I woke to the “pitter patter” of rain and curled back up to wait it out. It finished by 8am and I was away by 08:30. Since it looked like it was clearing up, I put my rain pants on and left everything else off, but in a handy place just in case.
Taking the high road it wasn’t long before I was in the clouds. At times I couldn’t see more than a few meters in front of me and I was just hoping that I didn’t miss my turnoff. The suddenly it started to pour! I managed to get all my raingear on without a problem but there was no shelter to put on the plastic sleeves around my shoes…sure enough within 15 minutes my socks were soaked! It was horrible as the temperature was only around 3-4°.
The rain came and went as did the clouds. The occasional glimpses I managed of the mountains and valleys were awesome. It was a shame I couldn’t see more, I’m sure it would be an amazing walk in fine weather.
Coming across another fork in the road I consulted my map. There was absolutely no signage, and I know from previous experience that trying to walk small roads with a 1:380000 map is near impossible. I was cold, wet, and starting to think that Steph was right after all.
I consulted the map again and decided to play the odds. If I took the high road and got it wrong I had a huge walk ahead of me, but if I took the lower road and got it wrong I would just end up walking back towards Tirana. Of course the lower road won out, and even though it wasn’t the road I was aiming for it still got me to the first village I wanted.
I staggered into the only bar in town dripping wet and was greeted by two old drunks arguing on one table and three younger, slightly less drunks sitting at another. The three young guys invited me to sit at their table and I was more than happy to oblige.
They obviously don’t get many tourists through these parts, within five minutes of sitting down the word had gone out and the bar filled up with every kid in town crowding round to have a look at me. I found it very amusing, but the owner soon got sick of them and chased them away. Not being perturbed, I could still see their small heads poking up over the windowsills.
The two older drunks had now taken to arguing with me instead of each other :) This didn’t bother me at all as they couldn’t speak any English and seamed happy to rant away by themselves. I obviously wasn’t paying them enough attention and soon one of them got a bit excited and stood over me waving his hands around. I just smiled and nodded and then went back to trying to converse with the guys at my table. He didn’t stop and must have been getting a bit carried away with what he was saying because soon enough the owner came over and kicked him out as well :)
The guys at my table weren’t much better, I was starting to feel like I was in a movie of the “wild west”. When I fist sat down one of them took a liking to my shirt and wanted to swap me for his sweater. I thought this was a great deal as an extra layer of wool might be the difference between freezing to death tonight or living! They wanted me to start drinking with them but the combination of the weird feel in the bar and the temperature outside was enough to make me want to keep my wits about me. No-one in the bar could speak any English so I gave them all one of my business cards trying to explain what I was doing. I then watched in amusement as the guy next to me absentmindedly ate it over the next couple of minutes. The whole thing disappeared bar a little blue bit still stuck in his teeth. It was time to leave :)
The guy who ate my card decided that it was too wet outside and offered me a place to stay. I was tempted as it was still pissing down, but as was still early I politely refused.
As I went to pay for my meal the owner wouldn’t have any of it, just saying “tourist, tourist”. I thought this was great! But was sadly wondering how long it could last where a tourist would still be treated as a novelty…
As I started to move the kids all reappeared in force to see me off. I still can’t believe that it is possible to get treated like this in Europe!
A miserable walk lay ahead of me as the rain didn’t look like easing off. The only consolation was the colours of the trees I was passing. Stunning!
Around 15:30 I was heading through the last village for the next 30kms, wondering if I should find a bar until the rain eased off then try to find a place to camp, or just keep heading on in the hope that shelter will appear.
I chose to head on and the Gods were smiling on me. I passed an old woman in her front yard and said “hello” in passing. She must have thought I was either lost, or mentally ill, and went to get her son. I was about 50m down the road at this stage but I heard someone yelling behind me. I stopped and waited as this young guy came up to introduce himself. Alexandria was his name and after finding out where I was heading he invited me in for a drink. This was just in time as no sooner had I sat down, the drizzle outside turned into a downpour!
Looking out the window Alexandria shook his head and told me I shouldn’t walk any farther today and I was more than welcome to stay the night. WOW! Talk about luck!
Thirty minutes after entering I had a huge meal in front of me. No-one in the whole family could speak a word of English so we were all communicating with hand signals and grunts…I’m continuously amazed how much information can pass between people in this way :)
I had a pleasant evening and was surprised at 19:00, three hours after I had been fed one big meal, I was called down for another…and this one was even bigger! It was a struggle but I managed to survive, and no doubt all those calories will be good for me ;)
At 20:30 Alexandria said he was going to bed and I was happy to follow suit. Another early night would do me good!