not without bit of confusion. I think the gist was that the man was telling me that I shouldn’t camp there and at first I thought this was because he didn’t want me around, but in the end it was because he was concerned about the rain and instead he directed me to the house where I am now set up and where I’d originally tried to get permission to set up.

I am just outside Elbasan, on the Tirane side. Rather than risk being kicked off the motorway where bicycles are not allowed, I left Elbasan on the steep, winding road that runs to Tirane on a hillier route. I had thought I had a chance of making it all the way to Tirane, but in the end I decided it wouldn’t be worth the pressure. I really felt like camping anyway and even the idea of rain falling on the tent while I am snug and dry inside it felt attractive.

It feels really great to be in Albania. The scenery has been spectacular from the moment I crossed the border. As I entered the country on the road above Lake Ohrid, thick cloud clung to the earth, sometimes below me, so that at times it felt like I was riding through the heavens. A steep descent took me to Qukes, wherefrom the road followed the downstream flow of a river that joins the larger Shkumbin River. The gentle decline meant that I could generally fly along at a rate of knots, slowed only by a few short climbs to get around some turns in the river. This was why I was able to later in the day contemplate the idea of making it all the way to Tirane. I’m glad I didn’t push on though. I feel very comfortable sleeping where I am and I look forward to taking it easy tomorrow and not hurrying as I traverse what I expect will be more stunning mountain scenery.

As I was preparing dinner I was entertained by the very cute antics of a newborn donkey and a dog. The donkey had the free run of the field I mentioned, while its mum was tied up. The baby donkey and the dog were having fun taking it in turns to chase each other around the field. It’s a full moon night tonight and the moon looks amazing as it lights up the cloud drifting before it.

Lake Ohrid

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 105.22km
Average cycling speed 19.3kph
Total distance ridden 27,500km