Day 44 – Tirana to Qukes

Up early again to try and avoid the midday heat, although today I was climbing into the mountains so it should be cooler. The motorway went straight through a tunnel and out the other side, I, however, had to climb to the top of the mountain, cycle along the ridge and down the other side. While I was slightly annoyed at the ease I would get from going on the motorway the views once you are at the top was sublime, different valleys with very different landscapes, there were no cars as they all take the highway now. I enjoyed the climb, and as I was coming down, I stopped in a redundant building to eat my lunch. The city of Elbasan was in the distance. I chilled out in the shade for a bit before cruising down the hill and onto Elbasan. I went straight through without stopping, and as I got to the outskirts I stopped for a drink, the weather had taken a turn for the worst. I got going to try and avoid the storms that seemed to be brewing. Once I left to start climbing again into the mountains, I only lasted about an hour before the storm came over. I found refuge in a hotel, where I decided to get comfortable as it wasn’t going to pass anytime soon. It was quite lucky as the lightning hit was right beside the hotel so to have been out there would have been slightly crazy.

In the late afternoon I got going, the weather was still not great but thought I would risk it. I was following a river up the mountain, so it wasn’t a too bad a climb. As evening drew in, I quickly grabbed some supper, again a traditional Albanian dinner from the restaurant in Qukes. Once I finished, it was dark, so I walked my bike up the road till I was out of the town and I saw a field in the moonlight. It was slightly damp, but I was ready to get in and sleep. As I was setting up and nearly done there were a couple of lights shinning towards me and some talk which I couldn’t understand. They came down and seemed to tell me to pack up, it was an old woman and probably her grandson who couldn’t have been more than 18. they seem to say come and stay over there where there is shelter, the old women seemed to imply there was going to be a massive storm. Anyway, I thought I would just go with it and see what happens.

They took me into their home and sat me down on the sofa, again I say they didn’t speak a word of English, so everything was hand signals and nodding! They offered me a drink, little did I know what it was but it seemed to take my head off it was so strong. After a while, they treated me to another Albanian dinner. There was seven of them from three generations living in the little house. I felt honoured to have been there. They didn’t have much, but they were willing to share what they had with me and then give up a bed for me. I was blown away. The kindness of the Albanian people is extraordinary after been slightly negative once I arrived, I feel the Albanian people are the friendliest people as a whole I have met along the trip.