Tour05 Day 11

Heading for Albania

When I left Ohrid this morning, I, once again, found my self breaking the law. The road to Struga - an expressway - has a no bicycles sign - the only one I've seen in Macedonia. To be fair, that section is paralleled by an old road so that I could have ridden legally. Since it wasn't very far to the Struga exit, I just rode on.

Near Struga, I stopped to get snacks for the day and use the last of my Macedonian currency. The people at the service station were really nice and, as almost everyone has been in Macedonia, really friendly. They reminded me of how nice it is tour in Macedonia and of how safe it is. Folks in the rest of the world need to realize that, despite what happened in the Balkans in the 1990's, these are safe places to tour

After Struga, the road started climbing. it was gentle at first, but increasingly steep as it got farther up. No big deal, until a few km from the border when the serious climbing started.

It really was a sustained 10% grade

The border

Entering Albania was hard. That 10% grade lasted for several kilometers and, except for the last half km or so, I had a gentle tail wind that pretty well matched my 3.5 mph climbing speed. It is hot to climb under those conditions! The folks at the border spoke very little English and I probably took about half an hour to get through the border. After that, it was all downhill - I wish! - to the motel near Labinot Fushe where I am staying ;-). I'm half way from Ohrid to Durres, so tomorrow I should reach the Adriatic.

Lake Ohrid and Orid, see the hill, from Albania

After I got into Albania, I stopped for my for my first snack of the day. I sat a place where I had a great view of Lake Ohrid and of Ohrid itself - recognizable because of its hill - on the other side of the lake.

Yesterday I debated going south around Lake Ohrid rather than going north around Lake Ohrid. I decided that getting to Elbasan, Albania might be difficult - because of time and energy - if I used the longer, but prettier, southern route. I wasn't sure that I could find a place to stay before Elbasan which is the first big city on my route in Albania. I needn't have worried about that - there are placed to stay in Libirazhd, where I stopped for lunch and even before that there was fancy resort hotel - but I'm glad I did not go south because the hills on this road have been more than enough work even with the shorter route.

The steep descent after the border

After the border, the road goes steeply - 10% grade - downhill with hairpin turns, into a beautiful valley. Four big trucks - semis - loaded with scrap metal has passed me while I snacked. One of them crashed on the second hairpin. It looked like he simply tried to take the turn too fast and overturned into the guard rail. If there hadn't been a guard rail good enough to catch him, it would have been a long fall down into the valley. As it was, the semi and its trailer were badly crunched and leaning out over the valley. I'm glad I wasn't near when that happened! When I got down to that valley, I found a very lively town with lots of people out and about - many of them in the road. I also found a cafe with two flags - Albanian and US. I saw several other US flags on my ride today and I noticed that Albania is very pro US.

The Albanian contryside with haystack

The river that the road 'follows'

After that steep descent, the road from the border trends downhill, following a river, all the way from the border to here. However, as in Colorado, there is a serious wind blowing up that valley and, unlike Colorado roads, this road climbs and descends at 7 % grades almost constantly. Yes, there is more descent than ascent, but the wind, and the amount, and difficulty of the climbing makes it a lot of work to ride Although I've been riding 'downhill' for hours, my legs are very tired from climbing!

I stopped at a cafe in Librazhd for lunch. I only had Euro, but that was no problem. Ordering was a problem, since no one there spoke English or German. It was easy to get a beer, but harder to communicate that I wanted to eat lunch. We managed, with lots of smiles, and I got a good lunch, with beer and espresso, and change back from 10 Euro.

Looking back up the valley after the end of the steep part

I'm on nearly flat ground now. The river no longer white water and the road now runs close to the river rather than high up on the valley wall above it. When I saw this motel, I had planned to ride on to Elbsan. I rode by the motel, thought about it, and turned around to come back. The uphill ride back was much easier because of the tailwind! I hope the wind is less in the morning and that I don't have as many 7% grades to climb between here and Durres as I had to climb between here and the border.

My room tonight has many good features, and some defects. The worse defect is that the air conditioner's drain is blocked, so all the moisture it removes from the air drips into my room. Oh well, for $15 a night, I can't be too fussy! I had three 10 Euro bills when I reached the border. The Albanians took one of them as an entry 'tax.' The other two paid for my big lunch and my room for the night. Not bad.

The mattresses on the beds aren't good, but they are better than the one I had in Ohrid. I had similar mattresses in Spain and in Croatia. They seem like box springs with a thin layer of padding on top. The ones in Ohrid were so beat up that the whole mattress sagged in the middle and the spring wires on top poked me through the padding. These are not so beat up, so I hope my back will feel better tomorrow that it did today ;-)

The sign for the day, and it came in two versions
This on, indicating a descent and one with the slope the other way, indicating a climb

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