Albania Is The Best

Our guide Arjan had a few sayings at the start of every day. "There is only one road" was his favourite, followed by anything in Albania "is the best". Our ride for eight days and 450 kms was "the best" and I can say that because I had an e-bike. There were many mountains to traverse, photos to be taken and sunsets to behold.

The weather was superb, the locals welcoming and the food delicious. Even the wine was very drinkable. Many amusing incidents occurred due to western expectations and Albanian realities. The lack of shower screens, toilet roll holders and adequate towels preoccupied some of us, as did the mysterious inability to make a bed (the top sheet, or lack thereof, might be artfully arranged in the middle of the bed).

The group of twenty disparate souls came together, encouraging each other and just having fun. One of the Germans even got the whole group to sing a song to thank our guide for the trip. Today, our last day was the toughest ride of the tour. Ray and the other non-e-bike riders managed to ascend 1604m with some difficult climbs of over 15 degrees in 62 kilometres. I guess all the e-bike riders managed the climbs as well, but it's not quite the same. Our Belgian friend, Sacha, was quite emotional at the top of the long arduous and last mountain climb, and had to give Ray a hug. They both shared the front running at times.

We are enjoying our last night on the tour at a waterside resort. Tomorrow we will return to Tirana and fly to Athens for a few days rest. Albania is "the best".


It's rugged. We are nearing the top of our initial set of climbs. Not one straight climb, but a series of climbs over 7 klms or so with ramps up to 15% - very steep.


On the other side of the hill we had a nice seaside view. The swimming areas are usually marked by buoys which you may be able to make out in front of the resort. Not that many people were looking at the scenery, on account of the pain. 


At least when we finished the steep climbs, all we had to do was to climb that zig-zag in the pic. Around 6 - 7% gradients, almost 12klm long with 5 switchbacks, around an 1.5 hours of climbing at least. To the left of the white smudge top right is the top of the climb. Apparently some of the e-bikers used over 60% of their battery during the first part of the climb. Bato had to replace/recharge a half dozen batteries whilst we were stopped for morning tea. I think Brenda used about 30%. 


And so it begins... If you are on an ordinary bike, cue the suffering, if you're on an e-bike, make sure your battery has plenty of charge.


We are getting quite high now. The road below is not the road we took.


Sacha is having a few difficulties (he's stuffed), but starts up again, which is actually quite difficult. I was trying to ride within myself to make sure I did not "blow up" half way up.


"G" (Gurli) on a hyrbrid bike riding with her friend Karen on an e-bike. Karen had been riding a hybrid bike as well but she swapped with her 26 yo daughter, Eva, the day before. G climbed the long climb without a stop - she was rock solid - a real achievment. If you wanted to ride at a steady pace, get behind G.


Ouch! My padded bike pants started riding up into groin cracks during the first part of the long climb, so after removing the offending sections of padding from some sensitive areas, I took the opportunity for a quick drink - much needed.


We have just ridden that scratch across the mountain.

As we got to the last few kilometres, the clouds enveloped us, sending the temperature plummeting and boy did it feel good. I think I had my third stop just prior to this and was confident of getting to the top in one hit. The climbing was actually the easy part. Apart from padded pants riding up into the groin, there was the constant flow of sweat into the eyes, which made things very uncomfortable. So for a lot of the climb I was looking straight at the ground, which meant the sweat dripped off the peak of my cap. With the drop in temperature, the sweating eased slightly.


As we approached the top I was feeling surprisingly good, so got up on my pedals, but thought the better of passing Sacha who was about 20 or thirty metres ahead of me (we were riding at the same pace), so we got there more or less together. Sacha was a very determined guy and was completely spent (he would have weighed at least 12 - 15 kgs more than me) and instantaneously got me in a huge and extended hug. He's also a very emotional guy. It was a very nice moment. Apart from the e-bikers, only one of the boys on their super light road bikes made it up sooner than us. (Well done Adam, who I crowned "King of the Mountain", that evening.)


Here is Adam, looking very confident before the climb.


Brenda was doing it easily the whole way up, a bit of climbing, stop to take a couple of pics, catch up wih me, asking me why I'm taking so long, etc etc. (thanks Rich for the above two pics)


This was there to greet us when we made the summit. Not too sure about the date but the two headed eagle is part of the Albanian flag.


We woke up to this the next morning.


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