Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

On the Road in Albania EEKKK!!!

On leaving the coast of Montenegro & passing a tortoise crossing the road (we didn’t hang around and wait for it to cross!), then 3 donkeys outside a mosque, we headed to Albania. We travelled on roads(tracks?) that had to have been the worst we have been on! Poor Vanni bumped & rattled & turned from a nice white colour to grey on what was a very slow & torturous trip to Shkoder.

Of course there were no campsites around & we drove around to see if we could find a suitable parking spot. We were waved down by an Albanian couple who (to our amazement) were the same couple we had seen near Ulcinj in Montenegro & they offered more help on where to go. They suggested a hotel carpark but it was full so we ended up parking in a tourist bus spot right in the middle of the city. We met an Albanian guy who had worked in Ireland & spoke with an Irish accent who informed us that we would be perfectly safe there. It was safe, but also a very noisy spot with local music blaring until the early hours of the morning & loud cars. Leigh slept better than Marg but the 4 o’clock mosque call disturbed us both. We were up & moving early next morning!

We visited the local Rozafa Castle which gave spectacular views of the area. While there, we met a delightful local woman who seemed so pleased to see us & was very interested in the van. She spoke no English & we got by with sign language, hugs & lots of handshakes! A local garage proved an unexpected parking spot with wifi and fresh water available before we moved on. We then travelled on slightly better roads to Tirana. We paused briefly in there but decided to motor on & head toward Macedonia. We travelled through Elbasan & on to the border over a very, very windy, narrow and steep road that had lots of "hold your breath" moments with steep sheer drops. Quite stressful. We were very pleased to get to the end of it and arrive at the border crossing!

Our impressions of Albania are that it is dirty, poor, with slums right next door to 2-storey palatial homes. There is high unemployment with lots of groups of men standing and sitting around in the many coffee houses. We saw a woman in a bhurka riding a bike and texting at the same time. There were lots of donkeys & horses pulling carts, plus other interesting forms of transport.

Farming is heavily labour-based with sickles and scythes being used more than mechanical harvesters. Often it was women bending down doing the work while the men stood by overseeing. There was no sign of McDonalds or Starbucks or any western commercialism at all in the areas that we visited. We were impressed with the friendliness of Albanians and their willingness to tell us about their country and to offer advice about things to see etc. They seemed genuinely pleased to have us in their country and we felt very welcome.

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